1. pippajune
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    pippajune New Member

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    Best way to discover answers to my plot?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by pippajune, Jun 16, 2014.

    Hi there. I am brand new to this forum, so apologies if there are any "new member" protocols that I may have missed - as I am going straight into posting a thread! I am a young writer (early-20's) writing YA fiction. I am not terribly experienced, though have been writing just as a hobby since childhood. I thought joining a forum might help me push my skills as I read and contribute online.

    I have a couple of questions about developing a plot. When I lay out the current plot to my story, I am hit with a lot of glaring questions (usually "Why?"), and I was curious as to whether you think this is a sign of a poor plot that needs entirely re-working, or if there are ways of filling in these holes.

    ***​

    My story is based around a young girl named Eden. When she is fourteen she finds out she is adopted. At first, it seems that it is your normal "hey, you're adopted" kind of situation. Eden is upset that she has been lied to by her parents, but ultimately is happy and thankful she now has a loving home. Her parents, by her own admission, are perfect. She is extremely close to her father, who has raised her as an independent, thoughtful, music-loving girl. She has no desire to find her biological parents. That is until she is eighteen, ready to move away to college, and her father gets sick. It's in his sickness, and her teetering on adulthood, that he admits to Eden that the story isn't as straight-forward as her parents have let on. She discovers that she was "the child in the yellow shawl", a famously abandoned baby that baffled authorities. She was six months old when she was found abandoned in the middle of the city at night, with nothing but a yellow shawl. Attempts to trace her parents, or piece together exactly how she ended up alone completely failed. Her father (a journalist) fought to adopt her with his then-girlfriend, and they raised her as their own.

    The story follows Eden as she decides to seek answers. Confused firstly as to why her parents wouldn't tell her all of this when they revealed she was adopted, she also cannot understand why her father who wasn't directly involved in the case, and seemingly having no paternal instinct at his young age, felt compelled to adopt her. Sensing her parents have a lot to hide, she seeks the answers herself. Her journey will find her discovering who her biological mother is, finding out that she was conceived by a rape that was considered "her own fault" by friends/family and that she spiraled into serious mental health issues (still to be nailed down and fleshed out) after her rapist disappeared with no trace (this will be what people sometimes refer to as drunken/party rapes which are a contentious issue at the moment which I obviously will handle accordingly - and this issue plays a big role in the message of this story). She abandoned Eden in the city in fear and panic after feeling helpless and unable to care for her, before running away. She tells Eden that she abandoned her in a way that meant she would be found by police almost immediately (in a high tourist area). Eden, now feeling emotionally connected to her mother and her tragic story, decides to get justice for her by finding her biological father and handing him into authorities. All she has is a first name, and a now defunct punk band he used to play in. The story will follow her as she hunts down him and his fellow band members to try and find him, but the trail leads her back to her own father (now with a different name) - the one who adopted her. It will turn out that he was the rapist, and her father all along (her mother will be as in the dark as Eden). It will then be a case of Eden understanding her place in the world. Can she forgive her father on his deathbed for the lies and the hurt he has caused in so many peoples lives. Can she understand how a man who was seemingly the perfect husband and father, could have done this in his early-twenties? Can she navigate her way through loss (of many kinds), self-discovery, growing up, forgiveness, moving on, acceptance etc. etc. etc.

    ***​

    It obviously still needs fleshing out with other things but that's the main plot. There is a sub-plot with Eden's romantic relationship throughout, but this does not affect this main plot just yet.

    My questions at the moment are the following:

    -If Eden's mother wanted the best for her, why on earth would she abandon her in the city instead of handing her straight to CPS and sayings he couldn't handle it? Could mental health be a good enough reason to act bizarrely? Or do I need a better motive?

    - Initially, Eden's father knew that the baby found abandoned in the street was his own, because of the shawl (which he would have gifted to her when he found out she was pregnant). But in my new revisions, he had disappeared before even knowing that she was pregnant to avoid being arrested for rape. How on earth is he going to know that the baby is his?

    - However he figures it out, why doesn't he just alert authorities and say "this baby is mine" because of X, Y and Z? I already know his motives for wanting to take in the baby, but why wouldn't he just be honest? Is wanting to conceal the truth from his girlfriend (who he will have cheated on) a good enough motive?

