Starting a New Writing Project: The Frankenstein Brainstorm Method

 

I had a moment of panic in the middle of a project a while back because I had no idea what I'd work on next.

There I was finishing up final revisions for a novel that had consumed most of my life, and I had no other WIPs waiting in the wind.

Sure I had story ideas written down, but none of them inspired the beginning of a first draft.

Cue freak out.

What was I going to write? What if I never come up with another idea worth writing again?

Since my ‘new idea’ breakdown, I’ve encountered other writers experiencing the same phenomenon. They too had approached a ‘dead end’ in their writing journey where new ideas evaded them.

These momentary setbacks have a way of causing us to question if we’re writers, and I am here to tell you — yes you are. And you can shake loose the muse yourself.

In this post, I’ll walk you through the process I used in creating my current WIP.

Let's patch together a shiny new idea.

 
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The Inspiration for my Breakthrough

Inspiration comes to those who seek it.

In many cases, writing success comes down to you being intentional with your actions. Some days the muse will turn up on a white horse, and on other days, it’s up to you to grab the reins of your creativity.

It feels strange saying this but — I’d never sat down and intentionally brainstormed a new idea from scratch. Most of my stories developed from plot bunnies and fragments of dreams. Since taking up writing seriously, I’ve discovered curious nuggets about myself, and this was one of them.

Being a passive creator, however, no longer brought me ideas I connected with enough to expand on. And if I planned on writing full time I couldn't take a “passenger” approach either.

So here’s where I became proactive about hunting down my next big idea.

Nothing is Original Only Fresh

“Our job, as writers, is to tell a new version of a familiar story that we already know readers are hardwired to respond to.”

Jessica Brody, Save the Cat! Writes a Novel

I'll pause and confess it took me a moment to realize the difference between "fresh" and "original." I was that snob who frowned at cliches (still do at times) but my perspective of judgment changed with a better understanding of the two.

Quite a few books and movies I loved contained cliches and common elements; they just gave a different spin. The new spin made it feel "original." They subtly introduced old concepts in new ways that snuck under my "snob radar."

Inspired Creativity

Every book we read, every movie or television show we watch inspires our creativity. It's the power of influence whether you acknowledge it consciously or it unconsciously spills into your work.

After analyzing the plot bunnies I’d collected plus my WIP at the time, and my deserted drafts, I noted elements from creative influences I’d come across at one time or the other. Historical events I studied during my time at University bled into the creation of my epic fantasy world.

Writers make comparisons to known works in their pitches, and others revamp old stories into fresh, fantastical retellings.

Who else loves hearing about the creative influences of their favorite authors? I’m always intrigued by how they weave the elements of their stories together and from where they gather their inspiration.

Armed with all the necessary information, I blocked out time in my schedule to get intentional with my brainstorming.

 

The Frankenstein Brainstorm Method

Things you’ll need to complete this exercise:

● Notebook / New Document
● Pencil / Pen / Marker
● Index cards / Sticky notes
● Patience
● An Open mind and sense of adventure
● Coffee / Tea / Wine / Snacks
● The internet

As a History major, I have a thing for research which shows in my absolute love for worldbuilding. But you can’t build a world without a concept, and you can’t put together an idea without elements for inspiration.

 

Step #1

Task: List your creative influences and note intriguing elements from each.

Tools
● Notebook / New Document
● Pencil / Pen
● Patience
● Coffee / Tea / Wine / Snacks

These influences have no limits whether they be artistic (books, movies, television shows, etc.) or real world (settings, locations, news stories, histories, etc.).

Write out the elements of each that captured your attention. Themes from your artistic influences can also be noted.

Take your time with this step and create as detailed a list as possible, but don’t fuss over it. No matter how out of place, all the elements may seem, write them down. We’ll organize in later steps. This is only an inspiration gathering mission.

No second guessing! No over thinking! Trust your creative instincts.

WRITER TIP: I am always collecting exciting pictures and facts on my Pinterest boards and on Instagram. Always be on the lookout for creative inspiration and hoard them like the writer dragon you are.

 

Step #2

Task: Start testing the parts of your Frankenstein.

Tools
● Pencil / Pen / Marker
● Index cards / Sticky notes
● Patience
● An open mind and sense of adventure
● Wine

In this step, we’ll test the elements for compatibility. Note the definition of ‘compatibility’ is at your creative discretion.

From the list you created in Step #1, jot down individual elements on your index cards or post-it notes. Think of them as puzzle pieces you’ll shuffle to create your Frankenstein Idea.

Combine at least three items, each from a different influencer and see which fit best together.

I say at least three because I found below that threshold didn’t allow sufficient wiggle room for splicing. What you don’t want at the end of this exercise is a carbon copy of your artistic influences. Consider mixing in some real-world influences if you haven’t selected any.

Once you’ve whittled down your list and have decided on your combo, you can move on to Step #3.

WRITER TIP: While you’re going through the steps note all the ideas they shake loose. Don’t be the “I don’t need to write it down I’ll remember it later, but then you don’t” writer. Every nugget is the beginning of something new.

 

Step #3

Task: Do additional, targeted research.

Tools
● Your chosen combination
● Notebook / New Document
● Pencil / Pen
● Patience

With your initial (always allow for changes) combination decided, take some time to learn more about each element.

Researching will open doors to new knowledge and inspiration. Take notes during your research, and by the end, you’ll have the beginnings of a writing notebook for your story.

WRITER TIP: I’d suggest you include in your research the creative processes of your chosen influencers. I always walk away feeling inspired by the stories of my favorite creators, and this spark of inspiration will help you flesh out your new idea.

 

Step #4

Task: Put your Frankenstein together.

Tools
● Your combination and research notes
● Notebook / New Document
● Pencil / Pen
● Patience
● An open mind
● Coffee / Tea / Wine / Snacks

It’s time for the fun part — sewing your ideas into the beginnings of a new story.

Write out a synopsis for a story that includes all of the elements you’ve chosen and researched.

What kind of world would have all the pieces you’ve combined? What story could you use to tie your elements together? What type of character would best suit the telling of this story?

You may find that additional influences come to you while you’re in this phase, let them. Note them.

The influencers you started with may not be the only ones you end with, and that’s okay. You’re building on your world and plot one layer at a time.

Your creativity is limited only by the walls you build around it.

~

During your brainstorming phase, you’re gathering some of the pieces you’ll need to create your story. As you write and get a better feel of where all the pieces fall, you'll add and subtract until it all fits. So have fun and dive in with an open mind.

From here, you’ll craft your Protagonist and Antagonist; decide on their motives and the core themes and plot of your story. These elements will give your Frankenstein personality and heart and bring it to life!

Final PEP TALK

New ideas don’t always flow as smooth as we want them. Trust your process and yourself as a writer. Be patient with yourself. Quit comparing yourself and your pace with others. Having a slower pace doesn't mean you're a lousy writer.

Go forth and conquer my friends. May the words forever be in your favor!

Share your Frankenstein Project with me on Instagram with #FrankensteinProject.

 
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