If you find plotting fiction a challenge, let’s look at a super-easy way to do it. You start with a character in a situation, then give the character good and bad choices. Your character will follow his own nature: his nature dictates the choices he makes… and this creates your plot.
In essence, simply by creating a specific character, you’ve created the seeds of a plot. When you get stuck, all you need to do is remember your character’s essential nature. What would he do? Yes, your character can act against his essential nature, when forced — that’s the fun of writing, and plotting. 🙂
A character, and a situation
What’s the difference between a story, and a plot? Your story’s what happens. Your plot is the specifics of how, when, where and why it happens.
You can sum up your story in a sentence. Cinderella’s the story of a poor girl who marries a prince. You know the plot. 🙂
Tip: you don’t need to know your story, or your plot , to start writing. They can develop as you write.
You just need a character, and a situation. For example, Cinderella is a good, sweet and kind girl with nasty relatives, who wants to go to the prince’s ball. Over the centuries, authors have created many variations on the basic story of Cinderella.
(If you’re ever desperate for a story, you can try a variation of the Cinderella tale, or any other tale you choose.)
Here’s a variation of Cinderella from which you could derive a character and plot.
Your character — let’s call her Christine — missed out on college. She was taking care of her grandmother, who had Alzheimers’. Here’s the situation: Christine promised her grandmother she’d use her legacy to go to college. But there’s no money: medical bills swallowed the legacy.
Choices: your plot is the choices your character makes (and how those choices change him)
Our character, Christine, is broke, and there are still big medical bills to pay. She doesn’t have any choice about that: she gets a job as a barmaid, while she fixes up her grandmother’s house as best she can, so she can sell it.
We need to give Christine two choices: a good one, and a bad one.
Good choice: go to night school, and get a better job, so she can save money for college.
Bad choice? Anything you like. Maybe Christine meets someone at the bar who offers her a job as an exotic dancer.
Tip: if you haven’t thought about genre yet, now’s the time. You need to shape your fiction to fit a genre.
Your character’s good and bad choices depend on the fiction genre in which you’re writing
Christine’s 21 — bonanza. New Adult is a hugely popular genre. She’s got some life choices to make, so her story fits into that genre.
Let’s say that New Adult fiction leaves you cold — it does me, I can’t read that genre with any interest at all. What about the mystery genre? Could you include a mystery? Or — fantasy… Or could you turn Christine’s story into a paranormal romance?
Of course you could. You can write anything you like — it’s your story.
- Mystery: Christine’s new friend, who’s also a barmaid, disappears. She sends Christine a mysterious text message, and vanishes. Her body is found, and… etc.
- Paranormal: a tall, dark and very handsome stranger knocks on Christine’s door late one night. She invites him in… he’s a vampire, and … etc.
To repeat: you can write whatever you like. Start with a character, put the character into any situation you like, and then give your character some choices. Remember, those choices depend on the genre in which you’re writing. Have fun. 🙂
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Updated: March 3, 2018
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