The Creativity Two-Step

The concept behind this method of finding inspiration is quite simple, really: It is easier to come up with many ideas than it is to come up with one idea.

Now that may sound counter-intuitive, but consider this… When you are working on a particular story and you run into a specific structural problem, you are looking for a creative inspiration in a very narrow area. But creativity isn’t something you can control like a power tool or channel onto a task. Rather, it is random, and applies itself to whatever it wants.

Yet creative inspiration is always running at full tilt within us, coming up with new ideas, thinking new thoughts – just not the thoughts we are looking for. So if we sit and wait for the Muse to shine its light on the exact structural problem we’re stuck on, it might be days before lightning strikes that very spot.

Fortunately, we can trick Creativity into working on our problem by making it think it is being random. As an example, consider this log line for a story: A Marshall in an Old West border town struggles with a cutthroat gang that is bleeding the town dry.

Step One: Asking Questions

Now if you had the assignment to sit down and turn this into a full-blown, interesting, one-of-a-kind story, you might be a bit stuck for what to do next. So, try this. First ask some questions:

1. How old is the Marshall?

2. How much experience does he have?

3. Is he a good shot?

4. How many men has he killed (if any)

5. How many people are in the gang?

6. Does it have a single leader?

7. Is the gang tight-knit?

8. What are they taking from the town?

9. How long have they been doing this?

You could probably go on and on and easily come up with a hundred questions based on that single log line. It might not seem at first that this will help you expand your story, but look at what’s really happened. You have tricked your Muse into coming up with a detailed list of what needs to be developed! And it didn’t even hurt. In fact, it was actually fun.

Step Two: Answering Questions

But that’s just the first step. Next, take each of these questions and come up with as many different answers as you can think of. Let your Muse run wild through your mind. You’ll probably find you get some ordinary answers and some really outlandish ones, but you’ll absolutely get a load of them!

  a) How old is the Marshall?

a. 28

b. 56

c. 86

d. 17

e. 07

f. 35

Some of these potential ages are ridiculous – or are they? Every ordinary story based on such a log line would have the Marshall be 28 or 35. Just another dull story, grinding through the mill.

Step One Revisited

But what if your Marshall was 86 or 7 years old? Let’s switch back to Step One and ask some questions about his age.

For example:

c. 86

1. How would an 86 year old become a Marshall?

2. Can he still see okay?

3. What physical maladies plague him?

4. Is he married?

5. What kind of gun does he use?

6. Does he have the respect of the town?

And on and on…

Return to Step Two

As you might expect, now we switch back to Step Two again and answer each question as many different ways as you can.

Example:

5. What kind of gun does he use?

a) He uses an ancient musket, can barely lift it, but is a crack shot and miraculously hits whatever he aims at.

b) He uses an ancient musket and can’t hit the broad side of a barn. But somehow, his oddball shots ricochet off so many things, he gets the job done anyway, just not as he planned.

c) He uses a Gattling gun attached to his walker.

d) He doesn’t use a gun at all. In 63 years with the Texas Rangers, he never needed one and doesn’t need one now.

e) He uses a sawed off shotgun, but needs his deputy to pull the trigger for him as he aims.

f) He uses a whip.

g) He uses a knife, but can’t throw it past 5 feet anymore.

And on and on again…

Methinks you begin to get the idea. First you ask questions, which trick the Muse into finding fault with your work – an easy thing to do that your Creative Spirit already does on its own – often to your dismay.

Next, you turn the Muse loose to come up with as many answers for each question as you possibly can.

Then, you switch back to question mode and ask as many as you can about each of your answers.

And then you come up with as many answers as possible for those questions.

You can carry this process out for as many generations as you like, but the bulk of story material you develop will grow so quickly, you’ll likely not want to go much further than we went in our example.

Imagine, if you just asked 10 questions about the original log line and responded to each of them with 10 potential answers, you’d have 100 story points to consider.

Then, if you went as far as we just did for each one, you’d ask 10 questions of each answer and end up with 1,000 potential story points. And the final step of 10 answers for each of these would yield 10,000 story points!

Now in the real world, you probably won’t bother answering each question – just those that intrigue you. And, you won’t trouble yourself to ask questions about every answer – just the ones that suggest they have more development to offer and seem to lead in a direction you might like to go with your story.

The key point is that rather than staring at a blank page trying to find that one structural solution that will fill a gap or connect two points, use the Creativity Two-Step to trick your Muse into spewing out the wealth of ideas it naturally wants to provide.

Melanie Anne Phillips

 

Posted in Writer's Block | Comments Off on The Creativity Two-Step

How “StoryWeaver” Came To Be

When Chris Huntley and I created the Dramatica Theory of Narrative Structure back in the early 90’s, we originally envisioned it as the end-all of story models – the one single paradigm that explained it all. In fact, it was – but only in regard to the mechanics of stories.

Although Dramatica proved amazingly popular, and the Dramatica software we designed (along with Steve Greenfield) became the best selling story structure tool ever created, I began to feel there was something missing.

