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  1. Kyriel
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    Kyriel New Member

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    A concept without a story?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Kyriel, Apr 30, 2010.

    I've run into this problem, and it's been bugging me for a while now. I keep coming up with great concepts, but rarely do I think of a plot that can match them.

    One concept in particular has been the worst. Anything I come up with feels contrived because in a way, the concept doesn't actually require anything deeper than the concept itself, simply because the concept is nothing more than a bunch of rules that, if applied to real life, would create interesting scenarios, or cause a person's life to play out a certain way.

    Take for instance, the premise of Highlander. Okay, so these people are immortal, and can only be killed if they are beheaded. The last highlander alive becomes all powerful. That's basically the premise. Is it enough to simply follow the life of a single highlander, from beginning to end, exploring the effects of the rules brought about by the concept, or does the plot need something deeper, something that either couldn't be revealed in the beginning or couldn't be understood until the end?

    In other words, how do you come up with a plot, adding characters, antagonists, and events to a story that is essentially a clean slate with a few rules?

    ....Hm, this is a stupid question. I'm starting to doubt whether or not I actually know what I'm asking..
     
  2. rainy
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    rainy Senior Member

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    Something that can't be revealed at the beginning or understood until the end is more of a 'mystery' which isn't always necessary for a good book. You don't have to keep readers in the dark to keep them interested; the story just needs to be compelling.

    What it does need is a conflict. We don't want to follow an immortal around as he makes coffee and toast every morning for....well, eternity. We need a conflict. Maybe he's out of butter and all the stores are closed because it's Sunday and he lives in a small town. Maybe his dog was kidnapped and it needs medication. Maybe someone is out to steal his powers to destroy the world.

    Once you've established your "world" and your character, then you have to figure out what they want or what they're being forced into. Then figure out who or what is opposing them. Then WHY that person or thing is opposing them. And so on. Of course, there's a million ways to tackle these steps, but that should be a jumping point.

    If you have a world and char, then start writing. Granted the first 20 pages will probably turn out to be unnecessary, but somewhere in there you just might find out he ran out of butter on a Sunday.

    That--the plot--is what keeps the reader turning the pages.

    Remember, in writing, if the rules don't allow a conflict, then someone should be breaking the rules. :)

    Best luck,

    //R
     
  3. Kyriel
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    Kyriel New Member

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    Hmmmm.....breaking the rules you say...

    Anyhow, thanks for the advice, I still have next to no idea what the plot should be, but it seems the solution is the same as most problems in writing, which is to just...write.
     
  4. Halcyon
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    Halcyon Contributing Member Contributor

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    And I'm starting to doubt whether or not I actually know what I'm answering.... ;)
     
  5. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    That, and read. Read as much as you can.

    To the matter of plotting, there are different schools of thought. Some writers don't believe in plotting. They come up with a few characters and a premise and they just start writing, and let the characters do what they will. Other writers need a detailed outline of what's going to happen before they can begin.

    It sounds like you're only beginning. You might want to consider reading a few books on the art of writing. I can suggest two, presenting the two points of view on plotting: Stephen King's "On Writing" (he doesn't believe in plotting) and James Frey's "How to write a damn good novel" (he believes in detailed plotting.)

    Charlie
     
  6. krystalpendragon
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    krystalpendragon Member

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    The world is the first step. Next start a character (just brainstorm ideas) and give said character attributes or a personality. In said example (highlander), what if the immortal gets bored? what if the character tries to help people but messes up and people want the character dead?
    If you can't create a conflict right away then get to know your character better. Also, start asking what if? What ifs can be crazy or normal, but even if the answer can't be used it may lead to something.
    An example, my brother and I are making a 2d game in snes style. We have the world and the main character. Fleshing her (hero) out we know she is a fighter and has a strong sense of justice, so the logical step is to put her in the kingdoms' army. Ok, so there is a war with another kingdom. What caused it? How long has it been going on? What if the side she is on are the bad guys? What if they lose? What if she decides to not fight anymore?
    This works for me, I just keep asking questions and developing it more :)
     
  7. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I say file the concept away. A concept is just the setting and the stage. It's not a script.

    Now ask yourself what it is that you wish to say with the story you hope to write.

    What is your theme?

    When you know what you want to say with your story, then you decide who (your protags) is going to say it.

    Then you decide how they are going to say it. What will happen to them that serves as the vehicle for your message? What changes will they go through to highlight your message?

    The concept, as you have outlined it by use of Highlander as an example is just the costumes of the story.
     
  8. Kyriel
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    Kyriel New Member

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    @CharlieVer: I read often, I don't think that's the problem. I've also come up with plots before, I just find it hard to write one for this particular concept, since there are so many different directions I could go with it.

    I will check out those books though. I get the feeling I'd be more suited to planning my stories out, so I'll look for that particular one first.

    @krystalpendragon: The easiest plots for me have come from drawing characters and asking "why" they are the way they are. This guy has a giant wrench? Why? To fix giant machines of course. What are the machines for? Who made them? Why did they make them? Questions like this give me characters and events to work with, and a world, so all I have to do is place the main character in that world and it writes itself.

    With the story I'm working on, I came up with the concept first, and there's not really anything to work backwards from, the "why" question doesn't really lead anywhere.

    @Wreybies: When I look for novels or manga's to read, or movies to watch, I look for stories with interesting or unique concepts behind them. The story itself tends to be a bunch of events that occur as a result of the concept. I'm not saying stories aren't better when there is a message behind everything, but I am saying that to me at least, the concept is equally as important.
     
  9. Rawne
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    Rawne Member

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    I'm always doing that. In fact, I think that's all I really do. The ideas themselves are fun and easy to make, but wrapping them in a plot is near-impossible for me. I'm clinging on to the hope that good writing can be taught, but good ideas are a talent. :-D
     
  10. Kyriel
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    Kyriel New Member

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    Yeah, I always feel like the concepts are great, so I get discouraged when I can't come up with anything that does them justice.
     

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