I inadvertently tried something new. The last book I wrote began with a concept for a plot that I expanded into a world that held characters. This time around, it seems I began with characters and a world. Since this is a new situation for me, I am in quite a predicament. I have no idea what my capital P Plot will be. I have a couple subplots in mind but not the giant one that is necessary to move the story. I am hoping that by creating dynamic, real characters and building conflict into the world, I will find the plot.
Another brainstorming method I’ve heard for plot building requires research. The idea is to figure out what it is I like about my favorite books, movies, games, etc, then work that essence into a new story. For example, I love The Lord of the Rings. Really love it. So much so that I have a tattoo of the White Tree of Gondor. So what is it about The Lord of the Rings that inspires such fandom in me? Well, there are a lot of possibilities.
Frodo’s story is that of the underdog, average Joe who is given an impossible task and yet never gives up. That’s inspiring. There’s also the theme of loyalty in Sam. He is also average–maybe even bellow average since he’s a Hobbit–but he has uncommon loyalty. He follows his friend on a death mission and helps him even when rejected. This is also inspiring.
I can take one of those concepts and build a plot that carries a similar message. It may not sound original, but most stories are a retelling of another story anyhow. C.S. Lewis said that, “Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”
I suppose what this comes down to is that my mission isn’t to find some amazing idea that will change the literary world. My mission is to entertain readers and myself. As long as I find a story I want to tell (and work hard on adding depth) I’m sure my work will be satisfying.