I have an English high school exam in five days in which I will be given 2-3 prompts e.g. A story which includes the sentence, "I could not not believe when my neighbour walked right past me" or a story in which an interview plays an important part or something like that for a short story writing (350-500 words) and I have to choose one. I get around 50-55 minutes to plan, write and proofread the short story. How can I develop a plot in 5 minutes?

1 Answer 1


You're being given a prompt, so that will do half the work for you.

I think it was J. Michael Straczynski, writer of Bablyon 5, who wrote that one could sum up "conflict" in three questions:

  • What does the character want?
  • What will the character do to get it?
  • What will someone do to stop the character?

So you take your prompt (John needs to find a flat in an expensive area of London. Describe your favorite childhood memory. There's a hungry cat on your porch.) and apply the three questions to it.

  • John needs a flat. [Want] He'll look online and through newspaper ads. [Do] But his current flatmate doesn't want him to move out, so he'll delete voicemails from prospective landlords and otherwise sabotage his efforts.[Thwart]
  • My favorite childhood memory was getting ice cream at the fair. [Want] I had to share it with my sister, [Do] and she wanted to hog the whole thing, [Thwart] but my mom stopped her.
  • The cat sat on my porch, meowing occasionally and looking hopeful. My mom said "No more cats!" [Thwart] but really, was I going to let a cat starve to death on my porch? [Want: to feed the cat] Of course not. [Do: feed the cat]
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    In my drama classes, this was described as "Getting your GOTE" (pronounced like 'goat'). Goal - Obstacle - Tactic - Expectation. What do you want, what's in your way, how do you plan to overcome that, and how do you envision the outcome. Once every character has those four things, the story practically writes itself.
    – Roger
    Apr 28, 2016 at 20:40
  • 1
    @Roger I love that! Brillliant! Apr 28, 2016 at 22:08

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