The 3X5 Brainstorming Effect

I taught writing workshops last weekend at the Karitos Art Festival. My classes were filled with artists desiring to take their skills to a new higher level. The participation was excellent and the class was filled with laughter, knowledge and real examples that made several feel like they could achieve more than they had thought possible.

One screenwriter was amazed at how easy her story flowed after implementing a simple technique that I want to share in this blog. I call it the “3X5 card brainstorming effect.”

STEP ONE: Review your great Logline and come up with as many scene ideas as possible. Write each idea on a 3X5 card and stick it randomly on the wall. Do not spend too much time writing details on the cards, but write enough to jog the memory of the scene created during the brainstorming session.

STEP TWO: Once Step One has been exhausted, read the Logline again from the viewpoint of an old lady. Again, quickly write each idea on a card and randomly post it on the wall.

STEP THREE: Continue Step Two using different perspectives. Write from the vantage point of a child, prison guard, chimney sweep, etc. Each perspective will give new insights into various key elements that will make up the final story.

STEP FOUR: Review the wall of cards and organize them into logical groupings, patterns or linear thought tracks. Determine which cards support the theme of the story and mark them accordingly. Determine what cards move the story forward and mark them for plot “A”.

STEP FIVE: Organize the cards into 8 sequences that tell the best story. Make sure there is a linear flow to the story by adding in transition cards or salting in “B” or “C” plot cards.

STEP SIX: Turn each card into a paragraph so it reads like a story. Sit back, relax and read the story to see if it is entertaining, poignant or riveting. Change the paragraphs that don’t move the story forward and keep the ones that build a desire to read the next paragraph. Anything that is great, but doesn’t seem to fit, place it in a draw for your next project.

These six simple steps make the building of the first draft’s story structure fun and imaginative. It’s a fast process that allows the writer to quickly explore an idea to determine if it has enough merit to deserve hundreds of hours developing it into a story for the silver screen. And, it saves a lot of wasted time on those great concepts that don’t flesh out well enough to be worthy of more time.

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