best seller plots

by joe sixpak
(usa )

Question: How can I come up with a really new and good concept for a very high concept plot that will become a best seller. I need a way to be creative and also to realise the answer when I get it so I stop looking and start writing.

Answer: Step one is to come up with a really new and good concept for a very high concept plot that will become a best seller.

Seriously though, if there were a guaranteed answer to this question, we'd all be a lot wealthier.

Some things you can do...

1) Genre fiction generally sells better than literary or mainstream fiction, because it has a pre-selected readership. So sample different genres and find out which one you love enough to want to write.

2) Read a lot. Be familiar with the genre you want to write in -- whether that's thriller, romance, mystery, or science fiction. Especially read best sellers and award winners. You want to keep your finger on the pulse of what readers want. Read best sellers in other genres too, because cross genre stories are also popular.

3) Don't just read. Analyze. Figure out what makes certain books bestsellers by looking at style, plot structure, main characters, etc.

4) Obviously you want an original premise, which may be a twist on the premise of a previous bestseller or an interesting combination of two story ideas. A famous example is
the premise for the film Alien, which was "Jaws in space," a translation of one bestselling idea into another genre. Or your premise may be based on subject matter that hasn't been done before but could be fitted to an existing genre.

5) Try writing loglines that summarize your ideas in one or two sentences. For example, you can use this formula...

Following (an event that changes everything), a
(sympathetic character with a unique flaw or trait) tries to (achieve a goal or resolve a problem) by (a certain plan of action) in order to prevent (something bad happening). This becomes increasingly difficult because (obstacle or complication).

Some examples:
The Fugitive
After being wrongly convicted of murdering his wife, a dedicated surgeon attempts to clear his name by escaping custody, hunting down the real killer, and finding proof of who framed him and why. All the while, he is relentlessly pursued by a police officer who is determined to take him back to jail to be executed.

After winning passage on the Titanic, a vagabond artist risks everything to help an impoverished, upper-class woman find the courage to reject her abusive, millionaire fiance and pursue a more meaningful life. The challenge intensifies when a collision with an iceberg threatens to kill them all.

You can then evaluate your loglines, show them to people, and see which ones strike everyone as the most interesting or emotionally grabbing.

Best of luck.

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thanks !
by: joe sixpak

Thanks! That much I understand.

I guess what I really need is a process to be creative. EG Mindmapping is nice but does not seem to be complete. Ditto other so called creativity methods I have found.

Perhaps two processes. One aimed at coming up with the initial idea. Even an AI program that spits out plots by the millions that I could scan and find something to run with. Sort of an automated PLOTTO on steroids.

And a second process to most efficiently sketch out the plot. After that the writing is IMHO easy peasie. An AI program that kept prompting me with questions that I could answer and then show me the results while letting me go back and tweak until I had a good result to start writing would be a big time saver and also save a lot of manual rework.

I won't ask for a program that writes the entire novel as was the plot of a SF story I read in the 50s where every writer was scrambling to be able to buy the lastest and greatest program so they could sell their work in the very competitive marketplace. Turns out the guy cleaning their clocks was using a typewriter not a computer program. :)

by: Glen

1. For idea generation, you have two main sources. One is to use a randomizing tool to give you a starting point. The idea is to give yourself a little structure based on random elements. For instance, you might pick three words at random from a dictionary, take a random photo from a magazine, roll Story Cubes (, draw a few tarot cards, etc. Then write a story incorporating the ideas from the random elements. This can work well because, as human beings, we have a natural instinct to try to make sense of random things by fitting them into a pattern.

The other source for ideas is your own experience, particularly experiences that you have emotions around. You might start by brainstorming lists of such experiences. Then choose the ones you find interesting and a) exaggerate them to make the emotions even stronger and b) imagine them happening to other people -- people who may have even more at stake.

2. For plot generation, there are a number of software packages that will do this for you. Most of them are rather formulaic. If you're going to use them, you have to be willing to see them as a starting point not a straightjacket.

For a simple approach, I recommend the W-plot, which gives you a very easy way to outline an entire story (

Dramatica, both the software ( and the theory itself are pretty powerful, but the learning curve is very steep and you have to be careful to not get lost in the theory and stop writing.

Best of luck

by: joe sixpak

Thanks. I have looked at dramatica and like the idea as I am a computer oriented person, but the first time it did not make sense.

I will look at it again and see if I can grok what they are trying to do.


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