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The Never-ending
Brainstorm
Taking your inspiration from a gentle breeze
to a full-blown hurricane
Vincent H. O’Neil (aka ...
Mystery and Horror as Vincent H. O’Neil
The Frank Cole / Exile Mystery Series
Supernatural HorrorTheater Mystery Mystery A...
Military Science Fiction
as Henry V. O’Neil
www.vincenthoneil.com
Purpose
Ever get halfway through writing a story
and then think of a better way to tell it?
That might be because brainsto...
Presentation Outline
• Standard brainstorming
• Developing the initial ideas
• Digging deeper
• Revisiting the story
• Oth...
Brainstorming
• Even if you have a full-blown story in your
head, ready to be written, take the time to
brainstorm it
• Br...
Standard Brainstorming
• Do some research (if applicable)
• Write phrases and words on a sheet /
sheets of paper in random...
Example Topic
In this presentation, the example topic is a
murder mystery involving a supernatural
entity (helping solve t...
Brainstorming: Include everything
Ghost
Entity
Suggestion
Emotion
Past
Communication Entity helps or hinders?
Malevolent?
...
Associate Some of the Ideas
Ghost
Entity
Suggestion
Emotion
Past
Communication
Entity helps or hinders?
Malevolent?
Detect...
Add Different Thoughts as They Appear
Ghost
Entity
Suggestion
Emotion
Past
Communication
Entity helps or hinders?
Malevole...
5 Human
Senses
Sight Sound
Touch
Taste
Smell
Example: The Diagram Approach
Pick an aspect of the story and write out vario...
5 Senses
Sight Sound
Touch
Taste
Smell
Transmitted memory
Blurred vision
Hallucinations
Tricks of memory
Voice
Something t...
Developing the Initial Ideas
Take the results of the first rounds
of brainstorming and start
exploring the different quest...
Communication explored --
How could the entity solve the case?
• Saw it happen
• Did something similar in life
• Figures i...
Connection -- the entity and the detective?
The Ghost
and
Mr. Detective
Direct – ancestor
(or is that a lie?) Indirect – u...
What is (was) the entity?
• A murderer
• A sadist
• A cop
• A judge
• Someone who enjoyed games or puzzles
• Maybe we don’...
What could the entity tell the detective?
• Killer’s motive—communicate by emotion?
• Remind the detective of one suspect ...
How does the entity communicate?
Emotion:
Rage
Jealousy
Love
Hate
Fear
Gratification
Joy
Accomplishment
Greed
Desire
Antic...
Why would it help
solve the case?
Malice (chance to send
someone to jail) Jealousy – didn’t get
away with its own crimes
L...
Digging Deeper
Right about now you’re starting to
piece the results together into a
story line.
Don’t stop there.
The Detective
Ancestor a seer?
Able to experience the
killer’s feelings?
So focused on the case
that the detective missed
...
The Psychic
Says spirits pursue the
things they enjoyed in life
Suspects the detective is
someone a spirit would
find sens...
Detective goes to a psychiatrist
• Concerned about possibly going insane
• Already saw a psychic (psychiatrist is skeptica...
Revisit the Story
You’re well along now. You’ve got
a storyline going from beginning
to middle to end. You’re even
startin...
What about those dark suggestions?
• Can’t we do more with the suggestions?
• Could the entity overdo it? Bleed-over?
• Wh...
At Murder Scene
Detective never felt
anything like this before
Conflicting emotions at first
Anger
Resentment
Jealousy
Doe...
At the Office
Resentment toward
boss If the detective DOESN’T
like the boss, the message
might get lost
Maybe feels it mor...
The Widow
Maybe the detective
feels nothing at all?
Widow is actually grieving
because she cheated
Widow lies aboutthe aff...
The PI
Just hired?
Or knows a lot?
Victim met with his lawyer about
divorcing his wife if the PI ended
up finding somethin...
Other Techniques
The ‘Making Of’ Approach:
Imagine you’re being interviewed
on a variety of topics, (characters,
plot twis...
The ‘Making Of’ Approach
The
Setting
“I imagined the town as a living thing, a body
with a fatal illness . . .”
The
Tool
“...
The ‘Decision Tree’ Approach
Start with
the big
ones
Write out the pluses and minuses of the big decisions:
-1st
person ve...
Be the Director
• Treat each scene as live rehearsal with actors
• Get the most out of it (action, thrills, drama)
• Hit t...
Research as Inspiration
• The Complete Idiot’s Guides
• YouTube (how-to’s, interviews, music)
• Online imagery (Google, Bi...
Mystery and Horror as Vincent H. O’Neil
The Frank Cole / Exile Mystery Series
Supernatural HorrorTheater Mystery Mystery A...
Military Science Fiction
as Henry V. O’Neil
www.vincenthoneil.com
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The Never-ending Brainstorm

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Award-winning novelist Vincent H. O'Neil's workshop on continuing to generate new ideas (and better ones) throughout a writing project.