    Obviously I'm not necessarily asking you to answer those questions haha! I'm just curious if you have any tried and tested techniques in figuring out these kind of issues that are putting a stopper on your plot development progress? Or is it just a case of sitting and waiting for it to figure itself out? I feel like I can't get any further with this because it currently makes no sense.

    Any tips/help/advice welcome, as well as any other questions that are glaring in my storyline that need answers before I progress with any writing.
     
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  2. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    The "why" questions are the ones you have to answer for yourself. It is part of the development process that a writer must go through to develop his/her writing "chops". It's not that no one else will answer them - every game has its kibitzers - but none of them will know these characters as well as you do, and what you are asking is for their personal motivations to be fleshed out. In the end, you're the only one who can do that, and those who offer "help" are actually impairing your growth as a writer in making you dependent on others.

    Best of luck. Sounds like an engaging story.
     
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  3. pippajune
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    pippajune New Member

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    Thanks for your response. I completely understand that. I hope it didn't come across as me wanting answers to these questions - I know I must figure these out for myself entirely. Simply was looking for suggestions on the best ways to figure these out - is any people had techniques or advice from when they were in a similar stumped position. On review, you're probably right in that even with that, nobody can tell me exactly how to figure this out other than to "keep at it" I suppose.
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I can answer your first question - yes, mental health issues would certainly be a good enough reason.
     
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  5. Oswiecenie
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    Oswiecenie Active Member

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    A compelling story indeed.

    To answer your questions as good as I can:

    Mental health issues, shame, overall distress... The list of reasons why she would rather abandon the child instead of turning to the authorities is endless.

    The shawl could have been an anonymous gift. Just work out a plausible way how he pulled it off.

    Why would he be honest? He is a rapist after all. Why would he tell his wife and (adopted) daughter that the flipside of a seemingly perfect husband/father is vermin of the very lowest order? He doesn't need any particular motive to hide this.

    Hope I was helpful and good luck with your work!
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2014
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  6. pippajune
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    pippajune New Member

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    Thank you. Very helpful indeed. I guess some of my "Why"'s were more "Is this plausible", and your confirmation has helped my brain organize some of these things to fill in the holes. Thanks for your input!
     
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  7. EllBeEss
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    EllBeEss Contributing Member

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    When I try to work stuff like this out I grab a pen and paper (for some reason I can never mull these things over sitting at a computer) and start breaking down the questions into smaller pieces. Once I have a smaller question I mull it over and start writing all the solutions that come to mind and shift and change them until I find one that fits. Some people would probably find this process too analytical but it works for me, even if I don't actually find the exact answer to the questions it gets me thinking about the events and can help me solve other issues that may arise. If I do find a solution I've already brainstormed it and it's well cemented in my mind by the time I realize it's the solution. Sometimes the solution turns out to be a combination of multiple things and I end up with a more involved but believable solution. That's just my process of course, it probably wouldn't work for anyone else but it works for me.

    To answer these questions try going for a run or brainstorming or just thinking about the questions and playing with potential answers. Most of these questions depend on your characters so no one can really answer them for you.
     
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  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I feel as if you may be going at this plot backwards. It sounds like you're setting up the structure of a mystery, and then writing the characters to match that structure. I think that it needs to be the other way around--the characters need to be what matters.

    I also feel like this story is almost all backstory. Yes, the story is the main character's discovery of the details of that backstory, but nevertheless, the interesting things all happened in the past.

    I think that your backstory needs to be the background of a story in the present--that something more than curiosity needs to drive her. I was just thinking about the plot of Orphan Black, how the backstory drives everything in the present, but there are still huge issues and life-and-death stakes in that present. People might lose their freedom, their careers, their lives in the present, and that's why the past is important.

    So I'm addressing your questions, but I wanted to make it clear that I think that you have created a detailed backstory, but you haven't yet planned the story.

    > she also cannot understand why her father
    > who wasn't directly involved in the case, and seemingly having no
    > paternal instinct at his young age, felt compelled to adopt her.

    I don't know if this curiosity is logical. Would he have told her, "Y'know, I really didn't like or want kids, but I decided to adopt you anyway"? Surely he would come up with some sort of satisfying story. ("I saw your picture in the paper, and I just fell in love...")

    > Her journey will find her discovering who her biological mother is

    How? This seems like an important point.

