Whenever I kick around ideas for a plot, I take key elements and mentally rub them together, to see what sparks are produced. As Bruce Springsteen sang: “You can’t start a fire without a spark.”
For a story to be successful, there needs to be conflict, opposition, uncertainty, some struggle the protagonist faces that will engage the interest of the reader. The conflict can be caused by others or be internal or caused by forces of nature. Think how boring a book would be if everything went right for the hero.
My current WIP Kissing & Killing has a main storyline of mercenary killers hired to murder high-profile big game hunters. They leave the crime scene awash with blood, ten gallons of it brought with them. They ‘sign’ their work with the victim’s amputated hand dipped in blood, leaving a print on the door of the room where they died. The reason for the murders is political, not altruistic, paid for by an African province declaring independence and wanting to retain control of the wildlife on its land.
Subplots involve an arsonist setting fire to farm barns and a gold digger seeking a rich older man to marry. I intend to create sparks by thrusting the subplots into the main plot.
Inspiration for the principal storyline came from three sources:
1) Seeing protests by Extinction Rebellion, where fake blood was poured.
2) Photographs of big game hunters posing with trophy animals they’d shot.
3) Coming across a photo of a slave staring at his five-year-old daughter’s amputated hand and foot, removed to punish him not meeting rubber plantation production quotas.
(View at your own risk. This Image of A Slave Father Looking At His Daughter’s Severed Hand And Foot Has Haunted Generations)
What sparked your stories into life?