By Gail Gaymer Martin

Brainstorming ideas can work wonders for plots and scenes. When tossing ideas into the “hat” nothing is too silly, because even the goofy idea can trigger another great possibility. One method of brainstorming that digs more deeply into a situation is using questions to provoke new possibilities for story conflict.

Once you have a basic plot idea, then questions can provide what you need. First take your basic story problem: Jim is offered a new job in a new city.

Your first question is should he accept this offer, and if he does, how will it affect the plot? Once you have the basic problem, then you can expand on other conflicts that can result from his decision.

Just as you would in real life, questions arise. In this case, one of the first questions is the location of the new job.
• Does he want to move?
• Does the new location appeal to him?
• If so, what are the pros and cons of this new city?
• Will the benefit of the newposition be worth the stress of the move?

Another question might have to do with the job requirements and how will they affect his life.
• What are the job requirements?
• Does he have these requirement to be excellent in his work?
• Will the job bring more money or prestige?
• Is the responsibility greater in this job than his present position?
• Can he handle the added responsibility and stress?
• Does this job require more travel?

The next realistic concern is regarding his home life.
• How will this move and new position affect his family?
• What is his wife’s attitude about the move?
• Will his wife have to give up a career or give up her job?
• Can she handle the stress of this life change?

Other questions that might come up regarding the new job position might be:
• Will his wife’s wages be lost and will his raise recuperate her wage loss?
• Will she be expected to become a hostess for events involving his new position?
• Does she have this skill and is she willing?
• Will she lose time with husband with his new position?
Next you can add the children’s issues, such as: changing schools, making new friends, finding new places to take their music lessons. Does the educational system compare in good favor to the character’s present home environment?

Obviously, each scenario for your plot will result in different questions, but before you brainstorm look at things like location, stress factors, requirements, home life, friendships, and a variety of other topics that you can pursue as you ask questions.

The trick is to take the basic conflict and then break it into smaller parts, asking yourself what other conflicts can result. Once you have numerous conflicts, decide which is the easiest to resolve and let that be your first plot conflict. Put them in order from lesser to the most dramatic, and build your plot line from there.

Multi-award-winning novelist, Gail Gaymer Martin writes Christian fiction for Love Inspired and has written for Barbour Publishing, where she was honored by Heartsong readers as their Favorite Author of 2008. Gail has fifty contracted novels with over three million books in print. She is the author of Writers Digest’s Writing the Christian Romance. Gail is a co-founder of American Christian Fiction Writers, a keynote speaker at churches, libraries and civic organizations  and presents workshops at conference across the US. She was named one of the four best novelists in the Detroit area by CBS local news. She lives with her husband in a northwest Detroit suburb. Visit her website at

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