    > and this issue plays a big role in the message of this story

    I think that planning a story with a message is dangerous. I would go where your characters take you, and I will be that the end product will still reflect your beliefs, whether you planned them to or not.

    > It obviously still needs fleshing out with other things but that's the
    > main plot.

    Again, I don't see this as a plot, but as all backstory.

    > -If Eden's mother wanted the best for her, why on earth would she
    > abandon her in the city instead of handing her straight to CPS and
    > sayings he couldn't handle it?

    Are you sure that you can just relinquish responsibility for a child with no legal consequences to yourself? If not, that could be one reason.

    Another reason could be tied to however the father figured out that Eden was his child--if the rapist could identify the child, then he could identify the mother, and I'd guess that the mother wouldn't want that. (Edited to add: Ah. I see that you're assuming that he knew the mother. All the same, she might want to get out of town where he can't find her, and a lot of legal entanglements could prevent that.)

    > But in my new revisions,
    > he had disappeared before even knowing that she was pregnant to avoid
    > being arrested for rape. How on earth is he going to know that the
    > baby is his?

    I'm confused--if he disappeared so thoroughly that he didn't even have access to the newspaper, how was he around to adopt the child?

    > - However he figures it out, why doesn't he just alert authorities and
    > say "this baby is mine" because of X, Y and Z?

    I assume because he'd be exposing himself as having committed a crime. Just as the mother wouldn't want to be publicly identifiable by her rapist, he presumably wouldn't want to be publicly identified by his victim.

    > I already know his
    > motives for wanting to take in the baby, but why wouldn't he just be
    > honest?

    Because he'd go to jail, or at least be prosecuted? I don't mean to be sarcastic here, but why would he be honest? ("That child is mine! I raped her mother! Hey, why are you all looking at me that way?")

    Edited to add: The idea of the shawl being a gift from him creeps me out. Would she really use a gift from her rapist to wrap her child in? He could know about the shawl without having given it to her.
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2014
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  9. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    What @EdFromNY and @ChickenFreak said.

    You could overcome the problem of this being all backstory by having the actual incidents of the rape and the Eden's subsequent birth and discovery being presented in real time, with the device of her father's illness, etc., used as a framing device. Don't have the rapist referred to by name until the story is brought up the present day when Eden (and we) realize that, o my gosh, it was her beloved father!

    But ChickenFreak is absolutely right. Show the conflicts and issues this discovery causes. There's your real story. Don't worry about "messages" but tackle questions such as whether rape is an unforgiveable sin. Has her father made adequate atonement in raising and loving her? Or does she now hate his guts and go off and do something stupid, because she is, after all, his progeny and hating him spills over to hating herself? Etc., etc.

    Again, a series of story questions only you can work out.

    That said, I'll throw you this for consideration. The yellow shawl doesn't have to have been his gift in order for him to recognize it. I would find it hard to believe that a man who's known only by his first name to the random drunk woman he's casually raped at a party would a) know or care who she was; b) find out she was pregnant (is she telling the world? Doubtful), or c) give her such a gift. More likely the shawl would have been in the bedroom of the house where the party and the rape took place, and when the girl came to and realized what had been done to her she wrapped herself in the shawl to cover her torn clothing and took it with her. If it was a very strikingly-patterned, distinctive, one-of-a-kind piece the rapist might well have noticed it in the bedroom and recognized it again when the baby is found wrapped in it.

    Now it may sound awful, but having had friends in my college years who found themselves in the same situation as Eden's bio mother did,* I doubt the perp would have worried about being arrested for rape. Especially not 18 or 19 years ago. He'd be depending on the girl being too drunk to know who he was, or he'd claim the sex was consensual. If the girl was of age and had, as you have her family charging, put herself in a compromising position, who was she to say otherwise? Yeah, it's unfair and wrong, but too often that's the way it happens. He'd count on her being too embarrassed to open her mouth and he'd get off scot-free.

    So you've got adequate motivation for the pregnant girl's hole-and-corner response. But there's another plot hole you need to plug. You have only 16 months between the time of the rape and the discovery of the abandoned baby. Is that enough time for the father to stop being the punk-rocking, hard-partying, vile ravisher of incapacitated women and start being the civic-minded journalist who's steady and upstanding enough that the authorities grant him and the girl he's not yet married to adoption rights to this famous foundling child? (Not sure I find all that believable). When did he change his name? Does this happen in two different cities? If so, how does he get established so fast? Or was he living a double life in his younger years?