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The Never-ending Brainstorm

  1. 1. The Never-ending Brainstorm Taking your inspiration from a gentle breeze to a full-blown hurricane Vincent H. O’Neil (aka Henry V. O’Neil) www.vincenthoneil.com
  2. 2. Mystery and Horror as Vincent H. O’Neil The Frank Cole / Exile Mystery Series Supernatural HorrorTheater Mystery Mystery Anthology
  3. 3. Military Science Fiction as Henry V. O’Neil www.vincenthoneil.com
  4. 4. Purpose Ever get halfway through writing a story and then think of a better way to tell it? That might be because brainstorming isn’t just something we do in the planning phase: Brainstorming is an ongoing process
  5. 5. Presentation Outline • Standard brainstorming • Developing the initial ideas • Digging deeper • Revisiting the story • Other techniques
  6. 6. Brainstorming • Even if you have a full-blown story in your head, ready to be written, take the time to brainstorm it • Brainstorming lets one good idea lead to another • It really pays off
  7. 7. Standard Brainstorming • Do some research (if applicable) • Write phrases and words on a sheet / sheets of paper in random order • Jot down everything that comes to mind, no matter how irrelevant it might seem • Don’t try to connect the ideas yet
  8. 8. Example Topic In this presentation, the example topic is a murder mystery involving a supernatural entity (helping solve the crime, suggesting the crime, whatever) The resulting short story, “Secret Suggestion”, can be found in my mystery anthology Crime Capsules
  9. 9. Brainstorming: Include everything Ghost Entity Suggestion Emotion Past Communication Entity helps or hinders? Malevolent? Detective a psychic? Detective enlists a psychic? Sympathetic character? Insane? Afraid going insane? Gender? Ghost’s m otivation? Moment of awareness?
  10. 10. Associate Some of the Ideas Ghost Entity Suggestion Emotion Past Communication Entity helps or hinders? Malevolent? Detective a psychic? Detective enlists a psychic? Sympathetic character? Insane? Afraid going insane? Gender? Ghost’s m otivation? Moment of awareness? Spirit
  11. 11. Add Different Thoughts as They Appear Ghost Entity Suggestion Emotion Past Communication Entity helps or hinders? Malevolent? Detective a psychic? Detective enlists a psychic? Sympathetic character(s)? Insane? Afraid going insane? Gender? Ghost’s m otivation? Moment of awareness? Gender? The detective? The victim? The entity? THESE ARE GOOD FOR SUSPENSE; DON’T ANSWER THEM RIGHT AWAY DETECTIVE VISITS A PSYCHIATRIST? Psychiatrist? Spirit Synonyms
  12. 12. 5 Human Senses Sight Sound Touch Taste Smell Example: The Diagram Approach Pick an aspect of the story and write out various options. In this example, we ponder the ghost’s ability to communicate Then expand on them
  13. 13. 5 Senses Sight Sound Touch Taste Smell Transmitted memory Blurred vision Hallucinations Tricks of memory Voice Something that reminds detective of another case Hot / cold Skin crawling Unfamiliar taste AdrenalineMetallic Unfamiliar smell Smoke Cologne /perfume Supernatural Communication Imagined communication? Words, but not heard. Sensed, but not felt
  14. 14. Developing the Initial Ideas Take the results of the first rounds of brainstorming and start exploring the different questions that they raise
  15. 15. Communication explored -- How could the entity solve the case? • Saw it happen • Did something similar in life • Figures it out from what the detective knows / learns • Has observed a LOT of murder investigations over the years • Maybe saw it happen but still doesn’t know who did it • Maybe knows who did it but just won’t tell (refuses to make it easy) Note how this opens up entire avenues for telling the story . . .
  16. 16. Connection -- the entity and the detective? The Ghost and Mr. Detective Direct – ancestor (or is that a lie?) Indirect – used to be a cop Direct – can tell the detective what it sees Direct but unusual – this is the first detective it’s encountered who was receptive Indirect – it’s attracted to murder scenes (ghosts attracted to the things they enjoyed in life)
  17. 17. What is (was) the entity? • A murderer • A sadist • A cop • A judge • Someone who enjoyed games or puzzles • Maybe we don’t find out this time around Brainstorming can provide ideas for later stories too
  18. 18. What could the entity tell the detective? • Killer’s motive—communicate by emotion? • Remind the detective of one suspect over and over • Point toward a similar case in history • A case the detective could NOT know • Maybe the entity avoids a case the detective MIGHT know (which could allow the detective to ignore the message, or its source, at first) This idea leaves lots of room to run News stories / books / flipping pages
  19. 19. How does the entity communicate? Emotion: Rage Jealousy Love Hate Fear Gratification Joy Accomplishment Greed Desire Anticipation When does it first communicate? Crime scene? After it’s followed the detective? At a revisit to the crime scene? When interviewing someone involved in the killing? Does the entity follow the killer and feed off the dark emotion? Did it want to communicate with the killer? Do its suggestions become a problem for the detective? (dark suggestions) A whole new idea involving the killer
  20. 20. Why would it help solve the case? Malice (chance to send someone to jail) Jealousy – didn’t get away with its own crimes Likes challenges Wants to helpEnjoys causing pain The entity’s motivation Likes control (torments the detective) Note how each of these leads to a VERY different story . . .