In spite of (or perhaps because of) its power, depth, and accuracy Dramatica required a huge learning curve. What’s more, though writers could intuitively tune in to its truth and vision it somehow left the user cold in a passionate or creative sense.

To compensate for these issues, we eventually carried the software through three complete major versions, each seeking to make the story development process more involving and accessible. After considering the last of these efforts, I came to realize that there was only so far you could go in an attempt to turn a logical model of story structure into a warm fuzzy teddy bear of inspiration.

So began a personal eight-year journey on my part to connect with that other “touchy-feely” side of story development. What I wanted was simple – the passionate counterpart to Dramatica: a simple, easy to follow, step-by-step approach to story development that goosed the Muse and never required an author to deal directly with theory or to drop out of creative mode in order to make logistic choices. In short, I wanted to create a means by which writing would become fun, easy, powerful, and meaningful and still hold true to the structural insights of the Dramatica Theory.

The result was a whole new system of writing which I called “StoryWeaving.” StoryWeaving is just what it sounds like: the process of weaving together a story. Picture an author in front of a loom, drawing on threads of structure and passion, pulling them together into something that will ultimately be both moving and meaningful, that will capture human emotion and present it in a pattern that makes logical sense.

Authors work best not when they simply let themselves go in an aimless fashion, nor when they adhere to a strict framework of structural imperatives, but rather, they maximize the fruits of their talents when they are free to move through both worlds on a whim, drawing on such elements of structure and passion as play across their minds at any given moment.

Having devised a method of assisting authors in embracing this freedom, I designed the StoryWeaver software to transform the concept into a practical tool. Within the first year of its release, StoryWeaver came to outsell Dramatica on my online store by a margin of six to one, and outsold all other products that I carry combined!

Still, as simple and straightforward as StoryWeaver is to use, many authors craved additional details about various StoryWeaving concepts. To include that degree of depth in the software would bog down the process. So, I began a series of StoryWeaving Tips to elucidate on particular areas of interest, and to enhance the StoryWeaving path with small excursions onto creative side-streets.

This web site is a compilation of the complete collection of all of these creative writing tips to date, mixed in with tips for story structure as well.

I leave you to explore these new worlds on your own.

Melanie Anne Phillips

 

Posted in StoryWeaver Software | Comments Off on How “StoryWeaver” Came To Be

Basic Tips for Beginning Writers

Here’s a short list of our best tips and articles for novice writers to help you find inspiration, get you started, and carry you to completion of your novel or screenplay.

Ten Essential Tips for Beginning Writers

Character Development Tricks!

Finding Your Creative Time

How to Find Inspiration

What Chases Your Characters

Write Your Novel Step By Step

Free Videos on Story Development

The Creativity Two-Step

A Novelist’s Bag of Tricks!

How to Grow a Sentence into a Story

Four Essential Plot Points

Creating Characters from Scratch

How to Create Great Characters

What Chases Your Characters?

Your Plot Step by Step

Requirements for your Story’s Goal

Top Story Development Software

Posted in Creative Writing | Comments Off on Basic Tips for Beginning Writers

Write Your Novel Step By Step

Write Your Novel Step By Step!

Read the complete book free on our web site at http://storymind.com/page31.htm

Posted in Announcements | Comments Off on Write Your Novel Step By Step

Free for Writers – All Online Courses, Videos, Articles, and Writing Tips!

NOW FREE for Writers! All our writing courses, videos, audio programs, articles, and writing tips are NOW FREE on the Storymind.com web site!

You’re welcome.

The Management

Posted in Announcements | Comments Off on Free for Writers – All Online Courses, Videos, Articles, and Writing Tips!

You are only as good as your own talent. GET OVER IT!

You are only as good as your own talent. GET OVER IT!

You have a gift. Maybe it’s a grand one and maybe you wish you could exchange it. But you can’t. It’s your gift and it’s only as good as it is. Sure, you can learn technique and structure and vocabulary, but you can’t be any better than you have the capacity to be. So grow up, deal with it and write fiercely.

And if you do need a little help along the way, check out our StoryWeaver software at Storymind.com

Posted in Creative Writing | Comments Off on You are only as good as your own talent. GET OVER IT!

Narrative in the Real World: Anticipatory Targeting of Data Gathering Resources (Part 1)

From Melanie Anne Phillips, Owner of Storymind.com

Here’s the beginning of an article I wrote back a few years ago when I was a consultant for the CIA and the NSA on narrative psychology and its application for counter-terrorism. I eventually finished the article, but am cleaning out my hard drive and this initial draft is the first thing I found and figured it was still worth publishing as an insight into the process:

Anticipatory Targeting of Data Gathering Resources

By Melanie Anne Phillips, Co-creator, Dramatica Theory

The Problem

The ability to assess a current situation and accurately predict its course is perhaps the paramount requirement for the security of an individual or a nation. To that end, we have developed ever more sophisticated systems for gathering and analyzing information to both understand the dangers of the present and to be prepared for emerging dangers in the future.

Current systems are largely based on a marriage of statistical databases and a variety of algorithms ranging from influence networks to hub theory to fluid dynamics and even models of the progression of infectious diseases. Increasingly, advancements in artificial intelligence have provided additional capability through the application of machine learning, group mind theory, and hierarchies of intelligent agents.

