How do you plan a story?

How do you go about planning your story, from choosing names, picturing outfits and styles, talking patterns, accents, planning events and both big and small details about the world / characters / the plot, and anything else you might need?

Do you have a certain method? An outline you customise to your novel? A process you copy from your favourite author?

I’m trying to plan a story and as someone who doesn’t actually plan (I just picture a couple of scenes that make me want to write and then jump in) I don’t really know where to start. I’ve written down what I know I want to include so far, but that’s all stuff that stays in my head and has been there for months. I don’t have names for any of the characters yet, or the places, though it’s probably going to be an urban fantasy, set in the 17-1800s at sea so I know I’ll have to be doing some research about those times some more while writing.

As for actually plotting it in some kind of order and working out the climax and consequences and all the character motivations around the MC, I don’t fully know where to start so if you want to share how you go about this big task, I’d love to know what you prefer to do to figure out your stories instead of winging them like I normally do :joy: and I have a wiki-page of fictional pirate names as inspiration for that, which I want to look closer at today since I only found it last night and was about to go to bed.

Any advice or recommendations are welcomed! :slight_smile:


I don’t. I just go with the flow.

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I don’t…

I have a singular idea, and I just write and see where it takes me. After a few chapters I’m kind of in the part where I see Backstory being a thing, and I build some of that… Then I just go forth with the tale… People just pop up, and their interactions, accent’s, looks and such just seem to become a part of their dwellings and customs of that local.

Same with world building… I have a starting point (area of land) and as the tale moves across the unknown map, I write it. Then I just add the next piece of land like a jigsaw, one piece at a time until I have a vast land. If I think of something in another area that I have not written then I join it “Jigsaw” style as that piece becomes part of the adventure…

That’s all I have…



That’s what I normally do, but I want to try and see if planning helps me with this idea that is more of an adventure than a linear story

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I am writing down notes for world-building Alagossia.
But that is all that I am doing.

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That is normally how I write, crossing bridges as I come across them and letting things happen naturally lol. It works better for my brain, keeping me interested as I basically tell myself the story.

I just thought it might be fun to try planning the characters I know will join the ship crew to help me keep track and think of how to introduce everyone, that type of thing.


Keeping track of everything with notes is always good! Though in the past I don’t even do that, I just remember everything in my head lol.

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I do almost everything on a whim.


ALWAYS HERE SISTER! Hahahahahaha! :smiley: :smiley: :smiley:


That never works for me that is, but for some it may… I find that as I write into another area/settlement that I know my MC’s will be interacting with others. And I just let those Others just fall into place. I usually give them names like Bob and Sue at first, the kind of names that I can edit out and replace with fitting names.

This included the Inn owner at Dade (Chapter 2 of The Endurlon) I called him Dave for reasons I will omit here, but in time I did change that to Will Hatton… It just felt right, and it stuck too… Gedrid did indeed ask after Old Hatton who became the Grandfather of Will in that such conversation…

Now, if we are to talk about names and local’s… I believe @Qualeshia12 has a thread for that… And a good thread at that, when I last looked in on it…



Those are some good names! I always feel so bad at choosing names and take a long time to find one that will fit :joy:

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This will come with time… You see Dade is a small settlement which thrives on the Reed Beds in the slow moving Marshes to the south, and their main trade is in Thatching of Roof’s. So it seemed fitting that the folk there would have very much earthly names like Hatton and Boorstag…

You need to feel the land and peoples living together, their trades and their humble lives also, and when you do, it will all feel fluidly plausible when decoding their “Little World” and their comforts that matter…

And as such the names will follow…



Create a general list of what I would like to happen in a story, draft a somewhat coherent path between those points (and add more in as I think of them), and make a forlorn attempt to cover any glaring plot-holes or character inconsistencies. Then lots of editing.

Every writer needs to have a built-in shock-proof BS detector ~ Hemingway.

But my first two novels were just random writing and adding in scenes / references to my favourite movies, TV shows, novels, or sometimes personal experiences (related memories). And also LOTS of editing.

Oh and a relevant video…


That’s genuinely some good advice, thanks! You sharing a bit about your story and why those names work helps to make sense of what your saying. I’ll try to remember that!

Yeah, that is a very relevant video, I’ve been struggling for a bit on what I want to write and why, and I think I’ve been thinking too much on that and I need to just get back into the writing bit. I have a few hundred words started for this story but haven’t been able to sot and focus on it again yet, but other than just writing what I know and researching things I need when I need them, since this type of story is out of my comfort zone I think having some notes or some kind of plan even if it isn’t detailed will help me keep track of the end goal for the MC and all the side characters, and to keep things chronological lol, I think I might easily get mixed up if I’m not too careful :joy:

I think drawing from things you loved and are inspired from is a good way to build up your own project because you’re sharing things you love, things made you feel something or made you laugh/cry/think. As long as you don’t just copy and paste and actually reference it in your own way that is lol.

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Click this link. Scroll down to the Major Arcana spreads. Now choose one that fits the themes that you want to explore in your story.


I truly believe that if I could plan out a detailed outline, the writing would come so easy. I’ve never been able to do that, though. I get an outline together for several chapters, and then I don’t know how to proceed because the plot could go in any number of ways from that point.

So I have to start actually writing the book before I can go any further, then when I get to that point where the outline runs out, I finally know what direction to take it. Then I have to start outlining again from that point, but can only plan for a few more chapters. So I outline and pants, outline and pants, but eventually get the book done that way. ٩(˘◡˘)۶

Something that helps me is making a timeline of events that need to have happened in that world in order for the story to make sense. A history of the country, as it were. I also make a separate list of things I’d like to have happen to my characters, and try to arrange those things in the order that seems most logical right now.

And yup! I take copious notes of everything. I look up names of characters from books that were actually written during that time period. A good source is the Wikipedia page for any book of that period. Names of authors and names of their characters are always useful for knowing what was a common name back then.

For medieval names, there’s a whole site devoted to that:

I wish every time period had a site like this! It would make it so much easier. ¯\_(ﭢ)_/¯


A TL;DR of my first novel construction strategy…


Sometimes plotting out movies you like to figure out their structure but adding in your own plot points is very helpful as well. I plotted a movie and I got 15 plot points from it. It’s workable into your own story points if you really need one.