The world all around us gives us clues on how to do everything we need to do, including becoming a better writer. The more obvious clues come from reading other authors, taking writing classes, talking out problem areas with fellow writers, reading books dedicated to the writing profession. There are other less obvious clues that come from our everyday lives.
The people around us, the dog next door that won't shut up, the co-worker that steals your desk supplies and blames it on someone else, the mother that won't stop giving helpful advice, the doctor that that gives you the eye and tells you to lose 50 pounds or else, the mail man that runs his mail truck over the freshly planted flowers in the front lawn. Stories are all around us begging to be told. The people parading through our lives are holding their breath to play the main character in our next story. Why not take these gifts and make use of them?
I have found that by writing about the things that I know, the rest of the story (the parts I don't know, or unsure of) come more easily. The words have more power and emotion as they flow to the page. I find that I don't have to work so hard to get the story down and it even becomes fun to see what parts of my life I can add and then throw some crazy fiction in to make a stew that is overflowing with bubbly goodness. Yum.
Next time you find yourself wanting for character or plot, just take a look around. Maybe take pieces from characters in your own life to make one unforgettable character in your story. Take one or more "events" that have happened to you and create a plot that steals the show. Learn the art of shutting up your own hurried schedule and lightening speed thoughts, so you can see the story right in front of your eyes, demanding to be told. A story doesn't have to be pulled from thin air, it can be an accumulation of your everyday life.