Brainstorming Plot Ideas

So you’ve finished your fantasy book. Now what about a sequel?

If you’re an Indy author, people expect you to write sequels. If you’ve done your world building well, your readers are already invested in the characters and the universe. They want to go back and play in your world again. Reading about the further adventures of familiar characters can be like a reunion with old friends.

But how do you develop the plot for your next book?

No doubt, there are as many sources of inspiration as there are writers. One particular method that works for me involves brainstorming with another person. In my case, that person is usually John, my husband and co-author. There is, however, no requirement that the person involved in the brainstorming process be a co-author or even an author at all. The individual must simply be willing to engage in the process.

And brainstorming is a process. It requires a dialogue between two people who are both actively proposing ideas and discussing/rejecting the other’s ideas. Nothing is too unlikely or trite to be proposed, because even the most foolish thought may spark another idea that ignites a worthwhile story.

My brainstorming sessions with John usually start with me presenting some vague concept for a story, which John immediately tells me is stupid and unworkable.

Just kidding. John asks questions to force me to give the concept more substance. Then he tells me why it’s stupid and won’t work.

I counter by either modifying the idea to get around the flaws he raised or by asking him for suggestions to get around those flaws. He then starts proposing ideas, most of which I reject for one reason or another. The very process of considering and rejecting those proposals gives rise to other ideas, which are then considered and rejected. If all goes well, at some point in the process, one of the two of us (usually John) comes up with a proposal that works well and doesn’t have any obvious flaws. His proposal may fit with my original concept or be entirely different.

Obviously, the way you phrase your rejections during the process may differ depending on how close you are to the other person. John can tell me that my plot idea is stupid, but I wouldn’t suggest that language with someone other than your spouse. (Frankly, it’s not a good idea for your spouse either, but John and I have been together for a very long time, so I’m used to him talking like that.) It is important for the participants to understand that rejection of the proposed ideas is part of the process, not a criticism of the other individual or their proposals.

Even when a great story idea does not arise during a brainstorming session, the process is still valuable. The ideas presented and rejected may plant the seeds that later sprout into workable ideas, either for that sequel or a later novel.

Susan 3/26/21

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