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Mr(s) writer… Cut that list down

tear down the wall holding your originality back

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Among the writing “hacks” offered up today, there is an upswing in the various ways for a writer to generate new ideas . That's not such a bad thing because this can help you sort out the good from the past-the-expiration-date ones.

This is one of my favorite idea generating techniques because it can be combined with any number of “what if” Questions, memories, daily events, journal or any other info heavy way you might have to sort out.

Choose a topic and start creating a list.

You decide the length of the list that you want to create. Depending on the complexity of your topic, your list may be long or short. Generally I try to push myself to create longer lists because that’s where the magic happens.

Most likely the first few ideas you will have written down will be the most obvious and cliche ideas off the top of your head, and there's nothing wrong with that because They are the ones that we are most familiar with. But soon you will find yourself searching your imagination for a way to fill the rest of your list this is where you must push yourself, to search the furthest regions of your mind for the solutions that do not fit the “common” mold. You might even re-discover some old memories that you thought you forgotten about.

Again you can use this technique for almost anything: You could use this technique to create lists for:

  • Set locations
  • Names
  • Deciding on how a character should handle a situation
  • topics to write about
  • the climax of a scene/novel
  • What to do next
  • ect…

After you have created your extended list, take the first half and toss it away. Yup off with it’s… err top half. Because as mentioned earlier, the top half of the list is most likely not going to serve your best interests in term of originality and creativity.

An Example:

Off the top of my head I will create a list of, lets go with… thirteen ways that I, as a criminal, could use a non-working hand gun to my advantage.

1. Pretend it is a real gun in a hold up
2. Postal pistol whip someone to hurt them
3. Throw the gun as a weapon
4. Stick a small firecracker in the barrel in hopes it sounds real.
5. point the gun at myself until my target gets close enough to grab.
6. Fix the gun

7. Take the gun apart and store drugs in it.
8. Attempt to pawn the gun for cash
9. Attack someone and then plant the gun on them and call the cops
10. Tie a string to the gun so you could swing the gun at people.
11. Hold the barrel in the victim’s mouth while pitching their nose closed.
12. “leave the gun take the cannoli.”
13. Distract them by saying “say hello to my little friend.”

Out of that list, I would say I like number twelve the best because it reminds me of the Godfather movies and how a mobster might handle the situation. I also like number number ten. I could just imagine the looks on the faces of the victims. I don’t know what they would be more scared of, the gun or the mad mad swinging the gun on a string.

Notice how the options on the first half of the list are simple and most likely have been used many times before. I did not plan it that way, I simple wrote down the options that popped into my head as I thought of them. I could easily cut this list in half and still came out with the more original ideas on the lower half.

You may be tempted to simple pass off the more cliche ideas in your head and not even bother to write them down. I would urge you to write them down anyways because that will allow your mind to move past those ideas and onto the bigger and better ones that will add depth to your writing.

In Summery

  1. Choose a topic. (something you need to flush out)
  2. Create a list of options (push for a longer list)
  3. cut the list down. (Off with the top half)
  4. Focus on the lower half ( narrow down your remaining options)
  5. Repeat as necessary.

Helping each other write better.

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