Tag Archive for brainstorming

Notes to Myself: Writing BYSTANDER

I’d guess that all writers do it, but I can only speak for myself. During the course of brainstorming for a book, which for me usually involves a composition notebook and random observations, snatches of dialogue, character traits, ideas for scenes, etc., I’ll often write brief notes to myself. These notes that I’m referring to are general guidelines for the book I’m writing — about tone, intention, theme. They serve as signposts, clarifying my intent for that specific book. I’m not talking about notes to address specific scenes in the story, but more global thoughts about the book I’m hoping to write, what I’m trying to achieve.

Below, here’s a few notes taken from a larger notebook that I filled during the research phase for my middle grade novel, Bystander.┬áThis might come across as naval gazing, I suppose, but I hope the notes shed light on my writing process and in doing so help readers and writers with their own creative work.

Don’t worry, I’ll translate these into English for those unfamiliar with the dialect of Southpaw Scrawl: “Do not like the books that ‘solve’ the problem, as in, do this and the problem goes away: not so simple.”

“Sometimes people who bully are popular w/ teachers and peers (Bundy)

Important to shatter the stereotypical views of what a bully ‘looks like.'”

“It becomes important to realize/understand what real friendship means.”

“Clique is ‘exclusive club’ not real friendship. ‘Cool’ members must conform & follow rules of group.

Real friends don’t require each other to be something they are not.”

“Children go to great lengths to hide the fact that they are victims of a bully.”

“Bully/victim is more dangerous, because acts out of anger, revenge.”

The Writing Process: Humble Beginnings

Now that school is here, I hope to write some pieces that more directly speak to students who might be interested in writing. I previously mentioned a new book I’m thinking about, as opposed to, um, actually working on, though I suppose they are one and the same. You can’t exactly write without thinking (and believe me, I’ve tried, doesn’t work).

So, anyway. I have an idea for a character who gets into trouble at school. The book is about this kid, and, in part, the surprising relationship he builds with the school principal. But how and why does this boy get into trouble? What does he do? What kind of hilarious escapades can I conjure? Then one notion hit me over the weekend: He smuggles a goldfish into school!

I love that idea. I can WORK with that idea. That is: There are possibilities that appeal to my (bent, twisted) sensibilities. So then begins the series of questions: How does he do it? Why? What goes wrong (because something must go wrong)? I’ve already daydreamed over a host of options — involving a thermos, soup broth, and a swallowed goldfish — but I know I’m not there yet. I’ve got to learn more about tropical fish, and probably make a visit to my local fish store (Davey Jones’ Locker on Delaware Avenue). Maybe they’ve got some ideas; research like that always helps, talking to experts always helps.

Yet I did “hear” a line of dialogue, a principal bemoaning something like, “Because of your actions today, an innocent goldfish is dead.”

I wonder if any of that will make it into the book? I wonder if this kid has got a name?