From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Scenario to Plot: How do you do it?

This is something I've always had a hard time with in my writing. I always have characters and scenario's floating through my head, situations and people that I find fascinating. The hard part is taking these relationships and situations and turning them into a storyline or plot. I've been getting better at this, and I recently solved this problem for my current project, but I still want to discuss this and get your ideas.

Does my problem make sense? Its basically an issue of plot development. Plot has always been my biggest issue. What exactly do you personally do in your own plot development? Obviously every writer is different and has to find what works for them, but maybe you have some ideas or techniques that could help me.

I'll give you an example. Lets see...its summer and a divorced dad is taking his eleven year old son on a fishing trip. A young couple is camping at the site next door and dad and son hear some loud arguing. Dad and the woman begin talking and form an interesting connection.

Its easy for me to get to this point. I'm not sure I would actually use this particular scenario, and I can get more detailed with character and setting and stuff, but getting from this summary kind of scenario to a novel-length plot is hard for me. What are your strategies? Like I said, I've been working on this and getting better at it, but I'd still like your ideas. The basis is character drive and motivation, and thats what helps me eventually get to a plot. But still, I'd love to know your process and strategies. Thanks for the help!

Sarah Allen


  1. I think this must be common for most of us, Sarah. I've recently been thinking how I form characters first, sculpt them out of those people I know and observe around me, but sometimes they can sit and have tea in my head for ever until I develop the story to put them in. From my experience, I have many characters in reserve, and then when I (usually out of the blue) develop a story or a plot line, these characters are sitting there waiting to be used, and I choose the most fitting I have for the scenario, maybe slightly modifying them for the story.

    Plot is the greatest challenge I face in a literary sense; as a result most of my stories are character driven! Plot is secondary to strong characters for me.

    Good question!

  2. Well, Good question and the answer is not easy I suppose.

    I simply use my friends and kids around. I try to tell the plot to them and the kids (my neighbors 7 & 6 respectively) are really good at telling how to improve the same. (I am working on fairy tail like stuff).

    with warm regards

  3. Sarah,

    Plots? Scenarios? Oh dear! I'm afraid I don't do these very well, which is why I stick with poetry writing. In this way, I don't have to get overly obsessive with plots, and how to arrange the lives of characters in a logical sequence. I just let the emotions take over and walla, I have a poem! Well, it's a little more to it than that, but I think you get my point (at least I hope so).

    By the way, I am visiting your blog for the first time today. You seem to be a serious writer as well as an interesting person.

    At any rate, I wish you the best with your plots and scenarios. Please let me know when you have it all figured-out. Maybe then, you can teach this "wanna-be-poetess" something else besides "hideous" poetic rhyming schemes! :)

    -Lady Rose

  4. Wow...this is an awesome question. Let me think...
    I guess for me, when I develop characters and mold them into exactly who I want them to be in my story, it becomes alot easier. I try for my characters not to be so one dimensional and I try for each character to be different in their own right. I do derive my inspiration from real life situations and I know in real life, people who are very different often clash. I also know in real life, everybody wants something from someone, even if they don't know it yet. Everyone holds the key to someone elses desires. Once I establish what that desire is, I have my plot. I hope that says something...

    ~Nova Sparks

    (Thanks a ton for being the first to comment on my blog!)

  5. I'll take a common character and give them some uncommon trait, like a business man who collects dolls (and there's some history that causes him to be interested in dolls), and then I print out interesting news articles, because life is always stranger than art, and I'll work off an interesting news story using my unique characters.

  6. My favorite approach is working with factors that are bigger than your plot first. Tolkien, for instance, came up with a series of languages, then developed a mythology/history to explain them. Then, he introduced characters, and they acted upon the world he had created.

    This is similar to our real-life situation. We are born into a world. The world does not exist because of us. Oftentimes, I read books that seem so egocentric--everything that happens seems to happen solely to the main character and their friends. It's like the whole world and everyone in it came into being to cater to them. It turns out rather stiff.

    So the trick is not just "world building," which could mean anything, but finding the aspects of your world that you find more important and most interesting. For Tolkien? Language. For me? Textiles, funny enough. Then you allow your characters to simply be "born" into your world. They may have some predestined plots ahead of them, but you'll be able to take a back-seat in their brain and watch what they do, how they interact. Instead of building facades around a ghost-town of ideas meant only for them.

    I think that's the longest comment I've ever left...good question!

  7. They listen to the argument and discover that the young couple are fugitive bank robbers and were stashing the loot near a cliff when a third partner not seen here, slipped into the ravine and fell to his death. There's a manhunt after them and they need to get out of there quick but their car broke down. They also need to get to the bottom of the cliff to retrieve the money but don't know how to climb. When they see the dad and the boy and their climbing gear, they grab the boy at gunpoint and force the dad to climb down after their loot. They also force the dad to leave the keys with them so that they can get away.

    I has an overactive imagination :) I just had to do something with that. /wave to fellow Utahn. If you feel that I might have helped, feel free to drop me a line anytime. Maybe I can plough through some writer's block for you in just a few minutes.

  8. Well, I like that scenario! I don't have anything to offer you, but that snippet certainly piqued my interest. :)

  9. Thanks for dropping by my site! I'm just taking some time to peruse your posts. I haven't done much creative writing in a while, so I don't really have any plot strategies. :)

  10. hello Everyone,

    Most of you are experienced writers yourself, I am a newbie and intend to make it big one day.

    I am working on my first work these days and started blogging too.

    I am hosting a Flash Fiction Challenge on my blog. Please do visit the same and take part in it. The link is here

    And dear Sarah, sorry that I am using your comments space to tell about this contest. Just want to reach out authors and writers.

    with warm regards
    Abhishek Boinapalli

  11. I can't write from plots so 99.9% of my stuff is "character-driven" so in a scene as you described, I'd probably focus on the 11 year old son's perception of the world around him - what he sees, hears, how it relates to his own world. Kids have a wonderful open way of seeing the world and at that age, they are just growing to understand things, but are still innocent and naive.

    So I'd have this boy, and i'd start writing what he was thinking/doing/perceiving and the story would grow from there.

  12. Thanks everyone so much for your feedback and ideas. I enjoy and appreciate seeing where other writers come from, even just that you have the same problem that I do :) Hopefully I can use all your ideas and get better at this plotting thing.


I absolutely love hearing from you! Thank you so, so much for your thoughts and comments, they really do make my day. Consider yourself awesome. Also, I do my best to respond to every comment within 24 hours, so I invite you to come back and continue the conversation :)

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