I'm sure there are some people out there who think, 'how do authors get plots.' For me, my stories are all formulated in my head when I think of one small thing and 'what if.' I try to go outside the usual 'box' of ideas, to get creative. Since the competition for selling books is very fierce, I tend to go even farther than I normally would.
For example, the Extreme Travel books of mine started out in my head as a circus. Kes was a circus performer and was sent overseas to see animals used in the circus in their natural habitat. No kidding. Since I'm not a fan of caging animals, I morphed that into her being a reporter to report on the climate in Africa. I found the toughest place to live--Zimbabwe--and sent her there. Then I needed a mean antagonist and came up with her single male boss, who was out of bounds for various reasons. One was his fiancee that was really nasty. That's how that story started out. I had to go outside the norm for a reporter and give them a real reason for being there--to start a coup.
I looked up story planning and found this really cool article. How to Get Story Ideas for Fiction Writing. It talks about thinking up nuggets, and then writing as much as possible with one of these nuggets. It'll start to take shape into a story the more you write.
I'm inclined to agree with some of that, but I think it saves time to think in terms of scenes. Before I write a book, I think of what the first scene should be, and then what the black moment (in a romance, it's the part right before the ending where everything falls apart for the heroine) would be. After that, I think of the ending scene. I now know the beginning and ending, so getting from point A to point B has to include scenes that propel the characters toward point B. I also like considering the three-part act in a play. For the first part, I make the main character has to choose to do something to propel him or her to stay in the story. The second part ratchets up the tension toward the black moment, and the third part is the happy ending. That's how I work, in my mind. If I don't have the beginning scene, black moment, and ending, I lay down to take a nap. I blank out the rest of the world to think about how it would show in a movie, and what would work. That's the fun part. I let my mind explore tons of possibilities.
If I have those three scenes, I'm good to go, since I'm a 'pantser' (I don't outline or have everything written out before I write, but just go with the flow of the story). Sometimes, those scenes change when I actually write, but it's okay. Many times, the characters kind of take over and it works better than I anticipated.
Try it if you haven't written a book. You'll be surprised how much fun it is to just let your mind wander. I love it.
Have a great week!