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06/29/2006: The Storm in Your Brain
Hey everyone, I'm heading off on my long weekend very early tomorrow morning, so there won't be a new entry until Wednesday. So enjoy the 4th, everyone. Don't get mutilated by illegal fireworks. Or legal ones, for that matter.
Do they still sell sparklers? I remember playing with those as a very small child. The metal stick would literally be white hot. I could've been maimed! Looking back, it seems like a very bad idea.
Sometimes there's an inexhaustible supply of bad ideas. Or none at all. Which is to say that sometimes the "One Hundred Bad Ideas" brainstorming tool just doesn't work. Or maybe it just feels weird to you. Trust your instincts on that -- if it's not for you, there are other ways to come up with that shiny new idea. Like a more traditional brainstorming session.
Here's what my brainstorming list tends to look like when I'm looking for a new idea. I really do sit down and write one of these pretty regularly. It comes out different each time. But it might look something like this:
Jane Austen / Darcy from Pride and Prejudice
Moonlighting -- Moonlighting with sci fi twist?
Time travel -- teens? A family? As someone's job?
Alien Nation -- integration
Con men / witness relocation (with aliens?)
Egypt / Hieroglyphs
The Egyptologist -- unreliable narrator
Starman / Splash -- seeing our own world through someone else's eyes
Fiction comes to life? (Darcy again.)
Blade Runner / Battlestar – characters unaware of own nature
I'm sure you can see what I'm doing. I'm thinking of things that inspire me. Usually, for me, it's books, movies or tv shows with themes or a tone or a kind of character that I like. Sometimes it's other things entirely. I list them as they occur to me, more or less randomly. And as I go, I'm thinking about what it is that speaks to me about each one -- what is it about the show or movie or book or issue or place or person that makes me like it?
The trick to making it work is realizing that it's not a list about other works of fiction. It's a list about *you*. About what gets an emotional response out of you. Maybe your list won't even have works of fiction on it -- it might all be about your life experiences and paintings and songs. The exercise is really a bit of self-analysis to help you figure out what you already want to write about, but might never have articulated.
This list is mine. Yours will look totally different. It'll have your trip to Spain and The Godfather and Batman comic books and zombies on it, or whatever else makes it yours. Just like with the "100 Bad" list, you should go for volume, not quality – don't shut yourself down.
Anyway, I find this kind of list so much more helpful than starting from a title or events, or looking at what is lacking in the currect TV schedule. And this way, whatever I come up with isn't just something I think I can write, but also something I know I will love writing.
Lunch: Vietnamese food. A noodle dish and spring rolls.