You’re writing a novel, and you decide that you’ve got plotting problems.
Perhaps you’re stuck, and have no idea what happens next. You may decide that your novel is trash. One of my students couldn’t get started on a new novel. She was bored with every idea she had.
Before you decide that your “plotting problems” are so severe that your novel can’t recover, take a moment to consider that your real problem is that you’re uninspired, so you’ve stopped generating ideas.
When my students complain about their plots, I reply: “chances are that you have idea problems. Let’s look for ways to generate more ideas, so that you can keep writing.”
Plotting problems are idea problems
When you’re inspired, you’re an idea machine. You churn out ideas effortlessly. Unfortunately, you’ll have many days when it seems that your muse and creativity have departed for parts unknown.
On those days, you need to kickstart your creativity manually, and develop ideas — the more ideas the better. Bonus points for crazy ideas.
One of my students said in complete frustration: “BUT ideas about what, exactly?”
Try these easy fixes; they’re fun, and easy.
1. Develop a subplot: money, sex, personal relationships, or…?
Money and sex make the world go round, and everyone has relationship problems of one kind or another. Use this knowledge to develop a subplot.
Every novel, no matter the genre, benefits from a subplot. Your subplot will tie into the novel, giving you more plot ideas, and enhancing your main characters’ characterizations.
2. Give your primary characters more problems: both internal, and external
When you have plotting problems, chances are that you’re not making the most of your characters’ problems.
While you’re alive, you have problems. So do your characters; they need both internal, as well as external problems.
Let’s say you’re writing a thriller. Your main character’s a resident doctor at a major hospital. She’s concerned that a new drug is killing patients.
What does she do now? You have no idea. So, let’s tie your plot to your main character.
Make a list of negative internal character traits of your doctor. Perhaps she’s paranoid, and obsessive. How does she show her paranoia, in a scene? How does she show her obsession? How do these traits affect her? Again, remember you need to show.
Her positive AND negative traits, will affect your plot — your plot is what your characters DO.
Next, make a list of external problems she has. Perhaps she’s sharing accommodation, and doesn’t like it. What about her family? What problems does she have with them?
Everyone has problems. Your characters’ problems equal PLOT.
By the time you’ve generated negative internal traits, as well as external problems for your character, you should have many ideas which will solve your plotting problems.
Key: create scenes, and keep writing.
3. Give your primary character a pet, a hobby, a passion, or a bad habit
Got a pet? Give your primary character one too. Or give him a hobby, or a passion. Perhaps he loves to cook.
Habits are plotting gold too.
Make a list of bad habits you can inflict on your primary character. Maybe he:
- Smokes, and is perpetually trying to give it up (or maybe he’s unrepentant, and has no intention of quitting.) This habit leads to problems, like… (fill in the blank.)
- Is always late. This habit masks a deeper problem, which is… (fill in the blank.)
- Has the habit of interfering in the lives of his children. Or parents. Or wife. This leads to… (fill in the blank.)
Plotting problems are always idea problems
Make idea generation a habit. It’s a good habit, because no author can rely on inspiration. At times, inspiration will fail, and you’ll need to kickstart it.
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How To Write Novels And Short Stories Readers Love: You're about to discover the easiest, fastest, and most fun plotting method ever. You can use it for all your fiction, whether you're writing short stories, novellas or novels. Take control of your fiction now, and publish more, more easily.More info →