Guest Author - Deb Bonam
When I was young writing always seemed to be my biggest forte. It was the one class I could creatively use my imagination and exceed beyond what the teacher traditionally wanted to score me with grade wise. There was only one problem, I was such a philosophical deep thinker about everything, it took me two to almost five times longer to come up with an idea to write about. Then to expand upon my insightful plights, such as my quest to save the woods (in fifth grade), it took me an even greater amount of time to compile my ideas into an organized system. I was nearing, always chasing deadlines and barely getting most crucial information out there in the world.
Later on we were introduced to the standard outline, which gave me a form to feed information into once I could gather all that information. The outline presented a new problem as it wanted me to organize all the ideas I hadn’t compiled as of yet for my creative stories into a cohesive whole. It always seemed like I was trying to fill in the outline after I wrote the paper to please the teacher. I mean what’s so creative about an outline anyway? The process that is important in creative writing is brainstorming.
Then one day while watching my son write a creative writing paper in high school I was exposed to a brainstorming technique that was new to me and opened my eyes. It was called Bubble Diagramming. You start with a blank piece of paper and draw a large circle on it and write a word inside the circle. The idea behind Bubble Diagramming is that as you brainstorm and come up with ideas, you place those ideas in circle bubbles on your paper that branch off into other ideas, similar to a business flow chart. For example, if you started out with your main idea being about a girl named Susan, you would put Susan’s name in a big circle on the paper. Then you would start to branch off into smaller bubbles from the larger bubble as you think about things that are related to, or describe Susan. So if you want to describe Susan’s hair, clothing, where she lives, and her employment – all those things branch off from the larger circle into smaller circles from “Susan.” Then you can start another large idea like the location that the story will take place – Spain. You can then branch off from there to include a city in Spain, a house, and a family. Then you can start another big bubble that has the setting, such as 1980.
I was intrigued watching him whip down bubble after bubble on his paper as he brainstormed. He wrote out a Bubble Diagram in no time flat and immediately began to write out the main idea from the largest, center balloons first. In a systematic fashion, balloon after balloon was crossed off as the story was written. It was a coherent, well-formed, interesting and most creative piece! All formed, not from a traditional outline, but from a fill-up-your-paper Bubble Diagram. In fact, the students were required to turn in their Bubble Diagrams with their paper to show their brainstorming work.
I’ve been using this Bubble Diagramming method for myself ever since I saw it and it works for me every time. Being a creative person I’m very visual and so “seeing” my words charted that way helps me move them forward to the next step, thus avoiding the writer’s block. There is no right or wrong way to diagram a Bubble Diagram, as long as it all makes sense to you, the writer. Bubble Diagrams end up in any number of shapes and sizes. They can be small or fill up an entire page. The key is they should serve as a simplified visual aid. Try it out and see if your brainstorming combined with a Bubble Diagram is something that can work for you.