This will be a exposition building up over time into my own writing process using as a case study a collaborative project with my artist friend Matt Parker from a challenge we agreed on to create and develop a new type of superhero character for a graphic novel or comic book series. As the project develops we are going to add to this page with a series of updates taking the reader through the thought processes and developmental journeys of two creative minds focusing on a single project. For me the first stage in any new writing project is a mix of thought and action. I find it easier to work if I’m writing and moving about so having a large table top or wall space with a LOT of post-it notes or something similar is a must. I start by taking a moment to think about the core of the story. Sometimes the lead character, someetimes a location or setting, sometimes an event within the story or a central theme, and then almost immediately starting to make scribbled notes about my thoughts. I have quite a chaotic mind so I find that trying to keep track of a fast flowing stream of consciousness can be almost impossible, as can trying to organise my thoughts and self censor at this stage by trying to type notes up or write them in a logical sequence. By allowing my mind the freedom to leap around the story I can develop themes and characters and plot points quicker and worry about putting it all together at a later stage. For now the priority is creative freedom and finding ways to remove limits to that is, for me at least, crucial.
I like to try to create linked trains of thought around key questions of character and theme and plot, trying to resolve questions and challenges as they present in my mind. In this example, thinking about the possibilities of characters for a superhero that were outside the “usual suspects” for heroic characters began to throw up philosophical questions of what makes a hero? What are the defining characteristics that turn someone from a nice, helpful person conscious of others needs and willing to go out of their way to help, into a genuine hero? What is the role of free will in heroic acts? Can a forced act ever be thought of as heroic? If not how, as a writer do I reconcile the use of trigger events in a fatalistic/deterministic sense in the narrative of most superhero stories?
The centre point of the brainstorming wheel is the core concept and the arms represent thought processes that relate to the core. As questions are raised by thinking about how the core of the story could be addressed these are added to existing trains of thought, or new trains are started spiralling out from the core. As questions are resolved or new questions raised the post-it notes can be swapped out, removed or repositioned according to relevance or the need for greater clarity. As the process continues the resolutions become more concrete leading to a need to create a new core idea, for example the central character, and the thought process of exploring the new core begins again in the same way.