It’s easy to come up with lots of interesting ideas. It’s much harder to take those good ideas and turn them into a story with a plot. One way to help turn a good idea into a plot is to identify the People, Places, and Things that are absolutely necessary in your story.
For example, “Alien” is about a monster killing crew members one by one in a spaceship. So right away, the People of this story defines the monster and multiple crew members.
The Places in “Alien” define where the monster is found (on the surface of a strange planet) and the spaceship.
Unlike some stories, there is no one Thing absolutely needed in “Alien.”
Once you identify the People, Places, and Things absolutely necessary for your story, you now know that you need conflict getting to each Person, Place, or Thing.
In “Alien,” there’s conflict between the crew members and the alien, but there’s also conflict between the different crew members as well.
The Places define where that conflict takes place. In “Alien,” this occurs on the strange planet and in the spaceship.
People, Places, and Things define where conflict takes place and also gives your story a goal to reach certain People, Places, or Things.
In “Pulp Fiction,” one Thing that everyone’s after is the mysterious suitcase filled with valuables. This suitcase is what the two hit men retrieve after killing the four young men in their apartment, and this suitcase is also what the hit men protect during the robbery in the coffee shop.
In “The Maltese Falcon,” the Thing everyone’s after is the Maltese Falcon. The Thing creates conflict because multiple people want the Thing and need to struggle to find the Thing so they can possess it.
Pick any idea for a story and start thinking about the necessary People, Places, and Things you’ll need, and this immediately gives you a rough framework of your story world.
Think of a story like “Avengers: Endgame.” The People include the superheroes and the villain (Thanos), the Places include all the areas where the infinity stones were located, and the Things are the infinity stones that the superheroes want to retrieve.
By identifying the People, Places, and Things in any story, you immediately have an idea that the characters must struggle to meet each person, get to each place, or retrieve each thing.
Every story is about certain People, Places, and Things. In “Titanic,” the Place is an ocean liner. Simply replace the People with different characters and you can literally change the entire story if these People have different types of goals.
Every story has a unique combination of People, Places, and Things. Find what’s unique in your story and you’ll have a huge head start on creating a story around the People, Places, and Things needed for your story world.