Mind Mapping: From Brainstorm Your Book

A mind map is one method of brainstorming as an individual: start from one word, idea, or concept, and expand it to find deeper meaning. Beginning with one key concept, you branch off (in any direction you’d like) to enlarge the idea, adding words and phrases, even pictures, like a tree grows limbs. This one concept may end up branching off in many different directions and may spawn new key ideas that need a mind map of their own. You can link parts of the map with arrows or lines, create hierarchical structures or process flows, draw pictures or doodles, and let your mind wander where it will. There is no right or wrong, no call to censor yourself, and no reason not to keep expanding until you just can’t anymore.Mind maps can be small, but the larger they are, the better. This is why I suggest using off-sized unlined paper. (I use a 24” x 36” sketch pad.) Taking yourself outside your comfort zone, even incrementally, forces your mind to look at things with a new perspective, which is the whole point of brainstorming. If you don’t have extra off-size paper lying around, you can use copy paper or the blank mind map pages that follow this section.

I also suggest using colored pencils or markers, because color stimulates the mind. (I have even used crayons when I wanted to take myself entirely out of my normal routine.) Different colors can be used to create segments of related information that apply to different parts of your manuscript, such as different plots or subplots or characters. You can use highlighters for the same purpose, to help you sort your ideas when it is time to transcribe them into your manuscript.

When your imagination skips along from idea to idea, mind maps can easily expand to enormous proportions. (I once covered an entire wall of my office with butcher block paper.) Because a mind map can become unwieldy, I suggest using keywords or short phrases, not sentences or paragraphs, to record the ideas as they come.

Creating your Mind Map

  1. Write your keyword or concept in the center of the page (such as a character for whom you want to develop traits, or a storyline that needs more detail).
  2. Create “branches” for different directions the brainstorming takes you. Use color if it helps you keep track.
  3. Let each branch extend out with as many “twigs” as you need to fully explore your key concept and its offshoots.
  4. If unrelated ideas come up, write them in a different area of the page and come back to them later. They may even require mind maps of their own.
  5. If your mind map gets too big, tape or staple another sheet to the first or use the back of the page.

I have included a neat, clean mind map graphic designed in a computer program as an example, but mind maps in the real world are not neat. They are not organized. They are not pretty. They aren’t supposed to be. Penmanship doesn’t matter (as long as you can read it), nothing need be erased, and the more complex it becomes, the more value it will bring to your work.


To learn more or find additional tools for brainstorming your next fiction project, check out Brainstorm Your Book: Planning the Parts of Your Next Novel.

Brainstorm Your Book: Planning the Parts of Your Next Novel is a hands-on, pen-to-paper, rubber-to-road workbook to help you generate ideas for all the elements of your next fiction book—character, setting, plot, and theme—to produce a more robust first draft, and more complete later versions. Whether you are writing your first book or your fifty-first, no matter your genre or personal process, Brainstorm Your Book will spark creativity, increase productivity, and make writing your novel a whole lot more fun.

In a series of questions, prompts, and exercises, Brainstorm Your Book probes your imagination, pulling small and large details from your creative mind and the world around you. The workbook will introduce you to your characters and help build solid friendships with them, show you both a bird’s-eye and closeup view of your settings, generate action to drive the plot forward, and enhance the underlying messages in your manuscript. It will walk you, step-by-step, through choices you might never have considered, act as a catalyst driving progress through the whole first draft, and increase your chances of ending with a high-quality finished novel.

Click here to learn more!

For more tools, tips. and tricks to improve your writing, go to Mari’s new Patreon page and sign up!

 

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The Art and Science of Governance (excerpt from Blind Tribute)

Chapter Fifty

 

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by P. H. Wentworth III
National News Editor

April 9, 1864

United States Senate Joint Resolution 16, passed April 8, 1864

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Reader:

Science and Philosophy are often at loggerheads, but in truth, are natural bedfellows, sharing many commonalities: distrust of accepted wisdom, untidy experimentation, exacting analysis, flashes of brilliance on the back of years of laborious work, the paring away of supposition and half-truth, and a canon on which to build initial reflections into what we call “natural law.”

