Once in a while, I realize that some piece of my story makes absolutely no sense. And somehow, the removal of this one little piece of information ruins the entire story. The next thing you know I’m rambling about how I fail as a writer, and looking for the nearest rope to hang myself.
…What? You’ve never felt that way? Oh… yeah. Me neither. Totally.
So I was editing a scene, but before I could rewrite it, I had to make sense of 19th century ship construction. I mean, I suppose I could have rewritten the scene without doing so, I just assume no one is going to feel immersed in the story if the scene reads like this:
“He pulled some rope; things happened.”
Hours later, I managed to learn all these names for sails, masts, and different ropes before I realized, “Wait… My protagonist doesn’t know anything about ships. How the hell did she steal one, let alone get away with it?”
But if she can’t steal a ship, and the ship isn’t hers to begin with, how did she become the captain? Well, her only friend is a 2-dimensional sailor. Maybe it’s his ship. But if that’s the case, why isn’t he already sailing it?
This website is one of my favorite writing tools. It allows you to brainstorm ideas, and once you get the hang of it, it’s super simple to use. While I won’t explain the technical aspect of using Bubbl.us, I will guide you through using it to fix the story problems that keep you from writing.
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1. Ask a question and choose 2-3 basic answers
What do you need to know in order to move forward? Write it in the form of a question for your first bubble. Then answer it. Bubbl.us works best when you treat your brainstorm like a first draft; DO NOT JUDGE, just write every possibility you can think of. I personally like to keep it REALLY basic so I don’t hurt my brain.
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2. Be vague about the ways your answers could play out
Now, come up with as many random, basic ideas as you can for each possibility. As you can see, I gave up pretty easily, but that’s OK. Do the same for the other side and try not to judge any of them just yet. Once you actually flesh them out, you can unleash the inner hater.
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3. Expand on those ideas with specifics
Let’s start thinking of specific ways these ideas can tie into the story world. At this point, you’ll probably spend more time spacing your bubbles to fit rather than judging them.
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4. Judge like your name was Judy
Once you have both sides to this level (two tiers deep,) you may finally start to evaluate your ideas. Write your comments while considering the following questions:
- What is my first impression of this idea?
- How does this idea affect the story and its characters?
- Will I have to do more work?
The last question is especially important for second drafts, because I refuse to take steps backward if I don’t have to.
Note: Personally, I like to print my brainstorm and use a pencil and red pen for evaluations. Unfortunately, my printer was out of ink, so I had to get nerdy with it.
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5. Pick and choose
From there it gets even easier. Cross off the ones you hate, not based on the idea itself, but on your evaluations. As mentioned before, I hate backtracking, so any idea that required me to do so was crossed off. Circle whatever idea(s) you do like. In my case, no single idea was better than the other, and they all caused a new problem. But guess what…
Suddenly, my 2-Dimensional character received an added physical characteristic, a weakness, a backstory, a motive, a subplot with another character, AND he’s going to let my protagonist do what she needs to do in order for me to finish my edit.
Thank you Bubbl.us. Suicide averted.
How do you get through writer’s block?