General Question

Yellowdog's avatar

How do writers come up with plots for stories?

Asked by Yellowdog (8570points) 1 week ago

When answering this question, please assume everything I’m saying is true. I know there are writers on Fluther who are just as good or superior to me.

I can write really good descriptions of places, time periods, historic events, descriptions of houses and towns and highways—both fiction and for regional nonfiction. I have credible detailed descriptions of fictional organizations, cults, businesses, missionary organizations, secret societies and secret law enforcement.

I can make up imaginary places and histories and integrate them with the history of the world. I’ve been doing this since I was ten or eleven.

I’m not saying these things to brag. Just to describe the following dilemma. I am not very good with plots for stories, and my description of people is very deficient and two-dimensional—probably because I am very non-social and most people are a complete mystery to me. I rarely engage or look people in the eye.

If you can help me with either of these problems, I would like to hear what you have to say. I write almost compulsively and I feel this one talent is going to waste because I cannot come up with plots and ideas for stories. Probably because I have never really engaged much with people.

My strengths are capturing the atmosphere and spirit of places I am interested in real-world settings that include the fantastical elements of historic conspiracies, that occasionally include local folklore, science fiction, and the supernatural (both angelic and horror).

Here I sit, writing compulsively but never coming up with any stories and my colorless descriptions of people. Everything else is good.

Thanks.

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21 Answers

ucme's avatar

Not being facetious or flippant here, but talent helps a whole lot.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I’d say life experiences.
@ucme -So does alcohol for some.

ragingloli's avatar

Steal from/get inspired by other authors, films, tv shows, news stories.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, I took a writing course in the 80s. I was given an assignment to go to the park, pick out a subject and write down every little nuance about that person (today that would probably get you arrested!)
Start there. Start randomly writing down the specific details of what a friend looks like. What they are wearing. Think of adjectives to describe it. Just throw the mess on to a piece of paper and worry about sorting it out later.

LuckyGuy's avatar

In each of your detailed settings ask yourself: What would a good person do?. What would a bad person do? What would a really sneaky person do? What would a greedy person do?

There is a coin on the ground in that marketplace. Does someone walk by? Is it a trap? Does someone not see it? That little boy visiting the market with his family just picked it up. What happens next?

rebbel's avatar

I don’t write, nor have I ever done so (apart from a letter, ‘poetry’, and/or a high school essay), so I have nothing to back this, but I would suggest to look around you (that is, from close around you, to globally) and take samples from real life.
Sometimes, as you know, real life can be as weird, or weirder, than fiction.

ucme's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille Haha I comply

I would imagine the worst trap any budding writer worth their salt could fall into would be to overthink their art. Surely it’s best to be creative on your own terms, go with your gut & to hell with it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I was taught that when writing, just throw every thing onto the page, helter skelter. Then go back and edit. Editing is THE most important aspect of writing.

However, you have to be careful not to over edit because you can lose your personal style. It can become sterile.

flutherother's avatar

You can get ideas for storylines from the newspapers.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Write about what you know, too. For example, John Grisham writes legal thrillers. He also used to be a lawyer. I could write a good book, but I couldn’t write a legal thriller.

josie's avatar

I aspire to write the Great American Novel.
My problem is I can not come up with a plot.

Shit!

Inspired_2write's avatar

I see things happen whether in family situations, or life incidents that I witnessed.

I have read a lot of different genre of stories fiction and non fiction,poems,letters everything.

However I am not the kind of writer that writes long descriptions so I guess that I am a

narrative writer instead of a descriptive one.

I suggest looking through old archives at you local library or museum..old hidden

stories,diaries, newspaper clippings and such are at anyone’s disposal and copyright

free..just add your own spin on it or instead track down the actual story?

I write only from what I had experienced in my life simply to recount our families rough times

and good ( few) times and the hardships that they as well as we in the present handle.

Write in your own voice, its more authentic and original.

Try a talk to text program?

kritiper's avatar

Vivid, creative, imaginations. And a correct idea of story structure.

mazingerz88's avatar

Write about things that you know the truth about. Stuff that you know how it feels going through the experience. Make yourself the plot.

Maybe a writer having a difficult time thinking of a story to write. He keeps getting interrupted by people who knock at his door for a variety of reasons, some mundane, others inexplicable.

Some of these “visitors” he dispatches rather quickly. However a few of them, after he engages them in quick banter on topics ranging from religious to philosophical to pop culture to political to stories about their personal lives etc. etc. ——- he asks them to stay with him in his 20th floor condominium.

Some agree, some don’t. Those who refuse, he uses brute force to make them stay.

He restrains them using whatever material is available in his condo. Rope, tape, electrical cords. He then hides them in his bedroom, closet, pantry etc.

They try to escape but he catches them just before they got out of the door or jump out of his balcony.

The others who agreed to stay, well, they simply watch and make sterile commentary as these violent kidnappings unfold right before their eyes.

Later on, one of those who agreed to stay changes his mind about staying and jumps off the balcony. One of those who were restrained said she now wants to live in the condo never to leave.

In the end, when all the “visitors” were all decided on where they want to be, the writer finally has the plot and the characters he wants to write about.

Demosthenes's avatar

The plot for the one novel I’ve completed was largely inspired by other works, viz. two novels with similar plot elements. Specifically, both novels dealt with missing children and I wanted to write a story about missing children. What these novels had in common was that the plots were unresolved: you never find out what happened to the missing. So I came up with a solution and framed the plot around the gradual discovery of this solution by the main character. I came up with the big-picture overarching plot first and the rest came later, some of it as I wrote. I did not have the entire thing planned out from the beginning.

snowberry's avatar

I searched for plots for stories and these are some of the results. I’m sure they would help you get going. You might also take a writing class. Explain to the guidance counselor what kind of class you’re looking for. A good teacher would help you get going.
https://www.sparkol.com/en/Blog/The-7-universal-story-plots-that-still-entrance-audiences

http://greatstorybook.com/10-types-plot-twists/

https://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/write-first-chapter-get-started/4-story-structures-that-dominate-novels

Mimishu1995's avatar

Before I answer this question, can you tell me how many books have you read? It sounds more like the problem of not familiar with how a story works.

LostInParadise's avatar

Why not concentrate on nonfiction? Pick a particular subject to write on and become very familiar with it. Force yourself to engage with people by arranging interviews for your stories. At some point, ask what would happen if things were different, which would give you a plot for a novel.

dabbler's avatar

Some say there are only seven (or similar small number) of basic plotlines anyway.
That means ALL stories follow one of the basic forms, the rest is all that lovely descriptive stuff you says you are good at.
Seven Basic Plots

Dutchess_III's avatar

One important thing is don’t use 3 words when one will do. Using too many big words makes it look like you’re just rambling or showing off, and you lose your audience.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Your personal deficit regarding human interaction should not inhibit your observations on their interactions with others. More to the point, you are never going to get anywhere with the task of fleshing out characters without the intuitive curiosity of “what makes em tick?” driving the show. In other words, if you want to invent a character, you must first construct the circumstances (in your head or on the page) responsible for his or her persona then see to it that he or she conforms to the model of what should develop. Put yourself in your character’s place, then explain to yourself the reasons for any deviations between the 2 of you. There’s your plot.

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