More often than I’d like to admit, there have been plenty of nights where I looked through my works in process and just said, “Eh, let’s start something new.”
Sadly, especially half a decade ago when I first started writing (geesh, I’m getting old), this would end up morphing into an entire night wasted in what I like to call the Brainstorming Rat Race. It went something like this: I’d think, Hey, what if I write a story about a (insert your favorite sci-fi cliché here)! and then I’d write hundred words or so before deciding that the story wasn’t going anywhere and then do the unthinkable:
Delete the words and do it again with another idea.
This remains a fairly common problem for me if I try to force myself to brainstorm. It’s why I’ve never think scheduling “brainstorm time” a good idea, either at the day job or when planning a new work of fiction. Far too often, it results in forced, phony, or clichéd ideas. Ideas that either don’t solve the problem at hand (or create a good story), or would just be a colossal waste of time to implement.
Maybe part of the problem is that when I brainstorm, I find myself looking for a character, a setting, an idea, but not a story. It’s like I come up with an idea, but have no idea what to do with it. The end result is to give up and start the whole process over with another brainstormed idea.
So what’s the solution?
Well, first off, if you come up with an idea, but have no story to back it up, then write it down and file it away. Don’t waste time working on a story if there’s no story to tell. That’s when you end up with forced plots and stiff, generic characters.
For example, I have a work in progress that started out with nothing but a character I thought was kind of interesting. Over six-thousand words later, that character still has no cohesive plot. He has no story to tell and just kind of plods along as things happen.
I guess my whole point is that when you come up with an interesting idea it might not always be the right time to write a story about it. Try a little, but don’t be afraid to put it away if you’re not coming up with anything good. You created the character (or setting, or whatever) and it will still be there when you come up with a story for it.