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Jae Baeli
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PostSubject: Mindmapping   Fri Dec 05, 2008 4:02 pm

I mentioned this method under Writer's Block UNblocked, but it is also a way to do the actual outlining of your story in the beginning stages. Outlining is usually stymied by the realization that you don't know where the story is going or how to get there. This method helps you unlock possibilities and transfers what would be brainwork in your head, to brainwork on paper. There are many things in your head besides the story you are trying to write, so if it's transferred onto paper in a form that is most like the way your brain operates, you can see things you might not have seen any other way.

The technique is called mind-mapping. It goes by other titles and variations, but this is the one I use. It can even be used repeatedly for the same story to work out different aspects. You might mindmap characters, plot, subplot, setting, conflicts, or in the case of non-fiction, simply the chapter contents and divisions.

My suggestion is always to buy one of those blank desk pads because they are less confining and have plenty of room for thinking and experimenting. The idea is simple, but powerful. Let's say you're working out plot. Decide on a thematic sentence for your plot--something that you might see in the New York Times book reviews--and write that in the center of the pad and draw a circle around it (or a square, or mix them up according to content). Now, around that center idea, draw lines to other circles and place in them the major elements involved in that thematic statement. Then from each of those elements, draw more lines and circles to even more specific ideas. Continue this process until you can't think of anything else. Then when you look at it, you will begin to see connections and patterns, and these will help you tie up the elements of your plot. If I have a complicated plot, I might color code the circles according to character, plot, setting, subplot, conflict, and so on. This is a quick visual way to keep track of those aspects.
There are as many individual ways to do mind-mapping as there are individuals. Toy with it until you find something that works. I have often started over many times with the same map until the kinks began to smooth out.

If you get stuck, try starting a new page that has that part on it. Make the stuck-part the center circle, and then make lines outward from it with 6 circles, labeled who, what, where, when, why and how. If you are forced to compartmentalize the ideas under those categories, you will often break through the block as patterns and connections emerge.

I mention patterns and connections often, because this is the heart of all plots. There are patterns in speech, ideation, actions, thoughts. There are connections with characters, (or they shouldn't be in the story) and the conflict often comes from one character's desire clashing with another character's desire. If you can mind-map everything, those patterns and connections will not only emerge, but reveal the meaning behind them.

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PostSubject: Re: Mindmapping   Sun Jul 06, 2014 12:32 am

I'm a big fan of mind mapping. I use a program I downloaded for free; I tried doing it by hand and by the time I was done I had a huge mess. The program lets me organize the parts and plots and characters when I have them all down. I love that I can move them around and play with timing, motivations, character and even some dialogue or narration. I hope more people experiment with mind mapping; I think they'd find it a fun and useful tool. reading3 
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