Writer Wednesday exercise: Brainstorming ideas by Ava Jae

Prelude Ramble by thea

I get asked it all the time; you do too, I imagine, if you’re a writer: “Where do you get your ideas?”

I dread that one almost as much as I dread the question about what my book is about. I still haven’t nailed that one yet. The truth for me is that I really don’t know.In a post on Jason McInytre’s blog, I told him that my approach to writing is one of discovery and that it’s always a pleasant surprise to find something I write holds up to the research. He seemed to ‘get it’, which leads me to believe that stories and ideas are out there in the ether somewhere, waiting to be pulled down and brought to life.

Thalo Blue by Jason C McIntyre

Purchase Thalo Blue on Amazon

For instance, in One Insular Tahiti, I write about an event in WWII where a whole regiment of Nova Scotia soldiers is surrounded and massacred by the German army–no big surprise there, I’m sure, as I bet it happened to a lot of regiments. But the kicker for me was that it HAD to be in an apple orchard–or at least apples had to be there somewhere.

First off, I had no idea if an entire group of Nova Scotians had been killed this way, but it was crucial to my plot so I needed to know it would match up loosely with history. If not, I’d have to change a bit of things. Imagine my surprise and delight when I find a link that discussed a North Nova regiment–and get this–an apple orchard. Some of the details I had added were sitting right there on the screen in front of me.

I found this link, at least. I think the others have disappeared into the internet never to be retrieved, but at least you can see the synchronicity.

I’m sure you’re thinking, Brah. You could easily just be saying this and finding stuff to match what you say. Sure. Sure, that could happen, but it didn’t. It always amazes me that the universe can offer us such aid when we need it. And for me, it’s all from the discovery of writing.

So the writing exercise is to write and let yourself discover something: Discover a character,

a concept, a plot, a new world. Just write for 10 minutes and see what comes.

Impeding Justice by Mel Comley

comment to enter the montly draw

Remember to come back and tell us how it went. this month the gift for a lucky random commenter is Mel Comley’s Impeding

Justice. Simply comment on Writer Wednesdays and get entered into the monthly draw.

And if you don’t like this exercise, The Writing Network (twitter ID @theladywrites) has a different

one you can try. It’s just about getting creative and feeling inspired. Doesn’t matter to me whose exercise you do, just exercise.

To get your engines revving, I offer this piece on brainstorming from Ava Jae. I think you’ll really enjoy it.


 by Ava Jae


As I’m currently in the brainstorming-editing-brainstorming-rewriting-brainstorming-WAITING FOREVER TO EDIT MY RECENTLY FINISHED WIP!-stage, I thought it appropriate to talk about ferrets and how ridiculously adorable they are.

Aha! Weren’t expecting that, were you? Just kidding. Today I’ll introduce you to my two favorite brainstorming techniques; one of which I’ve used for ages and another I just recently fell in love with.


I’m sure many of you have tried this, but if you haven’t, for the love of all things bookish, TRY IT!

The What-If game is very simple. I’ll describe it in steps, because steps are fun.

  • STEP ONE—THE MAGICAL QUESTION: sit down with a blank sheet of paper and a pencil (or pen or marker or crayon or keyboard or what-have-you) and at the top you write the miraculous words “What if…?”
  • STEP TWO—DOT: Now make a bullet point (or star or heart or fish because you can).
  • STEP THREE—BREATHE IN, BREATHE OUT, THINK: Close your eyes, take a deep breath and let the question hang. What if…what if what if…what if ALIENS INVADED THE EARTH AND THEIR ONLY WEAKNESS WAS…WAS…FERRETS! Ok, that one might be a tad bit ridiculous, but write it down anyway. There’s no such thing as anything that’s too out there for the What-If game.

In all seriousness, this really works. Start with an idea, a basic idea (What if I wrote about pirates?) and see how far you can push it. What if their Captain was a crazy, egotistical half-wit only someone as insanely talented as Johnny Depp could play convincingly? What if he didn’t have a ship? A crew? What if the world was flat? What if they sailed over the edge?

This can go on forever people, FOREVER! And it’ll help you uncover some gems you may not have thought of otherwise. Trust me.


