Do you know where you’re going to? If not, you’ve probably come to the right place. The start of a story can be exhilarating — you build your characters and your world and then – bang! something shocking happens and your plot tumbles onwards. But, somewhere in the second act… well… what?

These exercises will put your characters through an assault course and send them to some strange realms. You may end up chucking four out every five of the ideas you come up with here — but you might just find the spark you need in the fifth.

Quickfire Plot

Sometimes, to find your way forward, you need to make your character do someting stupid, or criminal, or just plain unexpected. You can begin this excercise cold and choose a character from the suggestions, or send one of your own people down the rabbit hole. Either way, this exercise offers a sequence of timed sub-prompts that can lead you strangely awry — which may be just what your story needs. Try it.

Yes But / No And

It’s not all about the craziness, though. Sometimes you need to think about your chain of plausible actions and reactions. As Aristotle had it, every element of your plot should be necessary or probable — and that makes it worth thinking about how your characters manage their predicaments. This exercise simply asks you to describe a problem, the action the character takes to deal with it and the outcome. Does the action solve the problem? Yes (but — there is an unexpected side effect) or no (and the problem is deepened). Make trouble for your characters, and build plots that make sense. Try it.

Story Dice

A series of timed mini writing sessions on the theme of knife, cave, rocket. No, paw prints, field, gun. Actually, ladder, dinner, radio. Well, you get the idea. Incorporate one or all of the prompt words into each session. I use this one for idea generation too. Try it.

All your work is saved ready for transfer to your favourite word processor. So you can build on those leaps of imagination, the unexpected connections, the strange choices that work for your story.