Mslexia, the magazine for women who write | www.mslexia.co.uk
From Issue 37
TEN TOP TIPS
FINDING THE PLOT
1. The randomiser, mach I
Dunk your hand into a bag of fortune cookies and select a fortune (Bonus: you can keep going until you find one that inspires you – and satiate any hunger pangs at the same time).
2. The randomiser, mach II
Select a random horoscope reading and use that as the basis for your plot (Bonus: it already inherently contains an established character as well as a forward-looking plot!).
3. Resistance is futile
Create a character – either as colourful as a circus clown or as meek as a mouse – and allow them to take you on a tour of their life. Allow the surprises you find to create an underlying structure.
4. Location, location, location
Make a long list of locales, indoor and outdoor: a ravine, an exam room, a courtroom, a lecture hall, a pool. Weave three of them into your story.
5. Use your noodle
Scan the daily newspapers – broadsheets and tabloids alike – and pick a headline as the basis for plot.
6. Be a watchful detective
Go to a cafe, railway station, busy shopping centre with your notebook. Choose someone who looks interesting to you, then create a fictional biog for them – and discover a secret they hold.
7. Have literary aspirations
Flick through some books you love until you see a line that strikes you, write it down and use it as your starting point (you will later discard it).
8. I, object
Let a particular object – an earring, a pot of jam, a ladder – rise and fall throughout the story. Is it stolen or lent, sold or inherited or merely lost?
9. Lights, camera, action!
Bring all your characters together – at a football match, a family picnic, a school fair, a concert – and see what develops. Don’t be a puppetmaster: give them the freedom to act as they will.
10. The randomiser, mach III
Write some random actions for a character – knocking over a vase in a museum, staying in bed all day – then keep writing to find out why it happened.
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