Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Plotting from Scratch

I work for an elementary school and have the most glorious summers off. Last Friday was my first day of summer and my mind began to return to that creative mode where I mulled over questions like, "What if?" or "How could it work if...?"

Needing a refresher on plot, I searched through my old posts on plot and was reminded of James Scott Bell's book, Plot and Structure. What an excellent book!


In particular, Chapter 3 has a wealth of ideas on how to gather up plot ideas. He has a Top 20 list of ways to get plot ideas that just held me enthralled. Here are just a few:
  1. Flip a genre. An example of this would be the old TV show,The Wild Wild West. It is just James Bond set in the Old West.
  2. Obsessions. You know, money, looks, ego, etc. Ahab obsessed about a whale in Moby Dick. Create a character, given them an obsession and see where they run.
  3. Titles. Create a great title, then write a story to go with it.
  4. Steal from the best. Yep, you read right. Bell says even Shakespeare took other's plots and weaved his own magic into them. We've all seen movies with similar plots. Take a plot and ramp it up, make it new, let it sing!
Bell has so many great ideas for generating great and interesting plots. Do you have a favorite way to brainstorm ideas? Do ideas come to you in your normal, everyday life? Or do you sit yourself down and get down to business?

13 comments:

Theresa said...

I may steal from the best? Yay! I always thought my plots were stolen. Now they are only borrowed, tweaked and refreshed.

Jennifer Shirk said...

I'm trying to brainstorm now. I usually start out with a vague idea then write down all the possible things that could happen that pop into my head. When I'm done, I can usually whittle it down to some sort of plot. LOL

Angie said...

My most recent brainstorm- I wanted to write about a certain culture, so I google researched to see which part of their history stood out, and would actually have a chance in the market. Researching helps get ideas going for me.
Thanks for sharing, Sherrinda!
Angie

Sarah Forgrave said...

I've got so many basic plot ideas still in my to-be-written file, it'll probably take me ten years just to get through them all, LOL. Sometimes a character from a current book begs to have their own story, though, so I'm sure I'll skip the old ideas for new ones once in a while. :)

Ralene said...

I usually play the "what-if" game. Most of my story ideas start with either a character or maybe a scene that inspires me. Then I sit down and start playing "What-if".

Jeanne T said...

Love this post, Sherrinda. Thanks for sharing a few ideas for developing plots. I have begun to see how movies and books I've enjoyed have tweaked and refreshed certain classic plots.

So far, I haven't really had time to sit down and come up with plots. One came from a situation a friend was dealing with--a story came to mind as she spoke. Another plot beginning came when I was driving around and saw an odd combination of bumper sticker, license plate and truck all in one package. I wondered what kind of person would have all these elements wrapped up within her. That one was unexpected and fun (and now in my "seed file.")

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Great book! I love coming up with new plots, though it's always a challenge to make sure they're fresh and developed fully enough for an entire novel. I get most of my ideas from other books or movies, which is probably why I can't remember half of what I read or watch - because I'm too busy thinking about new ideas instead of paying attention! :)

Beth K. Vogt said...

I love this book! And I love brainstorming. My preferred method is brainstorming with other writers. I love bouncing ideas back and forth. And I also like playing the "what if?" game. I've got the kernel of a novel idea because I asked "what if" as I walked out of the bank one day!

Jillian said...

Great post, Sherrinda! I have Plot & Structure in my TBR pile of craft books. I guess I should move it to the top. :) Ahhhh, to be on summer vacation..enjoy!

Sherrinda said...

I just got in from Houston and headed for the computer...much to my husband's surprise! He got a hug first, though!

I love the What If game and it always seems to draw out more and more of the unexpected.

And Jeanne T, I have gotten great ideas from talking with people! Goodness, as a preacher's wife, I could spin some tales, but of course, much of that will remained sealed forever. ;)

Pepper said...

Sherrinda,
Hope you have fun in Houston with your girls! Glad to have you back around.

Love Bell's book. LOVE 'what if' and the whole genre switching. I also like taking a beautiful tale from by-gone days and spit-polishing it with a contemp view.
Sigh.
Oh my, I love to create.

Thanks for sharing!

Elizabeth Mueller said...

Great post! Ideas jump out at me and my muse takes over and spins and spins until the magic brims. ;)

The only time I've thought of plot-stealing is with the old fairy tales like Beauty and the Beast, but you're right about Shakespeare and how he did that. What an interesting point!

Btw, I'm holding an MC Blogfest in Jeannie's honor! Drop by and join us, please! <3

♥.•*¨Elizabeth¨*•.♥
Can Alex save Winter from the darkness that hunts her?
YA Paranormal Romance, Darkspell coming fall of 2011!

Joanne Sher said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE that book.

And I absolutely ADORE letting my mind wander with a very basic idea. Doing that right now with my current WIP - and it is 100x more wonderful in my head right now than what I wrote over several months. LOOKING FORWARD to getting it on paper!