7 tips for effective brainstorming

Brainstorming is an odd term on the face of it.It may sound as if it’s an unstructured hit and miss affair that may or may not result in a lightning strike of ideas.But if undertaken in the right frame of mind it can allow you to access thoughts and ideas you never knew you were capable of.

There are times when writers experience a deep void when striving to construct new plots, storylines or characters.This is where brainstorming can be utilised to give your writing added thrust and momentum.

I like to think of brainstorming in a very visual way.Imagine if you will a desert plain, arid and dry, almost devoid of life.A sudden storm comes along and what happens?Within a short space of time the area is transformed.Shoots sprout and flowers bloom.Life appears where there was formally none.But those seeds had been lying dormant all along, just waiting for that first drop of rain to trigger their germination.

So in reality, brainstorming is a way of unlocking that potential in your mind and allowing it to germinate.

Try out these seven useful tips~

  • Only start a brainstorming session when you are relaxed and refreshed, not when you have been struggling with writer’s block for hours.A relaxed mind is a productive mind.
  • Write down thoughts in no particular pattern and don’t be inhibited in anyway.This is essential.You can discard whatever you don’t use later.Think of the paper as an extension of your thought process and write down whatever pops into your head no matter how bizarre and without worrying about where it may or may not fit in.
  • Use prompters such as who, what, where, when and why.
  • Think about your project visually and try to imagine one or two scenes in your mind’s eye.
  • Write down how you want your reader to feel, what tone you want to set and any underlying themes. I.e. racism, intrigue, romance and so on.
  • Give each point or idea you have generated a score based on relevance and usability.
  • Above all take a break and come back to it once you find yourself struggling.That way you’ll be able to analyse what you have written afresh and possibly even add to it.

Forgotten warriors

My breath felt like fire as it burnt a painful path along my windpipe.  The urge to give up and turn back was strong but a quick glance ahead assured me that I was almost there.  Like an animal I clawed my way to the top, grabbing handful after handful of purple heather in clutching, sweaty palms.

As I pushed myself to the limit I experienced a heart stopping primal rush that was new to me and hard to explain.  But this was what I wanted.  I needed to feel alive again.

Finally I was there.  Black dots swam in my field of vision as I took in the magnificent view.  I blinked them away and reached out to touch the cold ancient stones, wanting to connect with them in some indefinable way.

This was a place of the fallen, the final resting place of Connacht’s bravest warriors.  Men of battle forgotten by time.  What were they like? I wondered feeling the pitted surface of the granite.  Had their women folk climbed all this way to mourn their passing?  Or had these warriors been buried and then forgotten?

The sacred burial ground consisted of a large group of cairns built atop a sweeping plateau.  As a result of its elevated position, the sea breezes that whispered through the grasslands below became almost gale force once they reached this hallowed spot.

Sitting in the lee side of the cairn closest to me, I rested for a while to catch my breath.  Scraggly gorse bushes shivered and shook in the piercing gusts, while overhead the clouds scurried past like fluffy tufts of lambs wool.

Curiously the stone behind me felt warm to the touch, possibly warmed by the early morning sun as it had risen in the east.  It made for comfortable resting place at any rate, so I leaned back to take a long draught from my water bottle and then briefly closed my eyes, enjoying solitude.  My muscles were aching and my legs were tired so not surprisingly it wasn’t long before I drifted into a strange but lucid sleep.

Presently I became aware that I was looking down on myself from above the stone cairn, sleeping peacefully.  Then suddenly all that changed and once again I could feel its warmth on my back.  More dozing followed until I became aware that the stone had altered in some way.  It was no longer hard and unyielding.

Frustratingly I was unable to move or turn around, but even so I felt certain that the stone had morphed into the warm body of a strong muscular male.  At that point I sank into a deeper level of sleep but every now and then I got the impression of an arm slipping around my waist or wickedly soft lips brushing the underside of my throat.   Later on I tried to dismiss them as tantalising sensations invented by a weary subconscious.  But deep inside I felt that it could be something more.

Upon waking I felt disoriented and it seemed as if no time at all had passed.  But upon looking at the sinking sun it told a very different story….


Yet again Tsilbora attempted to scan the star ship as it hung motionless just inside the ghostly nebula.  She tried to punch a way through the electromagnetic interference it generated but it was no easy task.  She watched through the view screen as lightning lanced out from the towering clouds of gas, it’s jagged brilliance playing across the bow of the stricken ship.  Unknown energies pulsed within the nebula, spewing deadly bursts of radiation into the silent vacuum of space.

It was a stroke of luck that she had come across such a valuable vessel and Tsilbora intended keeping such a valuable prize to herself.  She had stumbled upon it on her way back from a neighbouring solar system.  In recent weeks the route she normally took had become a hotspot for Delrenian pirate attacks, so she had taken the long way round in the hope that this would be safer.

