My Sisters in Crime chapter had a plotting party for our annual (before the) holiday get-together. Everybody brought ideas or stories they were working on, and we brainstormed as a group. We had fun, fellowship, and food (and lots of chocolate). Here's what I learned...
1. Always have chocolate when you're plotting your story!
2. When you start to plot a book or short story, start with a character and his or her motivations. why would he/she do something?
3. Give all of your characters a quirk or some unique feature that makes them memorable.
4. Tame the number of characters. You don't want to confuse your readers.
5. For mysteries, hide clues in plain site.
6. Name your characters names with different first letters. Make sure that you don't have sound-alikes like Chris, Kristine, and Crissy.
7. Don't reveal everything to your readers at once.
8. Everything in your plot needs to advance the story. If it doesn't, it needs to be cut.
9. Your characters need to be at a crossroad in the story from time to time. They'll have to make decisions.
10. If you get stuck, relax and do something else. Your subconscious mind will help you guide your characters. You'll come up with where the story needs to go.
11. Your sleuth needs to be in jeopardy. There needs to be conflict.
I've never been to a plot party before, and I learned a lot about how others' write and organize their work. Writing is usually a solitary sport, so it was fun to get together with other writers.