From the Institute for Children’s Literature web interview with Deborah Lynn Jacobs, author of Powers and Choices, on coming up with a plot:
I tend to think of a premise—a “what if?” Then, I imagine the kind of character who will suffer the most in this situation.And, as Lester Dent said, “swat him with a fistful of trouble.”
An even more useful observation Jacobs makes is that “every person has their own creative process”:
I fill up two or three full sized notebooks, longhand, for each book—plot ideas, characterization stuff, what ifs and so on. I’ve tried sticky notes—didn’t work. Tried a white board—didn’t work. Tried index cards—REALLY didn’t work!What matters is the manuscript you come out with, not how you got there.