Looking for Brainstorming Suggestions

Last week, I mentioned it was taking me too long to figure out Isto. A lot of you guys had great suggestions of reading through my existing work to rekindle my passion. While I do enjoy my story and would love to write in it, I’m stuck on a single issue.

I don’t know how they defeat the monsters.

This is problematic because I’m the only one who truly understands my “magic” system (technically, it’s not called magic, thus the quotes), so I’m not sure how I can brainstorm or who I can brainstorm with. And if I do figure out the solution, I can’t just drop it in at the end. It needs to be hinted at throughout the story so that it’s a logical and believable solution.

Thus the reluctance to write. (In this story, anyways. I’ve gotten over 5K in other books, though none of those are slated to be completed this year.)

I’ve spent time figuring how the powers play together. I’ve even figured out how another group’s deity set relates to my two primary ones. Heck, I’ve even built an origination mythos for these deities. (Once upon a time, there were three siblings. The firstborn felt it was his right to rule the world…)

But all of that is high level. It gives reason to why certain characters appear in book 2, why these characters act the way they do in book 3, and why they are the antagonists in book 4.

Unfortunately, I still don’t know how the heroes defeat the monsters in book 2. It has to do with the two primary divine powers, but not the characters in the previous paragraph. I know one set of power hunts the other (and vice versa), but can also be harmed by a handful of specific power users (and vice versa). I even made a very clear chart.

But at the end of Isto, my four heroes have non-standardized powers.

I’m running circles in my brain. I don’t know how to fix it. And it’s frustrating as all heck.

I’ve tried building a tree chart, and I’ve tried mind mapping software. I know how events in book 2 smoothly roll into the conflict in book 3. But no matter the approach, I run into the “magic” wall.

I know no one can tell me how to fix it. But how do you figure out events?

What brainstorming methods do you implement? Have you ever been stuck on a particular issue? Do you ever encounter trouble adhering to world rules?

Loni Townsend

About Loni Townsend

Wife. Mother. Writer. Ninja. Squirrel.

44 thoughts on “Looking for Brainstorming Suggestions

  1. What if, in book 2, something comes along to standardize those powers?

    • Well, they can’t really be fixed.

      Hero #1 has two sets of power, plus an added complication because of book 1 that after abusing his power seeps into the other sets of power and pretty much makes him a tasty treat for both kinds of monsters. But he is also the key to sending the monsters back to where they belong and keeping them there. But how does he take one of the monsters to plug the hole he made without killing himself? Because really, he should have no defense to keep from being eaten.

      Hero #2 thinks she should have a standard set of power, but because of book 1, she is fighting becoming a monster, and in order to save herself, she combines both powers, but breaks the monsters’ powers in the process, so they switch from consuming opposite power to cannibalizing similar power. Her power then only works opposite of how it used to work, relying on one of the powers that hurts one set of monsters and the other sets of monsters are now cannibalizing.

      Hero #3’s mother came from a different world, so he doesn’t fully understand how his power works, only that he can influence the monsters and makes a great vessel for the monsters to possess. He also has to save the woman he loves, who got absorbed by the monsters and is no longer physically present. So he has to go into the monsters realm through Hero #1’s power and somehow retrieve his beloved. This is one primary issue–I don’t know how he separates her from the monsters in order to bring her back to their primary realm.

      Hero #4 has the power to manipulate power that hurts one set of monsters, but doesn’t have that type of power herself. So one set doesn’t want to eat her and the set doesn’t want to absorb her, giving her the advantage of not being a primary monster target. That is because of who she is, how she was born to multiple clans, and why she was the first and only of her kind. She helps fuel Hero #2’s power.

      I have minor characters with standardized powers, but the main ones aren’t standard, and there’s no real way to make them standard because of circumstances created in book 1. >_<

  2. I’m actually kind of stuck on a similar issue, magic and defeating monster. I say ‘kind of’ because I haven’t attempted to write the scene yet. I just know it’s coming up, and I know I don’t have a solution for it, so it’s stuck in the back of my mind, taunting me.

    When I do get to writing it, I’ll probably just start with any idea I can think ofโ€”no matter how silly. It’ll actually be “We attack the mayor with hummus,” which is a reference to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and a scene where the gang is trying to figure out how to defeat a Big Bad. But then I’ll let my brain wander and see where it takes me. Just writing anything down helps lead me to whatever should be written down. Hoping it’ll work for this problem, too, once I get there.

    Anyway, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for a swift resolution to your conundrum.

    • Thanks!

      I think I will go with the “jump in” idea. I think part of my problem is that I’m traditionally a pantser, but because of my demand for logic, I tried plotting. Maybe if I pants my way into it, I’ll figure it out.

  3. I second the hummus idea. Then move on to sneezing on the monsters. (You really must see that episode of Buffy if you haven’t yet.) Pants your way out of this. Or, you know, into it. Um… Go Pantsers!

