1. Drusilla
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    Drusilla Active Member

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    Help! I'm more interested in my characters than the plot itself!

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Drusilla, Apr 5, 2013.

    I've been bothered with this problem for a long time. Thing is.......... I am more interested in my characters than in my plot. I don't really know if I'm interested in the plot at all. I decided to change my plot five months ago. Before then, I felt that everything was set in stone (plot wise), but I wasn't happy with the plot. I then came up with a plot that I thought would unite the characters and create an interesting story. But thing is......... I feel like I don't know the plot properly. And I feel that I'm more interested in my characters than the plot. The plot uses the save the world/fight between good and evil-formula.

    Here are two examples:

    Minty (my main character and heroine):
    I am more interested in "Minty the fourteen-year-old girl" than "Minty the hero who will save the world". I think it is more appealing to write about Minty interacting with her friends or her family than depicting her in battle scenes.

    Minty's main teacher (who will be part of the quest):

    I am more interested in writing about him at home interacting with his spouse than writing about him teaching his students.

    I feel that I am more interested in the interpersonal relationships of the characters and the fictional universe's culture than the plot. But thing is........ This is set in a fantasy world and I cannot see my characters losing their magic abilities. Is it possible to write a fantasy story without a "save the world"-plot? Or is it possible to do a family drama, love story, school drama, psychological drama etc set in a fantasy world?
    Fantasy settings and fictional worlds interest me, but I'm not very motivated to do a "save the world"-story right now. And I've worked for so long on my characters and my fictional world. I wouldn't want to put it on the shelf!
    I'm not interested in moving my characters to "the real world".
    Please help me!

    One more thing! I suck at creating villains and I am NEVER satisfied with the villains I create! I avoid "filler villains" and "evil-for-the-sake-of-being-evil villains" like plague. I could never accept a villain who was just evil for the sake of being evil! Although Voldemort and Sauron are not bad to read about, I feel that I have "higher expectations" when it comes to writing a villain. I want realism, yet fantasy. I am not comfortable of writing about villains who are 100% evil, because I don't believe there are humans who are like that.
     
  2. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Good.

    Don't be a slave to your plot.

    It is only necessary to block-out a rough direction and a general ending; then let your characters make the rest of the plot as they go. Then in the edit/revise stage fix any holes and things that just don't seem right--that's how plots are formed. Just because you read novels that seem to have every little detail mapped out, that doesn't mean that's what the author did.
     
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  3. Drusilla
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    Drusilla Active Member

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    Thanks for your kind words, but I am still not convinced.........

    I am unsure about what kind of plot I can have in a fantasy-setting. Does the plot have to follow the "save the world"-formula? Does it have to be action-based? In your opinion, what should a fantasy plot be like? Could I, for example, have a family-drama set in a fantasy-world or does it have to be about saving the world?


    All of these thoughts have been in my head since yesterday night. I am desperate for opinions/advices/help. Please help me!
     
  4. iolair
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    iolair Active Member

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    Good. Character-driven stories are often the most rewarding to read.

    Yes, absolutely. Write it well, and anything goes.

    Good. One-dimensional characters are unsatisfying (except perhaps as bit-parts).
     
  5. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    I agree with Nee - don't become encumbered with your plot. When I began writing my first novel (science fiction), I discovered that half my plot was thrown out the window because my characters wanted to do their own thing! Don't be scared when they do this; characters generally know what they're doing. They are the reason people read books: without characters, there would be no plot (remember that characters could be inanimate objects if you so desire).

    As for what to include in your fantasy plot, you're right: you could easily write a family drama in an imagined world. Problems in books are all the same when you look at their roots, and that's why people read about other characters' problems - so they can relate. The only real rule is if you're writing about a family in a fantasy world, remember to include some fantasy. People pick up fantasy to read about fantasy (but remember that family drama is absolutely fine. Just include some unusual creatures, flora, and fauna once in a while). If you don't need those things to tell your story, then standard fiction will tell your story just as well, if not, better.

    Hope I helped. :)
     
  6. Drusilla
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    Drusilla Active Member

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    Thing is........ I am not that interested in writing stories set in our real world. I love to create fictional worlds. I can't imagine moving my characters from the fictional world I created and putting them into the real world...........

    My fictional world has its own norms/rules, unique fauna, unique flora, magic and an unique history.

    But does the plot have to revolve around magic or a magical object? Is it possible to have the fantasy aspects just be "in the background"? I'm not planning to do so. I'm just wondering. I want it to be a fantasy story, but how would you define a fantasy story?
     
  7. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Pretend for a minute that you're NOT writing fantasy. You've created these two characters whom you like. What kind of story would they have, if you were writing a 'right-now' story set in your home town? Play around with that idea, and see if something sparks you. Then gradually transfer the story to your fantasy setting.

    A story needs to have bite in order to move, so don't make these characters 'easy' and don't make their situation easy either. Both of them should have good AND not-so-good aspects of their personality. Can you create anything that clashes between them, or something that they both hate? What do they love? What do they dislike? What do they hate? What do they want?

