Thursday, April 7, 2016

Bring Someone Into Your Storm by Susan Tuttle

Brainstorming. It’s the beginning process of every story. You run across a little sentence, picture, verse, news story…whatever it is that places a thought in your head that won’t release. It bounces around and you start to see characters. You place those characters in a setting. But you still need a plot. Even if you’re a pantser, you’ll need to brainstorm the bones of your story. And that’s one storm you need to bring a friend into.

During the brainstorming process, a friend becomes the board you throw things against to see if they stick. There’s something about taking a thought from your head and voicing it out loud that allows you to see the viability of it. Sometimes an idea will hit a dead end, but those dead ends are as important as a wide-open alley to run down. I liken it to those old maze puzzles we used to play. You’d know where to start, and even could see the finish, but while trying to find your way there you’d sometimes hit a wall. That wall told you to turn around and try another avenue. You might hit a few more walls before you finally make it across the finish line, but once you’re there you’ve blazed a path from start to finish that works.

So how do you brainstorm with another person? Here’s a few things I’ve found to be helpful:

1. Understand that no idea is a bad idea. Laughable, maybe, but laughing together is part of the funJ

2. No matter what the outcome, it's not a waste of time. Sometimes brainstorming sessions will produce nothing more than...well...nothing. You'll toss out idea after idea only to have none useable. And that's okay! To take a twist on a famous Edison quote, you've just found 10,000 ways to not write your story. Put it away and brainstorm again another day.

3. Don't bring your feelings to the table. Realize that someone else might have an idea that is better than yours, so put away your pride. Also understand that your ideas may be legitimately shot down, so put away your sensitivities. Hurt feelings are not allowed. The entire point of a brainstorming session is to find viable ideas. Better to discover the holes in your plot now than fifty-five thousand words into your first draft.

4. Listen to everything but keep your own voice. This is the early stage of your story, and while you may not know everything about the characters you're crafting, you do know your writing style and if the ideas will fit within those parameters.

5. Take notes! In the eye of the brainstorm, ideas will be flowing fast and freely. You'll think you'll remember them - but you won't! I promise. You won't. So have a pen and paper nearby to write down anything that sparks a trail you'll want to follow.

Ultimately, this is an incredibly important part of writing for both pansters and plotters alike. If you've never brainstormed with someone before, I recommend trying it before beginning your next WIP. It's one storm you won't want to miss!

Susan L. Tuttle lives in Michigan where she’s happily married to her best friend and is a homeschooling mom of three. She’s firmly convinced that letters were meant for words, not math, and loves stringing them together into stories that inspire, encourage, and grow women into who God created them to be. Romance, laughter, and cookies are three of her favorite things, though not always in that order. You can connect with Susan at her blog, Steps, Facebook, or Twitter.


  1. This is a wonderful post, Susan! Have you ever thought about teaching a workshop on Bringing Someone into Your Storm? You should!

    1. :) Thanks, Beth! I've never thought about it, honestly, but your encouragement means a lot!

  2. love your angle on this, Susan! saving for future reference and with permission, may just quote you in my own post next week!

    1. Definitely! Please feel free to quote me, and I'm so glad it struck a chord:)

  3. Great tips, Susan! I smiled at the first one. My crit partners and I have had the best time laughing together while brainstorming.

  4. Susan, I loved this post! So unique. I haven't read much about brainstorming. I need to try this with my two writing buddies! And if you do teach a class as Beth suggested, I hope it is somewhere I can be.


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