Prep: White Rabbit Brainstorming

One of the problems of setting up to write is always trying to get things to gel. Some people will work endlessly on the first few chapters of a book. Others will create an incoherent mess and end up looking at it, wondering how to get from where they are now to where they want to be. My solution is “white rabbit” brainstorming.

The name, of course, comes from Alice in Wonderland and her pursuit of the White Rabbit. This is a method I try to use sparingly, because, like following the white rabbit wasn’t the best of ideas for Alice, brainstorming free-assocation might not be the best plan for your story. The only thing I promise with it is that you’ll slip past any so-called writer’s block like a greased otter.

The method works like this.

Pick a point just before you’ve stopped and write it down at the middle of a blank sheet of paper and circle it, then draw five or six lines off of it. Pick five or six things that could happen after this stopping point. Don’t worry about how plausible or unlikely they are. Don’t worry about whether or not they fit the setting, genre, or tone of the story. Just pick one thing for each line, write them down at the end of each line, and circle them. The only key point is that it has to be something that could happen, however unlikely.

Draw four or five more lines – one less than the original number. For each of those first things that could happen, pick another set of possible results. Write them down, circle them, and draw another set of lines. Keep repeating until you’re down to one line off each circle. This is where the white rabbit comes in – pick one of the first circles, the one you like the most, and then draw a line to each next set of circles, picking your favorite option.

This will give you an outrageous, unlikely, and bizarre set of steps; it will do horrible things to the continuity of your story and the direction of your plot. It will, however, defeat any mental blocks. You now have a path forward. Write it out, even if you have to throw it all away later. You may find, on the return to the block point, that punching through it with something outlandish the first time has left the way forward clear for something that works better for your plot.

You might also find that your story actually works well with the white rabbit leading the way forward. Don’t be afraid to keep this leapfrog forward if it works out, but also don’t hold it as a darling if it doesn’t. Just enjoy that you’ve got a way forward now and you can get back to writing rather than gazing at a blank screen and sipping your coffee, tea, or booze.

Follow the white rabbit. Just be sure that you know the way back, unlike poor Alice.

Prep: White Rabbit Brainstorming

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