1. KokoN
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    KokoN Active Member

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    All my plots suck...

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by KokoN, Apr 2, 2016.

    I recently was looking at all the stories that I've been working on lately, and I think I've come to the realization that perhaps one of my biggest issues with writing is that my plots are dreadful. I'm good at character development and once I know what my plot is I can write it, but none of my stories are compelling enough for me to want to keep writing, and I think it has to do with weak plots. Does anyone have good ideas for writing exercises to help me improve my plotting skills? Maybe I should focus on a specific genre rather than trying to go all rogue and do something new and different? Should I try to start writing short stories with solid plots before I work on novels? If I can't write good plots should I just give up trying to write or is there any hope? I don't really have a specific genre that I like, even when I read or watch tv I like pretty much anything as long as it has good character development. But obviously characters need a framework to exist in. Has anyone else had this problem and how did you fix it?

    Bottom line, my plots suck, I'm getting discouraged, looking for suggestions. :/ Even if I come up with an idea, when I plot it out, it just doesn't work which may be why I lose interest in my stories so quickly.
     
  2. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    Why does your plot suck exactly?
    I mean, is it just a generic plot or is the character involvement against the plot lackluster because you feel its constraining?
     
  3. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Pick a universe
    Pick a character
    What has happened to this character to cause some new situation?
    Follow the character through resolving the situation.

    Plenty of people write stories without a focused plot to begin with but this is what I use to start something.
     
  4. KokoN
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    KokoN Active Member

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    I'm not really sure. I think my plots are either far too complicated or not complicated enough. The most recent thing I started writing, I had ideas for characters that I really like but I can't come up with a good idea for a plot. The story I was writing before that, is far too complicated to even begin to explain (bad sign!).

    Thanks for the advice!
     
  5. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    It may surprise you but getting you plots 'just right' is a real challenge that only comes from writing big projects until you find the sweet spot. Even then you'll often find yourself cutting a plotline for space or pacing or mood or anything really.

    There isnt a magic formula. Often a story changes as you write it, as you discover something about a character you really want to run with. It happens and thats just the nature of the process.

    Don't get discouraged. Remember that its not the first draft that matters its the last one. Your readers will never know if you had to work hard to get the plot just right or not. They'll have a fresh perspective, not your battle-weary overthought, over critical point of view. Its natural for writers to see their work as perfect and crap with nothing between but as long as you finish up at 'good' then the readers will be happy.
     
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  6. A.M.P.
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    @KokoN

    I think most plots can be boiled down to the simplest of terms.
    Even Game of Thrones is little but a glorified soap opera. Everyone is related, everyone dies, and there was even someone in a coma for good measure.

    And honestly, you say you're good with characters and that, for me, is good enough.
    Every genre has styles that focus overly on the characters and they're the ones who move the plot forward and that's a good thing.
    In the end, how often do you think of the plot rather than the characters? It's they who stick with a reader in the end.
    You just have to give them a bit of life, meaning, and make them memorable.
     
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  7. zoupskim
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    zoupskim Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, they don't.

    *Flies away into the sunset.*

    Seriously though, how do you know your plots suck? After I finish here I'm going to go find anything creative you've posted, read it, and I'm positive it won't simply suck.

    As for the creative process behind plot development, maybe what you are experiencing is just a little too much attachment to leftovers from brainstorming sessions. There are stories I have come up with, and even written a good deal of down on paper, that I will never finish because the plot is weak or just not interesting. I love some of these phantom plots, but I probably won't finish them. Plots that just linger in my brain, that have some good elements or characters, but aren't interesting.
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2016
  8. KokoN
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    KokoN Active Member

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    Hmm good point, thanks.

    True. I need to find a good framework for my characters to interact in, I guess.

    This, I think you've hit the nail on the head. I think I'm too inflexible and I need to start being willing to change things up rather than just throw the whole thing away.

    I haven't actually posted any of my work here yet, so you won't be able to find anything, sorry. Partly because I hadn't written any prose in years until about a month ago, and I'm not sure if posting really old stuff for critique would be helpful? Maybe my writing style has changed since then.
     
  9. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Come up with as many ideas as possible and hold on to them for later ;)

    A few months ago, I came up with a scene and some villains that I liked, but that I didn't think I could tell an entire story around, and for about a year now, I've been working on a fantasy setting with some heroes and a villain that I liked, but couldn't come up with any actual stories for either.

    Just last night, I realized that putting my previously-non-Fantasy scene into my Fantasy world - and casting the villain of my fantasy world as one of the villains of what I'd thought would be a non-Fantasy scene - would give me an amazing story about my villains (that I'd previously thought would be non-Fantasy) going against my Fantasy heroes. I already have a few chapters of outlining and about 500 words of narrative written :D

    Do you have any back-burner ideas that aren't part of your WIPs, but that could be used to flesh out and/or streamline?
     
