Finding stories is different for every writer depending on what they write. There is no magic formula.
Learning to see stories all around you takes practice. You read or hear an interesting news story and ask ‘what if?’ You see an interesting person and make up something about this person you neither know nor ever meet.
When I go walking, I see plants and animals. I want to know more about them. I researched and wrote about some in “Exploring the Ozark Hills”. Some end up in short form in posts here like this week’s White Yucca Towers.
When I start a novel, I begin with a character. Then I wonder what this character might do, who the character might meet, where the character may live. Each of these questions helps me in finding stories about this character.
A story line is not really a plot, at least to me. A story is a list of ‘what ifs?’ Some of these sound interesting, but lead no where. Others keep opening up new ideas and new lists of things about the character.
In the course of a story, the main character must change in some way. A writer writes because writing is important so that change may matter only to the writer. Since an author writes for people to read the story, this change must matter to other people.
When developing a story for Hazel in “Broken Promises”, I started with a single idea: city girl moves to the country. So what! Even the original story was silly and totally unworkable.
After the death of my nephew, PFC Brandon Smith, in Iraq, I suddenly had a story based on what members of my family were coping with. When I added the financial crisis occurring then, I had a story.
Once there is a list of ‘what ifs’ and a character and a change for that character, it’s time to develop a plot.