1. IW-Cavalier
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    IW-Cavalier Member

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    Fantasy Plot Planning

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by IW-Cavalier, Jan 17, 2007.

    How does one go about laying out the plot of a story? It seems I'm able to come up with interesting characters and settings to begin stories but I can never follow up because they're always based off of spur of the moment things. Do you pick some kind of point to express or some kind of goal to be achieved? I've written a few stories but never finished any of them because the plot seems to fall apart near the middle. Any kind of input as to the development of a fantasy plot would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. Ennubi
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    Ennubi Member

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    <inserting my standard disclaimer: i am a unprof hack>

    okay, now to your regularly scheduled message....

    i've had a lot of fantasy plots fall flat. lots. typically chapter 5 or so... what i've discovered was that i didn't have a strong empathy for my characters and/or i couldn't engender that empathy in my readers.

    i don't do cool ideas- i take characters who tell me their stories.

    my big relevation came in two parts: i discovered i was working a fantasy area/pov that didn't play to my strengths. my character fixation made first person a godsend- i never made 3rd work. i tried to find something i really, really understood and might even be marketable- i get early teens (i've taught fencing for years) and games (rpg, ps2, nintendo)---aka, urban fantasy time.

    my suggestions? try reading different kinds of fantasy. there's urban, epic (tolkien), character (lackey), scene (cunningham- the jungle books). you may need a new home that showcases your strengths.

    also, trying different viewpoints can reveal a LOT about your characters which'll help you establish their interconnections and the world they live. <bleep> that last is so important. the characters tell you about their world and their world tells you about them.

    anyway, i gotta break through chp 7 - stubborn scene. i may post if things don't get better.

    ennbui
     
  3. Mike R
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    Mike R New Member

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    I never plot. I just let the characters do what they want. Unless the get boring and just sit around, then I prod them along with disasters both large and small. Sooner or later I discover their goal and help or hinder as the mood strikes.

    Story going flat? Do a disaster.

    Mike
     
  4. Max Vantage
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    Max Vantage Banned

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    First of all, I assume you have an idea? (You're bound to otherwise this thread wouldn't exist).
    Secondly, fantasy is merely the genre heading. Story development shouldn't be any different regardless what genre you write in.

    What I tend to do is typical of every story I write.
    From a basic idea I then write a basic storyline (which I STRICTLY kept in the same style and length as a blurb) that includes a hook.
    The hook is important because it's one of a few devices to literally 'hook' a potential reader's interest to want to read the damn thing.
    If you're writing fantasy then this genre poses a lot of problems.

    One of them, and most problematic amongst all, is the writer's obsession with trying to razzle-dazzle a potential reader with a lot of description of magic and wizardry and all sorts of fantasy nonsense.
    The hook has to be based on a dramatic situation (also known as a premise). It's this premise that will make the difference for any reader to ask the question, "Well, what's so special about this particular story that I should spend my time wanting to read? I can see there's lots of wizards with fantastic powers, monsters, witches, magic rings/wands/scepters, etc, a cliched 'Zordon-type' evil character who's threatening a kingdom, and it has the hapless and naive young wizard-to-be who is taken under the wing of a tired and weakened wise old wizard to help restore the balance between good and evil. So what? Why should I read it? In what way does this story have any meaning to me? Nah, fuck it! I've read/seen that a thousand times. It's bloody boring and done to death!"

    I think you know where I'm going with this.
    So make sure the premise is the strongest when you're in the process of a storyline development.

    What I do after that is write a very brief descriptive sentence of each potential scene on index cards (something I picked up on back when I used to write screenplays). This is the same thing as a storyboard except it uses words instead of pictures.

    The next 'stage' I use is the story outline based off of the index cards, which is similar to the basic storyline but longer due to any necessary character developments etc.

    After that I will use the step outline which is unique.
    It's unique because it's exactly how it is described: your story written step-by-step every step of the way from beginning to end. It's like a story in itself but written from a detached point of view.

    I think this is necessary because you can see your story unfolding along the way and it helps to eliminate any character or plot screw ups as well as helping to prevent overlooking anything about your story.

