Short Story Slump: Plotting is Not Just For Villains

Last week, I suggested reevaluating your default main character when you write a story.  Any luck?  Any breakthroughs?  Any breakdowns?

Here is a squirrel stalking another squirrel. It is completely random.  Kind of like my plots.

Most people who enjoy writing have certain things they are good at and certain things that they loathe with every fibre of their writers’ being.  For me, that certain thing is definitely the plot.  And that’s really unfortunate when you consider that a plot is kind of really, really important.

I would make a terrible criminal mastermind.  My idea of plotting is taking a handful of characters, tossing them into a scenario, and then watching with great interest as they stumble about in an attempt to make sense of their world.  In case you wondered, I hate playing chess.  I like checkers.  And tic tac toe if I’m feeling especially schemy.  Thinking ahead and interweaving story parts and making something in chapter 4 suddenly make sense when you finally arrive at chapter 20 is just way too much effort.  And I have so much more fun making it up as I go along.

This door could go anywhere… like my plots! Okay, I’ll stop.

Coming up with a good plot idea for a story is pretty much the hardest part of writing for me.  I can have a character, a setting, and a few great scenes that I want to include all ready to go, but no way to tie them all together.

Yes, my clever non-plotting ways work for me sometimes, but often in lengthier works, I run into mysteriously materializing brick walls when my lack of plot finally catches up to me.  And as far as short stories go, having a strong, concise plot is really quite helpful.

  • Plot Randomizer!

One way that I’ve forced myself to come up with short story ideas is actually to let other people come up with the ideas for me.

(Maybe there’s a bit of the criminal mastermind in me, after all.  Who knows?)

Here is a knight fighting a crab. I dare you to compare it to my plots. Or write a story about it.

What I mean is, I ask everyone to give me a list of a few words that fit a certain theme.  Maybe I ask for them to give me a monster, a weird location, and an adjective.  My job is to choose from the delightful list that my friends come up with and use those items to create a plot.  It becomes a game of connect-the-dots where I have to figure out how the ghost of a road-kill porcupine, a lemonade stand, and the word ‘gelatinous’ can all come together in a unified and glorious whole.

This method tricks me into actually enjoying the plotting process and I end up with spastic, but unique short stories at the end of it.

So here’s my challenge to those of you who have been searching for just the right plot for a story: ask your friends to send you a similar list of random words, choose some, and come up with a ridiculous story.  If you post it in a blog, link it back here so that the rest of us can appreciate your efforts.  Or you can just brag about how you did and leave us all to wonder endlessly about it.  That’s fine too.


About Melissa

generally in love with things Celtic, mythological, fantastic, sharp and pointy, cute and fuzzy, intellectual, snarky, cheerful, or some combination thereof. Such things as sarcastic bunnies wielding claymores might come to mind...

Posted on July 11, 2012, in Humor, Inspiration, Lantern Hollow Press Authors, Melissa Rogers, Photography, Plot, Story, Writing Hints and Helps and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. That’s pretty much how I write all my stories: random scenarios thrown at the characters to see what they’ll do. Sometimes I have a vague idea how it all clicks together in the end, a scene that I write towards, but how they get there is what I make up as I go along. 😛 But I shall try the monster/location/adjective for my next story and see what happens.

  2. I bought 3 boxes at the dollar store and used one for character, one for plot and one for setting. Then over time I’d fill the boxes with character sketches, pictures of settings and some form of trouble. When I got stumped I’d pull out the boxes and pick out a card each for a short story. It’s worked pretty well in the past, I think I should revisit my old friends.

  1. Pingback: IT”S ALL MELISSA’S FAULT | Lantern Hollow Press

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