1. Lone Vista
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    Lone Vista Member

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    Any tips on Plot Planning?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Lone Vista, Dec 21, 2015.

    To be specific, does anyone have any advice for visualising or organising their plot in advance? I do have the basics of a plot already, the "broad strokes" of it so to speak, but I have difficulty organising my thoughts on a smaller scale.

    I do have several individual moments and scenes already made, but I have difficulty assembling them into a cohesive whole and filling in the gaps between them. Do I put this scene here, or here? Which is more important, this moment of character development, or this clue which advances the main plot? When it comes to the story as a whole, I have learned I cannot simply wing it - I wind up dropping hints regarding the future and filling scenes with meaningless conversations rather than having anything actually happen. I have difficulty writing "in the moment", if I haven't planned out what the moment is in advance.

    In short, I appreciate any thoughts on the organisation of story, both large and small scale. Thank you for your time.
     
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  2. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Short Answer: On a small scale wing it. On a large scale deep think.

    Long Answer: Very much like anything. When you look from far away you can see the general picture a lot more clear. When you zoom in, you lose that general picture and instead see much clearer in that moment. Think of it like a map in that sense. Large scale being the entire state, and small scale being a separate city.

    The reason I say to apply deep thinking to the general is because you want the general outline fleshed out before you start or at least that is how I work. It helps, in my opinion a lot, to have an end and theme before page one. Going with the map anology. You want the outline of the state clearly defined before you start drawing cities.

    With the individual scenes. I say wing it. You are not going to do it perfect on your first run. Or at the very least it isn't likely. So have fun, dive in and see what happens. Push forward and let scenes remain even if you think they suck. Maybe even grade them. Giving ones you like a higher grade. That way once the entire draft is finished maybe you can see a theme that the bad scenes have in common and then you can go back and edit or fix them.

    The value of having a complete draft is not something I can put into words. You, like me, probably cannot hold a complete picture of the entire story in your head at once. Even if you have a nice mental draft. Having it on paper really helps you picture it.

    Also, conversations that are meaningless are fine in a draft. For one, you may find meaning later. Or you may realize what to put in those scenes or you may just cut them and trim the fat. If they help you get into the scene they currently serve a purpose. Let me give you a comparison in my own work how this helped me.

    My girl, she lived an ordinary life until the plot begins. So I wanted to show one normal day of her. Which, well a normal day for her was school. So the opening scene was her at school. Which later I felt was horrible because the book is not about her in school, so it felt uneeded. And since part of her issues plot wise are struggling to stay normal(school) and failing. I had to keep brining school back into it to feel well accurate. I hated everyone one of these scenes. Yet I wrote them.

    At the end of the book I had an idea. A theme of the main character was learning to be herself over the expectations of others. So I had her drop the class at the end of the book. Now suddenly all of those school scenes felt right, because they were examplels of her giving into peer pressure and at the end her dropping the class was a symbol of her growth throughout the book. This one moment brought all of those scenes I hated together. Granted they may not be perfect still, but they have a point.

    Now I can go back and edit them to help fit that theme. So I can now naturally keep them in, since plot wise I kind of need them. This fix I didn't see until I reached the end. I am not sure if I would have thought of it in deep thinking mode at the beginning. I needed to see everything on paper to find it.

    You will be amazed how differently you see things on paper.

    Does that help?
     
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  3. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    @Lone Vista I think you would benefit from using a beat sheet to isolate the essential 'point' of each scene in the story. Screenwriters break stories into 'beats' which can then be laid out on a table in order and rearranged at will. (most use index cards or sticky notes)

    If you google 'blake snyder beat sheet' you will probably find something useful to download. Or you can PM me and I will share a few templates with you.
     
  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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  5. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I used to write out a happening list on a sheet of paper, cut each happening out and arrange them in some semblance of order ranging from starting / inciting incident to midway point to climax.
    I filled in the bits and pieces based on things that needed to happen to get my mc to each point. And if it was too easy - I threw in a few more monkey-wrench scenes.
    Lately though I just wing it.
    There is also the Snowflake method which is interesting. I've tried it but it felt rather confining - though I loved that it made me think more about my characters.
    And if you Google how to create a plot there's tons of techniques.
     
