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Brainstorming Workout

The more we practice brainstorming, the better we get at it. This brainstorming activity is a good way to exercise the "muscles" that help us start with a basic situation and develop it into a story.

To use the Brainstorming Workout as a group activity:

Each participant is given an index card in each of four different colors, one for each of the following categories. On the first card, each person is to write something about a heroine. On the second card, something about the hero. On the third card, a setting, background, or geographical location. On the fourth card, a basic problem or situation.

Each individual's four cards do not have to relate to each other or form a story together.

Gather each category of cards into a stack. Draw one card from each of the four stacks and brainstorm a possible story. Change or adapt each example if necessary; part of the learning experience comes from the modifications you make in order to improve the story.

To use the Brainstorming Workout as an individual:

Here are some basic ideas to get you started. Add additional cards, characters, settings, and problems as you wish. Write each idea on a card, shuffle each of the four decks, and draw one card from each. Consider how you could combine the elements to create a story. Though you may swap any of your cards for another from the deck, don't be in a hurry to do so.

Card 1: The Heroine. What makes her unusual? (Her job? Her personality quirks?) Choose one, or add your own.

She's very short and sensitive about it. She wears purple every day. She's clairvoyant--can see the future. She's a struggling singer/song writer. She's an exhausted widowed mother tired of waiting on her grown children. She's an accountant who can't balance her own checkbook. She's afraid of heights. She's a top fashion model. She sells toys. She runs a gift shop. She's the spoiled-brat daughter of a wealthy man. She's a single parent struggling to raise her family. She's afraid to fly. She was terrorized in childhood by her sister's telepathic skills. She's wealthy and not proud of how she got the money. She's overweight and in a relationship with a man who cheats. She is determined to marry for love. She flunked out of college. She feels responsible for everyone. She's motherly toward her father. She has a sarcastic wit. She does a man's work on a farm. She's allergic to alcohol. She owns a bakery in a college town. She has a talent for colorful, exaggerated stories. She bears a remarkable resemblance to her great-grandmother. She believes that love is not possible for her. She is a dreamer who wants a better life. She is extremely shy.

Card 2. Hero. What makes him unusual? (His hobby? His past?) Choose one, or add your own.

He's a record producer for a large company. He's trying to establish a veterinary practice. He's a doctor but he doesn't want to practice his specialty. He's blind. He's a very tall Wall Street broker. He's a single airline pilot with a girl in every airport. He's a college teacher with a sassy daughter. He forces his ideas on those around him. He can't refuse anyone in need. He's having difficulty adjusting to small-town life after living in a city. He's accident-prone. He has panic attacks. He's a spirit trapped between two worlds. He's very proper and very organized. He likes to be in control of every situation. He avoids any possibility of love. He's a world-class mountain-climber. He's fearful of women and being hurt, but craves a long-term relationship. He hates big cities. He doesn't know how to show love. He is a former doctor who lost his license over a situation that wasn't his fault. He's a workaholic. He's a cop who doesn't trust women. He's trying to quit smoking. He's poor but ambitious. He's a spy. He fights for justice, no matter what it costs him. He believes in past lives and knows the heroine is his soul mate. He's a member of a secret society. He's a reporter who's laid back and not very serious about anything.

Card 3. Setting. Geographical location, or a type of setting.

Small rural town. Run-down Victorian house. Ghost town in Texas. Amusement arcade. Cape Cod. Sophisticated bed & breakfast inn. A grocery store. A large city church with big music department. Small college town in Minnesota. Santa Monica--on the Pacific Ocean. London. Train station in the Midwest. Roadside ditch near Peoria. An English village. Wagon train on its way to Oregon. Iowa farm. Historical mansion once owned by his family. An auction. The set of a failing soap opera. An island off Scotland. Bar in a small Iowa town. Mountains outside Las Vegas, Nevada. A cattle ranch in Wyoming.

Card 4. Basic problem/situation. What's going on, right now?

The heroine's treasured cat needs immediate and expensive medical care. Local flooding has stranded people. She has to give a speech and she's never done it before. She needs a job immediately to support herself and her child. She's free with money, he's tight. She's received a bagful of jewels by messenger and has no idea where they came from. He's just inherited his sister's twins. She's lost all her money and credit cards and is far from home. Her family thinks she should provide for them with the money she just won in the lottery. Hero & heroine are locked in a warehouse and can't get out anytime in the next 72 hours. He has a skiing accident and breaks both legs. They're both trying to purchase the same item at an auction. She's just killed a deer. She's won a trip to Las Vegas. Her son has witnessed a crime and may have to testify. She wants him to take her to a dance. His elderly grandmother is being bilked of her money. She has a flat tire in the middle of a country road. She's written him a nasty letter, not intending to send it, but her temporary secretary put it in the mail. She's lost in the city with no money. He has lost a valuable family artifact. She's hiding out from the mob. She needs help getting her finances in order. She has a runaway child. He's come to take over her land. She falls for her best friend's fiancÚ. They have just broken up after a long relationship. He shot her father in self-defense. She's been stuck with an entire load of Girl Scout cookies. She isn't making enough money, so she opts to take in a boarder.

This exercise is copyrighted material and is offered for the individual's own use. Further distribution or sale is not permitted without permission of the copyright holder. Copyright 2013 Leigh Michaels.

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