Everyone can come up with a great idea for a story. The hard part is taking that great idea and turning it into a believable plot. The same idea can spawn two completely different stories. Look at the difference between “Jaws” and “Jaws 4” to see how the same idea (a shark attacking people) can be implemented in completely different ways.
Once you have a story idea, immediately identify the People and Places unique to your particular idea. For example, “Legally Blonde” is about a ‘dumb’ blonde who follows her boyfriend to law school. This immediately defines the People and Places that must be part of the story.
People: Law professors, students
Places: Law school, a court, a college campus
Once you know the basic people and places your story idea needs, use those People and Places to create goals and obstacles for your hero. In “Legally Blonde,” the hero must go to law school, so her first goal is to get accepted into law school. The obstacle is that she must convince the school that she’s smart enough.
Once she gets into law school, she must meet her law professors in class and her first goal is to pass her classes. The obstacle is that she’s unprepared and the law professors are strict.
In “Star Wars,” the story idea is about a farm boy saving the galaxy from an evil empire, so that defines the following People and Places:
People: Farm hands, enemy soldiers
Places: Starships, other planets
In “Star Wars,” the hero (Luke) must get off his planet so his goal is to get a starship. The obstacle is that he can’t fly one and he needs money to hire a pilot to fly him off the planet. Once on a starship, Luke’s next goal is to get to Princess Leia’s planet, but his obstacles are the stormtroopers trying to stop him from taking off and the TIE fighters trying to shoot him down once he does take off.
By simply identifying the necessary People and Places in any story idea, you can immediately start plotting your story idea. The details may be vague but using People and Places can help give you a definite direction so all you need to do is define the details.
Without identifying People and Places of your story idea and how they create goals and obstacles, your risk flailing with a story that goes down numerous dead ends. By using People and Places to define mini-goals and obstacles for your hero to overcome, you can rapidly flesh out your story from a good idea into a coherent plot.