However: Laws are never natural; they are always man-made.

Long before the discovery of oxygen, human beings were inhaling and exhaling, and no one can argue our need for food and water; either we eat, drink, and breathe, or we die. Presumably, Adam and Eve learned, after their first cold night away from Eden, to shelter against intemperate weather; they surely found a way around their fig leaves to procreate, or humanity itself would not exist. (For those more inclined to Mr. Darwin’s hypotheses, as I am, the same might be said for any ancestor we share with monkeys.)

Killing one another indiscriminately was considered immoral long before the Code of Moses, but even the prohibition against murder is not “natural law,” at least until such time as one is deprived of corporeal existence by an unseen force upon committing such an act. On that day, however, I doubt the entity passing judgment will distinguish soldiers at war, executioners at law, or men upholding their honor.

This question of intrinsic, universal human law may also be explicated by the rules of the physical universe. While Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion are integral to our understanding of the physical world, even without him, apples fall from trees. Before we understood the Earth to be round, it was already circling the sun; Copernicus had no influence on the orbit, for all he opened up the Heavens.

By Enlightenment principles, though, the theories of both men might yet be disproven. Gravity might be nothing more than Satan dragging us down to Hell. When we travel to the moon, we may discover it is made of cheese and held up by a puppeteer’s strings. We may one day come across a hidden race of people who would choose service over self-determination, but I think it unlikely, at best.

Nature (God, in some circles) is the arbiter of life and death, not scientists, not philosophers, not governments. The extent of the human imperative is biological. Every other law has been constructed by man to improve our lot and is, accordingly, fallible.

Everything we consider vital to our existence—civilization in general—is a moral imperative, not physiological, and moral imperatives change, day-to-day, year-to-year, generation after generation, between cultures, religions, one person and another. Values—personal and patriotic—are never universal. Never.

Simply put, this misapprehension is why civilizations rise and fall.

Such was the case even in America’s naissance. Whether or not they were responsive on the subject of slavery, the founders of our nation were enlightened men of reflective inquiry, who understood the implications of the march of time. Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, and Washington stood on the backs of Locke, Hobbes, Machiavelli, and Rousseau. This is how and why their social constructs emphasized free will, personal autonomy, individual responsibility—the most progressive, self-directed philosophy of governance in history.

They knew they could not decide the course of our nation based on eighteenth-century facts and values. They could not decide the course at all. Only time would bear out their thesis, which, paradoxically, would only prove true after change had become the accepted norm.

So, in their wisdom, the framers imposed frequent and habitual reexamination of our collective morality. They understood that knowledge changes history, and there is never a dearth of new knowledge. It is, therefore, our responsibility—as caretakers of the vision of our forefathers—to reflect upon matters of principle and consider our society’s advances and changing mores.

There is no doubt amending our Constitution is not to be taken lightly. It is an enormous step to change the underpinnings of our government (especially so without the input of half our nation, who will be assimilated back into a society that has made a fundamental shift in priorities, policies, and parity).

However, not only have we made such changes before, we are only clarifying what we have declared all along to be “natural law”: humans (or rather, Americans) have unalienable rights, among them freedom from involuntary servitude.

Is the call to freedom, or is it not, as natural a law as breathing? Is it not at the core of every person born everywhere? True, one can survive without it, demonstrated by countless unfortunates around the globe, but is it not a half-life? Does the futile yearning for self-rule not starve the soul?

A successful system of governance (using longevity as measure) maintains internal stability in the face of external events—economic, social, cultural—but permanence is a balance between past and future that must be maintained in equilibrium. Formal governance is meant to impose social norms, but no widespread edict has ever sprung from the ether fully formed. Every “accepted fact” was accepted first by one person, then a second, a third, and so on. No great sea change is spontaneous.

Though some moral imperatives have proven more pervasive and long lasting than others—commandments set out in religious doctrine tend to have staying power—there cannot ever be a man-made, universal “natural law.” The premise is entirely faulty.

