Incubating Your Fiction Ideas

Do introverted writers have an advantage over extraverts when it comes to developing story ideas?

In her classic book Becoming a Writer, author Dorothea Brande admonishes writers against discussing their story ideas with others:

Your unconscious self … will not care whether the words you use are written down or talked to the world at large. If you are for the moment fortunate enough to have a responsive audience you often suffer for it later. You will have created your story and … will find yourself disinclined to go on with the laborious process of writing that story at full length; unconsciously, you will consider it as already done.

Most introverts should have little trouble following this advice. During early drafts, they like to work in isolation. But extraverts prefer to develop their ideas through talking about them with others. So how can extraverts follow their preference without killing their passion for the story?

Self-talk.

Neuroimaging studies suggest that introverts are more likely than extraverts to engage in self-talk. When developing a story, try talking to yourself, whether out loud or inside your head. Take notes of the conversation you have with yourself. Get your ideas on paper—don’t let them vanish into the ether.

Cluster.

Clustering is an idea-generating technique where one thought suggests another. Start with a blank sheet of paper. In the center, write a word (such as murder) and circle it. Around it, write associated words (such police, money, drugs, insurance, and affair). Circle each of them, and draw a line connecting them to the first word. Continue building this web of connections until an idea crystallizes in your mind, spurring you to write.

Interview Your Characters.

Once you’ve got a solid idea, interview your characters. Ask about their favorite memory, their secret hope, their biggest disappointment. Write down their words in their voice. Then, tell them about your story ideas, and listen to their response. Sound crazy? It’s not. Characters are a product of the imagination, but they’re also a gateway to the unconscious mind. Sometimes they know things the conscious mind doesn’t.

Listen.

Write a first draft and share it with some trusted writer friends. Then, listen to their feedback. Write down what they say, but don’t respond. Take it all in, jotting down new ideas that come to mind, but resist the urge to share those ideas. Save them for the rewrite.

Taking a work of fiction from inception to publication requires discipline. Regardless of your personality type, your greatest asset as a writer is perseverance. Take advantage of your natural strengths as a writer to help you achieve your dreams. For more information on the writing styles of the Myers-Briggs personality types, see the links below.

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