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  6. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    I quoted both because I am replying to the link and the idea.

    Now, I am not saying one shouldn't use something like this. But I feel the need to point such a thing should not be looked at like a firm must follow rule.

    I mean I have 3 book projects that I have complete first drafts of and looking at the template I can't fit the any of the three into it. Some of the bullet points they have don't apply to at least one of my stories. While if you overlap my three stories I use all those points at least once, none of my stories use all of them. I don't think my stories are bad as such. I just can see someone getting a template to early and fall into the trap of assuming it is "needed" and manditory. I just wanted to interject that I don't think one should think that.

    Not that I think either of you were implying that, but all the same. I felt it useful to say.
     
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  7. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    @GuardianWynn I totally concur with what you are saying. I agree that everything doesn't fit into the 'heroe's journey' structure, something which I quite resist myself. I think many stories are to be told many ways. The Color Purple is told entirels using letters! :) And BTW that link Peach posted isn't what I refer to in my post above. I used Snyder's name in my post because he was the first one to come to mind, though I had actually forgotten all about those 'paradigms' until I peeked at the link Peach posted. When I said 'beat sheet' I was purely talking about the worksheet/template/graphic organizer itself, and not the 'drama theories' behind it. :)

    I find it very useful to use a beat sheet 'worksheet' to list out one's story points so as to 'isolate' them, so as to see them more clearly. The one I use is very plain with white lines, nothing fancy. And index cards do the same thing, anyway. :)

    (although, I do really like Blake Snyder. RIP)
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2015
  8. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    ;) Like I said I quoted both for a reason.

    I wasn't trying to convince anything, just introducing an contrasting point of view because I felt it helpful to the thread.

    Though, story structure in a more formal way maybe something I lack. You seem interesting. Would you like t have a dialogue about some of this stuff in a PM?
     
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  9. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    @GuardianWynn Sure thing, any time just HMU. :)
     
  10. ILaughAtTrailers
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    ILaughAtTrailers Member

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    Forget everything that you think you know about story and start from the end. Does your main character live happily ever after, die, or is their fate left ambiguous? Just work your way backwards from there. You will have to have a pretty good idea of your main conflicts, though, already before you start this. But that's not hard. It'll be much easier, you'll find, starting from the end than at the beginning because you won't have a million choices anymore to start from when you're at the beginning because at the end there's really only one way you can get there.
     
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  11. Lone Vista
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    Lone Vista Member

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    These have all been very helpful. I think I'll be experimenting with many of the methods suggested.
    Thank you. I now have a much better idea of how to proceed from here. :)
     
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  12. WriterMMS
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    WriterMMS Member

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    It depends on the sort of story Im writing. If its character based ill do a general beg mid end and just have the characters naturally bounce personality off each other.

    But if my story hinges majorly on plot points, in world society, technology and magic i will do general outlines then chapter outlines and sometimes even scene by scene outlines.
     
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  13. WriterMMS
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    WriterMMS Member

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    i believe it was george rr martin who said that his characters if totally unbound would have diverged wildly from his plot. if your book is heavily plot based you will sometimes have to put your characters on leashes.
     
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  14. Lone Vista
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    Lone Vista Member

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    How about with regards to something ongoing and episodic, like a TV show or online work? Obviously it would require a different and more complicated structure. Any thoughts on how to keep things cohesive, while allowing each installment its individual stories? I'm quite interested in this kind of writing, but I find I have the same troubles approaching it as I do with projects such as novels - only even more so.
     
  15. WriterMMS
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    WriterMMS Member

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    With shows of an episodic yet connected nature you would drop hints/leads of a major plot within your monster of the week story.

    Who was your baddie of the weak working for? Main baddie. That sort of thing.

    So in the end you would have plot cycles within greater plots. Plotception.
     
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  16. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    I wouldn't say more complicated. Actually, I'd say they are simpler, yet less flexible.