Her ship was armoured well for a civilian vessel and the weaponry it carried was equally impressive.  However this was in order to offset its lack of speed and manoeuvrability.  After all, Delrenian pirates were known for the lightning speed in which they executed their attacks and if it ever came down to it Tsilbora knew that she could never out run them.

She set the proximity field so that it would pick up anything bigger than a life pod approaching the salvage area and then allowed herself a moment or two of idle speculation concerning the price the abandoned ship might fetch.  After another few minutes she had also constructed a mental list of potential buyers.

The console in front of her beeped three times in staccato to notify her that the scan was complete and she examined the results with eager reptilian eyes.  Tsilbora was surprised to find that the ship was composed of an usual titanium alloy, one that Tsilbora had never seen before.  The shields were down but undamaged and there were no life signs detected.  Weapons analysis yielded a further surprise even more startling than the first.  The unknown ship had no defensive capabilities or obvious weaponry.

Morons!  Thought Tsilbora.  No wonder she had found no life signs.  They had probably been blown to atoms by a boarding party of Delrenian pirates, which would explain the empty cargo holds.

In view of the everpresent threat of discovery or attack, she felt tempted to rush the salvage operation.  But Tsilbora pushed aside that urge and performed each and every task with studied thoroughness.  There was too much at stake here to risk a botched recovery.

The exterior of the space craft had taken quite a beating from the nebula, so just to be sure she attached the towing beam to three different points in order to avoid undue stress on the outer hull as they travelled through space.

The journey was an uneventful one and after three weeks of breaking into a sweat every time she encountered another ship, Tsilbora made planet fall on Ethrizan Minor.  It was the fifth planet in the solar system and only the second to support life.  As a result it had become fairly heavily populated and cities covered most of the northern hemisphere.  As for the Southern hemisphere, the environment there was much harsher and it had no cities except for the port of Danjat.

Only the hardiest could eke out a living in the iron hard sun baked dessert and most that did so, usually gave it up at some point and migrated to the northern cities.

Danjat loomed up ahead, it’s buildings encased in a heat deflecting bubble that sparkled in the blazing sunlight.  The traffic controller accepted her authorization code and gave her the frequency to pass through the bubble and into the city.  A few minutes later she touched down carefully in the gargantuan docking area.

What a relief!  sighed Tsilbora.  She teetered on the brink of exhaustion.  Spending the last few weeks constantly looking over her shoulder had taken its toll and it showed.  She leaned back in her seat and yawned, briefly exposing her black bifurcated tongue.  She needed sleep badly but it was vital that Tsilbora claim the vessel as hers quickly before any of her rivals tried to dispute it.

There wasn’t much to it.  All she needed to do was show the customs officer the video feeds from her logbook entries, prove that the ship was really empty and sign the forms.  Downloading the appropriate entries took only a few seconds and she pocketed them quickly before striding off to find the customs office.

The officer who accompanied her to the alien ship was a lazy individual.  He deeply regretted having to leave his comfortable chair to inspect some rusty derelict that this scaly female had probably stolen.  Officer Hefkla had been enjoying a post lunch nap when she had burst in to his inner sanctum, all pushy and demanding.  He had barely even had time to wipe the gelatinous green sleep deposits from his eyes before she demanded an immediate inspection.  His eyes followed her sinuous form as she made her way across the metal decking.  Ha! he thought to himself.  I’ll make sure she isn’t disappointed on that count at least!

Tsilbora could feel his gaze sliding over her body and it made her skin crawl with disgust.  But she merely continued her loose swaying walk in the hope that he would like the view enough to rush her paper work through.  They climbed the ramp that led up to the star ship and when they reached the top she removed a wave length seeking device from her pocket.  Methodically, she passed it in front of the locking mechanism until suddenly the door slid open and a cold blast of air escaped.

Hefkla peered inside dubiously.  “Aren’t there any lights?” he asked.  Tsilbora had already stepped inside and she answered him from the darkness.

“No.  You’re not afraid of the dark are you?” she said.  He scowled wondering if she was mocking him.

“Don’t worry I have a light,” she said.  There was a loud snap as she activated her glow rod and using her free hand she threw another one to Hefkla.  With a quick snap the area around them became bathed in an eerie green light and Hefkla could see that at least this part of ship was empty.

“Okay let’s see the next section,” he nodded.  Tsilbora moved quickly onwards and soon all he could see of her was the green glow stick, floating along in the dark.  He wished he could move quicker but he wasn’t used to the exertion.

“Wait up!” he cried.

Eventually he caught up with her and found her standing speechless in the cargo bay.  Unsure of what had captured her attention he raised the glow stick higher in order to shed some light on the situation.

“What is it?” asked Tsilbora glancing back over her shoulder.