A century ago, when our country was deciding how to govern itself, we only had knowledge of the same six planets as Copernicus in 1543, when his De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium rejected the hypotheses of Ptolemy’s Almagest, by that time “natural law” for almost fourteen hundred years.

Today, a star chart is filled with named planets and moons, more classified each day. We have rejected great swaths of Copernicus’ work, one experiment at a time, even redefined the taxonomy. Our understanding of this fixed force of nature, the night sky, has changed radically during my lifetime, and is yet as impermanent as stardust.

One hundred years hence, we may find there are millions more planets than we can see. If we make such discoveries, it will happen because Newton was dissatisfied with accepted wisdom, so advanced the technology of the telescope. Scientific innovation—theorizing and testing and reframing—changes what we believe possible, again and again.

A century ago, there was little question in America of the rightness of slavery (and precious little question elsewhere)—a few toothless voices drowned out by the rumble of a worldwide financial engine. Now, human servitude is at issue all over the globe, even to the point of full-scale war in America. (Ironically, given the stance of the British Commonwealth, it is only by dint of our hard-won independence that slavery still exists here at all.)

One hundred years hence, perhaps human bondage will be eradicated everywhere on the planet, but first, we must accept this philosophic proposition: human beings are not property, no matter their complexion, desperation, or circumstance, and freedom itself is a natural law. Only in decades to come will our moral code evolve to meet our highest American ideals.

This should not be such a vexing question: without Enlightenment philosophers, without rigorous inquiry, without a document declaring it so, every person on Earth understands—for himself, in any case—it is better to live free than enslaved.

Returning for a moment to Newton, his 1687 Principia defined the “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy.” Most applicable here, The First Law of Motion: Inertia. An object at rest will remain so unless acted upon by some catalyst. A moving object will maintain the same speed and trajectory until acted upon by an external force.

The question of Southern secession forced action by the Northern states. The military defense of slavery forced action by people of conscience everywhere. Any manner of external (and internal) forces surrounding our Black population have set into motion this remarkable momentum toward the Thirteenth Amendment, not least, our President and esteemed Senators, to be commended for their courage and resolve.

Bad luck for those who would rail against it; there is no stopping the trajectory now, for freedom is every man’s natural state, and “all men are created equal.”

Even if the South won the war tomorrow, the American Negro will not now stand for anything less than absolute liberty and full citizenship, nor should he. If not imposed by economic sanction, by martial law. If not enforced by Lincoln, by the Crowned Heads of Europe. If not now at the hands of the Federal government, a year from now by armed insurrection. Slavery cannot, will not, stand.

Much as our founding fathers outlined their philosophical treatise using theoretical principles to explain intangible truths—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—Lincoln knows his courage in the short-term will transform our nation’s moral center in the long run, perfecting our most deeply held values.

This is why Lincoln cannot give up the forest for the trees, much like the framers, who knew there would be conditions on “life,” responsibilities to “liberty,” and more definitions of “happiness” than citizens, but still deemed enforcement of “natural law” to be worth the cost in American lives. If their suppositions remain true today, the Thirteenth Amendment and its resultant legal precedent will move our society in the direction of freedom, equality, and brotherhood.

The president’s personal interest has, perhaps, been the deciding factor for the passage yesterday of Senate Joint Resolution 16, and rightly so; he has no other honorable choice. His Emancipation Proclamation does not carry the full force of American jurisprudence, and would not withstand a drawn-out test in the courts. As a man of principle, he must make the injustice right, and he has only so long—and so much Congressional currency—to do it.

If Lincoln is to fulfill his promise and leave an end to slavery as his legacy, the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution must be passed by the House and ratified without delay. This legislation is far from law and, much like a Presidential proclamation, it only takes a shift in the political wind, a change in milieu, for the House bill to fail, or to invite an amendment to amend this one. The very idea of four million Americans given freedom to have it snatched away is appalling.

As such, President Lincoln is following the example of our learned antecedents, defending his thesis so it might take hold and become part of the American philosophic canon. So freedom might, eventually, come to be thought unalienable for everyone in our borders.

