Spin a Plot from One Story Element

image by Finmiki

Are your story ideas starting to sound alike? Have your stories become the same plot with fill-in-the-blanks for such elements as:

  • character’s career,
  • the opening line,
  • the props, and
  • the title?

What if you could start with one story element that’s clever, quirky, funny, and/or mysterious—something that is so fresh that it’ll lead you into a reader-grabbing plot?

To show you what I mean, I’ll give examples from my experience.

Character’s Career


I majored in math, but never planned to become an actuary. But once in the profession, people drawn to the career fascinated me. People outside the department didn’t understand actuaries, so the jokes and jibes about actuaries’ peculiarities spread. Over the years, I collected jokes and amusing true-life stories about actuaries from my own observations.

I wanted to write a novel that centered on an actuary. So, I pulled together the truths, quirks, social phenomena, and funny situations I’d learned concerning actuaries. I wrote the love story between a male actuary and a woman his extreme opposite—a marketing rep. What I knew about actuaries wrote the story for me—the plot and the conflicts. I didn’t include all the jokes and idiosyncrasies I’d collected, but they helped me know how my private, introverted, analytical actuary would act and react in the kinds of circumstances the guy would fall into.

This novel was my first published novel, Calculated Risk.

Opening Line


image by OpenClipart-Vectors

While daydreaming, an opening line flashed. With the many interruptions to her already loaded schedule, when would she find the time to kill Rita? I entered it in an opening-line contest, and it won. I subsequently wrote, “Plotting Murder,” and Christian Fiction Online Magazine published the short story. Because I focused the plot and characters on that line, it forced me to construct something unique and mysterious to keep my audience guessing until the end about why a housewife would have this unique problem.



image by geralt

Researching an idea for a romantic suspense story, I discovered a company that makes lifelike silicon masks that are exact replicas of people. I wrote a story about criminals manufacturing these masks. They sold the service of performing damaging actions while wearing the masks that would ruin or setup lucrative blackmail situations against politicians, CEOs, celebrities, and the like.

Another suspense idea came from authentic actuarial data I’d mined concerning multiple births. I used the phenomenon I’d uncovered in a story about a criminal ring headed by an obstetrician.

Although the rejection letters I received complimented my story ideas, I had not yet learned to write well.


In another daydreaming instance, O. Henry’s title “Gift of the Magi” entered my thoughts. Immediately, magpie inserted itself. I wondered what a story titled, “Gift of the Magpie,” would be about. After brainstorming what the magpie could be other than a bird and a storyline different than O. Henry’s, I wrote a short story. The plot grew and demanded to be a book. My second inspirational romance, Gift of the Magpie, releases mid August.

Write a unique story starting with a clever, quirky, or mysterious story element. Click to tweet.

What story element have you centered an engaging story around?

How to Write Your Next Novel with Point and Click

“There are no shortcuts in life – only those we imagine.” —Frank Leahy


file0001423771801.jpgHave you sunk over a thousand hours into a manuscript and sent out a proposal? Did letters dribble back with rejections? Or do you dread starting your next contracted book?

I watched a video on how to create a flyer. The woman point-and-clicked a tasteful bake sale flyer in about 3 minutes. So why not a novel?


    • Instead of sinking 1000 hours into your next novel, what if you could point-and-click it done?
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    • Write a novel in 3 hours using the new software: Point & Click a Novel (P&CAN)?
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Step 1:  Go to SETUP. Click on Audience. Point and click.

o   Women < 40

o   Women > 40

o   Women = 40

o   Teens going on 40

o   Men

o   Horse lovers


Step 2:  Return to SETUP. Click on Genre. Point and click.

o   Funny

o   Serious

o   Scary

o   Car chases and Uzi battles

o   Horse adventures (Dog & cat capers available in P&CAN’s premium version.)

Step 3:  Return to SETUP. Click on Length. Point and click.

o   Comic book

o   Short story

o   Novella

o   Novel

o   War & Peace 

Step 4:  Go to RULES. Click on one for each rule.

file0001403772284o   1__ Heroine’s point of view; 2__ Head hop;  3__Mustang’s point of view

o   1__ Ban adverbs;  2__Ban –ly adverbs;  3__Freely use very, really, and quite

o   1__Show 5 senses;  2__No touchy-feely;  3__No tasteless characters

o   1__Sprinkle clichés;  2__Use manicured lawn in settings;  3__Use proverbial often

file000529187082Step 5:  Go to TITLES. Click on option.

o   One-word name, computer-generated from most popular first names.

o   Find the perfect horse moniker here.

o   Type in 3 words repeated often in the story. 1_____ 2_____ 3_____ (P&CAN will supply a title using all 3.)

o   Title meaningless to the story but sounds great. (P&CAN guarantees the publisher won’t change this title.)

Step 6:  Go to THEME. Choose and click.

o   A rogue learns to be nice, or at least nicer.

o   Aliens conquer transformers on the prairie and save the palominos.

o   Count Duke marries Lord Earl’s niece to prevent a land war.

o   Bad teen grows up, comes home, and finds himself.

o   Good teen grows up, leaves home, and finds his long-lost preschool love.

o   Murder stumps detective until he suspects his femme-fatale partner.

Step 7:  Go to SAGGING MIDDLE FILLER. Choose and click.

o   Heroine and chum catch up on events since 4-H club.

o   Hero learns how to shoe a bucking bronco.

o   Hero and heroine exchange letters while he makes his fortune on an oil rig.

o   Uzi shootouts between camouflaged big-game hunters and aerobic ladies clad in paisley tights.

Step 8:  Go to ENDINGS. Choose and click.

file0001168107757o   Boy gets girl (Variation: Girl gets boy)

o   Depressing but realistic

o   Happy trails

o   Cliff hanger

o   Hero walks away unscathed from a car pile-up and collars the identify thief

Step 9:   Go to Submit. Click. You should receive your novel in less than 2.5 hours.



  • Lighten your perspective on writing and keep on plugging.
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When the size of your new project sometimes outweighs your love of writing, how do you handle it?