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Plotting stories

by Mitchell
(New Vernon, NJ)

I have trouble plotting stories. I like to write and I have ideas that get me started, but after I've been writing for a while, I hit a wall. So I never finish anything. Can you suggest any strategies that will move me past this problem?

ANSWER

Mitchell, it sounds as if you may not have a strong goal for your main character. Not having a goal can leave you with nowhere to go in your plot.

One way around this is to dream up a bad situation for your character, one that messes up his plans. This will cause the character to make a decision about how to get out of the mess. Whatever he decides will give him a goal to work toward.

Then, every scene you write will have the character take some sort of action to reach his goal. If his attempt fails or further complicates the issue, you might find it easier to decide what should happen next.

For example, if a character is wrongly accused of something, he will want to prove his innocence. To prove his innocence, he asks a coworker to help clear his name. Instead of helping, the coworker tells someone else in the office, who blabs to their boss. Now the boss doubts his ability to carry on and complete an important project, so he takes your character off a project that is important to his career. So how does the character react to that?

Each time you have the character take action, decide how to make the action go wrong. Problems create the need for more decisions. You can have the character succeed, too, if the success makes reaching his goal more difficult in some way.

I wrote a couple of articles on plotting that might give you more ideas about how to keep moving forward:

Plot Your Stories
Create a Plot Outline Easily with What if? and Why?