KaBooM WritersKaBooM Writers

Welcome to the online presence of KaBooM, a writing group that has sustained the creative lives of a diverse group of women for over a decade. We hope that getting to know us will inspire you, too!Welcome to the online presence of KaBooM, a writing group that has sustained the creative lives of a diverse group of women for over a decade. We hope that getting to know us will inspire you, too!

Welcome to the online presence of KaBooM, a writing group that has sustained the creative lives of a diverse group of women for over a decade. We hope that getting to know us will inspire you, too!


The KaBooM Writers Notebook: Our Blog

Exercise: Brainstorm a List of Objects That Might Appear in a Scene

Here’s the exercise: You’re revising a scene in a novel or short story. You want to make sure you provide enough details so your reader visualizes the setting where your characters act.

A.J. Verdelle, novelist and master revisionist, suggests brainstorming a list of 15 or so objects that might appear in your setting.

During a session of “The Twenty” at Hindman [Kentucky] Settlement School, I invited college-age writers to try A.J.’s exercise. I offered a setting from my own novel-in-progress: a retirement facility “social hall.” Students generated the list shown in the above photo, and we also brainstormed objects for their settings.

Later, as I worked to revise my scene, one object suggested by a student seemed so quirky I knew I wanted to include it.

I had seen (and heard) wall clocks that chirp like a different bird at the top of each hour. In their own relentless way, they remind us of time’s passing. It seemed plausible that an elderly resident or family member would donate such a clock.  I liked this specific detail, and as I revised I made room for that clock on a cinder block wall, not far from the mounted television set.

Then I realized that the opening paragraph of the novel features a couple of cardinals pecking holes in the main character’s sugar snap peas.  Then I thought about Terry Tempest Williams’s memoir, When Women Were Birds. Sometimes, I had learned, birds are just birds—they are mentioned as details that make the created world seem whole and fully realized. Sometimes, however, birds resonate as Jungian archetype, representing the spirit among other things. That possibility is magnified in a scene set in a retirement facility.

Suddenly I had added a layer to the novel not previously present. As A.J. Verdelle says, “Almost every detail you carefully select will in itself tell a story.”

Have you tried brainstorming a list of objects that might populate your scene? Will you send me suggestions for objects that might appear in a used bookstore—an important setting in my new novel?