In front them stood a huge network of what looked like roots.  Hundreds and hundreds of fibrous brown strands intertwined like tendrils of some monstrous vine.  The whole thing pulsated and moved as though it was alive and every now and then Tsilbora caught sight of strange things hidden within the mass that were not unlike huge elliptical seed pods.  The seed pods were transparent and pale gold in colour.  Each one appeared lit from within but it was hard tell as the whole thing was constantly on the move.

Suddenly there was a loud pop as something inside it burst and at that point Hefkla turned and ran; something that Tsilbora had never imagined him doing.  Instinct told her to follow him as he stampeded wildly through the ship.

“Code red!  Code red!”Hefkla shouted breathlessly into his wrist communicator.  “Docking bay 369.  Requesting immediate assistance.”

“Confirmed officer Hefkla,” replied an ultra- calm female voice.

The moment their feet touched the metal walk way outside a high pitched siren sounded above them.  Tsilbora looked up to see three attack class Haleron Reactor Jets attaching tractor beams to the derelict ship.

“Hey!  That’s my ship God Damn it! What are they doing?” she shouted above the din.  The down draft from the jets was almost too much to stand up against.  But she wasn’t about to let them take her ship away from her.

Hefkla grabbed her by the arm and tried to drag her away.

“CITIZENS!  CLEAR THE AREA!  I REPEAT, CLEAR THE AREA IMMEDIATELY,” commanded a voice on loud speaker.

“Don’t you know what those things are?” cried Hefkla.  She shook he head and waited for him to answer.

“You’ve got a nest of vortex wraiths in your ship’s cargo bay and they look about ready to hatch,” He explained his eyes bulging in horror.

“If you want to stay that’s you look out but I’m leaving,” he declared standing beneath an interplanetary transport matrix.

“No, wait!” shouted Tsilbora.  “I’m coming with you.”  She needed to stay with him as he was the only one who knew the ship was hers.

He waited for her to join him and then initiated the transport beam.  Just as she dematerialised Tsilbora saw the jets lifting the derelict out of the docking bay and her heart sank like a stone.  Each jet was carrying a full complement of Zenaton Shells underneath its wings.

“What are they going to do?” she demanded once they reached their destination.  Their destination appeared to be a military base but it wasn’t immediately obvious whether or not it was occupied.

“You just stand there and watch.  You’ll soon see.”

“And what are you going to do?” asked Tsilbora suspiciously.

“Let’s just say I’m formulating a contingency plan in case they fail,” he replied walking quickly towards the main building.  Hefkla was hoping to find someone who could be bribed into letting him inside an underground bunker but if that failed he would have no qualms about using the micro blaster he always carried inside his jacket.

“What are those things?” cried Tsilbora sprinting after him.

“Stop wasting my time woman!” he snapped.

“Tell me!” roared Tsilbora grabbing him by the throat.  Although she was petite, her species possessed much denser muscular and skeletal structures which meant that inch for inch she was much stronger than she looked.

“They’re on my ship, so I have a right to know.”

“I believe you have a form of locust on your planet do you not?” croaked Hefkla.  Tsilbora nodded.

“Well imagine a creature many, many times bigger, that feeds on neural energy in just the same way that a locust feeds on vegetation.  If those vortex wraiths manage to make planet fall every living thing with a central nervous system will be reduced to just that, a vegetable.  So you’d better pray that the procedure works.”

The locusts on Tsilbora’s home world had legendary appetites.  One summer she’d seen entire quadrants of agricultural land stripped of every single leaf and stalk. If these vortex wraiths fed on peoples neural energy and had similar appetites she shuddered to think about the devastation they would cause.

“So what’s the procedure when something like this happens?” she asked.  Hefkla had stopped struggling now so she decided to run the risk of letting him sit up.

He leaned back on his blubbery elbows and looked up into the cloudless sky.  Suddenly a high pitched explosion tore through the upper atmosphere sending blistering shockwaves tearing round the globe.

“That’s the procedure,” he said pointing heavenward.  “Blow them all to smithereens.”

Tsilbora gaped at him as the ramifications of what he was saying sunk in.  They must have towed the derelict up into the higher atmosphere and bombarded it with Zenaton shells, the only weapon that was known to be effective against them.  The aftershock that they were now seeing was the neural energy being released from the bodies of the dead vortex wraiths.

“My ship!” Tsilbora lamented.  “Who will compensate me?”

Havkla turned and spat in disgust.  “A ship is just a ship when all’s said and done.  You will get your compensation as long as you’re willing to submit the paper work and continue chasing up the claim.  But think about this, if the vortex wraiths had taken your mind what use would a hundred star ships be or twenty billion baxla to spend in whichever way you choose?  Can anyone be adequately compensated for losing their mind?”

She gazed at him, surprised at his undeniable logic.

“But for now I think you should concentrate on making a new list,” he said patting her on the shoulder.  With that he walked away striding across the barren land.

“Make a new list?” called Tsilbora.  “A list of what?”

“Priorities,” he shouted stepping onto the interplanetary transport matrix.