If you’ve given yourself a week or more before the start of NaNoWriMo, you still have time to get your story straight (or, actually, get your story interestingly bendy). Use these Write This Now! tools and exercises to find, develop and test your idea.
Free writing is a great way to chase down the ideas that hide just out of reach. Think of a theme related to your central concept, set the timer for ten minutes or so and write without interruption. Repeat as necessary.
If you don’t have an idea yet or if you want play around with what you do have, then try Image Prompt which presents sets of three random images to influence mood, theme or incident.
Mind still a blank? Quickfire Plot gives you some character ideas and then sends you through an assault course of two minute action and event prompts. Run a few of these and you’re bound to find some threads of the story you’re hiding from yourself.
With a central idea and some plotting possibilities, now you can begin to look harder at what your characters do and why they do it. Yes But / No And gets you to the heart of your character’s problem, the actions she takes to address it, and all the ways this complicates her world.
Character is one of the keys to plot. You need to know why your characters act the way that they do. Their motivations will open all sorts of possibilities. Get to get know your characters with this brief but penetrating questionnaire.
Finally, build your structure. The Five Act Structure exercise helps you to define your plot points. In five acts of three elements each you will think about about a beginning, in which your character is propelled from everyday life into your story; a middle, in which your character must negotiate the new world and come to grips with the challenge she faces; and the end in which your character faces the ultimate test.