Molly Childers conducted a long interview with creativity guru Michael Michalko at creativity-portal.com. One of the creativity methods he mentions is coming up with a list or chart of possible elements and combining them randomly to generate ideas. It’s a method I teach in my workshops and it’s explained in my book, “Your Writing Coach,” but I didn’t know that one of the top tv writers, David Milch, used it. Michalko says:
“Another writer, David Milch [pictured], used the technique to create plots, characters, and stories for “NYPD Blue.” He created a chart that consisted of all the major parts of the story: good guys, bad guys, other characters, weapons, crime, location, etc. Then, he generated long lists of variations for each category and numbered them. He wrote the numbers on slips of paper and put the slips into a box. When he needed an idea for a story, he randomly picked slips from the box to create a series of random numbers (one per category). He then looked up the items corresponding to the numbers and used these random combinations as stimuli for new stories.”
You can also use it at scene level by listing all the possible locations, all the characters you’ve established, some new potential characters, emotions, etc. and try some different combinations to see which give the scene new energy. It works best when, like Milch, you already have a strong framework that gives you your basic format, your core characters, and the tone.
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