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  10. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I second this. It took me seven years to nail down a single plot that I enjoyed.

    I think the only advice I can really give is to remain fluid as your writing. If a certain scene seems boring, think of ways to spice it up. If nothing exciting has happened for a while, insert something new.

    I think a lot of people get stuck with their plots because they refuse to let them evolve. They have a firm idea of what they want to happen, so they try to figure out ways to get to that point, even if it's boring or unnatural. Sometimes the best thing to do is let the story tell itself.

    If you don't outline, I'd suggested doing so. And it doesn't have to be intense, just a basic idea of what'll happen in each chapter. This helped me really get from beginning to end clearly and see where the highs and lows were and where I could make changes to increase the drama.
     
  11. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    Hi Koko, here's my two penneth:

    Plots are coat hangers, and stories are coats. Google 'novel structure', and you'll find loads of hits that tell you all about 3 act plots, 4 act plots, 6 act plots, eight-point arcs, and something about a cat by a bloke called Snyder. Read about these things. Take what you like and ignore what you don't. Don't try to reinvent the wheel (only invent new things). Using well established plot structures doesn't kill creativity. If you think it does, ask a poet about rhyme and metre.

    Traditional coat hangers are made of wire. They are flexible, and you can bend them into all kinds of fancy shapes. It's all good as long your coat doesn't end up on the wardrobe floor.
     
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  12. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    This. :superagree: I do this all the time. It's really satisfying to bring back that old thing you liked with something else. If i like a plot concept or character or anything, I will keep bringing it back until it sticks. The biggest example is my character Talia Kane; I have practically made a vow that I will get something, with some fictional story, complete and out there with some version of her in it.
     
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  13. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    I think you have to come up with a certain percentage of the plot first, before creating a lot of characters. This is a very simplistic explanation but the way I come up with stories, is first comes the PREMISE, then coming up with the best THEMES to be explored in such a premise, then coming up with the best ENDING for that theme, then coming up with the best CHARACTERS to represent those themes, and to develop into the best ending for it.

    So perhaps the premise, and ending should be decided prior to coming up with a lot of characters, but that is just my take on it.
     
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  14. KokoN
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    KokoN Active Member

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    Acts a good idea! I've been thinking about taking some of my characters that I like and trying and putting them in a completely different story.

    Yeah, I definitely have a hard time evolving my plots I've found. Part of it is if I've already outlined something I don't like going and changing it. :p

    Very interesting, I hadn't thought of it like that before. I shall spend the next hour reading about plot structures no doubt. :)
     
  15. Kallisto
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    Kallisto Active Member

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    First off, don't get discouraged so easily. People will be reading about interesting characters doing boring things a lot longer than they will read about boring characters doing interesting things. Just watch the Invader Zim episode entitled "Zim Eats Waffles." All the title character does is eat waffles, but the show is hysterical with great jokes and good characters. When you can get interesting characters, a lot of times those characters can actually carry even a weak plot. Why did everyone like "Frozen"? It wasn't the plot! That seriously overrated and terribly underdeveloped. It was because Elsa the Snow Queen was so damn interesting, at least as far as Disney characters were concerned.

    Now this is not saying that you shouldn't strengthen your plot and that your stories are fine the way they are. I'm just saying that your stories might actually be better than you give them credit for because you were able to develop interesting characters.

    So how do you develop a good plot? I think it's a good idea to figure what you actually want to write. But no matter what the genre you pick, it's worth your time going out and reading up about the world. Things like current events, memoirs and other nonfiction are great ways to get a good understanding of the world. And the world is an interesting place! I say that mostly because when I read a story with a really bad plot, I ask the author, "What are you trying to write?" and they say "Well something like the Hunger Games." Then they wonder why no one is interested. Well, that's because they want to write the Hunger Games, and their only source of inspiration is, well, the Hunger Games. But if they had bothered to look deeper, they would have seen that the author didn't draw her inspiration from any currently existing works. She drew it from real life media coverage over reality shows and current events. From there, she developed the plot by incorporating elements from arguably the first reality show of all time: gladiatorial events.

    The same can be said of any great work of fiction with a great plot. It was developed usually from an author with an understanding of events happening in the real world and developing this fictional world to reflect that.
     
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  16. George Mason
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    Have you checked out Brandon Sanderson's Youtube courses. They were extremely helpful for me. Some are focused on specific topics like plot, while others are more general and cover a lot of topics. I happen to love Sanderson's work. Also have you given your work to someone to read to confirm that the plot is weak. I experience the same thing. I actually wrote a vampire story soon after Twilight. horrible. Anyway if you enjoy writing keep with it even if it's not good, in your opinion. Get lots of feedback from people you trust. Study from the writers you love. Find out why the books you enjoy most are enjoyable. I also keep hearing that it is much more important to have interesting and dynamic characters. If you have that dialed in then you are almost there. cheers.
     
