Brainstorm basics help us to filter through the possibilities before we pour hours into world development. There are so many different ways to brainstorm, and we all have our favorites. In addition to all the normal reasons for creative brainstorming, there are three that I think are particularly important for world building. First whether we ground our novels in a real world or an imaginary one, the specific places are different from normal, or at least a perception of normal. That is a key factor. We need to find the bridges to connect our readers to live and breathe in these worlds with our characters. Brainstorming in world building helps forge that metaphoric link between real and imaginary without saying which is which.
Brainstorming throughout all the drafts makes that happen. We do the overview general sweep in the beginning, and then throughout we stop often and do microscopic investigation. This keeps the water from the well flowing with freshness—not dried up with overused generic templates, but rather with unique, interesting and tempting places, situations, and characters.
Second, one real difficulty with the scope of our worlds is the ability to drown out character, plot and theme. The sheer weight can even overpower us.
Taking time to brainstorm helps us choose which details we need to highlight, which we need to keep as background, and which to just plain ignore.
This brings up the third main reason, research. When we brainstorm before each particular research area required, we save hours of time. We also protect ourselves from following possible bunny trails that could lead us away from our main goals. Because we love to build worlds, it’s a real temptation to get lost in the preparation. And it’s a balancing act too, because we don’t want to miss out on serendipities either.
Cluster: Take a word and place it in the middle of a page and then make spokes from the word to bubbles with word associates. For each of the words you choose repeat the process. Go out as far you can.
Exercise: Choose a word or a thought, either for theme or potential research, from your free-write last week and cluster out all the ideas as far as you can.
Share: How far did you get? Which brainstorm of the two generated the most material for you?