Written by JJ Barnes
On Instagram we were asked a question by @Books_To_Life. She wanted to know what you can do if you start writing your story, and you have some good characters and a good concept, but you don’t have a plot yet. How do you turn a collection of scenes and characters interacting into an actual story?
Find Your Plot By Working Out What Your Main Character Wants.
Firstly you need to work out which of your characters is your main character. Then work out why you’re starting your story at this point in their life. You will find your plot when you find what your character is doing and why.
What is it that character wants from their life and how are they going to go about getting it? The plot for your story will grow from why they don’t have it, and what is stopping them getting it.
Your main character is your Protagonist. The main conflict of your story is their journey to trying to achieve their goal of getting what they want, whilst something, or someone, gets in their way.
What your Protagonist wants could be, essentially, anything as long as they want something. They could want to travel somewhere, they could want a romantic relationship, as long as they have a specific goal. Vague ideas aren’t enough. There’s no reason to jump into their life at this point if there’s not something they’re actively seeking.
Who Is Stopping Them Get It?
When you’ve figured out your Protagonist and their goals, pick an Antagonist. Your Antagonist has their own goals that are directly in conflict with your Protagonist’s goals. And they can’t both have what they want. They will both go after their goals and have their own journey and story arc. They’re in conflict the entire time until the story is resolved with either one or the other accomplishing that story goal.
If you have some scenes but no clear conflict, you can go back and edit it in. Identify a Protagonist and Antagonist, and pit them against each other in every scene. Make it apparent from the start that they want something from their lives. Seed from the start that they are in opposition. Follow that journey and throw extra obstacles in front of them both on the way.
You Will Find Your Plot By Watching Them Try To Get What They Want
Remember, if you don’t have characters in pursuit of something, you don’ t have a story. If there’s no reason they can’t just get what they want, there’s no story. As soon as they get what they want, the story is over.
Having a base of characters you love to write is a really good start. I often think of a person I want to write about and connect with. Then I work out from there what my story will be. You don’t need to start immediately with the entire plot, as long as once you’ve established who it is you’re writing about, you find their story.
More From JJ Barnes:
I am an author, filmmaker, artist and youtuber, and I am the creator and editor of The Table Read.
You can find links to all my work and social media on my website: www.jjbarnes.co.uk
Buy my books: www.sirenstories.co.uk/books
Follow me on Twitter: @JudieannRose