Brainstorming the Gates

It’s that time again.  The last Monday of the month when we devote the blog to brainstorming.

Here’s your opportunity to ask other writers to help you fix a problem with your character’s arc, the plot of the story, or any other matter relating to the your current work in progress.

Here’s how the brainstorming works:

  • If you have a problem, question, or just need help on something, post your issue in a comment.
  • Blog readers, this is where you come in.  If you have any helpful advice to provide, post it as a reply to the original poster’s comment.  Remember the advice should be helpful and positive.  The goal here is to encourage and assist.
  • I will pop in from time to time during the day and chip in my two cents.  I might also post a problem I’m struggling with.

That’s it.  Don’t be shy people.  There’s no need to struggle in silence.  If you’re having a problem with plot or character, need some factual help on some issue or want some thoughts about direction, this is the place to find helpful advice.

12 responses to “Brainstorming the Gates”

  1. Hope Ramsay says:

    I’m going to get the brainstorming session going with an issue of my own. I’m writing a story that has a retired music teacher in it. For the sake of the story, she has decided never to teach music again. Some wound from the past has made her resistant to this idea. So when the community asks her to direct the Christmas Chorale, she initially says no. My question to the brainstormers is this: What could have happened in her past that would make her want to give up music in her life? I’ve got a few ideas for her motivation, but I’m not entirely happy with any of them. Ideas anyone?

    • Lydia Stevens says:

      Tragedy struck at a concert. An accident with a member of the audience or a student. This will need a careful sensitivity read because school-aged tragedies of any kind are hard for readers, but that would be an idea.
      You could also have a former family member or love who passed away on an important date that correlates with music for the MC. If she/he pursued their dream of teaching music because of their significant other, it could be reason for them to give it up if something happened to them on the eve of a big concert. If it is family then think Julia Stiles in Save the Last Dance. The mother character was in a car accident rushing to the recital so she gave up dance for a while.

      Hope this helps some!

      • Hope Ramsay says:

        Thanks. I’ve been thinking about the idea of her having pushed a student too hard with disastrous result. But have been afraid to go too dark with that.

        • Lydia Stevens says:

          Sure. It’s a tricky, sensitive subject but sadly, it’s reality. I think some of the most honest writing comes from reality and it doesn’t mean you are disrespecting anything anyone has been through, it means you have the courage to write about sensitive issues, and pay them the respect that you know how-with your writing.

    • Elizabeth Langston says:

      Here are some ideas for a past wound of retired music teacher:

      – wrote/arranged song; accused of copyright violation
      – choice of a student performer (or not choosing a specific performer) had a disastrous result
      – music student accused teacher of [fill in the blank]
      – put relationship on hold until a certain performance, kudo, or milestone reached, only to find the relationship was no longer possible/available
      – stage mothers or peer politics/lies are so nasty that she doesn’t want to go on

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      I’d think the list of possible happenings would depend upon where she taught, and the age of her students. Did she teach in a public school, a private school/academy, or a college/university environment? Did she give private music lessons? Were her prior students children, adults, or both?

      Is there any way that the community’s request could help her heal the old wound, and reconcile what happened in the past? What’s the connection between the past and the present which allows healing to begin?

      Don’t be afraid to go dark – bad stuff happens to good people on a fairly regular basis. As the author, you always have the choice of how much of a dark scenario you’ll reveal.

      • Great questions, Tammy. I love when a story comes full circle.

        If you don’t want to go too dark, maybe it a matter of trust, or faith in oneself. She lost faith in her skills as a teacher because she pushed a promising student into doing a solo and a complete breakdown, which lead to disastrous Christmas Eve recital several years ago. After that recital she quit teaching, but now another past and very gifted student (who is now accepted at the NY school of music) reminds her how great a teacher she is. Teacher inspired her.

      • Hope Ramsay says:

        Thanks for these thought-provoking questions. The request from the community definitely is part of her healing. This is, as you might have guessed, a Christmas story. The MC is dragged into filling in for the choral director, and of course, the magic of Christmas happens. (With the help of some matchmaking altos.) I had been thinking about her wound being that she pushed a student too hard, with disastrous result, and her she finds herself directing a chorus of amateurs who will teach her that perfection isn’t everything.

    • I love all the suggestions you’ve gotten. It could also be a physical limitation of some kind – if she was a teacher/accompanist and she got debilitating pain from arthritis (which can hit a lot younger than most people think) that stopped her from being able to play which killed her joy for a while?

      Or you could always tie it into your romantic conflict as well – she became involved with someone who was a colleague/parent of a student/etc and that relationship somehow compromised a performance or she was accused of favoritism toward a certain student because of the relationship?

      Or if you did want to run in the dark direction it could be something that had nothing directly to do with her but she still blames herself. A student who ODed and she didn’t see the signs… a student with a dangerous home life and she didn’t see the signs… someone who was so gifted, who meant so much to her and was lost? Though with a Christmas story, I tend to avoid going too heavy. In my experience readers like the lighter side during the holidays. GOOD LUCK! Hope this sparks something in your brainstorming!


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