Here’s the simple plan: Take any idea and then turn it upside down and shake it inside out.
Try these two exercises and you’ll be off and running with new ideas of how to create conflict in your stories.
Write down the the best thing that you’d like to have happen to you. Fix that event in your mind. Now imagine the worst thing that could come from that wonderful experience.
For example, if you thought the best thing would be winning the lottery, then you might imagine that someone else steals or forges the winning ticket before you can claim your prize; or a stalker targets you and the media will never leave you alone after you become rich. If you thought about falling in love with the man or woman of your dreams, then imagine how that person might turn out to be a serial killer or someone who routinely cheats the elderly out of their pension checks. See? Instant conflict! Ack!
Write down your worst nightmare: the event that you believe would ruin your life. Now, imagine a good thing that could come out of that horrible event.
For example, my worst fear is that I will ruin someone else’s life in a dramatic and horrific way, say, by killing someone’s baby in a car accident in which I am at fault. (I am an excellent driver, BTW, and I haven’t been in any accident since I was a teenager, maybe because this has always been my worst fear.) But what if it did happen? What’s the best thing that could come of such a horrible event? Maybe I’d go on to dedicate my life to children in need. Maybe I’d become best friends with the baby’s mother out of shared guilt. Maybe I’d suddenly be able to communicate with ghosts and see angels.
You see where I’m going with these exercises? This flip-flop of good and bad is an easy way to conjure up unexpected situations and make your stories richer and less predictable. At the very least, it’ll jog you out of your rut.
These are great exercises to do in any writing group, and to share. If you brainstorm each situation with other writers, I guarantee you’ll come up with a variety of interesting, unpredictable scenarios and plot lines. Happy writing!