Fun Friday – Inviting my Muse to Come out and Play

I’m often asked how I come up with ideas for my stories, so today I’m giving you a glimpse into the process with the book I’m currently working on…

…a book that is giving me no end of trouble as the voice in my head keeps asking…

Do you really want him to be the villain?

Now I’ve heard of authors who write a book not knowing who the villain will turn out to be so that the process of writing is as fun and surprising for them as it will be for the reader.

Being VERY left-brained (that is to say I like to plot everything out ahead of time and figure out how it will work before I start writing), I have never contemplated such a thing.

At least… not until last week.

And I’ve got to admit that letting my right brain (or muse as many refer to that fountain of ideas in your head) have it’s whimsical way is a lot of fun.

Every morning for the past week, I’ve come to my writing with new energy, wondering what interesting twists I’ll discover today that I’d never imagined when I wrote up that story summary to sell my story to my editor. 

The key to making the writing process an adventure, I’ve discovered, is asking good questions. Then letting the answers generate more questions and answers and see where they lead.

I do this by clustering (also called mind-mapping).

Here’s one I did last week when that voice in my head kept hounding me about changing my villain. Not sure if you’ll actually be able to read my handwriting, but even if you can, I’m not worried about giving away the story, because honestly… I haven’t decided who the villain will ultimately be.

Gasp! I know. Heretical!

As you can see this is a messy process. Ideas come a mile a minute. 
In this exercise, I was exploring the possibility of making a different character the villain–a character that hadn’t even been on my radar as a suspect when I outlined the story, but I soon became suspicious of as I got to know him better. 
The exercise is an incredibly energizing creativity boost as it encourages me to think outside of the box.  I’ve started to spend a few minutes doing a clustering exercise each time I finish a scene. My central question: What happens next? 
I explore the possibilities from various characters’ points of view then ask why does that matter? Why would the reader care? It helps me to eradicate the mundane and discover the extraordinary, and best of all, to surprise myself. 
Hopefully, if I’m surprising myself, my reader will be surprised, too! 
Even if you’re not a writer, give clustering a try. It’s a great problem solving exercise whether you’re trying to come up with a new fundraising idea for your daughter’s school, or a creative way to rearrange your living room. 
Your Turn: What are some problem-solving strategies you like to use?

From top to bottom, people images courtesy of David Castillo Dominici (X2), imagerymajestic and photostock /