NaNoWriMo Quickstart Guide – Part Six: Brainstorm Situations and Scenes

Step 6: Brainstorm Situations and Scenes

Once you have your cast, it’s time to figure out what’s going to happen to them.

This is where the fun really begins, as all you have to do is start to write down ideas about situations that could happen in your story. Right from Step 2 and 3, you probably had images of different important scenes in your head, and now it’s time to get those on paper in rough form.

You can do this as two steps or just skip the first step and go right to the second one, but it’s recommended doing both steps as it allows for more creative planning.

Step One

Create a point form list of all the different possible scenes and situations you can imagine happening in this story. Each point is going to be a single sentence that starts with who is involved and tells roughly what happens, and that’s it. The goal here is to get as many of these down as possible, so set a timer for ten minutes (or more) and in that time write down as many possibilities as you can think of. As usual, don’t be afraid to get silly or weird, because those might free up some more interesting ideas. Also, refer back to your brainstorming list from Step 2 and your characters’ profiles from step 5 to help give you inspiration and ideas.

When you’re done, you’ll have a list that looks like this:

  • Bob and Sam see a werewolf and run away.
  • The werewolf catches Bob and tries to eat him.
  • Bob talks to a cute girl in town about the strange disappearances.
  • Sam buys a chocolate bar and sees a weird kid eating from a garbage bin.
  • Sam gives his chocolate bar to the weird kid, who howls and runs away.
  • And so on…

The scenes and situations don’t need to be in any particular order, they just have to be there on the page in front of you so that you have something to work with. Try to have at least ten of them, but the more the better, which is why the timer method is the best. Now you have a list of possible scenes and situations, and can probably already see a story forming among the ideas. Evaluate the scenes using the questions below and circle the ones you think are useful from the list.

Questions:

  • Does this scene idea grab you and make you want to write it?
  • Is this scene idea going to make your readers feel something?
  • Is this scene idea going to interest your target audience?

Once you have 4-6 scenes ideas you think you can work with, then move on to Step 2. If you don’t have at least 4 you can work with, you probably want to do another brainstorming session with the timer and see if you can think of some more ideas. Obviously, the longer you want your story to be the more scene ideas you’re going to need.

Step Two

Now it’s time to turn those ideas into Scenes. A Scene is the things that happen to a character or characters at a particular place and time, and can easily be defined using the 5WH method. All you need to do is fill in the blanks!

  1. Who is involved?
  2. When does the Scene take place?
  3. Where does the Scene happen?
  4. What happens? What goes wrong (or right)?
  5. Why do the characters do what they do?
  6. How does it all turn out?

Example:

Bob and Sam (who) are walking in the forest at night (where, when) trying to find a missing girl (why) and see a werewolf that charges at them (what happens) so they run away and the wolf chases them to a nearby farmhouse. (How it turns out.)

That’s all there is to it.

Your job is to take your character(s) and situations then write down as many Scenes as you can think of for those characters to experience. Traditionally this would be done on paper with each Scene on a separate cue card, piece of paper, or post-it note, but you can do a version of it on a Word Processor with each Scene being a separate paragraph. (It just isn’t as fun.)

And using this technique, you can create as many interesting scenes as you want. The key here is being aware of which character’s goals are driving the scene, and giving the basic details of what happens. Think of these as the scenes of a movie or the chapters of a book, and you’ll have the right idea. They’re what happens at a single time and place in the life of that character (or characters).

Your goal is again to write more scenes than you can possibly use (maybe twice as many if possible) and which are linked together by your characters, themes, or ideas. This is an exercise in brainstorming, so don’t be afraid to write down every crazy idea which come to you, after all, nobody but you will read these cards, and crazy ideas sometimes lead to brilliant ones.

So based on the above list, we might end up with scenes that look like this:

  • Bob and Sam are walking in the forest trying to find a missing girl and see a werewolf that charges at them so they run away and the wolf chases them to a nearby farmhouse.
  • As the two are trying to get into the farmhouse to escape, the werewolf catches Bob and tries to eat him. Then the weird kid Sam gave the chocolate bar to earlier appears and starts to howl, making the werewolf drop Bob and chase the kid.
  • The morning the boys arrive in town, Sam gets gas while Bob talks to a cute girl gas attendant and asks about the strange disappearances that have been reported here. The attendant offers to let him know over lunch after she gets off work, and he makes a date with her.
  • While waiting for Bob to have lunch with the gas attendant, Sam buys a chocolate bar and sees a weird kid eating from a garbage bin. Sam feels bad seeing this, so Sam gives his chocolate bar to the weird kid, who howls and runs away. Sam shakes his head and buys a new chocolate to eat while he waits.

As you can see, some of the above ideas were combined into single scenes because they worked better that way. Also, using this method, we have now turned simple idea points into full scenes which are almost ready to be used, we just have to organize them.

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