Finding plot ideas

 Pre-Nano chant triggered by yet another hopeless forum posts to all the aspiring Nanoers.

 You don’t go begging your friends for plot ideas. It irritates them and blocks their brain and all you get is Romeo and Juliet meet in the middle of end battle of Terminator movie, and oh! Could you insert few marshmallow pixies? In other words – they aren’t quite the best source if you go begging. No one likes beggars.

Other writers respect those, who think with their own heads. As much as we love to help, the fact that you spend your time torturing forum instead of using your own head gets us just as down as you while you wait for us to respond. No, the idea of “write without a plot and let the words flow through you” does not mean that you post in a row “I have no plot, give me plot”, “I have a plot, but no characters”, “help me name my characters” and finish it all with “I don’t understand my own thoughts”. If you have spent your time digging up ideas from others, it is quite understandable, why it all just doesn’t make sense. Use your head and it all will make sense.

Impatience on reading the rules. Though it is free-for-all-do-it-all challenge for yourself, there are few rules and it would be nice if you read them. It’s no excuse for searching a shortcut if you ask something like “can I write it as a self-portrait diary?” while it specifically sais in the rules that it is not a diary challenge. Posts beginning with “I know it’s written somewhere, but I just…” should be read “I know you’re busy, but with my busy schedule I just can’t make time to actually get acquainted with what I just signed up to.” We took the time and we are just as busy as you are. Just read the rules through – they aren’t that long. Specific questions are ok – we gladly reply, but I am beginning to reply with link to specific lines in the rules should I read question like that again. Just read the rules! 

Ok, the last has nothing to do with finding the plot, but still – it bothers year after year. Moving on.

If you stare at magazines for hours and nothing pops in your head – see what generators bring up. Vary your sources and don’t be afraid to use them. Sometimes it’s a documentary, sometimes a simple clipping showing under someone’s bed – you never know where you can find it. Texts from last night is good source of ideas for grown-up books, watching kindergartens can spark ideas for children’s books, overheard conversation can begin conflict between your characters… It’s endless, but simple – vary your sources. One doesn’t work, move on to another.

Blank paper trick. Some swear on it, others get rashes just thinking about it. The thing with white paper is, in my opinion, that it is only good for doodling. If you have any artistic thinking, that might be just it for developing a story. When I was younger, I often began by drawing a small picture of a girl on one edge of the paper. That was my character. After fifteen minutes, I began writing around it. Nowadays I begin something on a paper and the moment I get something, I move on to writing.

Always write down the ideas. If there is one thing I’ve discovered, it is the fact that your brain is not a rubbish pin. It neatly deletes everything you don’t give second thought (scientifically – one flash of electrical impulse is not enough to create lasting connection between two nerves). If you want something to last, you need to write it down and as soon as you can. Some people can develop entire book in their heads before writing things down, but even they work on it. If you don’t have such super mind yet, I suggest paper and pen and quick fingers.

If you see dreams and remember them – write them down. I would have never considered a schoolhouse as a good hideaway in apocalypse, my dream machine, however, thought it was a super place and now I think it is great idea! And it’s taken idea.

Safe life is boring life. Many, who are struggling with finding ideas, are those, who bring me excuses that they are afraid to write on one topic or another, because they are not sure about those ideas. Push your boundaries in the field of writing. Just as in real life you never know your abilities unless you test them, the same goes with writing. I don’t mean here that you ought to write explicit grown-up book, just explore the ideas that you are afraid of. I’d say it’s safest way to try things out – let your character hang on a thread from a cliff that’s kilometer high. You don’t have to try it out. Perhaps she looses a phone right before she has video conference with Chinese head quarters and this will cost her job?

Reuse your old ideas. Especially if you’re just writing something for Nano. It’s a good way to redo a story that didn’t get going last time. Good time to mess it up and take a different approach, perhaps change POV, time, background, main character friends… Who knows? It might work out now that you’re older and wiser.

Give your brain a good rest. Overworked brain goes in survival mode – it switches off everything it can save energy from until all that’s left will be basic systems like breathing, blinking and your leg muscles that lead you to bed. Over simulating your brain tends to have the same effect.

Have fun! If you take as a school assignment, then of course you react to it the same way. Think of it more as… a secret lover, who you are hiding away from your spouse or mother in hope of keeping them from being burned on stakes. “William Percy – a good lover? Who would’ve thought…”

Combine basic plots, classical stories and character types. See, what it brings to you. They are old as time, but proven and tested and if you personalize them, polish them until they shine, they can be used just as new and for readers they are just as precious as any other new experiment in line.

Write! What ever comes to mind – write! The story will roll out, like watching flower open up one petal at a time or think of smoking man, who took big puff from his cigarette and is now quietly letting it roll out from his open mouth. He doesn’t speak, yet you see it going rounds as if wave that hit the boat on an early morning costal wave and you know his story, that he did it only to show off his skill to you…


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Filed under elements of writing, Working through ideas, writing trivia

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