artist-versus-poet asked: What do you do when you have characters but no setting, plot, or antagonist? I have severe writers block.The first thing I would do is try to figure out who my protagonist is. I would start by writing down the name of each character and then listing out the following for each one:
- who they are
- what they’re like
- what they do
- what’s unique about them
- what are their hopes and fears
- what is most important to them
Look back at the list and see who strikes you as the most interesting. This is a good candidate for your protagonist. Next, you’ll want to figure out a plot. Look back at the protagonist’s list and see what’s most important to them along with what their hopes and fears are. These can be used as stakes in the story. Perhaps what’s most important to your protagonist is their job—so a good potential plot would be having something happen to the job. Perhaps they get fired, demoted, transferred, get a new boss, or the company changes hands. Look at the rest of the list to figure out things that could be used to drive the story forward or that will work as points of tension or defeat.
Finally, you need to look at your plot and figure out what roles need to be filled. For the example we’ll go with the new boss plot. Do we want the new boss to be the antagonist? Look back at your list and see if any of your characters would fit the role of an evil boss. If not, create a new character to fill the role. You’ll probably need at least a couple of co-workers, maybe a best friend or love interest, and perhaps some family or non-work friends. Plug the characters into the roles they fit best, and don’t be afraid to tweak things on both ends.
If you still feel stuck after all of that, sit down with a nice cup of tea or coffee and read the following past posts along with the articles linked in them:
One Little Spark of Inspiration
Brainstorming for Ideas
Figuring Out a Plot
How to Develop a Plot
Turning Ideas into a Story