Line of Fire, An Autumn Rain Novel

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For Aspiring Writers

How to plot a story

These comments were taken (with permission) from an e-mail group of writers.

From Melva Gifford:

There are several ways I plot a story. I'll show some examples to see if this may be of help. I don't volunteer to be a guru but I do love to scheme.

Idea one:

Here is a brief process of coming up with the plot line of bungee. I was at a Utah convention that had CJ Cherry. (I credit this plot to her) She said come up with one word for the title. I came up with the word Bungee. Then I was on my own. Since I like SF/F I realized this would not be a story about normal jumping but that it would be somewhere dangerous.

Q: Why is someone bungeeing on a remote planet?

A: The jumper needs to get something from a dangerous place. In this example an acidic pit. They are bungee mining. They suit up, make the jump into the pit. Grab the product and get out before they have a chance to get killed.

Q: What is the object?

A: Digett which helps prevent the deterioration of the body in long space flight which makes it invaluable in colonization of space.

Q: What goes wrong on this job?

A: Someone sets off explosions on the launch site to kill the jumpers. There are several "corporations" competing for the same material. Who gets the most becomes the most wealthy. Stab your neighbor and you end up with it all.

So we have . . .

Plot A: A man is left down in the acidic pit after the explosion. He must find a way out before his suit is eaten up by the acid. B plot needs to occur at the same time as the A plot so that if the reader is not engaged in plot A they will continue to read the story for the B plot. I need to work more on this B plot or even C plot stuff if it's a book.

Plot B: The survivors who are up on the launch pad as they try to help rescue the guy in the pit  - different trial fail cycles as they try to fix the problems that face them and as they piece together what is happening.

Idea two:

Create a character: Then make them face their greatest fear. That will be the plot.

Idea three:

Normal day to day events can be warped. Example: What are all the inconvenient things about emptying the kitchen trash? List them. Now write a story about a wizard who has to empty the trash of potions.


Find a normal event. This idea came from a friend. He used the idea of having a picture of different places on different stamps. As you lick the stamp—you get transported to the place on the picture. A normal event with a twist.

Sometimes people will actually look at a newspaper. They will read an article about a thievery or some other 'bad thing' then they will write a story from that event.

Those are just some ideas.

One additional thought something needs to be at risk. Personal risk of getting lost. When we care about the character we are going to get emotionally involved in our fear that this character will lose their greatest treasure. Indiana Jones goes search after the Holy Grail but it becomes much more personal when his dad dying and he must solve the dilemma. It is now personal.

Melva Gifford