I got ideas, but that ain’t a beginning, middle, or end.

So right now I’m struggling. With writing. Which makes me sad.

I’ve got ideas; I’ve got tons of ideas. I’ve got ideas coming out of my nose, because I can’t contain them all.

But they’re just ideas. I don’t really know the overarching stories, and definitely not enough to outline them. It ends up like this (taken from my idea folder on EverNote):

“Heroine was excommunicated from community, or asked to leave, or left voluntarily, with the caveat that if there was ever a need, she would be ‘called back to service.’ She’s like the ‘last resort,’ or the ‘oh shit, there’s no one else left to call’ person. She’s a soldier, a fighter with no magical ability. Some angst there, since everyone she knows has that ability? She’s eked out a life for herself and while not happy, she’s content. Then one day, someone from her past walks back into her life, telling her it’s time for her to do her duty. Stuff happens…?”

“Stuff happens…?” is basically my code for “this is all I got, man, what you want from me?” Sigh. I’ve noticed there’s a dearth of writing tips about how to make plot from one idea. There is a lot of tips on how to come up with ideas, but what if you have the ideas but don’t know where to go from there?

I knew someone who would do a Tarot card spread to get plot ideas. He’d pick cards randomly for different parts of the story. For example, if he needed to create a secondary character, he’d choose a card. It might be The Eight of Cups. He’d write about a man who was abandoned as a child, was avoiding making an important decision, and leaving behind a job. I’ve had some success with this type of story plotting as well, but it’s very random and my “nougat-y Type A center” sometimes objects to just being thrown curve balls. Also, sometimes you’re still stuck. If you get a bunch of cards, you still need to fit them together to create a legitimate story arc. Sometimes I’ll stare at the cards I’ve chosen and think, Well, this just gives me lots more ideas, but nothing that connects together! 

There’s also tons of story generators, which create blurbs or snippets for you. Some are serious, some are funny. Most, I’ve found, are better for the novelty and amusement than actually helping with story plotting issues. And, also, most story generators give you the beginnings of a story, not help you if you already have the beginning idea but no middle or end. (One that I need to try more is Thinkamingo, which seems more flexible. It also provides good lesson planning strategies for educators!)

So far, I haven’t had much success besides tapping my pencil against my pad (I do my idea generating and my initial outlining the old fashioned way, with pad and paper, and usually a web or mind map, then I take those ideas and outline them into a coherent story format). Hopefully, that’ll change soon.

How do you make your ideas into plot?


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