You have a list of themes or tags that you like—now what? Now it is time to transform them into a plot!
I’m going to assume that you have gone through something like the tag generating method and have a list of 3–7 tags, words, or theme. Whatever you want to call them. Otherwise, I recommend going over and doing that, either from scratch or using the idea you have already as a base.
The first step to get a plot
Regardless if you got the tags from the theme exercise or a prompt, it doesn’t matter. It is now time to expand on them. The more themes you have selected, the harder it will be to include them all, especially without losing the thread.
If you start with a longer list, it will be more work for you, but you will weed out the best ideas along the way. Maybe even discard some on the road to the plot you want to write.
I’m going to do this exercise with you so that you can follow along with an example. Let us choose some tags from the list in the idea generation post.
- Sirens (From mythology)
- All female main cast
You can have gotten this from selecting randomly, selecting by choice, or from a prompt. It doesn’t matter, what matters is that we now have the basis for what we will write. Just from this, we can see that it will most likely be set out on the sea (pirates, sirens), and be a fantasy novel (sirens).
Different results—same ideas
To show how these same words can trigger different plots I’m going to go ahead and show two different sentences (that I’ve found on Tumblr) fitting this description.
Asexual sirens are getting pissed about all these sailors interrupting choir rehearsal.
Here we could be following a group of sirens, where all or some of them, are asexual. In mythology sirens are female, so we can assume the group will be all female. Sirens use their voice to lure sailors to them, but in this story, they sing for fun but still attract people to them, who then interrupts them. The pirates would most likely be the bad guys, interrupting the singing.
On to the other example, kind of the reversal of the first one.
An asexual pirate gets made fun of until they save the crew from sirens.
Following the pirate crew, and mainly the one (or more) that is asexual, while the sirens are the bad guys attacking the ship. The sirens could still be all female, but so could the pirate crew.
As you hopefully see, there is no need to feel limited; the same words can result in many different stories. There is no saying what is “good guys” and “bad guys,” it is all up to you.
Brainstorming to get a plot
You might have a basic idea of what you want the story to be about, or you have just the words to lead you. The next step is regardless how much of an idea you have already. Let us expand on what each tag might mean.
Take one tag at a time, and try to come up with as many plot events as you can. Again, it can be big or small, good or bad; it is more the quantity than quality that matters. Still, I’m going to give you examples, but mine is going to be a fraction of what your list might (and should) look as.
One thing to keep in mind is that it is okay to have overlapping entries, but it should come to you while focusing on one of the items.
If it helps you can try and split each tag into new lists—characters, locations, events, etc.—and focus on coming up with things related to them for each theme.
Search on Tumblr, Google, or prompt lists for things related to your keywords (pirates, sirens, asexuality, etc.). Think of films, books, comics, and more to get ideas.
Example events based on keywords
All female main cast
- Lesbians (I mean come on!)
- Healthy female-female friendships
- Females being badass without the help/motivation form males/brothers/male lover/father
- Females diversity (“feminine”-interests and “masculine”-interests and neither and both interests. All is okay and represented)
Asexuality (and aromantic?)
- Save others from spells, potions, or creatures focusing on sex/love
- Romance without sex-focus
- “Coming out”-stories
- In denial/thinks something is wrong with themselves—spoiler: it’s not!
- Is lonely and wants a companion—but don’t realise humans can’t live in the water without air.
- Can change gender at will to please their victim.
- Lives after the motto “attack are the best defence”—they target sailors before the sailors can target them.
- Keeps accidentally enthral those in their surroundings while singing in the shower/singing along to their favourite sons/humming.
- A kiss from someone else will break the spell.
- Fighting against marines
- Finding treasure
- Storm at sea
- Food shortage
- Internal conflicts among the crew
As you can see some are more detailed than others, some are character details some are plot events. And that is the point of this exercise. Do not use all of them in the same story, the goal is to write down everything, so you have a lot to choose from when planning your plot.
How to use the list
The list of events and ideas are also an excellent list to come back to if you ever get stuck while writing or planning your novel. The items in this collection are after all the possible things you want your story to be.
Your list should contain as many plot-options as you possibly can imagine.
If you still have trouble pinpointing what your novel should be about, try adding new keywords to expand on, or change some. Maybe you are not yet ready to write the book you think you want to write. Also, if you are not satisfied, then change keywords, add more or remove some to try and come up with a new story that is what you want to write.
The most important thing here is to find something that excites you. You are the one that will write this story, the one that will work on this same world and characters for the next unknown amount of weeks, months, years.
With a bunch of events ready to go all you have to do is arrange them into a coherent timeline, look for blanks that still need to fill and changes to make. Or you might have an idea for an overall plot; then you should sit down and break it into smaller pieces so that you get a timeline or scene list or something similar.
It is up to you how you continue from here. You have an idea; you might have a plot sketch. I recommend either going for the Snowflake method to flesh out your plot, start to do a detailed outline, or start writing directly. It all depends on whether you are an architect or a gardener, a plotter or a pantser.