Plot generation

Finding myself with ten minutes to spare and faced with a blank page the other day, I started plotting. The outline of the new novel and its overarching narrative has been established, but the story needs a subplot to allow me to explore the characters’ personalities more deeply and examine their motivations.

I idly searched ‘plot ideas’ on Google and was rewarded with a plethora of plot generator sites. Blimey. A better way to waste my precious few moment of writing time I have yet to find. It’s fascinating; a bit like watching an accident on television: you want to stop, but you can’t look away.

Press a button and hey presto! a new scenario is suggested, then another, and another. All completely different. It’s quite addictive. The ‘plots’ themselves are random clauses; bizarre one-liners strung together with prepositions and conjunctions and you’d have to be a master storyteller to incorporate any of them into a piece of prose. They are mostly completely meaningless, but they can be very amusing. And if you keep trying for long enough, you might turn up the perfect plotline.

Here’s a typical plot from http://funstuff.pantomimepony.co.uk/writers-plot-ideas.htm

‘When a conman takes their money, a patrol of lost soldiers go on safari. The story is split wide open by a pregnancy.’

And one from http://www.archetypewriting.com/muse/generators/plot.htm  These guys have a slightly different approach, supplying an event to get the story rolling, and suggesting a secondary conflict to keep the momentum going.

‘The story starts when your protagonist gets lost.  Another character is an assassin who is interfering with your protagonist’s job.’

The sites freely admit that their plots won’t always make sense; it’s up to us to extract the gold from the dross.  It’s all about inspiration and getting the imaginative juices flowing, and if even one of the strands triggers a thought process which in turn generates an avalanche of original material, job done.

It’s all a long way from Cluedo, where Miss Scarlett was invariably guilty, in the library, with the lead piping.

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18 thoughts on “Plot generation

  1. I’ve not heard of such a thing. Guess it’s good to know there’s a place to turn should the ideas in my head vanish, which I sincerely hope they won’t. 🙂

    • I’ve used a name generator site in times of need, when the names I’d chosen for my characters all began with ‘J’, unaccountably, and also for inspiration for a web domain name. There’s something for everyone out there. 🙂
      PS, I hear Johnny and Vanessa have split……very sad.

  2. There’s a web site for everything, isn’t there? I think the search terms that people used to reach our blogs could be another source of inspiration. “Running character followed by mobs” was one I saw today. Could this happen to a character in one of my books? Does s/he become famous and have adoring fans? Does s/he cause a disaster by changing an important event in history? This is all said very much tongue-in-cheek 🙂 But plot inspiration can come from the least-expected sources!

    • All the scenarios work for me! My best one so far has to be ‘hypnopaedic phrases’. No idea what it means, or how I could use it.
      Still, it makes a change from the old ‘what if?’ doesn’t it? 🙂

  3. Reblogged this on Nine Writes and commented:
    I once scolded myself for using a plot generator and never thought about sharing the guilt. But after reading this post by Maggie Cammiss, I thought, hey, why not?
    Try it for hoots.

  4. Thanks for stopping by and liking my post. As someone else commented, “we writers have to stick together.” That means supporting each other whenever possible. By the way, I get a lot of plot ideas from thumbing through the newspaper. Also, watching people interact (especially when they don’t know you’re watching) is always a great way to get an idea!

    Best,
    N

    • My pleasure! And thanks for visiting. I never thought, when I started this blog, that I would enjoy hearing from other writers as much as I do – the advice I’ve picked up is invaluable.

      I’m a people-watcher too. Can’t beat it! 🙂

  5. My first reaction was, if you need a site to give you plot ideas you should be doing something else with your time, but then, I suppose, sometimes a prompt is just what you need. Personally, I don’t have any trouble in the pot ideas dept. It’s finding the time and energy to develop them that’s more of an issue. 🙂

  6. Ideas can (and should) come from anywhere and everywhere. There have been times that I’ve found it easiest to calm my mind and take a look around me. Once the ideas quiet down a bit with my eyes open, new ideas are able to freely pour in. Of course, not all of them are good, but as you stated, it’s our job as a writer to keep only what we need.

    No matter where you get the inspiration and ideas for writing, so long as it works, keep using it. Random, conflicting ideas are usually the best, especially for complex pieces.

      • Oh, perhaps you could. – Ever eavesdropped on a spat between two lovers? (Don’t give me that look. Some public arguments you can’t help but overhear.) Add a bit of imagination, maybe a hint of romance and that will surely be mixture enough to get started.

        You’re very welcome.

  7. Oh, I’ve heard some beauties, not just arguments either. The guy who was trying desperately to impress a pretty shop assistant, on learning that she was a twin, ‘Oh that’s interesting. So, how long have you been, er, twins…?’ Or this snatch of conversation I heard the other day, ‘Oh, it’s not for me. It’s to pay the private investigator…’ Still waiting for an opportunity to drop that into a novel, but I surely will. 🙂

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