I’m not entirely sure what I mean by brainstorming methods, except that brainstorming is a way of coming up with ideas for stories and topics. I use a variety of methods. Sometimes I just sit down and think of things to stay, which is true brainstorming; other times I just pluck an idea out of the air. Still other times, I conceive an idea from a TV show that I am watching, or a book I’m reading, or even from conversations, I overhear.
There’s a school assignment that I recall from grade school that works well. The teacher gives the students a picture and tells them to write a story about the picture. The idea is to tell the story of the picture and how it came to be, what happened before the picture, or what happens after the picture. Sometimes it’s a cartoon, like a bear on bicycle. The student is supposed to write about how the bear came to be riding the bike. The student is not to just describe the picture but tell the story of why the picture looks as it does. What made the bear get on the bike and ride it? Where is he going? That’s one way to promote an idea for writing, look at the pictures in magazines or newspapers and see what you can come up with in terms of a story. It shouldn’t be the same story that comes with the picture. It’s better if you don’t even read the story first.
You can use the "I’m feeling lucky" button on the Google® search page as well. First, sit down and think of a search term. Take the first thing that comes into your head, then type it into the search box, click the "I’m feeling lucky" tab and see what you get. If that doesn’t work out, try again. For example, when I typed monsters into the search box and pressed the "I’m feeling lucky" tab, I got Monster.com, the job search website. When I entered hamsters and did the same thing, I got the Wikipedia entry on the little rodents. If nothing else, you will learn something new, which is always good.
What learned from the hamster page was that they are crepuscular animals, which I learned means that they are active at twilight and predawn. This cuts down on predation on them because most predators are active during the dark hours of the night or full daylight. This could be an idea for a story. What if your characters are forced to be crepuscular? You can build on this. What do they fear? Are they the predators? This is an excellent example of how this works.
I have a couple of books that have writing prompts and exercises in them. I will flip through them and see what might interest me at that time. The prompts don’t change, but my responses to them do. They are both by Monica Wood, the first is simply called, "The Pocket Muse" and is available at the Writer’s Digest bookstore, click the title to go to it in the bookstore. The book contains tips on getting started, how to develop a writing routine, and things like that. The other book, called Pocket Muse 2, Endless Inspiration, and is similar in nature, but full of prompts and advice. Both books are reasonably priced and available in electronic format. I confess that I like the traditional format better because you can open the books at page and find something interesting. I don’t think you can do that with the electronic version.
Sometimes you just close yourself off from everyone else and make a list of works. From that list, try to find a word or words that are interesting or that you think you can devise something from, a character name or a world name or something along those lines, develop that character or world and tell its story.
Here’s another method that you can use, this one is close to meditation. You sit in a comfortable chair, close your eyes and relax. Empty your mind of the mundane things you have to do, the cobwebs on your ceiling will still be there after you finish this exercise. Try to remember something from your childhood. Pick an obscure memory that you may only half remember. Open your eyes and start writing about it.
Another excellent method of brainstorming is to sit down at your computer, or in a comfy chair with a pad of paper and plenty of pencils, pens, whatever set a timer for ten minutes and just sit and write whatever pops into your head. Most of what you will get will be crap. You have to remember that another name for crap is manure and manure becomes fertilizer. Things grow from fertilizer. If you can find a seed of an idea in your pile of crap, you can nurture it into something. If not, set your timer again and start over. You don’t have to use everything you write. You just have to write something.
Brainstorming is the first step of the process. If you get things you don’t feel are right for people to see, that’s ok; it is only the first step, not the final one. Few people can get from point A to point B without taking more than one step. If point A were that close to point B, what would be the point of moving? Take it one step at a time and things will progress at their own pace. Hurrying things along doesn’t always provide a good ending. Taking it slow is better. Build your project properly and it will stand forever. Hurry through it and you will fail every time.
Practice makes perfect, they say. They say it because it’s true. I’ve started a number of writing projects only to abandon them in various stages of development for various reasons. The point is to keep generating ideas until you find one that works, that grows into something that interests and delights you. That’s the idea that will likely interest and delight others as well.