Letter tiles spelling “Writing Lab” on a wooden desktop
Letter tiles spelling “Writing Lab” on a wooden desktop

How do I figure out what my character will do next? I start each new story with a character and a conflict, and then let the plot emerge. Because I don’t outline a plot in advance, I sometimes struggle to figure out what the character will do next? A technique I’ve been experimenting with is the OODA loop: “Observe-Orient-Decide-Act.”

Observe: Brainstorm what the character knows or believes about his challenge.

Orient: What motivates my character? What is her primary goal? These might not sync. What is her immediate goal? That might not synchronize with her primary goal. This topic is also about emotion. What does the character feel? As the character’s needs and goals change, I need to adapt the circumstances around her.

Decide: Brainstorm actions consistent with what the character knows and wants. The character might not have time to consider his options, but I can slow down to discover fresh ideas.

Act: Select the action that makes the most sense and that furthers the plot.

The next time you’re stuck for what should happen next in your story, give the OODA loop a try. And let me know how it works for you!

Professional Scrum Trainer and fiction writer. Connect with me on Twitter @stfalco or visit samfalco.com

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