  21. 21. Digging Deeper Right about now you’re starting to piece the results together into a story line. Don’t stop there.
  22. 22. The Detective Ancestor a seer? Able to experience the killer’s feelings? So focused on the case that the detective missed the first communication? Merely a sympatheticinterrogator? Unaware of psychic power? Detective’s Sensitivity Used psychic power on other cases? A good detective might seek out an expert on the topic . . .
  23. 23. The Psychic Says spirits pursue the things they enjoyed in life Suspects the detective is someone a spirit would find sensitive Tells detective that spirits feel comfortable around him / her Asks questions which would indicate if the detective had previous supernatural experiences The Psychic Could the Psychic have selfish motives? And if the detective would go see a psychic . . .
  24. 24. Detective goes to a psychiatrist • Concerned about possibly going insane • Already saw a psychic (psychiatrist is skeptical) • Collecting information (psychiatrist senses this) • Discusses strange sensations (anger, jealousy) at crime scene and during interviews • Between them, the psychiatrist and the detective come up with a reasonable answer for everything Then SOMETHING happens . . .
  25. 25. Revisit the Story You’re well along now. You’ve got a storyline going from beginning to middle to end. You’re even starting to fill in the blanks. Time to reconsider.
  26. 26. What about those dark suggestions? • Can’t we do more with the suggestions? • Could the entity overdo it? Bleed-over? • When they arrest the killer, the entity pushes the detective to kill him / her? • Psychic suggests that the entity couldn’t communicate with the killer; it felt his emotion but couldn’t motivate him / her to kill again (otherwise, why help the detective?) Suggested earlier
  27. 27. At Murder Scene Detective never felt anything like this before Conflicting emotions at first Anger Resentment Jealousy Does the entitywant the detective toKNOW it’s acommunication?Entity trying to communicate; gauges reaction Emotions communicated to the detective Wonders where these feelings are coming from The message might not be clear at first. And the entity might not know what it’s doing, either.
  28. 28. At the Office Resentment toward boss If the detective DOESN’T like the boss, the message might get lost Maybe feels it more intensely than usual, or when the boss is trying to be nice The Feelings Bleed Over The detective likes the boss, so this is troublesome Exploring how this would work . . .
  29. 29. The Widow Maybe the detective feels nothing at all? Widow is actually grieving because she cheated Widow lies aboutthe affair Detective notices that it’s easy to concentrate when interviewing the widow Interviewing the Widow The entity isn’t pointing the detective at the widow The psychiatrist can point at this to disprove the detective’s theory of supernatural communication
  30. 30. The PI Just hired? Or knows a lot? Victim met with his lawyer about divorcing his wife if the PI ended up finding something Complication: The Private Investigator Hired to follow the wife PI tells the police the dead man suspected his wife was cheating An outside player, about whom the police initially know nothing, provides motive for suspecting the widow
  31. 31. Other Techniques The ‘Making Of’ Approach: Imagine you’re being interviewed on a variety of topics, (characters, plot twists, settings, events, intentions) as if it’s a ‘Making of’ featurette—what are your answers?
  32. 32. The ‘Making Of’ Approach The Setting “I imagined the town as a living thing, a body with a fatal illness . . .” The Tool “At first the gun was just the murder weapon, but then I asked, ‘Where would this average guy GET an untraceable gun?’” “I wanted the killing to be simple . . . elemental . . . which supported the ghost communicating through emotion . . .” The Murder
  33. 33. The ‘Decision Tree’ Approach Start with the big ones Write out the pluses and minuses of the big decisions: -1st person versus 3rd person -‘Whodunnit’ versus a story wrapped around a murder A little later A little more specific (once you have some ideas): -The murder weapon: Found / not found -Witnesses: Saw but won’t talk / saw but undiscovered Circle back and reconsider: -What if they DID find the murder weapon? -What if there were no witnesses? (Play with this; what could happen if there were no witnesses at first, but then they found one?) Much later You have LOTS of choices . . .
  34. 34. Be the Director • Treat each scene as live rehearsal with actors • Get the most out of it (action, thrills, drama) • Hit the high notes in your story • Imagine you’re discussing a scene with actors playing the different characters Choices, actions, revelations • Imagine you're convincing an actor to play one of the characters Motivations, behaviors, big moments
  35. 35. Research as Inspiration • The Complete Idiot’s Guides • YouTube (how-to’s, interviews, music) • Online imagery (Google, Bing, etc.) • Keep your mind open to what these sources are suggesting to you
  36. 36. Mystery and Horror as Vincent H. O’Neil The Frank Cole / Exile Mystery Series Supernatural HorrorTheater Mystery Mystery Anthology
  37. 37. Military Science Fiction as Henry V. O’Neil www.vincenthoneil.com

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