Hello and welcome back to Imagination Mansion. In this blogpost I will be discussing plots and how I come up with them.
Now plots are the trickiest thing, for me, to narrow down into how I come up with them and how I construct them because they tend to come tied to the character or the setting in some way or another. This is because my plot construction revolves around the phrase “what if”.
So my best way of talking about plots is to look at the analysis technique that a lot of people learn in history and literacy classes – who, what, where, when, why, and how. The who, where and when can be mostly put to one side when concentrating solely on the plot, taking it out of context of characters and settings. So we want to focus on the what, the why, and the how.
My plots usually stem from a scene, an idea – a what if. What if a future child got lost in the past? What if tiny sentient hamsters were sent into space? What if dangerous creatures really did prowl the forests at night? What if – a powerful creative tool for all writers. And another one, hated by parents and teachers alike – why. Why was the child sent back in time? Why were the hamsters sent to space? Why are the monsters there? And then, how. A time machine for the child? Did a mad scientist make the hamsters sentient? Did the monsters slip through a crack in space?
These questions are what will form the building blocks of the story – the plot.
A escaping B and ending up fighting C
A falling in love with B but then there’s a triangle with C
A invents B which causes C and needs to be stopped by D
These are obviously vague but they are also the start of ideas that can be filled in as you ruminate on what exactly you want to happen, how you want it to happen, and why it happens in the first place.
So with me, since my ideas come from one scene, usually imagined while listening to music – forming a music video if you will – I will have a lot of these questions about what I just ‘watched’. Let’s take an example from before: The sentient space hamsters – mostly because it sounds cool.
So say you imagine these tiny rodents in tiny suits stepping out of their tiny rocket onto an alien planet. This would raise a lot of questions – and answering these questions will begin to form the plot.
- What are the hamsters doing on the planet? – they’re searching for other life that could help their home world.
- Why send hamsters? Why not humans or another creature? – It is for the humans that the hamsters are finding help- they’re endangered
- How are the hamsters able to go into space in the first place – humans adapted other life to communicate and manage technology for dangerous missions so they don’t deplete from their already declining species.
And then from this you can ask further questions
- What caused the humans to become endangered? – was it their own greed and stupidity? Was there a catastrophe?
- How do they know this mission might work? – Have they discovered that life existed on other planets? Or are they just desperate?
- Why would the hamsters, once able to think at a higher level, want to help the humans? Why would aliens?
And from this,
- Do the hamsters succeed in finding a planet?
- Do the aliens agree to help?
- Are they able to help?
- Or, do the hamsters realise that they would be happier on this alien planet and leave the humans to their fate?
Obviously this is a very specific example for a very bizarre idea. But the basic construction is there. And once you have what you want to write about, you can figure out where, when and who you want to write about and how they affect the what, why, and how.