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.