Exercise Your “What-if” Muscle

At my May writer’s meeting, we were lucky to have Leanne Banks. She is such a dynamic speaker and, though I’ve heard her present several times, she somehow always manages to focus on an area where I’m having trouble. (I just LOVE her!)

Would you take a good look at that "what-if" muscle?

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been writing non-fiction for awhile now but my “What-if” muscle was in need of some serious help. Thankfully Leanne provided scads of tips on brainstorming and getting “unstuck!”

Below are my favorites from her talk, along with some great posts on the subject. Happy Techie Tuesday!!

Write an autobiography of your characters and ask them provocative questions like:

  • What are you most proud of?
  • What was your most embarrassing moment?
  • What is your biggest fear?
  • What did your parents teach you about sex?
  • What did they teach you about love?
  • What is your biggest shame?
  • What is your secret wish?

Change creative mediums

  • Make a collage for your book. Jennifer Crusie does this. Different textures and different mediums can stimulate your brain to be creative. Debbie Macomber and Christie Ridgway knit (so do I!); Linda Lael Miller paints.
  • Brainstorm with a writer friend, a non-writer friend, a newbie and someone who writes in a different genre.
  • Choose a soundtrack for your book. Try doing this on Pandora.
  • Julia Cameron composes music.

Brainstorming Techniques

  • In yesterday’s blog, I talked about some tips Anne Lamott offers to keep you going in your writing. My faves were also Leanne’s: Give yourself permission to write crap and take a tiny picture frame and write only about what you can see inside it.
  • If you’re stuck, be random. (this was one of my favorites!)
  • Brainstorm what everyone else would do, then do the opposite.
  • Reconsider what you did that got you into this corner and determine if a small change can get you out of it.

Creative “What-if” Techniques

  • Role-storming – How would you handle these problems if you were someone else?
  • Iconic figures – how would you approach this if you were an iconic figure from the past?
  • Brainwriting – gather together several people and give one person a piece of paper. Each person writes for 10 minutes, then passes the paper. Keep going until everyone has written on that page. Read the entire story out loud.
  • Last but not least is the old reliable List of 20 – You must write down twenty possibilities, as fast as you can think of them, no editing allowed. The only engraved rule is that you must write all twenty! It’s the “old reliable” because it works.

Some great brainstorming articles – there are some similarities but Holy Cow, look at the differences!

So after all this Techie Tuesday greatness, are you ready to stagger over to your work in progress and spew forth all your new brainstorming magnificence? What techniques help you when your “what-if” muscle needs a workout?

I love, love, love hearing from you! (And yes, I’ve had a VAT of coffee, but I still think y’all just ROCK.) I’ve already shown my love with the Let’s Meet Up Contest – your comments put you in the hat to win a spot in the June webinar, which will be drawn two weeks from today! There’s thirty seats open between the June and July webinar and I want one to go to every person that wants one.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Before we run into the June winners, my meandering May winners must set a date! What about Friday, June 10th…12:30 PM ET? Are you with me, May winners?? Lets. Meet. Up!!

About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
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18 Responses to Exercise Your “What-if” Muscle

  1. Laura Drake says:

    List of 20! I’d forgotten that one, Jenny, and I love it. I tend to grab for the first thing that enters my head, and it’s always obvious. I need to put a post it note on my monitor about this one.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      The List of 20 is my favorite too. The obvious ones come in the first 10-15, then right around #16, the brilliance corner of your brain opens up and spews forth something amazing.


  2. K.B. Owen says:

    What did your parents teach you about sex? LOL. Love that one. Were you thinking June 10th rather than May 10th? Unless you have a time machine that I can arm-wrestle ya for. That would be really handy. 😀


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Ha-ha! There is always something in every blog…my hubby usually catches it so THANK YOU for getting it. I need that time machine too. 🙂

      My mom taught me the “biologicals” of sex, but none of the important stuff about what it really means. Oooooh, I’m feeling a blog topic coming on….


  3. I tweeted you too, but I can do Friday the 10th at 12:30EST.

    I’m almost done with WIP #1, but I’m going to check out these techniques on WIP #2!


  4. Jenny, 6/10 @ 12:30pm is fine with me.


  5. drimhof says:

    Great tips Sis!


  6. Jodi says:

    What if … the date and time actually works for everyone and we can meet up!! I am in! Friday June 10th at 12:30 EST. Do we call in or what?

    Thanks for the post by the way. i added it to my favorites page! Anything to help develop deeper characters.



  7. Drawing about it helps, too. 🙂 Lots of colors, crayons. If you can’t draw, stick figures and then color. 🙂


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