    • Ha! I think I have seen that episode, but it’s been long enough that I don’t remember all of the references. Looks like I’ll have to watch it again. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Ha! ๐Ÿ˜€ You looked it up. Really. You must make time for this.

  4. If I get stuck planning something, I have a critique partner I can go to that helps hash out ideas.
    I’d say go for MJ’s idea. Toss the kitchen sink in and see what happens.

    • I did some brainstorming last night and decided I’m going to change the monsters and Hero #2 to see if that helps. *crosses fingers*

  5. OoF! That’s a tough one. The only thing I can think of it to go back into your mythos. Maybe something happened that might spark an idea.

    • That suggestion sent me racing down a different path and I think it might have been what I needed. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks!

  6. What about using the power in an indirect way to defeat the monsters? ie, instead of a fireball (this is meant metaphorically/illustratively not literally) at the monster, they blow a branch free from a tree that pierces it through the heart? Or perhaps they can use their powers to influence someone else to act… or to enhance someone else. Shrug.

    I write long rambling emails to a friend. Sometimes I talk to my husband to work it out. Sometimes I have to sit and think for a long time. Showers and walks are helpful.

    • I’ve done the long emails thing before. That’s how I figured out the majority of book 4. It totally helps, but in this case, it wasn’t working.

      I agree about showers and walks. It helps clear the mind and start on a clean slate.

  7. When it comes to brainstorming, I think one of the important things to keep in mind is that you’re not getting help to come up with an idea, you’re getting help with getting your mind started.
    Have people launch ideas at you, as many and as silly as can be. Eventually, one of them will trigger something in your mind that gets the wheels turning. It may be completely unrelated to the actual suggestion, but it still happens. For me, that’s what brainstorming is about: setting the wheels in motion, not coming up with the solution.

    • That is an excellent point. I tried talking it out with my coworker who knows nothing about the world I created, and it helped build ideas.

  8. I agree with MJ – just start writing down ideas. They can be totally absurd (“the hero finds a magic toilet brush that can defeat the monsters!”) or really bizarre, but don’t censor them. Anything goes. I bet something will come if you just let ideas flow. And as I reminded a CP stuck on a similar problem, YOU are the supreme deity of this world. If you need a solution, you get to make one up. As you said, I can’t give you specific ideas, cuz I don’t know all the ins and outs, but go ahead and give the monsters some kind of Achilles heel that the heroes have to discover.

    • I do get to make one up… which is why I’m changing the monsters and one of the characters. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. First, congrats on identifying your problem. That’s half the battle. Second, be relieved you don’t have a deadline, so you can wait for inspiration. Read others’ books in the same genre. Their good ideas (and bad ideas) can inspire you. Watch TV and movies. You never know where a great idea will come from. Good luck!

    • I have a self-imposed deadline of this year. The other project I’m supposed to be working on, I have an actual deadline, since it’s for The Seven, and not just myself. ๐Ÿ˜

  10. Emma Adams

    That’s a tricky one! I run into problems like that sometimes, and I always solve them with a combination of brainstorming and thinking about it (usually when I’m supposed to be doing something else. :P). Sooner or later, you’ll think of a solution. Good luck! ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Oh, I know this problem! As a pantser, it is a tough obstacle, but there are a few ways that I use to overcome it. I like the hummus idea too. I also try to loop back to the beginning of the story. Something there, no matter how little, clues in to the end. If that makes sense!

    • It does make sense. And hummus is a good idea. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. This may not be a popular opinion, but do you have to adhere so strongly to such stringent guidelines? “Magic” that requires a spreadsheet of rules and cross-references isn’t very magical. But maybe that’s just me.

    That being said, I would suggest just write through it. See what happens. Your characters may come up with a solution on their own. Even if they don’t, you will learn some stuff that doesn’t as doesn’t work, which may also solve some of your problems.

    • Ah, see, I can make up my rules as I go, but if I throw in something that’s unestablished and hasn’t been built up to, then people won’t believe it and that disbelief will pull them out of the story. It’s one of the lessons I learned in Thanmir War, when I didn’t establish a particular Miasho power well enough early in the story. I’m a bit bitter about that, but best to learn and move on. I don’t plan on dictating out all of the “magic” rules, but I need to make sure I know them so that when I do pull out a superpower, I’ve got reasons on why that superpower exists.

      Plus, my mind needs logic, otherwise it throws a fit. Part of the curse of being a programmer.

  13. The love story writer in me says the absorbed girlfriend’s conscience could overpower the monster who stole her, she (through the possessed monster) kills the other monsters and then sacrifices herself to save the group. and if she needs to reappear in next book, her sacrifice could have her reincarnated or brought back to life.

    Love conquers all, right?

    I read once that one way to get possible endings is to rule out the things that cannot happen.

    And if you come up with an ending that seems dropped in- just go back and write in the bread crumbs you need to make the end work.

    • I’m tentative to do that. I’ve already broken the rules of life and death. I don’t want to do it too often. She is needed for book 3, as it’s crucial to another character’s survival. The fact that I’m not outright killing her when the monsters snatch her is me bending the rules to keep her alive. I’m afraid that any more, and things’ll start breaking.

