HOW TO GENERATE A PLOT LINE
Generating a plot line can be tough. We’ve touched on this before, but let me say this: there’s more than one way to skin a cat. (Whoever came up with that phrase must have been some kinda’ sick-o). James Scott Bell suggests a technique that I would like to expound on.
He says that we should think of something that gets us riled up, and then write about that. I agree. Writing what we “know” can be a fruitless and boring experience. In fact, I started writing a nonfiction piece a few years ago, and within the first few pages I abandoned it. Did I know the subject? Yes. But I just didn’t care about it. I could have written the book in a few weeks if I wanted to. I knew the material that well.
Here’s the thing, though. I had no emotional attachment to the material. What makes you tick? What are some emotional hot buttons for you? Does it grind your gears whenever someone back-talks their parents? How upset does it get you? Enough to write about it? Perhaps.
If so, then maybe you want to take a storyline based from the mother’s POV and have the tension building between her and her son. What now? Perhaps you take it a step farther and she can’t take her son’s constant disobedience any longer, so she sends him away to live with his dad. His father is cruel and intolerant. The son wants to come back to his mom, but he has to learn his lesson first.
That’s simple enough, right? Let’s up the ante a bit. Let’s say that his father is a drug dealer, but the mother didn’t know that when she sent her son to him. The father gets wrapped up in some pretty ill dealings, and the boy is tied into it. The boy is kidnapped, and the mom has to do everything in her power to find the kid. Now we have a story.
There are other avenues we can take. What if we hate starving children in Africa? There’s a topic that people tend to have conversations about. What can we do about it? We can write a novel, of course. Let’s say we have our main character, Stephanie. Stephanie just adopted a child from South Africa, and she has Nibutu’s picture on her refrigerator.
Through a series of events, Stephanie has a chance to travel to S. Africa, and while she’s there, she wants to meet the child she’s been sponsoring. When she arrives, she sees that the money that she’s been giving is not going to Nibutu but to a money-hungry nonprofit that has been embezzling the money for themselves.
These real emotions can make for powerful plot lines. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.
This is one of the simplest but best explanations of how to generate plot that I have read. Thank you for sharing it.
Thanks, Kelli. I really appreciate it. I hope it helps.
Brilliant advice. 🙂 I’m going to try it out tonight. It’s always hard to translate ideas into words, words into pages.
I certainly agree. It’s strange, but sometimes an emotion can really spark the fire for a story that we want to tell. Let me know how it goes.
Great advice! This will be a good writing exercise to try right away for my current novel.
That’s so good to hear, Sara! I hope it helps. I’ve already given it a shot, and I was getting surges of adrenaline just writing, and surprising, what it was that I was writing ended up being pretty good.