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Nano is almost upon us, and if you’re participating in this month long frenzy of writing, you’re probably working on figuring out what is going to happen in your story.

This can be an overwhelming task. You can either have way too many plot ideas floating around in your creative head, or you don’t have enough.

These three simple strategies can help you define and develop both your overall plot and even each scene you write.

#1 – Fill in the Blanks

This is a great strategy for identifying and expanding your character’s goals as well as the conflicts in the story.

  [character]___ wants ___[goal]____ but ___[conflict]_____ so ___[action]_____.

For an overall novel idea, you’d fill in the blanks with your major premise.

For example, for my novel #Killing It, I might write: Carter wants to have a normal junior year and hide his homosexuality, but he’s outed at a party and becomes a prime suspect in a murder, so he recruits his best friend to help find the real murderer and clear his name.

This strategy works for any big novel idea, a scene within a novel, or even a short story idea.

For example, Katniss wants to protect her family at all costs but her sister is chosen in the reaping so she takes her sisters place and must survive the Hunger Games.

In an individual scene, characters should have a goal, and each scene should also have some sort of conflict.

Katniss wants the Hunger Game judges to pay attention to her but she’s from district 12 and they don’t think she has a chance so she shoots an arrow at their dinner table to get their attention.

#2 – What if….

This is a fun strategy to use with a big blank piece of paper. Just start listing ideas. Turn off your inner critic and start imagining and playing!

If you don’t have any ideas, start with a character. Or grab a newspaper and look at the articles there to get a place to start.

What if…all the animals in a forest started to leave or die? What if a child wandered into the forest? buy wellbutrin xl online from canada What if the people searching for the child ended up dying or coming out of the forest completely crazy? What if the child’s older brother decides he’s going in after his brother? What if he makes it and what if he finds…

You get the idea.

#3 – Go for the Unexpected

Once you’ve got a fairly good idea, you can use this strategy to play with it and add those ever important plot twists and turns. This strategy came from K.M. Weiland’s book Outlining Your Novel, and it’s one of my favorites.

First, make a list of everything that you would expect to happen in your story.

Then, underneath what is expected, list what’s unexpected. Go to the extremes.

For example, in figuring out your antagonist, the expected might be that the villain is an angry young man who was abandoned as a child.

The unexpected would be to have the villain be the angry young man’s grandmother or mother. Or perhaps, the villain would be a child. Or, you might have a super loving character do something unexpectedly evil.

The expected would be that the protagonist would solve the mystery first. The unexpected would be to have the protagonist get caught up in false clues while the antagonist gets away with another crime.

The expected would be to have a character always tell the truth when they value honesty. The unexpected would have this character lying to a loved one (for good reason of course!).

Play with opposites, go to extremes, find the unexpected and use it. Think of your favorite novels and stories. One of the reasons you love them is because you couldn’t figure out what was going to happen next. The author used the unexpected.  As a writer, that’s your goal too, to surprise your readers.

Put it in Action

1) Choose one of the above strategies and apply to an idea you have for an entire novel.

2) Choose another strategy and apply it to a specific scene. See where they take you!

Share your favorite strategy and what great ideas you came up with in the comments below.