  14. I wrote a origination mythos once. It was a lot of fun. ๐Ÿ™‚

    At least you figured out what the problem is. That’s the most important step. If you can find someone who writes the same sort of things as you do, I’d try talking to them about it, even giving them your rough draft to read. And then I’d wait it out. Sometimes answers come when you aren’t stressing about them.

    • I’ve thought about that, but no one in my close in-person circle of friends is quite as high in their fantasy. The closest is my sis-in-law, who doesn’t write the stories, but reads them, and I already badger her constantly about my story. I’m starting to feel bad.

  15. If I find myself getting confused, or having plot issues, I put the manuscript away for a while and work on something else. Usually ideas happen after I stop worrying about things. Good luck figuring it out.

    • I’ve let it sit… I think that’s why it’s taking me so long to get it nailed down.

  16. I usually decide how the hero wins the final battle before I even start writing. Then I write the story so that everything leads up to that final climatic moment.

    In your case, I’d try looking at the heroes and thinking about what would be the last thing you’d expect them to do in a fight. For example, let’s say a hero is fire based and can throw fireballs, but tends to avoid bodies of water which rob him of his/her powers. Noodle around on the concept that he deliberately jumps into the water in order to defeat the monsters. Maybe that will spark something in your muse.

  17. Do you ever write mini stories/scenes? Ones that you have absolutely no intention on actually sharing/publishing? You just write because it helps you, the author, understand what needs to be known? Maybe try writing some of those ‘behind the scene’ scenes and see what you come up with. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Also, maybe try looking at it from a different angle. Do the monsters have weaknesses? Something non-standardized powers could get the better of? I’d look at the monsters history and see if you could work it from that angle.

    But don’t you just hate when your characters won’t make it easy for you?? I’ve definitely been there! Someone said it above but you’ll definitely get it when you’re not thinking about it. Or when you’re writing a “let’s see what happens scene.” I have faith! The solution will come around!

  18. Here’s my thought, based on what you said to Melissa Maygrove above: if #3 doesn’t fully know how his power works, but he can influence the monsters, and he needs to go into the monsters’ realm via #1’s powers, can #3 go into the monsters’ realm and influence the monster that absorbed his girlfriend so that it sets her free and plugs the hole that #1 needs plugged?

    Obviously I don’t know anything more about how your world and story work beyond what you’ve said here, but having characters learn how to use their powers together is a good way to do something unexpected without making it seem like it came out of nowhere. And if you can fit in something earlier in the story about powers being used together, even if it’s just a line or two, it won’t seem like it came out of nowhere.

    Hope this helps a little. Good luck. ^_^

  19. YEESSSS….as you already saw I am going through this too and it is TORTURE. My last MS flowed so simply and this one is so tricky I could cry! I get stuck on one thing and am afraid to move forward. Best thing is to put the tricky spot from your mind and just move onto another section. Get the mojo back any way you can! More often than not it triggers something and fixes the problem. If it doesn’t?? I’ll just keep going with other sections. Either way you’re getting work done and eventually the issue will unkink! ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Hmm, maybe instead of thinking how your heroes can defeat the monster, figure out how the monster can be defeated in general. What are the monster’s weaknesses? They all have them, and if you don’t know them yet, then create them. You are the writer and can do that. ๐Ÿ™‚ If you figure out that, then it might help you know how your heroes can then defeat it. As for layering in how that works out, that can always come in a later draft. Good luck!

  21. I think Cherie might be onto something. Focus on finding their weaknesses. I recently finished Garth Nix’s Abhorsen/Old Kingdom books. There are lots of instances in those stories of defeating the apparently invincible.

  22. Perfect solution: have all of your characters run circles around the monster and frustrate the unholy living heck out of it. Then it dies. From sheer frustration.

    Sorry — absolutely no help at all. But in the words of Henry Jones, Sr. “I find, that if I just sit down to think…The solution presents itself!” Or I resort to depression and Star Trek reruns.

  23. I’ve never written a magic system or other world, but I like the comments above mine. When I’m stuck, I give myself time to think things over, talk things over with critique partners, and even start a manuscript all over again.

  24. I try talking things through with someone. (Do feel free to mail me if you need a sounding board.) ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. stephen tremp

    I get stuck all the time. Then I break the rules. Rules Schmules. It just means you might have to go back and edit a few things so the reader doesn’t think rules are being broken.

    Stephen Tremp
    A to Z Road Trip
    Breakthrough Blogs

  26. I wish I knew a few of the rules. That might help. I’d say dive in and swim. You’ll reach the other side. ๐Ÿ™‚

  27. […] Last week, I was pretty much at my frustration breaking point since I’d been stuck for quite a while. I plead for help, and all of you responded. […]

  28. […] met my 50K goal every year. But the problem is that up until a few months ago, I haven’t had all the details worked […]

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