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  17. Feo Takahari
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    Feo Takahari Active Member

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    Kurt Vonnegut had the right of it: "Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water." What do your protagonists want, and what keeps them from getting it? Make them strive desperately to succeed, then put obstacles in their way that they don't know how to deal with. Their raw emotions can liven up what might otherwise be conventional conflicts.
     
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  18. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Never hurts to try ;) Even if the ideas don't end up fitting together, looking for the reasons why they don't fit will help you narrow down what your new ideas will have to look like.

    That's the most important principle in all of this: if you find a problem, explain to yourself in the clearest possible terms why you feel it's a problem. If one story feels too complicated (or too simplistic), look for something specific that you can point to as the thing that makes the story is too complicated (or too simplistic), and then work on a new idea that would address that specific problem.

    Do you see the story that I've linked to in my signature? There were an incredibly large number of problems in my original version, and I've recently written a 1350-word essay about how I identified the problems and how I needed to tailor my solutions to each one specifically. If you'd like to read the essay to see what this kind of story-wide meta-editing looks like, I posted it here in one of this site's "What was your inspiration?" threads.

    Trust me, the things you write will need to be edited a dozen times over before you finish, you might as well get into the habit now by developing your editing skills on the outlines.

    Good for you :)
     
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  19. IHaveNoName
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    Heh. I never throw out anything I've written, even if it was total crap, because there's always a chance I can cannibalize it for some other project.

    This. If you can't figure out a plot, make the story about the characters. There's nothing wrong with a character-driven plot, as long as the characters are interesting, and it seems you've already got that part down.
     
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  20. Oscar Leigh
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    1. Thanks. I really think every good writer probably did that at some point.
    2. Yes, in fact I'd say character is plot to a degree. Who the characters defines their motivations which directs their actions, and their mannerisms and thought-processes is also part of their character and that plays a part in what they do. Most things that happen are created by the characters. Although that relationship is also somewhat the other way round, with plot influencing what the characters do and how they change.
     
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  21. Ziggy.
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    Okay. Lemme try and help a little. I might rant on but hopefully this will help you.

    You say you're very good with character development but your plots are just shit. If you have a good grasp on one aspect, the rest will follow. If you are good with characters, plot follows. If you are good with plot, characters can follow in turn.

    If you are good with character development, you have to realize that your characters will be within an arc, and over the course of the story, there has to be events and scenes that will change how their perceive the world, and people in it. If you know how your character is going to develop, think of important developments or scenes which implement the changes. Let's say, for example;

    We've got an ex-heavyweight boxer who's down on his luck--divorced, alcoholic. Now I know by the end of my story, I want to this guy --we'll call him Jacob-- to not be an alcoholic, and instead of having a defeatist attitude, we want to see him become his old self, the calm fighter with the world in his eyes. From this small characterization, you have to fit a plot that works together in binary with his arc. What events happen to stop him drinking? What events make him want to change for the better? What stops him being a defeatist?

    The idea is that you can stretch out a novel to have a well-structured and appealing plot if you look at your characters and what you want to happen. Maybe our guy, Jacob, gets into a bar brawl and saves somebody from dying with his fists and this spurs him onto a journey of redemption.But your entire plot must go in real time, and there's conflict in there. With all this happening, you can shape a plot that fits well into your character's development but at the same time you can spruce up the plot however you want to make it appeal to you, and that's what's important.
     
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  22. KokoN
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    KokoN Active Member

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    No, I haven't! I'll be sure to check him out :)

    Thanks, I'm very interested in reading your essay, sounds like it might be helpful.

    @Ziggy. Dont worry, it was a helpful rant! Thanks for the advice!
     
  23. Xerclipse
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    If you say you are good at character development, it shouldn't be too hard. Characters drive the story. Think about it like putting different animals in a pit or a zoo. They have different personalities, behaviors, or other habits. What would they do if a situation happened? As a writer you create those animals. You should play God.
     
  24. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks for Liking it :) Do you think it helped?
     
  25. KokoN
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    KokoN Active Member

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    I'm not sure if it helped me in the situation I'm in right now, but I found it really interesting! I liked how you respond to people who say it's fine to only write about a certain "type" of person. Although thinking now as I type this, I recall I abandoned a YA novel I was working on because one of the characters was deaf, and being a teen when I started writing the story, I got nervous as an adult that I wasn't handling the character properly since I don't know anything about the deaf community whatsoever. Perhaps I need to do something similar to what you did and do some research, maybe it would allow me to continue the story...or rewrite it.
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2016

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