    I'm not saying such a transformation is impossible, but you're going to have to answer how it took place and how it happened in such a short time. What happened to make him feel he should take responsibility for the child he fathered? And is he sure he fathered her?

    And are you taking the easy way out by having the father be on his deathbed?

    Just more stuff to consider! Overall, you have a good start on something here. Keep working at it.
    ____________________________
    *This one friend of mine would go to these parties, get thoroughly drunk and/or stoned, and wake up at dawn in some spare bedroom buck naked, in a haze as to what had happened overnight, but sure that some male or other (or more than one) had been at her. Her sober, daylight response was, "Oh, god, I've got to stop getting so drunk at those parties." She, fortunately, never got pregnant on any of these occasions.
     
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  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    You might be able to cover a few plot holes if, instead of running away, Eden's mother kills herself shortly after abandoning her baby. That way the father MIGHT have tried to find her, or possibly when he heard about the death (on the news, presumably), he might have had a chance of heart about the baby. The big problem this approach would solve, though, is that Eden's mother might well have known her rapist ...in fact, well enough that he might actually have given her the shawl. (Strange gift, but never mind!)
     
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  11. pippajune
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    pippajune New Member

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    Interesting point. This has actually really helped by seeing it this way. That last bit at the end where I described how it affects Eden and the questions SHE has are the real story here!



    A bit more knowledge of her father is probably needed here. He will have been a touring musician at the time of the rape, and as someone points out later (that i'll address) there is a short timeframe between him returning home after a mostly failed music career. Eden will know the edited history of her father's past. I presume his story will be very close to what you said, that he was getting into journalism, saw the case unravel and simply fell in love. But in reality his motivation is that he feels flooded with guilt and wants to put things right by raising her. Is this believable to us AND to Eden? I'm not entirely sure yet... The truth needs to be believable to both of us, but his story only has to be believable to Eden. I think this needs more thought.


    Very helpful, thank you! A lot of food for thought from you all.


    This is a very good point. I just need to figure out a backstory to the shawl that is coincidental but not ridiculous. Or at least something similar.



    Absolutely. Eden's father would have been a touring musician, taking advantage of younger drunken girls. In his late teens he would have full believed that he was innocent, the victim of an unfortunate situation. She was drunk and hanging around with a band, what else did she expect? And that would unfortunately be the opinion of the people around Eden's mother at the time, so I can fully wrap my head around her motives. As he grew up and moved out of that lifestyle, he would grow up to know that the situation was not what it seemed through his drunken idiotic haze and that he is in fact very much a criminal and very much raped this woman. But you are entirely correct, is 16 months enough time for him to have come to this realisation? Im doubtful too.

    A potential solution for this is perhaps to have him not as a touring musician, but as a failed one (perhaps he only toured a couple of times with crappy bands), but that he is now trying to get into journalism as his backup career, and goes on tour with some friends for a "story" (aka a three week party). His girlfriend (Eden's eventual adoptive mother), has always been his childhood sweetheart who is level-headed and grounded, with whom he has been on/off with since they were young teens. Perhaps he could return home after that tour, and he has a solid 16 months of trying to settle down properly with her before Eden is found... I guess it's still a work in progress haha.


    Yes, very possibly. This wasn't an original situation. I added this in as a way of creating more tension between Eden and her situation. I wanted more motivation than pure curiosity, and thought that this would add a dynamic of loss in her life on different levels, as well as raising questions. But on review, perhaps it would be far more dynamics if she had to figure out how to cope with their relationship going forward as opposed to doing what I suppose most people would feel they should do which is to allow forgiveness and move on.


    Thank you, i'm excited to see where your pointers will lead me :)


    Very good point actually. And her premature death opens up many other possible plot devices. Perhaps I will look into this and develop it to see if it fills some holes without opening up too many others. Thanks!
     
  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Instead of in the hospital dying, the father could be in jail charged with her murder. That would certainly bring the plot into the present. :)
     
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  13. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Hi @pippajune, welcome to the forum. I can't add any more to the excellent posts that have been written here but I wanted to tell everyone how nice their answers were.
     
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