Few writers can map the sneaky methods in which their minds create stories from plot ideas. Surely, many writers can explain to you where they snagged the original ideas. It may have arisen from a newscast, a magazine article, a public speech, from a person you conversed with on Facebook, from a problem within your own family, or from a story shared by a colleague. I will tell you how I discovered a few of my own plot ideas.
One story idea sprang from the thought, “Parents hate bullying in school because it hurts the children they most love.” Although I could emphasize with this thought, I did not fully comprehend the emotional impact until my sister, a single parent, shared with me that both her kids were experiencing emotional and mental distress because they were being bullied at school. The conversation with my sister helped me to create a dramatic, emotional-driven news story about how a single parent motivated other parents to make positive changes at the school to stop bullying.
In my hometown I often drive past a vacant, dilapidated building which was once a steel mill employing hundreds of local people. Bankrupt a few years ago because of the economy, it now casts depressing shadows down and up the vacant lots and discarded waste. I pass that building and its depressing surroundings so many times without spotting a story in it. Then, one day, as I was racking my brain for story plots, I began thinking about what a homeless person might experience in such surroundings. The result was a tear-jerking fictional story about a former business executive, now homeless and divorced, staying in the dilapidated building for one year as he rebuilt his own life from ruins to riches.
I had another idea that sprouted a plot while watching the TV series “Moonshiners” on the Discovery channel. “What if at some point,” I reflected, “the federal government passed a law that prohibited all sales of alcohol as they did in the 1920s? What would happen the night bars go dry?” The result was a story about how our culture would deal with prohibition in the 21st century. Weeks later I read a news article about a divorced father who kidnapped his son from his mother and escaped overseas to Greece–this single news item provided many more plot ideas.
Plot ideas are everywhere, scattered all over the world. News items, snippets of conversation, gossip, world events, photos, and even silly YouTube cat videos only need a human presence to make them flourish into interesting fiction or non-fiction stories.