Brainstorming Template

Brainstorming Template, within the Milanote app

Brainstorm ideas & characters for your novel

You have an idea for a story. It's just a spark at the moment, but you can't stop thinking about it. Now is the time to harness your creative energy and turn your idea into something real. And brainstorming is the perfect technique for the job.

This template and the steps below will help you turn your initial story idea into something real. Online brainstorming means you can invite others to contribute ideas wherever they're located. This template is part of our guide on How to plan a novel.

  • Explore ideas
  • Organize visually
  • Collaborate in real-time
  • Gather feedback
  • Export to PDF

How to use this template

Whether you’re writing a novel or a screenplay, follow this step-by-step guide to learn the modern process of brainstorming ideas in Milanote, a free tool used by top creatives.

1. Start with an empty template

The Brainstorming template contains empty notes for your ideas and concepts, placeholders for images, video and links.

Empty template for brainstorming novel ideas
How to do this in Milanote
  1. Create a new board for your brainstorm.

    Create a new board

    Drag a board out from the toolbar. Give it a name, then double click to open it.

  2. Choose the Brainstorming template.

    Choose a template 

    Each new board gives you the options to start with a beautiful template.

2. Write your central topic

What's the central idea or concept for your story? This is your starting point. It might be just a rough idea at the moment or a topic that you want to explore, but this process will help you see how far you can take it. Add a note that describes your concept in 1 to 2 sentences to get started.

Starting to brainstorm novel ideas
How to do this in Milanote
  1. Add a note to describe your central idea.

    Drag a note card onto your board

    Start typing then use the formatting tools in the left-hand toolbar.

4. Add the key themes

Next, write out the themes related to your idea. Some starting themes could be an era, setting, characters, or conflicts but there are no rules about how you do it.

How to do this in Milanote
  1. Type your key themes into the lines.

5. Add as many ideas as you can

Now it's time to get creative. Start adding any ideas that relate to your main concept. Think about different parts of your story, locations, characters, or even the history of your topic. Explore every thread until you fill the board. Setting a timer for 5 minutes is a great way to create a sense of urgency and prevent you from judging your thoughts.

Brainstorming ideas for a novel
How to do this in Milanote
  1. Add a note for each idea.

    Drag a note card onto your board

    Start typing then use the formatting tools in the left-hand toolbar.

6. Add inspiring imagery, motion & sound

Sometimes it's easier to communicate an idea with an image or video, especially if it's a mood or style you're trying to express. Gather reference imagery, videos, and sound and add them into the mix. Images can help define things like fashion, character attributes and emotions, scenes, and more.

Brainstorming ideas for a novel
How to do this in Milanote
  1. Use the built-in image library.

    Use the built-in image library

    Search over 500,000 beautiful photos powered by Unsplash then drag images straight onto your board.

  2. Upload images to your board.

    Upload a file or document  

    Click the "Upload file" button or just drag a file onto your board. You can add images, logos, documents, videos, audio, and much more.

7. Evaluate your ideas

Now’s the time for critique. Run through the ideas again, this time critically evaluating them against the original concept.

If you have a writing partner, ask them to choose their favorite ideas and explain why. Be prepared to share your thinking and welcome suggestions and improvements. Encourage constructive debate. If an idea isn't dramatically improving the story, put it aside. You can always return to it later.

How to do this in Milanote
  1. Invite someone else to edit to your board.

    Invite editors to your board

    Open the "Editors" menu from the title bar of your board. Add email addresses of the people you'd like to collaborate with—they'll receive an invitation via email.

  2. Start a comment thread.

    Start a comment thread

    Drag out a comment from the toolbar on the left and place it on your board. Other editors can reply to your comment.

  3. Mention teammates to get their attention.

    Mention teammates to get their attention

    Type '@' in any text field to mention someone who has access to your board. They'll receive a notification and be able to respond to your comment.

You're done!

Now that your brainstorming session is complete, you have a strong foundation for your novel! Remember, just as creativity and inspiration are constantly evolving, so are ideas. Come back and add to the brainstorm when inspiration strikes.

Start Brainstorming

Turn an initial idea into something amazing.