Here it is: brainstorming.
In Fiction Frenzy, I wrote:
Brainstorm Ideas: Ten Ideas Are Better Than One
You can brainstorm whenever you get stuck, or you can brainstorm everything. I like to brainstorm everything from titles and character names, to motivation and ideas for locations. (On Day 14, we’ll be looking at location. Your locations are as important as characters in your novel.)
There are many ways to brainstorm. If you’re not familiar with brainstorming, here’s an excellent article to get you started.
I do a lot of brainstorming, in every draft. I FORCE myself to come up with ideas. There’s a reason for this. The first idea which pops into your head might be great. However, that’s unlikely. It’s much more likely that the tenth, or 20th idea, will be just what you need.
Try to surprise yourself. At the level of a scene, every character in the scene needs an agenda: a goal. Brainstorm a goal for every character in a scene. Rarely will a character reveal his/ her goal. This means that every character in your scene is hiding something. Brainstorm characters’ secrets before you write a scene. Your scenes will be suspenseful. Your readers will keep reading.
Think of brainstorming as a way of accessing your mind, beyond its current content. It’s also a way of training your mind, which can do much more than we think it can.
Can you remember your student years, and cramming for exams? You stayed up most of the night, packing your brain with as much knowledge as you could. More often than not, your brain came through for you. You surprised yourself, with how much you remembered. You not only passed the exam, but did better than your your friends, who’d spent most of the year studying hard.
When you brainstorm, you’re pressuring yourself to come up with brighter ideas than usual. More often than not, you do.