I, personally, am more partial to scientific illumination than philosophical. Perforce, both hold pride of place in our understanding of ourselves, individually and cooperatively, but both also have something weighty in common with American governance: the creative process. At some point, all looks a jumble, maddeningly muddy and indistinct, but by application of rules, systems, context, experience, trial, error, evaluation, and correction, one ends with a masterpiece: a hypothesis or doctrine or piece of legislation changing the trajectory of “natural law.”

© 2017 Mari Anne Christie. All Rights Reserved


Blind Tribute

As America marches toward the Civil War, Harry Wentworth, gentleman of distinction and journalist of renown, finds his calls for peaceful resolution have fallen on deaf—nay, hostile—ears. As such, he must finally resolve his own moral quandary: comment on the war from his influential—and safe—position in Northern Society, or make a news story and a target of himself South of the Mason-Dixon Line, in a city haunted by a life he has long since left behind?

The day-to-day struggle against countervailing forces, his personal and professional tragedies on both sides of the conflict, and the elegant and emotive writings that define him, all serve to illuminate the trials of this newsman’s crusade, irreparably altering his mind, his body, his spirit, and his purpose as an honorable man. Blind Tribute exposes the shifting stones of the moral high ground as Harry’s family and friendships, North and South, are shattered by his acts of conscience.

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Weekly Serial Poetry: Saqil pa Q’equ’mal: Light in Darkness

About this Book

xibalba-cover

The Mayan myths of the Popol Vuh are at once sensual and ruthless, none more so than the trials of Xibalba. In the oral and written traditions of this indigenous people, the road to the ancient underworld is well-marked, its fearsome tests legend. In a series of thirteen poems, a modern woman takes this time-honored journey through good and evil and what lies between, finding strength and refuge, union and reunion, and new purpose in primeval pleasures.

© 2016 Mari Anne Christie


XIII. Paqalik: The Ascent

Akul leads her back
to the silent gate
then runs ahead.

No life, no death
swallows the piercing light.
There are no seekers
ringing the walls. She can see

all the way to the cliffs,
listens for roq’ob’ala’, watches
the bats settle in for daylight
slumber in the trees.

To read the rest of Section XIII, the last section of the poem, as well as Author’s Notes about its creation, go to the blog page.


Weekly Serial Poetry: Saqil pa Q’equ’mal: Light in Darkness

About this Book

xibalba-cover

The Mayan myths of the Popol Vuh are at once sensual and ruthless, none more so than the trials of Xibalba. In the oral and written traditions of this indigenous people, the road to the ancient underworld is well-marked, its fearsome tests legend. In a series of thirteen poems, a modern woman takes this time-honored journey through good and evil and what lies between, finding strength and refuge, union and reunion, and new purpose in primeval pleasures.

© 2016 Mari Anne Christie


XII. Chaim Ja: Blade House

The shards of the door
cut her finger: a kiss
of anticipation.

I am almost afraid.

You? You are afraid of Chaim Ja?

She feels his laughter
in her gut, then nothing.

To read the rest of Section XII, go to the blog page.


Save

Save

Weekly Serial Poetry: Saqil pa Q’equ’mal: Light in Darkness

About this Book

xibalba-cover

The Mayan myths of the Popol Vuh are at once sensual and ruthless, none more so than the trials of Xibalba. In the oral and written traditions of this indigenous people, the road to the ancient underworld is well-marked, its fearsome tests legend. In a series of thirteen poems, a modern woman takes this time-honored journey through good and evil and what lies between, finding strength and refuge, union and reunion, and new purpose in primeval pleasures.

© 2016 Mari Anne Christie


XI. Sotz’i Ja: Bat House

The house is crumbling;
unseeing eyes in
cracks mark her
progress to the door.

She stops and waits
for armored defense.
These winged mysteries

of sound and speed, of light,
make centipede knees of her skin
falling and shaken

To read the rest of Section XI, go to the blog page.


