When inspiration strikes, it is awesome. It is that moment we were waiting for. We quickly drop whatever we're doing, pull over if we're driving, and un-crumple gum wrappers, turn over that important memo, or flatten that Starbucks cup, and scrawl down the idea as quickly as possible, lest we lose it. If we are in the unfortunate position of not having any way to record the idea, we repeat it—sometimes even out loud—so as not to lose a single syllable. And our coworkers think we are crazy. But we know it’s worth it: after all, how often does true inspiration strike?
But the next part—turning it from idea into a plot? That part’s why so many people hate outlines. Inspiration is easy because it’s unlooked for. Plotting and outlining are hard work, even with the best of ideas. But there are some tricks that can make it easier. Here are a few techniques to play with the next time you want to try to wrangle that flash of brilliance and turn it into something storylike.
Determine the Conflict and the Characters
Everything comes back to your initial inspiration. All the events and characters have to make sense in relation to it, and every choice you make, defining those events and characters, closes off some options and opens up others. Why did the world chess champion kidnap a hacker? What made him so sure he would lose his next match against the computer, and why is it so important that he wins? How does he let the hacker do his job without giving him a means to escape and while ensuring he’s working with him—not against him? By following each thread, you will soon arrive at the beginnings of a plot.