The one major problem I feel that I have as a writer is coming up with a plot that has any substance at all. I can write believable characters (most of the time), build a unique but not far fetched world, but I just can never come up with a plot that couldn't be finished in less that 1,000 words, which doesn't work out very well when trying to write novels.

Any good techniques for coming of with plot that have beef?

  • 1
    Cybersone, this page might answer your question: writers.stackexchange.com/questions/1781/…
    – Standback
    Dec 13, 2014 at 17:56
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    Considering closing as a dupe of above-linked question. Thoughts?
    – Standback
    Dec 14, 2014 at 4:51
  • @Standback To me the other question is very specific about how to create a plot from characters, while this question here is more about how to come up with a plot substantial enough to fill a novel, independent of specific characters.
    – user5645
    Dec 14, 2014 at 9:06
  • @Standback Agreed, this is close-worthy unless Cyperson edits this so it's more specific and distinct from the linked question. Dec 17, 2014 at 2:54
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    What @what is saying is true - this question is aimed at the size of the story generated from the plot in question. However, no matter the rewriting I do in my head, I cannot see the question not providing the same answers as either How do I construct a plot out of my many setting/character details? or Resource for generic plot hooks?, without being a listing of subjective opinions. Dec 17, 2014 at 6:06

5 Answers 5


Give the character a problem, no matter how small. When the character tries to solve the problem, make the attempt fail. And make it fail in such a way that things get worse.

Now the character has a bigger problem. When the character tries to solve that one...

To continue the story, add another try/fail cycle.

To end the story, have your character put everything on the line in one last big try, which either succeeds or fails.


Dale Emery gave a great answer that I want to add to.

I found that my first writings were invariably short. At that time I did not aim at a novel, I just wanted to write, so that was not a problem for me as it seems to be for you, but I found that my first ideas were short by nature.

Looking back, I think that I had to grow as a writer. I had to first find out how writing worked for me, and with time my ideas became wider and longer all by themselves.

So maybe what you need to do is let go of that wish to write a novel and just write. Write whatever comes to you, and don't worry about length. And either you will develop longer stories once you have found your writing self, or you will become one of the great short story writers.


I'll answer your question with more questions.

What kind of world do your characters live in?

What are the kinds of things your characters are likely to do and say?

What makes your audience hate your antagonist?

What makes your audience love your protagonist?

What events happen in your world?

How do these events affect your characters?

How would the world your characters live in change your characters?


Not necessarily techniques, but here are some resources you can check out to get you started:

Outlining your Novel by K.M. Weiland is a great book for rookies new to the game and veterans in need of a refresher. The process may seem mechanical at first, but at the very least you'll be able to create a guideline (if not a detailed map) to where you want your story to go. It also comes with a workbook which you can use as a supplement to the reading.

I would check out Cathy Yardley's Rock Your Plot. This is a very straightforward guide that takes you step-by-step through common plot points. She also includes some very insightful examples with thoughtful exercises, so you can put what you learn into practice.


An interesting quote that went around earlier this year in the gaming world, in reference to storylines, was that "plot is overrated". Basically, a few writers for major game companies were adamant about how characters drive plot, and how they wanted to use that instead of simply having a plot that involves characters.

I think this is a neat insight into how some plots that can seem basic or even an little cliché can end up being amazing stories, because of how the characters are really what's behind the happenings of the plot. Hope this helps a bit.

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