Part 2 in the series: “Developing Plots by Hemorrhaging Dreams”
For a long time psychologists have known that one of the ways to use the subconscious mind for problem-solving is to feed it a problem before going to sleep. For example, by writing out in longhand what a problem is, then reading it the last thing before going to sleep and the first thing upon awakening, the problem will be supplanted into the subconscious, where it will be examined, studied, and eventually solved.
This method can be amplified for creative writers. Here are two techniques you can try:
1. Consider a plot difficulty, such as how to get two characters to fall in love. Write that down. However, along with that add the era you want the characters to be in (the Roaring Twenties? World War II? the twenty-first century?); add the genre you want the story to be presented in (romance? western? mystery?); and add the format you wish to write the story in (novel? movie script? epic poem?). Keep your notepad or digital recorder near you throughout the day, and make a record of any and all ideas that “come to mind” related to your plot’s problem.
2. Another method involves sensory mix-and-match. For example, put two radically different scents in your nose, one at a time and then simultaneously. Sniff mustard and licorice. What does that do to your memory? Sniff roses and shoe polish . . . potting soil and turpentine . . . fish oil and a pine bough. Your mind will have to struggle to assimilate these conflicting aromas, odors, and smells. That mental struggle will send you into new thought combinations. Hey, maybe the roses and shoe polish will lead to a story about a first date, in which a young man is buffing his shoes while keeping the bouquet for his sweetheart close at hand. Let your imagination run with it.
Next week, more suggestions for snapping your synapses into increased creativity.
Dennis E. Hensley is director of the professional writing program at Taylor University. He is the author of 52 books, including the novel The Gift (Harvest House) and eight textbooks on writing, such as How to Write What You Love and Make a Living at It (Random House) and The Freelance Writer’s Handbook (Harper-Collins). His more than 3,000 freelance articles have appeared in Reader’s Digest, Success, Essence, People, The Star and The Detroit Free Press, among many others. © 2012 by Dennis E. Hensley. All rights reserved.