Writers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for authors, editors, reviewers, professional writers, and aspiring writers. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'm in a long and painful recovery from many years of writer's block. Coming up with even quite simple story ideas costs me unreasonable amount of effort. Sometimes inspiration is generous and I'm able to sketch a catchy main plot from time to time.

But that is not quite enough - I should give my story some secondary threads. And by then my imagination runs dry. I need a bunch of simple, classic plot hooks. Stuff like "Revenge after years", "Recovery from soul-crushing experience", "damsel in distress appears to be the monster". Nothing overly complex, just bare bones.

Specifically, I'm not asking you "what to write" - I'm asking where to find a bunch of this kind of stuff. Is there a subcategory of TVTropes listing that? Is there a kind of generic "Random Adventure generator" geared more towards writers than RPG players? Some guide to plot hooks?

share|improve this question
Yup. Here's the TVTtropes 'daily' dose. See you in ten earthly days ;) Pay attention to info-box on the right of the page. – Mussri Jan 15 '13 at 20:25
The weekly chat on tuesdays on this site might also spark something for you; check it out! – Neil Fein Jan 15 '13 at 21:06
up vote 3 down vote accepted

George Polti, a French writer, concocted a list that, arguably, contains every dramatic situation possible. His list has 36 situations. Although it's quite general, it may provide clarity.

share|improve this answer

1) Character drives plot.

Go back to your character sheets, or cook up a few secondaries, and see what their backstories tell you.

I've seen J. Michael Straczynski credited with:

Conflict is made up of three things: What does your character want? What will they do to get it? What will someone do to stop them?

So look into the backstories of your characters and find out something they might want but haven't been able to get, and determine why. That will generate plot ideas which are more organic to your story than anything TVTropes will be able to churn up. (Not that TVTropes isn't outstanding at that kind of thing.)

2) The Hero's Journey.

Oldest narrative hook in the business. If you can't find even a minor plot bunny in there somewhere, your story needs more help than we can give you. There's even a book if you need it. See also Joseph Campbell's Hero With a Thousand Faces, but that's becoming procrastination more than research.

3) Pulp fiction. No, bear with me.

John Rogers, mastermind of the late and much lamented Leverage, is greatly fond of pulp, in the classic sense — those dime-a-dozen novels which were churned out in the '50s and '60s, with formulaic but rat-a-tat-tat action and snappy banter. You can consume a whole book in one train ride (but you can't eat just one). He recommends the Lester Dent Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot. I cannot recommend this personally, but I pass it on because it certainly sounds like you could mine it for resources.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.