The conundrum of novel plotting – where do you get ideas?

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One of the things that flummoxed me for a long time with my writing was trying to nail down the right plot for my story. I can always create characters with depth (good for me, since the trend now is character-driven stories) and I fall in love with a lush, living setting that almost becomes a character unto itself. But the plot, well, that’s been one rocky shore for me to land my novel upon.

Thankfully Janice Hardy wrote about this today, and has lots of great suggestions, from the buddy story to the adventure, from the Golden Fleece to the Monster in the House. She also recommends a couple of books,  Blake Synder’s Save the Cat and Ronald B. Tobias’s 20 Master Plots.

So how do you generate ideas for your story plots?

Morning Cuppa – 04/17/13 – David Mamet self pubs! ALA most challenged books! From brain to bookshelf!


  • Just after Neil Gaiman’s speech at the London Book Fair, the Gray Lady published an article about literary juggernaut David Mamet taking a cue from genre authors and jumping into the self-pub business. When someone of his stature makes that sort of decision you can almost feel the tremor reverberate through the publishing world. Times they are a changin’ folks.
  • The American Library Association has released their annual list of most challenged books. Included are children’s books, Fifty Shades of Grey and one by Sherman Alexie and Toni Morrison.
  • There’s a fascinating look at the writing process from “Brain to Bookshelf” today over on Janice Hardy’s blog. Guest blogger Tiffany Reisz shows how she took her book The Mistress from inception to in-stores. I have to admit, my mind was boggled by the amount of work she accomplished in such a short amount of time, especially weeks where she went through four different drafts. Not to mention that she wrote a 109,000 word book in four months. Favorite quote, after she just finished her second draft, “It is, to say the least, a jacked-up piece of shit. But at least I have something to work with.” That makes me feel better about where I am with my own writing!

Morning Cuppa – 04/14/13 – Daleks! Story bibles! Ray Bradbury!

The Cuppa had to take a brief respite yesterday in order to play stacks and stacks of old video games. We all have priorities. Anyways, enjoy your Sunday and watch out ahead…

  • A Dalek head has been discovered in a UK pond. Maybe there’s something to this Doctor guy after all… 
  • Janice Hardy talks about how she’s benefitted from using a story bible for her writing. The idea is that you have a separate document that keeps track of all the little details that are so easy to forget. What color were the protagonist’s eyes? What type of car was her mother driving the last time she saw her? Is it a rainy day today? These things can distract you from a story and also lead to a very irritating editing process (as I’m discovering myself, now). Do you keep a story bible?
  • Ray Bradbury’s works are finally being released as ebooks. Not sure how he’d feel about that fact since he was one of the most notable curmudgeons about technology, the internet and ebooks. Late in life, he did relent and allow Fahrenheit 451 to be released in electronic format, but there was never the sense that it was willingly or with much love. Whatever the case, a new generation of readers will now have access to some of the most canonical writing in the genres.

Morning Cuppa – 03/01/13 – Brainstorming! Neverwhere! Fix flat scenes!

Happy Friday all! Hope you’re winding down for a relaxing weekend, here are a few brief links, I’ll see you all tomorrow for the some short fiction!

  • Mary Robinette Kowal shares what a brainstorming session looks like, and it contains a lot of spoilers, so if you’re a fan you might want to avoid it. From a writer’s perspective though, it’s a great look inside the mind of a practicing, successful author.
  • The cast for Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere BBC Radio special has been announced. Highlights? James McAvoy, Natalie Dormer, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Christopher Lee. Really just all a bunch of stars.
  • Janice Hardy reposts one from her archives about how to diagnose a scene that feels “flat.” Should you show rather than tell?

Morning Cuppa – 02/26/13 – Fav writer’s blogs! Janice Hardy! Chuck Wendig! (they rockz) Rifftrax Twilight!

I’ve got some great stuff to share today from a couple of my favorite bloggers and some exciting news from Rifftrax!

  • Evil genius Janice Hardy has one of the best blogs about writing around. Seriously, I need some of your skillz! In this post she describes alternate ways to describe character reactions. The part where my face melted was when she recommended not sweating it in the first draft and then coming back and doing a “reaction revision” afterwards, in other words, make their emotions pop more. If you’re not a writer that may come across a bit underwhelming. If you are a writer, getting ANY advice that changes and improves the way you approach your craft is enough to leave you thankful to have been lead to the doorstep of Valhalla.
  • Another evil genius that is so good he should be on a damn box of cereal is Chuck Wendig. If you’re writing, (anything, it doesn’t have to be genre) and you think to yourself, this part is hard, what the hell am I supposed to do now? Chuck Wendig has probably already answered you with his psychic-miracle-ninja powers. Today he shares, “HOW TO KARATE YOUR NOVEL AND EDIT THAT MOTHERFUCKER HARD: A NO-FOOLIN’ FIX-THAT-SHIT EDITING PLAN TO FINISH THE GODDAMN JOB.” And this is exactly the kick in the ass I needed today. I’m not even going to pull any quotes from it, just go read it. While I’m sitting around with my finished novel, weeping that I don’t know how to edit and getting snot crusted in my beard Chuck comes along and helps me to my feet and then does a roundhouse kick to my self-doubt. He should make a book from these posts. [EDIT: he has and here, and here too] Thanks dude.
  • Rifftrax jumpstarted their Kickstarter yesterday. Their goal? To raise enough money to buy the rights to Twilight, which fans voted as the worst movie of all time, so that they can riff it live and broadcast it to theaters across the nation. They reached their goal within an hour. As of 7:30 this morning, they had more than doubled it.