Sunday, May 20, 2007


Whether you're writing fiction or nonfiction, stuck in the middle of a project or just about to start a new one, the listing brainstorming technique can help open up your writing. The information you produce in the listing process adds texture to your work and also helps in the revision process.

The first listing tool every writer should have on his/her desk is thesaurus. A visit to that book can often help you gain ideas needed for your current work in progress. To use listing in the fiction area at the beginning of a project, start at the protagonist level. If you're writing a novel told from the heroine's point of view, make a list of 25 different occupations your heroine could have. She could be a spy, writer, airplane pilot, retail store manager, opera singer, etc. Choose an occupation from your list, i.e., spy. Now make a list of ten attributes for your spy. Your spy heroine is: Attractive, but not supermodel beautiful, athletic, sometimes has a problem with her temper, etc. Now extrapolate from this and from each attribute, list ten ways which illustrate that attribute. For example, the heroine sometimes has problems with her temper when her boyfriend shows up late for a date, when she hasn't had caffeine in the morning, when someone she's trailing puts a roadblock on her path, etc.

Listing can also be done concerning plot. Say you want to write a story about a reporter who goes on vacation in London only to get sucked into an international espionage ring as a result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Start making your initial lists: Where is the reporter when he/she first encounters this international espionage ring? Taking a tour of Buckingham Palace? Getting stuck somewhere in the fog? Buying a seemingly benign item in an old antique store? Take each item on this list a step further. What specifically happened at this place? Who else was there?

There's no right or wrong answer in the listing process and you don't have to list a prescribed number of things in each list. The point is to jumpstart your brain so that your creativity is in full swing and to get you into your story.

This development of lists from your initial lists helps you move forward by making choices concerning your story and/or character development. Often we try to make our story choices all in our head, only to forget important details later. Listing helps get story choices on paper to get the project moving. Now go make those lists!


Blogger Melissa Marsh said...

I need to do this tonight since I still haven't come up with a career for my next main character. This is a great tool!

4:21 PM  
Blogger Diana Celesky said...

Thanks, Melissa. I find making lists can get the brain going and open me up so that the details just flow and I'm not trying so hard. I hope it helps you, too.

5:53 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth Parker said...

Great post, Diana! Now it's making me wonder -- I haven't heard what you're writing lately? Do you have a project you're making lists for?

10:16 AM  
Blogger Diana Celesky said...

Hey, Elizabeth

Believe it or not, I've been scratching out some lists for sex scenes I'm considering for an erotica project. It's amazing how unsexy planning those scenes can be when you have to put logic and grammar in there.

11:21 AM  

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