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I'm trying to map out the thematic and plot elements of one of my works in progress, and whenever I do this I always have to wait a few days, bouncing ideas around on paper, until I finally have that "ah-ha!" moment that tells me how the story ends, so I can work my way to it with the plot and and characters.

How do you coax the Muse out to play? What methods work for you when you're brainstorming?

Discuss now. DISCUSS I SAY!#!!!#!!!
 

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Since you insist, I will discuss.  I brainstorm on paper, usually in a sketchbook since even lines on the paper can be limiting.  I ask myself lots of questions, and then answer them.  Why would he do that?  List of possibilities.  Circle a good one and ask more questions.  He never meant for that to happen, he meant for something else to happen.  Such as?  List more possibilities.  Circle a good one.  Lines and arrows pointing everywhere all over the page.  After a few hours like this something just grabs me and I can't wait to write it.
 

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I re-arrange furniture. Back in the day the ex would come home and cuss because everything had changed. Again. Ha ha. But when I'm doing something like rearranging the living room or the office I'm using a different creativity and that always sparks the creative writing. Weird, huh?
 

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I go into it with splotches of setting, characters, scenes, and plots. And I mean, very thin splotches. The themes I don't worry about, I figure those'll grow out of the chracters and plot. Then it's like kneading dough. I put down four or five sentences about plot and characters to kind of anchor the plot, Then maybe write a scene. From that grows a little something and I think about where the next phase can go, and where it might end up. This takes place over the course of months. I just keep at it with the rolling pin until it doesn't look like such a blob.

Not exactly state-of-the-"art" methodology.
 

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I do the question method like Brenda, except I'll use a white board if I'm at home, because being able to erase allows me to feel like I have more freedom. Or if I'm at work I'll write in a little notebook I keep with me.
 

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I used to do the furniture-moving thing, too.

Sometimes it's as easy as doing dishes (bleh). Or playing Guitar Hero. (I like it when it's that one). Or sometimes it's taking a few days off and sewing...or sketching. Basically anything that keeps me stationary, without the TV on or a book in my hand, and preferably something that keeps my hands busy.

I also handwrite a lot of notes.
 

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I've been making music playlists for each of my characters and watching movies and shows that have the type of mood/look I'm trying to emulate. (Watched Cowboy Bebop and The Good Bad and The Ugly for my WIP which has nothing to do with cowboys and little to do with bounty hunters.)

Also personality tests and character questions help me spark ideas. I've had these two open the past few days:
http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp
https://43537828468%2Fnot-your-average-character-questions
Questions like "You believe the best decision is one that can be easily changed" and "When considering a situation you pay more attention to
the current situation and less to a possible sequence of events" make me wonder what situation can I get my MC into that will force that answer/trait into my story.
 

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I do the same thing with jotting down notes on paper and asking myself questions.
I've also found that taking a walk works wonders. Something about the fresh air or being away from the desk makes me think of things that I don't when I'm indoors.
I've also come up with some great ideas in the shower, but how many showers can you take in one day?  ;D
 

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Like Zelah, I'm a daydreamer. I spend a lot of time gazing into space dreaming up stories and always have. When I've just taken a plot down a blind alley in my mind, it's much easier to back out and take it somewhere else than if I were writing it as I dreamed it up. My personal theory is any story I don't like enough to go over it in my mind often enough to have the plot and characters firmly established isn't interesting enough to hold readers. After I've got the plot worked out, I write a sentence or two for each scene. Used to do that in a separate word processing document but now use Scrivener. Then I write it, changing and rearranging things as I go as different or better ideas crop up. My character lists occur as I go. Introduce a character, write him/her down with whatever info I think I might need to refer back to. Main characters, personalities and background are established in the daydreaming stage.
 

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Ignis_Designs said:
I tell Mathew that if he isn't writing, he should do the dishes... Magically, he is able to write...

Does that count?
Behind every great man is a great woman asking him to do the dishes....
;D
 

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Betsy the Quilter said:
Behind every great man is a great woman asking him to do the dishes....
;D
She hasn't asked me to do them recently enough.

That and our infant is going through one of the worse periods of sleep. The one where all night long is party time.
 

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Like others, I'm a daydreamer. I plan out the story and characters while I'm driving around in my car or lying awake at night . Then I sit down and write out all the facts I know and start trying to work out the stuff I don't know. It makes the writing part a lot easier if I already have things clear in my head.
 
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