Use journaling to develop plots for stories

One good way to come up with plot ideas is to journal about your personal problem.

While journaling about an issue is a worthy writing exercise simply for catharsis, modifying how you journal later can offer the side benefit of plot generator. That’s because as a human being you’re doing exactly what a character does: faces a dilemma and seeks to solve it.

To do this, when journaling start with self-exploration aimed at defining or pinpointing the core problem. For example, if you just broke up with your significant other, the problem isn’t really that you miss him/her; that’s just a symptom of something deeper. At the core, the issue may be that you need to feel validated by the presence of another person, which your boyfriend/girlfriend despite his or her foibles, sort of did. Recognizing and accepting an inner flaw or need often is a key aspect of a character wending through a plot.

As the days pass, list and describe solutions you have for dealing with this core problem. One possibility might be landing a new boyfriend/girlfriend to find validation. Another solution might be to reconnect with old friends and family to ease the loneliness. A third solution could be to participate in an activity you’ve always wanted to do – say skydiving – to gain inner confidence.

Not all of these solutions are equal, as you’ll probably discover in real life. So also journal about which ones succeed and fail, and of why each did so. You likely found that quickly jumping into a new relationship initially provided a good feeling but in the end only left you with the same issues that you had with your ex. Reconnecting with friends and family probably helped in the healing process, as you surprisingly found others considered you a worthy person, but it still may have left you feeling lonely for a special someone to spend your free time with. Engaging in a new activity, however, likely left you feeling stronger about yourself and even believing, if only briefly, that true validation always must arise from within and not be bestowed upon you.

The result? By journaling in real life you found clarity and grew emotionally. Months or years later, when you’re a slightly different person, the experience you worked through can be the basis for a fictional character who faces the same problem and arrives at the same solution as did.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.