Before you begin writing a new story, you have to go through the difficult process of coming up with a plot, and then figuring out how it will actually work once it is transferred from idea to written word. Personally, I find this process VERY difficult, especially since I don’t have a ton of time to sit down and write all at once. Oftentimes, even once I decide on a good plotline, I end up going back and deleting it, or getting bored halfway through. Because of this, I’ve never managed to write a novel, despite my best intentions. For those of you who find yourself in a similar situation, I have good news. I recently found a few tricks that I find immensely help your ability to find a good plot– and keep it.
- When you are doing nothing (driving, laying in bed, watching commercials, getting ready for the day, etc.) start to brainstorm. Think of something interesting that you would want to write a mental story about, put yourself in the plot, and begin writing a mini story about yourself. For example, if I was Veronica Roth, I would think about myself (a much more interesting version of myself) being an Abnegation girl in a faction system, and then I would tell a story about myself in my head. I do this frequently, sometimes with a lot of detail and other times with just a brief plot overview. It’s fun, and you aren’t committing to anything while you do it. You don’t need to think about how it would look in a book, just do it for yourself and you will find that interesting ideas or characters will evolve. Then, when you actually start the writing process, you have great key details and ideas that you can write without too much thought.
- Text-based Roleplay Forums: I know, this sounds really, really lame to a lot of people. I thought so too before I started. But, on FictionPress and other places there is a great community of people who tell stories like this, everything from fantasy to realistic fiction to anime. This is a great place to test out characters before you start writing and get an idea of how they will react under ever-changing circumstances. Also, since you have someone else reacting to everything you say, you can see how conversations would work out in real life, or maybe come up with a new detail which you want to add to your story.
- Pull 3-5 of your favorite (or random) books off of the shelf, review them quickly, and then create your own plot using a merger of them. For example, I’m thinking about writing something that is a mix of Harry Potter, Divergent, Matched, the Private Series, and the Bee-Movie (Disney). This might sound a little odd, but it has resulted in something completely unique and my own. I wouldn’t have thought of it had I not read/watched the above, but nobody reading it would think that I had copied the books. It’s perfect.
- Use real life scenarios, even the ones that don’t seem that interesting. For example, maybe you see someone getting food in the lunch line, and think that the way they are trudging, headphones in, is a result of their home life, which could result in a great story. Or maybe there’s drama between two football players, and you turn their argument into a conflict between the two protagonists in your fantasy/medieval times story, just because it works. Be creative, that’s key.
- Perhaps the best thing to do is write out three chapters of a potential plot. This way you can see if your actually interested in it. The key to this is to choose the chapters wisely. I would recommend the first one, the climax or a large event that you already envisioned happening, and then the last one, or another low-interest chapter that you will need to know the characters really well to write. This chapter won’t be exceptionally fun, and it’s one in books that you never remember reading later, but it gives you an idea if you would be able to write the whole thing, since if this one chapter bores you writing 50 more of them will surely be horrendous.
After following my own advice, I came up with a few ideas for a story, but I’m still not sure which one I should actually use, and for that reason I am coming to you all. I have three totally different plots that I think I could work into a real story, and so I would love it if you could vote, give advice, and tell me which one you would be most interested in reading.
- The University
In this futuristic society, everyone knows that you have three “options”: you get a job, you live on the streets, or you go to University. The only problem is, you don’t get to choose, the council does. Through a complex and seemingly random series of tests that take place between the day you are born and the end of the year you turn 17, they place people in one of these three sectors, and if you are not happy, then oh well. This plot follows a girl who is chosen for university, and realizes the full extent of the corruption and trickery (that’s a horrible word I know) that makes up the upper elite of the United States.
- Becoming the Girl they Call Jennifer
This one is a bit more complicated. A girl’s life is followed from birth to age thirty, as she is orphaned, abused, homeless, addicted, and struggling to find herself. It would definitely be for an older audience. I plan on telling it in a unique way, by writing email/phone call transcripts and newspaper articles, as well as just using traditional storytelling techniques.
- Twisted Sisters
A fantasy tale about three witch triplet sisters from the NY sector of the wizarding world who are separated at birth by a vengeful LA sector witch. They come back together on their 16th birthday, and have to band together, learn how to actually be a witch, figure out their new, strange family dynamic, and defeat the darker powers. My problem with this one is that I don’t want it to sound super cheesy and like a million other stories, and I’m not sure I could pull it off.
So, try out some of those planning techniques yourself! Comment below with which of my ideas I should try, and some of your own great ideas!