November. National Novel Writing Month. The only episode that stands between me and the horrors of wet, cold, sunless days, and dread yuletide; from fretting uselessly about shopping days and failed resolutions and chilblains until they are upon me. Instead I can spend a delicious month creating, torturing, perhaps even murdering. And I might write a bit too.
How to begin?
I’m very good at coming up with story “sparks” – too good, in fact – but I always find it a trial to develop those ideas into fully-fledged stories. One technique I use is to create mind-maps. I thought I would share my genre mind maps in case they can help you in your hour of literary crisis. Here are some suggestions on how you might use them:
- Create a giant mind map with your favourite novel “things” – settings, plot devices, character quirks, etc. Whenever you get stuck while writing your story, close your eyes and point your finger at your giant mind map. Then do the same with your genre mind map. If you want, spend 5 minutes using these two items to generate more ideas. Or just write, write, write!
- Combine disparate items from different genre mind maps to create a new genre, or at least to add some strangeness to your storyline.
- Subvert your genre. This is the easiest way to shake things up a bit if your plot is becoming a bit too predictable. Choose a genre trope and turn it inside out like an Escher drawing.
- Choose a node from a mind map and search for images with that keyword. Write a paragraph describing it in detail.
- Choose a node from a mind map and branch it out further. Where does it lead? What else does it link up with?
- If you take the notion of “literary abandon” seriously, try to include every item from your genre mind map in your story. Ha!
I recommend printing these mind maps out so that you can add to them yourself.
If you’d like to see other genres included, leave me a comment and I’ll see what I can come up with.