Save

Save

Weekly Serial Poetry: Saqil pa Q’equ’mal: Light in Darkness

About this Book

xibalba-cover

The Mayan myths of the Popol Vuh are at once sensual and ruthless, none more so than the trials of Xibalba. In the oral and written traditions of this indigenous people, the road to the ancient underworld is well-marked, its fearsome tests legend. In a series of thirteen poems, a modern woman takes this time-honored journey through good and evil and what lies between, finding strength and refuge, union and reunion, and new purpose in primeval pleasures.

© 2016 Mari Anne Christie


X. B’alami Ja: Jaguar House

There are cats at the gate,
xpe kotz’ b’alam,
xpe tukum b’alam.

stalking their territory.

Keq’ichowik,
fangs twice as wide
as her jugular.

To read the rest of Section X, go to the blog page.


Save

Weekly Serial Poetry: Saqil pa Q’equ’mal: Light in Darkness

About this Book

xibalba-cover

The Mayan myths of the Popol Vuh are at once sensual and ruthless, none more so than the trials of Xibalba. In the oral and written traditions of this indigenous people, the road to the ancient underworld is well-marked, its fearsome tests legend. In a series of thirteen poems, a modern woman takes this time-honored journey through good and evil and what lies between, finding strength and refuge, union and reunion, and new purpose in primeval pleasures.

© 2016 Mari Anne Christie


IX. Xuxulim Ja: Shivering House

With her unproven weapon,
she scrapes frost from the window,
channeling heat from her hands
through the cold,
green copper of the wall.

The foolish blade freezes,
fear dripping from the point.
She warms it
from her center, slides it back
in the sheath at her hip.

To read the rest of Section IX, go to the blog page.


Save

Weekly Serial Poetry: Saqil pa Q’equ’mal: Light in Darkness

About this Book

xibalba-cover

The Mayan myths of the Popol Vuh are at once sensual and ruthless, none more so than the trials of Xibalba. In the oral and written traditions of this indigenous people, the road to the ancient underworld is well-marked, its fearsome tests legend. In a series of thirteen poems, a modern woman takes this time-honored journey through good and evil and what lies between, finding strength and refuge, union and reunion, and new purpose in primeval pleasures.

© 2016 Mari Anne Christie


VIII. Q’equ’ma Ja: Darkness House

Another hike, another road.
Another Q’eqa b’e.

Dark soil muddies
her shoes. The anthame
at her ankle drags,

so she leaves it, an altar,
by the side of the road. Angry
burning coals combust
beneath her leather soles.

To read the rest of Section VIII, go to the blog page.


Save

Weekly Serial Poetry: Saqil pa Q’equ’mal: Light in Darkness

About this Book

xibalba-cover

The Mayan myths of the Popol Vuh are at once sensual and ruthless, none more so than the trials of Xibalba. In the oral and written traditions of this indigenous people, the road to the ancient underworld is well-marked, its fearsome tests legend. In a series of thirteen poems, a modern woman takes this time-honored journey through good and evil and what lies between, finding strength and refuge, union and reunion, and new purpose in primeval pleasures.

© 2016 Mari Anne Christie


VII. Ri Popob’al: The Council Place

Nightbreak the next morning,
she wakes to his hand
through her hair.

He tempers the chill
in the room when he says,
“It is time: kattaqentaj.”

To read the rest of Section VII, go to the blog page.


Weekly Serial Poetry: Saqil pa Q’equ’mal: Light in Darkness

About this Book

xibalba-cover

The Mayan myths of the Popol Vuh are at once sensual and ruthless, none more so than the trials of Xibalba. In the oral and written traditions of this indigenous people, the road to the ancient underworld is well-marked, its fearsome tests legend. In a series of thirteen poems, a modern woman takes this time-honored journey through good and evil and what lies between, finding strength and refuge, union and reunion, and new purpose in primeval pleasures.

© 2016 Mari Anne Christie


VI. Tinimit: The Town

The next-morning sun
slants through the window
as they rush through
the meat pies and fruit
that are breakfast.

Val takes food from
the innkeeper’s daughter
and carries it under his cloak,
handing her a gold coin
and touching her cheek
to see her blush.

To read the rest of Section VI, go to the blog page.