artist-versus-poet asked: I really want to write. I can come up with great scenes, but I have no plot. I can’t think of any motivations or conflict. What am I not doing? How can I write an actual story instead of random scenes that are unrelated?What you’re not doing is understanding how stories are written, but I can help you with that.
Many new writers suffer from the myth that stories happen because a writer sat down at their computer, poised their fingers on the keyboard, and spent the next several hours typing out the next Harry Potter.
This is a myth.
That is not how storytelling happens.
Storytelling is hard. Most writers can’t pull a full-fledged, complicated plot out of their imagination at the drop of a hat. Storytelling takes time, planning, and lots of trial and error.
What you need to do is understand that those great scenes that come to you are the seeds from which your stories will emerge. As a writer, it is your job to feed and water those seeds to see if something blooms from them. Very often nothing will grow. Or, you might get a little green shoot which looks promising, only to find that it wilts and dies. This is normal. This is part of the process. But your job as a storyteller is to not give up, and to keep planting those seeds and lovingly cultivating them until you find the one that grows into a bushy, colorful, beautiful story.
So, sit down and write out one of those great scenes and see where it goes. Don’t worry about plot right now. If this particular great scene has a story in it somewhere, you will get there just by following it to see where it goes. Write until you hit a wall and then see if you can find a way around the wall. Think of unusual situations to put the character into. Think of random people to drop into their path. Ask yourself, “What would happen if this character saw a car accident? Would they jump in and help? What would happen if someone they were attracted to invited them out for coffee? What would happen if they won the lottery, or if they got fired from their job? What if they saw an alien spaceship land or woke up in the middle of a zombie invasion? What if they went to their hot neighbor’s house to borrow some ketchup and inadvertently discovered they were a vampire?”
Put your character through all the crazy situations you can stand to put them through. If nothing sticks, this one’s a dud, and that’s okay. You move onto the next great scene and see what comes of that. You do this over and over again until finally something does stick, and before your eyes an inkling of a plot begins to emerge. So then you sit down and you flesh that plot out. You figure out what your character wants and why and what they’ll do to get it. You figure out what’s the worst that can happen if they fail, and what’s the best that can happen if they succeed. Then you figure out your setting and the other characters, and then you get to work on your first draft—a draft which no one will see but you, which is going to be far from perfect. But you write it all out and then you go back and revise it and make it better. And you do that three or four more times until it’s perfect.
That is how stories are born.