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Click button to continue [9 slides, takes about 3 minutes]. Clustering! from G. Rico. Wendy’s Short Tutorial For Fellow Fiction Writers. 2008-June-22 © Wendy Wheeler. 1: Pick a Topic. Write the word or phrase you want to brainstorm on in the middle of a sheet of paper. Circle it.

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Clustering from g rico l.jpg

Click button to continue

[9 slides, takes about 3 minutes]

Clustering! from G. Rico

Wendy’s Short Tutorial

For Fellow Fiction Writers

2008-June-22 © Wendy Wheeler

1 pick a topic l.jpg
1: Pick a Topic

  • Write the word or phrase you want to brainstorm on in the middle of a sheet of paper.

  • Circle it.

Baby ducks

2 noodle and free associate l.jpg

Baby ducks

2: Noodle and Free Associate

  • What comes to mind when you think about the subject? Accept whatever comes up.

  • Draw an arrow, write the new thought and circle it in its own bubble.

Fuzzy, yellow

3 follow the thought to completion l.jpg
3: Follow the Thought to Completion

  • What do you think of next? Arrow out, write it down and circle it.

  • Eventually, you gracefully arrive at the end of that thought process. Then just stop that line.

Cute, quacking


Fuzzy, yellow

Baby ducks

4 start a new chain of thought l.jpg

Cute, quacking


Fuzzy, yellow

Baby ducks

4: Start a New Chain of Thought

  • What else do you think about the topic? Start a new arrow from the first bubble and chain out again.

  • Follow it to its end.

Rigid single file

Land or


Following mama

Waddling in a row

5 do as many chains as feels right l.jpg

Rigid single file

Land or


Cute, quacking

Following mama


Fuzzy, yellow

Waddling in a row

Babieschip thru



Baby ducks


Wet thenfuzzy


Mobile, cheeping

5: Do as Many Chains as Feels Right

  • While you’re clustering your thought processes, images, meanings, metaphors are assembling.

  • You will get an “aha!” feeling and want to write.


6 let your prose or poetry flow l.jpg
6: Let Your Prose (or Poetry) Flow!

  • Your whole brain has been working in the background to come up with a resonant theme.

  • Just write, letting it flow and leaving editing for later.

The Mother, to Her Nest

Sleep snug and well, my treasure, my beautiful ones, for tomorrow you will rise and shake yourselves dry. The long quest for direction and purpose comes soon enough, a lock-step parade imprinted in our cells. For now you are perfect potential, beaks soft and guileless, eyes seeing nothing but the exquisite contours of home.

This is what actually flowed out of me on this exercise…

Principles of clustering l.jpg
Principles of Clustering

  • Dr. Rico says our left brain/editor brain often takes over when we write.

  • It’s focused on grammar, rules, punctuation.

  • But the fresh metaphors, sensory details, in-the-moment immediacy? They live in our right brain.

  • By not using sentence cues, clustering bypasses left brain control to allow the whole brain to collaborate, hook up our unique experiences, images, thoughts, emotions, etc. about the topic.

  • Writing the Natural Way, Gabriele Rico, PhD

How i use clustering l.jpg
How I Use Clustering

  • It’s great on essay questions in tests! Really organizes what you know on the topic.

  • It’s my first action when planning a story; often I cluster on the title, or each main character’s name.

  • I also cluster on chapters or scenes to get a focus on the mood.

  • Very often one bubble in a chain will wind up applying to another chain, so I hook them up with arrows.

  • Compelling writing: you can explain things intellectually and your reader might cogitate on it. But when you get them to feel emotion (which is very much what this does), it’s the most effective way to change someone’s mind.

  • Plus, I often get insights into myself when I cluster on topics.

  • Hope this is useful!


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