Despite these enhancements, our technology is rapidly approaching a limit as to how much more accurate and predictive it can become, regardless of further developments based on the same fundamental approaches. As a result, though our capacity to gather data has increased explosively, our ability to understand predictive patterns and employ them in a feedback loop to redirect our data gathering resources has lagged behind.

The problem behind this limitation is that there remains a missing piece in our analytic capacity: the ability to definitively model and predict the human element in terms of motivations and responses. While we can create algorithms to describe patterns of human movement and can assess individuals and organizations through psychological profiling, these approaches are largely built upon probability based on historic observation.
What is lacking is a unifying paradigm of human behavior based not on statistics, but on the underlying dynamics and interaction of mental processes, both cognitive and affective – essentially, a model of the mind itself.

Historically, attempts to model the mind have proven insufficient, but recently a much more functional system, which has been employed successfully in the field of narrative science for nearly twenty years, has emerged as a viable solution to the problem.
What follows is a description of this system and how it might be incorporated into to the existing framework of our data gathering resources.

The Solution

The Method

The Basis

The concepts in this article owe their roots to our Dramatica Theory of Narrative Structure.  You can read our entire book explaining the theory here in PDF or on Amazon, and you may wish to demo our Dramatica narrative construction and analysis software based on our model of narrative psychology for use in fiction and the real world.

I’ll publish the complete article, if and when I find it as I plow through the archives…

Posted in Narrative in the Real World | Comments Off on Narrative in the Real World: Anticipatory Targeting of Data Gathering Resources (Part 1)

Do You Want to Change Your Audience?

Do you want your story to bring your audience to a point of change or to reinforce its current view? Oddly enough, choosing a steadfast Main Character may bring an audience to change and choosing a change character may influence the audience to remain steadfast. Why? It depends upon whether or not your audience shares the Main Character’s point of view to begin with.

Suppose your audience and your Main Character do NOT agree in attitudes about the central issue of the story. Even so, the audience will still identify with the Main Character because he represents the audience’s position in the story. So, if the Main Character grows in resolve to remain steadfast and succeeds, then the message to your audience is, “Change and adopt the Main Character’s view if you wish to succeed in similar situations.”

Clearly, since either change or steadfast can lead to either success or failure in a story, when you factor in where the audience stands a great number of different kinds of audience impact can be created by your choice.

In answering this question, therefore, consider not only what you want your Main Character to do as an individual, but also how that influences your story’s message and where your audience stands in regard to that issue to begin with.

Excerpted from our Dramatica software

Try it risk-free for 90 days at Storymind.com

Posted in Storytelling Tips | Comments Off on Do You Want to Change Your Audience?

Overcome Writer’s Block with “Nonsense”

StoryWeaving – Write Your Novel or Screenplay Step By Step

Step 2: Nonsense!

If you already know what your story is about want to get right to the details, you might want to jump ahead to the “Finding the Holes” step farther down in this path.

But If you could use some additional ideas or are stuck trying to develop the ideas you already have, the next few questions will help you find new material.

If you are really stuck, its probably because you are trying too hard to be creative – a situation often referred to as “Writer’s Block.”

Fortunately, there is a trick you can use to break through Writer’s Block and get your creativity flowing again!

The following technique will help you loosen up and come up with some really off the wall ideas that you may want to incorporate in your story. At the very least, it should give your Muse a kick in the pants. So, even if the ideas themselves aren’t useful, you’ll be inspired to begin again where you were stuck before.

The Nonsense Technique for Overcoming Writers Block

First, write three nonsense words in the space below. Don’t stop to think it over, just jot down the first words that come to mind, as in a word-association test.

Example:

Cat, Running, Green

NOTE: You might want to include a mix of nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives

Write your nonsense words below, then proceed to the next step to turn your nonsense words into an inspiration….

Excerpted from our StoryWeaver software. Try it risk-free at Storymind.com

Posted in Writer's Block | Comments Off on Overcome Writer’s Block with “Nonsense”

Who’s Behind This Blog?

Who’s behind this blog?

Hi, I’m Melanie Anne Phillips – Owner of Storymind.com, creator of StoryWeaver, and Co-creator of Dramatica. I have two grown children, two grandchildren, and recently turned 65.

For 25 years I’ve taught creative writing and story structure, but there’s a lot more to me than that. I’m an avid photographer in the style of Ansel Adams, I hike in the back country of Yosemite, I write philosophy and personal journals (see my author page on Amazon) and I compose music – lots of music in lots of styles. Perhaps the best way to know the person behind this page is to hear a bit of my music, which is the voice of the soul.

ONE OF MY PIANO IMPROV SESSIONS

I find the best way to warm up my compositional skills is a little free-form invention on the fly for a short session. Often a new riff or an interesting chord progression emerges that eventually becomes a whole new song. The key is to walk out fearlessly among the notes, follow the Muse of whimsy and less loose the dogs of serendipity.

Posted in Announcements | Comments Off on Who’s Behind This Blog?