Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Plotless in Provo

The book I've been writing has been giving me some trouble. It comes to me in scenes that I see as a movie. I was talking to me roommate about this, and she said, well why not write it as a movie. So I am. I'm working in reading "The Screenwriters Bible by David Trottier and then I'm going to hopefully make this story into a screenplay that will break box-office records and win me an academy award. Thats the plan, anyway.

And thats the good news. The bad news is that now that I'm using that story for a screenplay, I now need a new book idea. This is where things get hard for me. I love coming up with characters, situations, little vinnets, bits of dialogue, mini-scenes, etc., but it is really hard for me to come up with something that will put it all together into a structured whole. Basically, I have a plot problem. Granted, its only been a few days and plots don't just pop up whenever you want them, (wouldn't that be nice), but any advice would be fantastic.

Where do you guys find the most successful inspiration for plots? I've been looking at newspapers, writing books, etc, and hopefully something will come to me soon. But what advice can you give me in the meantime?

Sarah Allen


  1. I have a ton of ideas for books -- just not the time to do them all justice. I keep a section in my planner to write down titles as they come to me.. and funny stories and/or character flaws I'd like to develop.

    I think the best stories are the ones that are real, but seem like fiction... like the guy in Haiti who was trapped for over 2 weeks in the rubble, and saved himself by using his iPhone First Aid application to bind his own wounds while he waited for help. Amazing!!!

    Another way to get ideas is to go to the library and just look for book titles -- or go online and see news articles - titles - then imagine what the story would be about. And then develop it.

    Or find someone in your life who has a lot of character - or some huge challenge to overcome - and then let your mind wander as to what situation you could create for them to overcome that challenge. Example: I have an aunt who is 40 and single... in a community where everyone gets married in their 20s... hmmm... what kind of circumstance could this person create to either a) learn to be happy and single b) become bitter and angry and then learn how to change that mentality and finally find love once they've accepted themselves, c) find love in a much younger guy and how to come to terms with the stigma of the "cougar" - can she truly allow herself to find love with someone younger? or d) embracing life, making a difference in the world, and helping others to find love - in the meantime going home and coping with her own loneliness...

    I mean there are thousands of stories out there.

    Another idea is to find someone who loves to brainstorm - go to lunch or dinner - and then brainstorm - people watch - discuss funny stories - don't cancel out any idea - just let the ideas flow and write down notes. Then go home and let things simmer.... the good stuff will come to the top.

    Anyway... just a few random musings from a fellow writer ... with too many screenplays outlined. I hope we're up there accepting awards at the same time. :)

  2. I feel obligated to inform you that the word is spelled 'vignettes', and is, you guessed it, French.

    My suggestions for plot: go people watching. Walk around a lot. I like imagining what's going on behind closed doors in buildings, what an interesting person's story is.

    Hope this helps. Good luck with the screenplay, they're a different sort of beast.

  3. I've been silently following your fantastic blog for a while, but I guess it's good to comment now and then, right? :)

    I'm the exact same way with plot difficulties--I'm much better at imagining the smaller details. But I've discovered that sometimes it helps if I take two or three of those smaller ideas and merge them. Then suddenly more plot possibilities become apparent. Sometimes my most creative, "outside-the-box" work comes from the combination of two completely unrelated concepts.

    So, that's just one idea. Good luck! :)

  4. Wow, thank you all so much for your wonderful comments! Dennis, haha, yes, you are quite right. Considering I've been taking French for three years, you'd think I'd be more careful in my spelling of French words. I think I just get blabbing and my spelling gets lazy :-)

    But all your comments are so helpful and make me feel so much better about even doing this blog in the first place, so thanks for all your support. You guys are the best!

  5. Let your unconscious mind guide you. Close your eyes and watch what your character does. With eyes closed, just relax your body and mind as completely as you can and then WATCH.

  6. For me, inspiration for a new plot often occurs spontaneously while I am listening to music. Your favorite songs free your mind from the everyday humdrum and the imagination kicks in.

    Often while doing mundane tasks, an idea will just pop up. So try "listening" to yourself throughout the day. Something of substance will invariably turn up.

    Finally, that special movie from long ago. Mine is "Windy City" (1984). Movies that touch you emotionally to the point of buying the DVD. Such a movie may spark a new idea in your seeing a variation of said movie which you can then form into a plot.

    At the end of the day, we are all very different in how we find inspiration but our source is the same: our infinite imagination. Techniques of tapping into it is the key. Good luck.


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