Part 3 in the series: “Developing Plots by Hemorrhaging Dreams”
Last week we looked at two ways creative writers can boost their creativity in coming up with plot ideas. Here are two more:
Another process involves interpretive superimposing. Take three very similar stories and read them in interrupted patterns. For example, get copies of “Troilus and Cressida,” “Romeo and Juliet,” and “West Side Story.” Read the first ten pages of one, then ten pages of the next, and then ten pages of the third. Repeat the process as you move to the next ten pages. Repeat it again . . . and again. How are these works absolutely identical? How are they radically different? What is predictable in each one? What is a complete surprise in each one? Where are the timeless themes and where are the new messages? Compare and contrast them until aspects of all three reform as something totally your own—missed plot opportunities in the originals . . . new character arcs in response to different challenges . . . vibrant new settings. Such overlapping reading won’t confuse the mind so much as it will enrich it with burgeoning plot options.
A fourth technique involves storyboard shuffling. This requires the brain to see visual images while combining unrelated storylines. The object is to make the imagination come up with something logical from something disorganized. For example, go online or visit the library and make photocopies of bygone era newspapers’ dramatic comic strips (“Mary Worth,” “Rex Morgan, M.D.,” ‘Terry and the Pirates,” “Dick Tracy,” “Prince Valiant,” “Little Orphan Annie”). Cut out the individual comic-strip boxes, mix them randomly, and align them in new sequences. Why is physician Rex Morgan now rushing to assist detective Dick Tracy in bringing senior citizen Mary Worth to the orphanage where little Annie is being abused? Let your imagination run rampant with these convoluted, wild, emotionally charged plots. Speculate, question, examine, and wonder, all the while taking notes.
Next week, the conclusion to our series on how mental bloodletting can cure creative coagulation.
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.