So I made a name for a character and his name is quite fancy so I have no idea what I should do with him. I named him, ready? Sir Nathaniel Charles III.

Without asking for specific suggestions on "what to write", I'd like to know how other authors proceed from an initial idea about a character to developing a plot and story. What are your techniques or tools you use to come up with a plot around the main character you wish to write about?

  • Hi Cecilia, welcome to Writing. I am going to edit your question to make it more compatible with our guidelines; we don't allow questions about "what to write", we don't allow asking for suggestions or ideas. If you don't like my edit, you can unroll it. – Amadeus Oct 15 '19 at 14:45

I'm a conflict and character writer. For me, the two naturally go together.

If I wanted to start with the conflict, I would start by asking what terrible threat is hanging over Sir Nathaniel? It doesn't have to be something that threatens him specifically. It could be a threat to someone who he cares about or who he feels he should protect.

Then you figure out what prevents him from fixing the problem. Maybe some character flaw that he will have to overcome. The problem might be that he is dying of cold and hunger because the person who brings him food has stopped coming, but he has sworn to guard the magic garden and never step foot outside of it until someone comes to take his place. Or maybe he is forced to watch as village after village of people is slaughtered, and he knows that he could stop it if he chose to overthrow his brother and take his place on the throne but he swore to his mother on her deathbed that he would always support his brother, and besides, they were rebels anyway and isn't it right that rebels should be punished? The throne should be respected, always.

You could also begin with his character. Is he a knightly, noble character who feels that he should protect weak? The conflict might that there are a group of innocent people who need to be protected.

Then you throw up some resistance. Something that prevents him from just charging in and saving them all right away. Maybe the oppressing force is too powerful, and he will need to admit that he can't do it by himself and ask for help. Or maybe the person oppressing them is Sir Nathaniel's sworn lord! What can he do? He may have to rebel against his lord. Or he may find a way to be true to both his oath and his heart, by finding a way to help the people without disobeying his orders.

Sometimes I like to take a character's greatest strength and make it his weakness. If Sir Nathaniel is a truly courageous person and he always must be brave, what happens when his bravery leads to disaster? What if there is a dragon who comes every year to get tribute from a group of poor farmers. They are terrified that if they don't feed it cows every year it will attack them. Sir Nathaniel, who is not afraid to pit his sword against the dragon, attacks it as it swoops down to pick up a cow. There is a terrible battle; he wounds the dragon and it flies off.

But Sir Nathaniel didn't realize that the dragon only demanded cows during a time when she couldn't hunt for herself, while she is hatching her eggs, and at other times she hunted predators in the forest around the village, and kept other dragons away. Now that she is wounded, she must either abandon her eggs or starve. Suddenly, he must face the fact that he has caused ill when he felt he was doing good.


I'm not giving you examples because you cannot ask "what to write" here. So these are guidelines on writing, given a character.

I usually begin with a character. For me, a good character needs to be very good at something, and rather poor at something else. Think on that. Does he call himself Nathaniel, or Nate? What do his friends and associates call him?

The reason for the disparity (both a skill and a deficit) is to create character growth; the character's "normal world", which you should begin with, is most likely to involve the skill at which he excels. He will be a "champion" in this regard, not necessarily the best in the world, but very good and valued for his skill.

The problem you introduce for Nathaniel, however, will not have much to do with his skill, instead, it will demand of him getting better at his weakness: Overcoming the deficit that until now, did not matter much in his life.

This is how you come to a plot, you need a problem that throws Nathaniel under the bus, a problem he HAS to solve, and doesn't really have the competence to solve. His journey in gaining that competence, and/or figuring out how to use his skill in a new way, is what your story is "about". And the reader is hopefully rooting for Nathaniel, because he is the underdog in this story no matter how great his skill, since it has been disabled by the incident you devised.

Think about his strength, AND his weakness. Try to make those plausible. Then think about how to attack him and throw him for a loop in a way that makes it seem his strength doesn't matter, and his weakness is probably going to make him fail.

Then figure out what he has to sacrifice in order to prevail, how he tries to avoid that and gets into hotter water, then boiling water, and finally makes his sacrifice in order to prevail. That's the story.


So you have Sir Nathaniel Charles III. A nobleman, obviously. Is he from a famous family? Or some minor, not well known nobility? Did he grow up in a castle? Or did his family lose their estates and he grew up in poverty? Did others respect him for his nobility, despise him for it, or not care about it at all?

Does he live in medieval times, in modern times or in the future? In an alternate history? In a fantasy world with magic and dragons? In a galactic empire with space ships and space stations?

To summarize, build a world around him.

Next, what are his character traits? Both naturally, and how the world around him formed him. Is he brave? Is he a coward? Is he intelligent? Is he ruthless? Is he careful? Is he a very social guy, or more of a loner? What are his strengths and weaknesses?

What are his interest? What does he know about his world, and what does he not know? What does he wrongly think he knows? What does he love? What does he hate? Whom does he love or hate?

In short, define his character.

Next, find a conflict. Something happens to him or his world which brings him out of his comfort zone, or increases his already existing discomfort beyond a tipping point, or contradicts his beliefs. Or maybe he falls in love. Anything that triggers a change in his life.

At that point you should have the beginning of a story.


Here are some ideas:

1) Think of what nation he is a part of. Is it a real country or is it fictional? I created a country named Swissland, so feel free to use that.

2) Who are his friends? Who are his enemies?

3) What are some of his talents?

4) Does he have a girlfriend/wife?

I hope this helps you with your story. Good luck!

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