Here are a few more techniques to apply to reach the heart of your worlds instead of staying on surface description.
I strongly recommend that all the brainstorming be done by hand whenever possible. Why? For one, working by hand supposedly shifts our attention into a more creative mode. Second, more importantly, it becomes portable. Each of these methods, apart from journaling, can be done in 2 to 10 minutes. Think of them as ongoing creative breaks through your day. And if you happen to have a job/life that literally will not allow you to write every day, you can still brainstorm every day, so that when your computer time opens up you are ready to write without needing warm-up or re-entry time. Your novel stays fresh.
For those of us slow dreamers who tend to procrastinate, we will have a stack of snippets ready to develop. No lost time. It helps prevent writer’s block, because we’re not really writing—we’re exploring possibilities.
List: Make a list. Set timer if you want. Minimum two minutes, but I suggest five.
Exercise one: List ten to twenty cities that you have visited that you absolutely loved, or would love to visit if you had the chance. (Can also repeat for those you hated.)
Go back through the list, and next to each city write one word that captures that city’s memory for you—why you love it: Architecture, food, felt free, fell in love, etc.
Scratch List: Make a few categories and combine common factors under each.
Exercise two: Look at your city list so far, and see if there are any common factors. Separate accordingly. Does one category contain many and another a few? Why? Make a note of what makes two favorite cites land in different categories.
Share: How many creative breaks were you able to add into your week?