    For TV or cinema there are gonna be very defined structure points you will be required to hit. For episodic TV you would really need to study those rudiments work within them. Like, for movies you have PP1 PP2 Hp and other basic structure guidelines (such as the first ten pages)... in TV the same guidelines exist but I don't know them because I wrote films.

    You can read some TV scripts here: http://www.simplyscripts.com/tv.html
     
  17. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Love it! Very clear method, well organized, with flexibility to move around and get creative.
     
  18. Sack-a-Doo!
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    After reading through your post, the impression I get is that it isn't so much the small bits that are tripping you up, but the middle-sized bits, not so much the details of what each scene contains, but those outline-y, point-form things that sit between your three-paragraph summary and the synopsis. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    But... just in case I'm right,

    Read Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain (I should put this in my sig). Just to give you an idea, it's about doing exactly what you're talking about, finding the building blocks based on your summary and continuing on toward scene, sequel and story.

    When I first read this book, after having read everything else in the library on writing, story, plot, character, etc. etc. etc. I was left wishing it had been the first, last and only book I'd ever read on writing. (It's that good.)
     
  19. Lone Vista
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    Lone Vista Member

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    @Sack-a-Doo! You are absolutely correct. I don't have problems writing individual scenes, nor planning the overall structure of a story. When it comes to the mid-level, I have a great deal of trouble getting things organised.

    I will definitely be checking out the book you suggested, thank you. :)
     
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  20. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Everyone, I saw something around 5-7 days ago in one of these threads and now I can't find it anywhere.

    Someone posted a reply with a description/list of what the 'traditionally accepted generic plot outline' looks like. It was a vertical list of sorts, showing different developing stages of a novel.

    Anyone else recall seeing this? I have searched three days all over the site, so I'm wondering if it was edited out or something. I can't even recall who posted it.

    Thanks :(
     
  21. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sorry, I don't remember seeing that. I did a quick search, but came up with nothing.

    If you can give me some idea about what types of things were mentioned, maybe I can point you at a source.
     
  22. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Thanks @Sack-a-Doo! ....I think it was a male poster, and he had a vertical sequence list of 'this then this then this' type of statements, somewhat in the heroes journey vein though I didn't pay that much attention at all. I just remember the list. In fact I think it may have been in red font? Maybe not.

    It was formatted in a list like this

    hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
    gggggggggggggggg
    gggggggggggggggg
    hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
    rrrrrrrrrr
    mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
    ggggggggggggggg
    ggggggggggggggg
    hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
    ggggggggggggggg
    ggggggggggggggg
    mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
    ggggggggggggggg
    ggggggggggggggg
    ggggggggggggggg



    I'm pulling my hair out because I know I saw it, yet for days now I can't locate it again.
     
  23. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    That doesn't ring a bell for me. Are you sure it wasn't on another site?

    I'd gladly reproduce the list if I knew what it was... or point you at a source if I knew where it came from.

    The best I can offer is this... read Save the Cat! chapter four, Beat it Out. The rest of the book will fill in a lot of blanks and you should be able to build your own bulleted list of plot indicators.
     
  24. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Thanks, but this is the only site I'm on currently. So I guess it got edited out by someone.

    I have all the save the cat books plus thirty other ones lol. In fact this whole plot is already done, beat sheets and all, and even the screenplay is finished too. What piqued me about the post I'm digginf for was that it was discussing NOVEL plotting, as opposed to screenplays.

    I've never spent any time analyzing/learning novel plot structures and I saw something I wanted to revisit in that post, but I can't find it.

    My screenplay plot for this story isn't translating to the novel format very well; the structure of this story is going to have to be altered for it to become a novel, and this has me a bit stumped at present.

    Thanks for your input. I know if you run across it you'll hmu. :)
     
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  25. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yup, that's about the size of it.

    But, as long as you keep in mind that novels are about what people think and screenplays are about what people do, translating from screenplay plot to novel outline should go a little easier... a little. :)

    And, yes, if I run across that thing you mentioned, I'll PM you.
     

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