Idea generation

Today in my writing group, we all brought prompts to the table. We’d been discussing the problems of coming up with ideas, especially if there is a theme at work so we decided to play with it. We brought a range of things: letters, photos, objects, story dice and I brought a song. In turn, we took an object and had three minutes where we all wrote anything we thought of. It was interesting to see the differences in approaches. I mindmapped random thoughts and just wrote a range of small ideas, settings etc whereas other people went into one idea more deeply.

Reflecting back on the session a few interesting things jumped out at me.

  1. We all came up with something for all the prompts. Even though there were only three minutes, everybody had written something that could be worked with.
  2. We had had different methods for scribing our ideas and how we generated them. Like I said, I liked to come up with several short things to expand on later and others focused in quickly.
  3. People focus on different layers. Sounds a bit deep for me but what I mean is, where I would look at how an object would be used or incorporated like a tool, some in my group focused on the object itself, what it looked like, how it was handled etc.
  4. Now this won’t go for everyone, but for me, my style and genre definitely came out. Some prompts seemed to lend themselves to more poetic styles, others to real-life heartwarming ideas about relationships etc. Did I write poetic, heartwarming ideas? What do you think? For each one of them I managed to twist and construe them into some kind of fantastical sci-fi experimentation plot or spy mission where someone is a murderer. Every single one. Am I a one-trick pony or am I just happy with my niche? Well, let’s not focus on that right now shall we 😉

For the next meeting, we agreed to take one of our ideas and expand it into a short work for workshopping. I retired to a local coffee shop, sat back and looked through my notes. Now here is where the crux lies. I had a load of ideas. But now I had to actually run with one of them. And this is where I actually come unstuck when deciding what to do for themes. I can come up with random ideas, partial prompts but figuring out how to bring them to life in something bigger is a whole different issue and perhaps this is the problem rather than what we initally looked at.

I liked some of my ideas, stuttering time where someone can see between moments, but when it came to expanding it, my mind was blank. It felt like too much hard work. Some of the ideas were too small, there was no way I could make a whole story round it. When I looked closer, there were only three maybe four where I thought I could actually use them. I’ll keep the other ideas, perhaps one day I’ll figure out how to use them or be able to combine them with something else.

It was enjoyable though, throwing ideas at the wall so to speak. I liked not having the pressure of thinking it had to result in a story.  There was no competition or submission in mind; although now I’ve looked again, some of them could prove useful for a competition or two. Perhaps this is the way to do it, look at something random, see what happens. maybe you’ll use something maybe you won’t but now I have a set of ideas that might just creep up somewhere, when you’re least expecting it.


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