Using a Mind Map To
Build An Idea
By Cindy Clark
Copyright © 2009 by Cindy Clark, All Rights Reserved
I've found that using a mind
map, either a computer program version or on paper, is a quick way to
bring out ideas that might be lurking in the back of my mind. Sometimes
is a nice change of pace to pull out a large sheet of paper and start
jotting down ideas on it. I, however hardly use a mind map to build a
plot, but rather to flesh out an idea from a single line that could
become a story. This is a way you can explore two or three different
branches before deciding on what branch the story should take.
If you're using a large
sheet of paper, start with your idea in the middle. From there you'll be
able to branch out. If you have a mind mapping program, the software can
help with this part of the process. There really is no order to follow
once you start, but this article will show how I find it easiest to use
a mind map. It might take a few tries to find what order you wish to go
in, but I tend to bounce from area to area most of the time.
With the idea in the center
of your map, I make a branch for characters. Then I start with ideas for
characters who might work with the idea I have. Of course you'll need a
main character branch. From there add in notes of what kind of main
character you want to see in this idea. At this point you don't even
need names – just random ideas of who these characters could and might
As you continue on building
you can work on what these characters might have in mind for goals and
how they push the idea forward. You might go back and forth between this
step and the others as you continue to learn more about the world and
the idea itself.
Another branch coming from
your main idea can be a place for your world building. This will be the
spot for those who are working on a fantasy idea. A place on this branch
might be for magic. Does the world to have it or not, and reasons why.
Do the same for magical creatures. Will the land have any oddities?
Anything that will hinder or help the main idea you have?
If your story is fiction or
urban fantasy, this is the time to start looking at a setting and
jotting down ideas of where the story would best take place. You can
easily do a pro and con list of each idea and later decide which one
An easy next step is a list
of what the story needs. Or another way to think of this is what you
want the story to have. The story is yours, it's yours to decide what it
should and should not have. This can be the place to have a pro and cons
list of what the story should and should not have. I add in the 'should
not' so you know where you don't want the story to go.
This is also the time to let
the idea grow, even if it might be in two or three different directions.
Doing so will give you a range of storylines to follow. You might cross
some out and some might be longer then the others. Don't worry if the
main idea doesn't stay the same by the time you're done. The idea might
have needed to change to fit what you wish to write about.
Once you have a list that
coincides with your main idea then you'll be able to start another
branch. I tend to call this branch the official story line. Taking ideas
from the building in the last section and using what you like and
stringing those ideas together into something that works. Something that
bonds together with other ideas and becomes more then just a story idea
as it grows into a plot.
With that done it's time to
jot down scene ideas. You might have a few lingering around based on the
earlier work, but with a few more can show once you start writing them
down. This can be used as a very thin outline line. Each scene idea can
be branched out. Adding more detail and finding questions that the
scenes bring up. This is a good thing, because when you go to write or
outline you'll have a good foundation to start from.
You can bounce from
characters to story lines to world building until everything is as you
wish it to be. As you work on each step, things will change; you might
find a different character as you work on the story ideas. Or you might
find something in the world building that transfers over to the scenes.
Even if mind maps like this don't work for you, it might with a few
tweaks and changes. You, however, won't know until you try building an
idea with a mind map.
Here are some computer
programs that deal with mind maps.
You can download a trial
of this program for free.
Freemind: This program
is free to download.
Or if you want to try
this by hand, head to a local craft store and look at the large
paper in their art section.