    If you think this sounds like an awful lot of work before you have even started to write your story then don't let it scare you. The reason why is that writing is split into segments:

    Pre-writing. 60%
    Actual writing. 10%
    Re-writing. 30%

    The percentages roughly indicate how much writing you should do with each story you attempt.
    You can't really write anything unless you have done the preparation (which is the pre-writing - such as research, character development, idea development, structure, etc)
    The actual writing you'll find will be much easier depending on how much pre-writing you have invested in your story: the more you develop the easier and better your story will become to actually write (the same philosophy being that you can't take out of the cookie jar unless you have first put something in).

    The re-writing is crucial because this is where your story will be mastered through editing.


    I can't speak for other writers but I personally know that I cannot really write unless I have something to say. The moral of the story is something I find really important otherwise if I have nothing to say then that is primarily where writer's block will come from. If not, then I'm simply writing something that is literally pointless. Pointless as in going nowhere, doing nothing, saying nothing and meaning nothing. Stories and writers like that are seriously boring and trivial.

    I don't always find that all of the above is something I follow all of the time.
    There are some times that I will write straight away from just having a basic flash-in-the-pan idea and I will go from there.
    But I'll know beforehand that what I will produce is something that will be grossly underdeveloped but something for me to base a further development on.

    And if all else fails - have fun!
     
  5. Spherical Time
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    Spherical Time Contributing Member

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    My first suggestion:

    Write everything down and come up with a filing system. That way you can develope your stories and characters over time, even if you don't work on them everyday.

    I plot loosely, and then let things come to me as I write. Many of my stories don't finish where I thought they would.
     
  6. elfdragonlord
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    elfdragonlord Member

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    If the problem you're having is that you can begin a story but can't seem to figure out how to continue and end it, then maybe it's worthwhile trying to work out what kind of story you're trying to tell.

    The initial situation in a story poses a crisis that needs resolving by the end of it. I read a very helpful book about characterisation and plotline (It's called 'Character and viewpoint' actually - by Orson Scott-Card) - and he says that there are four main types of story: Milleu, Idea, Character and Event. If the story starts with a question (an Idea story) then it needs to end with the question being answered in some way. If the story starts with a character getting drawn into a situation where there is something majorly wrong with the world that needs fixing (an Event story) then it needs to end either when the 'wrongness' is fixed and the world can go back to normal or else progress into a new golden era - or alternatively when the characters ultimately fail and the evil or 'wrongness' takes over and plunges the world into utter chaos. If a story starts with a character in an intolerable situation that causes them to want to change their life (a Character story) then it must end when they've found a new role for themselves, made a new life that they can fit into. If a story starts with a character entering a strange new world or place (a Milleu story - milleu kind of means 'setting') then it ends when they decide to leave that place and go home again.

    I don't know if that helps at all - it helped me plot my stories better and get a clearer sense of what I was doing.

    If the problem you face is more to do with losing interest part way through the story - then I have to comiserate. I often have the same problem. You have to ask yourself why the story doesn't seem anywhere near as good as it did when you were planning it. And either re-work the whole thing, ironing out whatever problems were causing it to seem less appealing, less convincing or less gripping. Or alternatively, go back to the drawing board, learn what was wrong with that story and plan/write something that is better. After all, if you lose interest in the story, then so will the reader.

    These are problems that face all writers, not just fantasy writers. And there are no easy answers. You have to keep learning as you go. No one said writing a story is easy. Take my example - I've just deserted the typical kind of fantasy story altogether - and decided to go for some kind of mixture of fantasy and sci-fi. I finally realised that I didn't want to write within the cliches of the fantasy tradition anymore and that I could tell far more entrancing stories by truly letting my imagination go where it takes me, whether that involves technology and aliens, or magic and dragons. Plus I got sick about having to write about horses everytime someone had to travel somewhere. lol

    I abandon stories and go back to the drawing board all the time. It's irritating - but I think it's a very useful and important thing too. It's important to learn to stick with something - but it's also important sometimes to go "this isn't working - I need to change it completely and start again".

    Good luck
     

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