04 July 2011

Creativity Tools

Roughing out plot points, suffering from writers block, trying to squeeze the next step in the story out of a reluctant brain, written yourself into a corner... I have the answer.

Well, actually that's not true, but hopefully I have a few tools that might coax your muse out to play again. A friend of mine went on a creativity workshop & here's some of what she shared with me, and some of the ideas ways I've extrapolated them (Sorry, I can't reference the workshop host as I don't recall his name).

1) Forced Questions
2) Think the Unthinkable
3) Magic Wand
4) What if?

Forced connections:
This is a way trying to make your brain think outside the box by making unexpected connections.
e.g. Car battery & women's independence.
How did the car battery drive a step change in women's independance?
    --- They no longer needed to rely on male strength to turn the crank handle which meant they could drive without their husbands.

Way to use this in your writing... Imagine your hero is standing on the edge of a cliff, the villain approaches gun in hand...
And you're stuck, your can't workout how he gets away. You look around your desk and spot your tea cup. You force a connection.
...The hero had been making a cup of tea when he heard the villain. The tea bag is still in his pocket. He reaches stealthy in and grabs it. Tearing it, he throws the tealeaves in the villain's eyes. The brief distraction allows his enough time to disarm the villain...
Okay, maybe tealeaves doesn't work for you, but you've got the idea of throwing something in hte villain's eyes. Maybe the hero grabs a handfull of sand.

This tool might require getting away from your desk to look for things to force the connections. Newspapers, TV, Things happening outside the window are all great sources.

Think the Unthinkable
This is about finding those thoughts that we instinctively hide from.
e.g. How do we stop elderly people dying of cold in winter?
--- Should we save them. Let them die.

This tool is not only good once for finding difficult thoughts, it's also a great way to did deeper into characters - to unearth the WHY. Why does the character think/react that way.
In this example is the character willing to let old people die.
- Maybe he's a villain in a position of power, and maybe his experiences growing up have made him view the elderly as a waste of space, or worse and experiences have given him a distaste or even hatred for them.
- Maybe he's the hero, maybe this is going to be a critical point of internal conflict for him. Maybe he has to chose, he can either save the babies or hte elderly but he doesn't have the budget to do both.

Magic Wand
When this tool was explained to me I was told "of course this doesn't really have any real world uses, it's more to get one thinking." However, as writers we're the masters of our universe - we can do anything, even wave a magic wand.
e.g. Our hero is still standing on the edge of the cliff. We can't think how to save him so we wave the magic wand. The hero sprouts wings and flies away.

Of course using this tool in your writing has huge risks, but it can also drive some fun storytelling because this it lets CONSEQUENCES out to play. You can't wave your wand without consequences. What happens as a result of waving the wand, how do you justify it both in the world building and as part of the character integrity, how do the other characters respond,  etc...

This is a tool that most writers will be familiar with, the brain interrogation of What if? It's a process of dumping everything you can think of out on the page without prejudice and then sorting through it afterwards.

e.g. Heroine is locked in dank, dark dungeon. How do we get her out?
--- What if she makes a key out of thread and stones; What if she shrinks small enough to get through the bars; What if her fairy godmother pops in and saves her; what if she still had her cell phone in her pocket; what if she seduced on of the guards; What if she faked a siezure and the guards opened the door and she over powered them; what if....
...you get the picture

So those are the tools, and don't forget the WHY & the CONSEQUENCE when using any of them.

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