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Random Plot Generators or Another Way to Stave Off Writer’s Block

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Clint Eastwood - Random Plot Generator - Novel Conclusions - writing blog - writing tips - Christi Gerstle - plot scenario generator

Every Which Way But Loose via Google Images

Today, let’s take a moment to appreciate the awesomeness and hilarity of random plot generators.  Picture this:  You stare at the blank page, and the blank page stares right back atcha.  After some time of this, you finally give in to work with some writing prompts.  However, you won’t work with just any writing prompts, you will use the fantastic random plot generators that pop up frequently in out of the way spots on the interwebs.

Random plot generators often get a bad rap for throwing out crazy, unrealistic plot ideas, but they can definitely help stave off writer’s block.  Although I can’t find the original source (sorry, y’all, Google let me down on this one) for matching this movie to this plot generator, Wikipedia tells us about an example from a retired version of The Official Movie Plot Generator, which has three vertical boxes, the first of which identifies a specific type of protagonist:

“A trucker who doesn’t play by the rules.” The middle box specifies a specific action on the part of the protagonist– “bareknuckle fights for money.” The bottom box specifies a specific type of antagonist, “accompanied by a mischievous orangutan.” By piecing these three elements together, the user obtains the odd sentence, “A trucker who doesn’t play by the rules bareknuckle fights for money, accompanied by a mischievous orangutan.” This plot sounds absurd, and it is — but it is also the plot of a movie starring Clint Eastwood — Every Which Way but Loose.

There are not only some really fun random plot generators out there in every genre you can imagine (such as this plot scenario generator, this genre plot generator, and this more creatively designed science fiction plot generator); character quirk generators exist, too.  Check out a fun example of character quirks from the character generator at Archetype Writing:

Your character is female.
One of your character’s cardinal traits is charisma.
The character’s greatest weakness is a fear of snakes.
The character’s most prized possession is a coin from the Roman Empire.

What do you all think of random plot generators?  Are they an amusing waste of time?  Or can they prompt actual, helpful ideas?

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About Christi

Writing in SoCal.

20 responses

  1. That was fun! And, it’s a great way to distract yourself and work through that sense of restlessness when the words won’t flow. I’ll be tinkering with this one in the future–thank you!

  2. I’ve never used a random plot generator but I enjoy using pinterest in a similar idea starting fashion. I randomly click on a topic and then search the first page for inspiration. Usually it’s helpful but sometimes I end up caught in pinterest forever because I’m being too picky.

    • It’s so easy to get caught in pinterest going from idea to idea, especially when you get caught up in a fun (but not productive) tangent. I’ve looked at pinterest for setting ideas but never specifically for plot; I’ll have to try that out.

  3. Could it also be that as you move forward in the plot, you start envisioning several end game options? Could it be that you see the end in a dream? Could it be that the end could depend on what triggers we carry in our minds at that point in time?

    Loved the post…

    Shakti

  4. As usual, I’m a step behind. I hadn’t even heard of such a thing. Thankfully, so far I haven’t felt I needed one. Hope I didn’t just jinx myself…

  5. This NPR interview with the authors of the plot generator book might be your source: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=3499032

  6. I think they can be fun and if you’re truly blocked then it sure couldn’t hurt. 🙂

  7. I had never heard of the concept and now I’m dying to try it out 🙂 Thanks.

  8. Christi,

    I have seen quite a few books come out of similar writer’s promots that I threw together for writer workshops. A couple even got published. It is amazing to see writers take the same prompt and end up with stories so different.

    Kathy
    PS: Thanks for following my blog.

    • I always loved seeing the way a group of writers could come up with so many different, unique pieces from the same writing prompt. Thanks for stopping by, Kathy!

  9. A plot….now there is a novel idea.

  10. they are fun if for no other reason to get the brain thinking. The often ridiculous ideas that they will pull are good as creative jumper cables

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