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There are some books out there with titles like "20 Master Plots" and such. The number varies, but supposedly there are a limited number of plots and all stories fit into one of the categories. If I'm stuck for a plot, it helps me to leaf through a list like this and pick one that seems most appropriate to my idea. Then I force myself to write it. One of two things happens. I rebel and think of a better plot or I finish the story as planned. Both are okay.


Steve Stirling once said, "Writing a short story is like trying to cram a cat into a Coke bottle without hurting either one." It ain't easy.

One thing might be to try thinking of the story as a TV show. You've only got an hour (or even just half an hour) to tell the story. What happens? Okay. What happens next?

Or try writing about the character interacting with her environment. She's wandering through the hyrdroponics garden smelling the flowers and wondering about her grandmother and thinking how nice it would be if she could go up to the surface to see the sun and . . . Maybe a plot will surface. In other words, write about the character without worrying about the plot and see what happens.


Another way to go is read more short stories. There's loads of anthologies out there these days, as well as the magazines. Reading will help you absorb the story structure and get your idea muscles reconfigured to handle the differences.

Another reason is sooner or later, you'll come across something you really can't stand. It's amazing how many stories I've done that were written after reading something and mentally saying "What! That's ridiculous! That's really stupid! The way it would _really_ happen is..." and I'm off again.

Steven is currently writing a very successful series based on this sort of frustration.


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