As I mentioned earlier, I discovered this technique very recently, but it’s quickly becoming a favorite.

The word page is simple and best done on a sheet of notebook paper or on a program that lets you write literally all over the page, like OneNote. I still think pencil and paper will work best, though. It helps with the whole freeing, creativity thing which is what you’re going for here.

So! I was inspired by the Wordle word clouds online (http://www.wordle.net/ ) and thought it’d be fun to make one by hand, except instead of writing words that you use often, you write words that relate to whatever you’re trying to write. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Step by step, here we go!

STEP ONE—PAPER: Get your notebook paper out and turn it SIDEWAYS. I don’t know why this helps so much but something about writing over the lines instead of conforming to the shape of the page really gets your right brain going.

STEP TWO—THE FIRST WORD: Write a word somewhere on the page. It can be as big or small as you like, except it’s probably best that you don’t take up the whole page (unless you want to cram the rest of your words in tiny little letters around it. Actually that might be fun. Maybe I’ll try that.). Anyway! If all you know at this stage is that you’re writing a dystopian novel, then go ahead and make your first word dystopian. Maybe you want to make your antagonist sympathetic. Write that. Maybe you only have a name. Go ahead and slap that baby down.

Great. Now you have the first word.

STEP THREE—GO CRAZY: This is pretty self-explanatory. Go crazy. Write all over the page. Write in funny angles if you want, different sizes, above and below the red line, around the holes in the page, it doesn’t matter, write wherever you’d like. The goal is to fill up the page with ideas, words, thoughts, names, even full sentences that pertain to your new WIP idea. If you’ve got some symbol in your head, go ahead and draw it. There are no rules here. Use funny colors, use pens and pencils. Doodle if you’d like. Just think about your idea and get it down.

Best part is you can use either one of these at any stage of the game. Don’t have a novel? Start with this. Stuck in the middle of a scene and don’t know how to end it? Whip out the paper and get your brain storming.

I challenge you guys to try these at least once. Who knows? You might just find you like these methods too.

These are obviously only two of many different brainstorming techniques. What do you do to get your ideas on paper?


Bio: Ava Jae writes books and blog posts and spends unhealthy amounts of time on Twitter. When not reading, editing a WIP or dreaming up a new novel, you can probably find her nerding out on Photoshop or squealing over the newest X-Men movie.

You can follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/Ava_Jae

she blogs at: http://avajae.blogspot.com/

BTW: by Thea

Free short story by Thea Atkinson

God in the Machine is free. totally free

I use a brainstorm technique when my writing stalls, but I use it in concert with freefall. Basically, I free word associate until I hit a word that ‘sticks’ then I freefall from that word. I use it more for short fiction like my free short story God in the Machine available at feedbooks and Smashwords.

Thea Atkinson is a writer of character driven fiction.

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Posted in writerwednesday exercises
7 comments on “Writer Wednesday exercise: Brainstorming ideas by Ava Jae
  1. […] Writer Wednesday exercise: Brainstorming ideas by @ava_jae @jasonCMcIntyre (theaatkinson.wordpress.com) […]

  2. Ava Jae says:

    Thanks for having me Thea! I’m so glad you let me guest post–have I mentioned I love guest posting? I do. It’s fun and a great way to make connections. 🙂

    Glad everyone liked the brainstorming suggestions and random spurts of ridiculousness. I think I had a bit too much sugar when I wrote that post…or something.

    Plus I just like ferrets.

  3. Good stuff, Ava, and fun techniques. I also had a good time reading the guest post. The only one I’ve ever used is the Go Crazy suggestion. But some readers claim I’ve never recovered from that stage!

    Thea, great choice to have Ava slide on by with her…uh…ferrets.

  4. Good post on brainstorming. I find that strong emotions lead to the best brainstorming ideas–the things that make me mad, sad, or deliriously happy make for good story ideas. When I get stuck, I go for a walk. There’s something about being in motion that jogs my brain out of its rut, too.

    • same here, pamela. Walking for me almost seems to shake something loose. but what really works for me is a good lie down on the sofa with a blankie and my thoughts.

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