For all my skill at prose, I always have a problem with plot. I want something that’s a bit more sophisticated than “Triangle Man hates Particle Man, they have a fight, Triangle wins!” … but when it comes to actually think up what happens, I tend to just stare at the screen (or paper) and go “Uuuuuhh… I like pie.”
This is why I like to come up with an “elevator pitch” for my stories, especially episodic things like comics– so that if I get stuck, I have a roadmap of what’s important to the story and what I should be talking about. Unfortunately, it’s very often not until you’ve got a significant amount of stuff already written on an item that the themes really start to become visible. Alas, that’s not much help when you get stuck near the beginning!
So at the beginning, or at least in the rough draft stage, it’s often handy to lean on an already-established plot, or even just lift some other story whole cloth. “Um… so we’ve got these lions, and… uh… what do they do? We know we want to have some kind of thing with the hero and his father– I’ve got it! Let’s riff off Hamlet!” But I always have trouble letting go and doing that, I think at least partially because my studies in English lit have enabled me to spot it being done so often everywhere else! And my ego resists.
But y’know, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to use an existing idea as a framework. I know my new comic has a kind of “Mad Max meets Alice In Wonderland” vibe going on, so why not use that to my advantage? Could my comic benefit from a Cheshire Cat analog? How about a Red Queen or a Mad Hatter? (And have you ever noticed the parallels between Alice In Wonderland and Wizard of Oz?)
These are things I think about when I’m noodling around, fishing for plot ideas. Sometimes it helps! Sometimes it just makes my ideas even murkier. But if nothing else, at least it keeps my thoughts moving and prevents my brain from going into the vapor-lock it always leans towards at this stage.