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Friday Fiction: Finding A Story To Tell

Eva Deverell is a writer and an educator of writers. On her website are 150 worksheets like this one for finding a story to tell. I have not taken her class on plot outline because I don't have $200 to spend but the mini version can be helpful too.

If you can't germinate your own check out the resources below for ideas. Some are on her site some are not.

Ways to find a plot when you have characters and a setting

… but only characters and a setting. (This is me right now!)

  • You have a world. A universe. A setting. Good! Describe what happens in it normally - describe your main character(s)’s daily life. Now, what would destabilize this routine completely? If many things could, write them all down. Pick your favourite idea(s). Plots are born from change: everything was going normally… until it wasn’t.
  • Make a list with all the goals/motivations of your main characters. Can the plot revolve around your characters going after these goals? 
    • Which goals are more important? Focus on those. 
    • Are different characters’ goals in conflict with each other? Conflict is usually what propels a story forward. 
    • What could go wrong in your character’s pursuit of their goal? Make it go wrong.
    • If you don’t know your characters’ goals, go back to the drawing board; they probably need more development.
    • If there’s not enough conflict of different motivations, make a new character who creates conflict!
  • How do you want your main character to have changed by the end of the story? Do you want them to be less selfish? To have come to terms with a part of themself? To have learned something new? Write down ideas that could accomplish this change. 
    • If you can’t think of any way your character could be changed (read: improved) by the end of the story, go back to the drawing board. They might be “too perfect”.

Notes: 

The change that triggers your plot can be anything. It doesn’t have to be the start of an epic war that will bring forth the apocalypse, it can be your character meeting a new person who shakes things up in their life, or anything you want!

Motivations can be anything. It doesn’t have to be something grand - if your character’s motivation is to just live a quiet life, you can still come up with a plot that will get in the way of that goal! 

Character development can be anything, as well - you don’t need a cliché moral to the story; your character doesn’t even need to change in a good way if that’s not what you want for your story!

This is what I’ve found works for me, but if you try it and it doesn’t, or if it sounds way too sententious and strict for you - that’s okay! Take it with a grain of salt! Maybe you think your characters are just fine and don’t need more developing even in the situations in which I recommended you “go back to the drawing board”, or maybe you have better ways of coming up with a plot. That’s fine, the writing process can be very personal!  

Ready to read some of my writing? Been a while since I spent any time here but that will be changing this month. Enjoy my Writing Journal!

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