Brainstorming with Scapple

I recently took a break from my work-in-progress to play with ideas for a new series. When inspiration for a new book strikes, I’ll fill a page or two with notes and then set it aside for a while to see if still sounds like a good idea later on. (Um, not all of them do.  Some midnight epiphanies turn into steaming piles of poo in the early morning light.)  Anyway, these two separate stacks of notes kept fluttering around my desk until I noticed similarities that made me wonder if I should try to merge them together into one series instead of two. scapple_logo-256

Scapple, mind-mapping software from Literature & Latte, was the perfect tool to help me figure out whether it would work or not. Idea 1 was full of paranormal and cozy mystery elements but the MC wasn’t fleshed out. Idea 2’s MC danced around the pages twerking it up for a romantic comedy with a great hook but fell short in the plot department. I opened Scapple and started with three columns, the middle one for combining elements from Ideas 1 & 2, which I listed in the outer columns. Having all the information in one place made it easier to see which aspects could be combined and which wouldn’t fit, and to decide if it was even possible to meld everything into one single set of characters and storylines. And it worked! So with a clear new vision, I brainstormed fresh details for this future project. Here’s a screenshot of what I came up with.

Scapple Screenshot sm

The pink shape to the left of the columns is for my main character’s traits, the yellow rectangle below that is for her job and business description, a section to the right shows a few mystery details, and some random notes are sprinkled in.  Scapple is super easy to use, just double-click anywhere and type a note, which can be any length from a single word to multiple paragraphs.  Everything on the screen can be color coded and assigned different border styles. Drag notes onto background shapes to organize, or connect them with dotted lines or arrows. Whatever floats your boat, just go for it until your ideas are laid out the way you want.

Mind maps like this are a fun, effective way to brainstorm all sorts of projects. The possibilities are endless, but here are a few examples:

  • develop a character’s background, motivations, goals, and conflicts
  • work out the plot points of an intricate mystery or thriller
  • start with a what-if scenario and build a story around it
  • map out the settings in a novel
  • list a character’s exes to see which ones can show up to cause the most trouble

How do you use Scapple or other mind-mapping software?

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12 comments on “Brainstorming with Scapple

  1. Frank says:

    It IS a great tool, because it’s so easy to use.

  2. John Castle says:

    I use Scapple to plot mysteries. I usually start with the “big reveal” then build the clues outward from there. For each clue, I detail how/where/(even IF) it should be found. And that’s just one thing I use Scapple for.

  3. alicatzen says:

    I recently used scapple to mind map a pick-a-path book. It was great to use, and luckily I numbered each object, because when I exported to Scrivener, they were jumbled.
    Not sure if there is a way to fix that either.
    Any ideas?

    • Maybe you could try getting it into Scrivener a different way. What I do is this: in the inspector click on the ‘references’ button. In the document reference space that will open where your notes normally are, click on the plus sign, then select ‘Look Up and Add External Reference’ from the drop down menu. Select the Scapple file you want from your computer files, and you’re done. I like doing it this way because all you have to do to pull up the Scapple board you want while you’re in Scrivener is click on it under your ‘References’ tab, then the newest version you’ve saved will open up. (If it’s been exported, it won’t update with new changes unless you export it again, I think.) Hope this helps. 🙂

  4. Steve Carter says:

    I use Scapple and a FreePlane to help organize my writing research. I’ve posted a couple of videos on how I use them.
    Scapple – FreePlane – Scrivener https://vimeo.com/86436725
    Organizing a Writing Project with FreePlane and Scrivener https://vimeo.com/60226233

  5. hmturnbull says:

    I use Scapple to make rough family trees for the characters in my stories, and then I finish them in Affinity Designer, as Scapple doesn’t allow for bézier curves or coloured connections (essential when a family tree is as convoluted as some of the ones I make up). Still, it’s really useful to have such a streamlined app as Scapple for the first draft. I also use both Scapple and Aeon Timeline for some story planning, and of course I do all the actual writing in Scrivener.

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