    If you can answer these questions in the here-and-now, chances are you can begin to see a story. Once you do, then you're on your way - fantasy or not. Personally, I would much rather read a fantasy story that is not 'save the world.' This is a cliche these days, unless it's done in expert hands. I'd much rather be taken somewhere strange to me, and become involved in a personal story containing characters I really care about. You seem to care about your characters already, so this aspect should be easy for you to create.

    You just need to come up with a reason to write about them. Or ...if that fails, just start writing what you WANT to write about them, what happens between them. A story is very likely to emerge on its own. Forget about creating a plot (or villain) beforehand. Just write!
     
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  8. Drusilla
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    Drusilla Active Member

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    Jannert, you have some brilliant points!

    But what plots can a fantasy story have? Would it be cheesy with a "win the heart of this or that person", "gain the acceptance from the family" or "solve a friend problem"-plot set in a fantasy world? Will readers be thinking that the story can survive without the fantasy aspect? When opening a fantasy book, will the readers expect it to be a "save the world"-story?
    If I, for example, decide to write a story with a "gain the acceptance from the family"-plot, will people keep saying that the story can survive in a real world-setting? I am unfortunate, because I am not interested in writing about characters who live in the real world.

    Another thing. I created the characters and the fictional world long before I created any plot examples.
     
  9. GreasyLocks
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    GreasyLocks Member

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    I think it would be really interesting incorporating fantasy elements into the everyday lives of the characters, for instance are dragon slayers the equivalent of show-off boy racers?

    If it's magic, say, draw similarities and contrasts between what we take for granted in our world and what they take for granted in their world. For example, they may be able to light a fire with their minds, but they're running out of fuel to set fire to, or they have problems with disease and infection because their magic abilities has caused them to neglect scientific study.

    I'd like to read about what our fantasy characters fantasize about too! for every world saver in each fantasy setting, there are thousands/millions/billions of normal folk with interesting thoughts and feelings, dreams, relationships, let's hear about them!

    :D
     
  10. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    You can write your story in any way you like. The only thing you must do is keep people reading. Plot is only what happens in a story: it is not what a story is about. Stories are about characters in crisis: whether that is life threatening or not is not important, just that your characters respond to it with great urgency.

    Plot definition:

    A secret plan for accomplishing an unlawful act.

    A plan for a story.

    Or--my favorite--a small piece of land in which they bury your ass in. :D

    .
     
  11. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I really can't answer what your plot should be, or whether or not it would be 'cheesy.' I guess that depends on the tone of the piece.

    What I would recommend, since you seem to be struggling a bit to find your story, is write a scene - ANY scene - you have in your head that contains your character/or characters. Even if they're just eating lunch, or walking from point A to point C, or banging heads together. Just get them flowing into words, and see what happens.

    From my own experience, this little trick works a treat. Before you finish writing the scene, you'll have some ideas. Just go from there. Don't worry about getting it all sorted out beforehand. Just go with what you've got already, and I think you'll be fine.

    By the way, GreasyLocks, I do love that idea!
     
  12. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    why are you (the OP) so obsessed with saving the world?

    I go the other way - plot first then organically grow characters to suit - I'm not so in love with my characters that I can't kill them off at any stage which hopefully also carries shock value for the reader. "Shit - why did he die? I liked him!"

    Unlike others here I think characters are incidental so I would advise to get a story first, even a rough outline. Set you fantasy characters in a historic piece of reality, throw in some dubious legends and see what happens - you don't always have to save the world or cheesily marry the Princess. Cut yourself off from the characters for a while and write a story.
     
  13. Drusilla
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    Drusilla Active Member

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    Thing is....... I have worked very much on my characters' personalities and I don't want to scrap them totally. I did get the story first, but I wasn't happy with the plot. I think the plot turned out to be a cheesy "save the world from an evil wizard"-plot (with the villain being flat, unappealing and evil with no reason), so I scrapped it. Today, I am unsure of the story's plot.
     
  14. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Just ask your character what she would like to do. Don't restrain her, don't force her. Sit her down, give her a nice, lovely cup of tea and say, "So, what is your story. Please talk and I'll write."

    Then let her talk. Do not interrupt her. If she wants to talk about that cute guy she saw in class, who then unveiled to her that he was actually part-alien, too, and he was trying to get back to his homeplanet half-way across the galaxy, but her people wouldn't let him for whatever reason, oh, and she was also developing a crush on him, then let her. It may sound crazy, but hey, if that's the story she would like to tell, then that's the story she wants to tell.

    Characters that tell their stories are the most interesting characters to me. If I forced my characters to sit down and tell the story I want them to tell, they'll just glower at me, cross their arms, and not speak at all. Our job, as writers, is to just write the stories they tell us, not force them to tell the story we want them to tell.

    Maybe she doesn't want to save the world? Not everyone wants to save the world.
     
  15. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Really? You talk to blank pages? Or even inked pages? You ask ink scribbles where they want to go next? And wait for an answer with 2 cups of tea?
     
  16. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I was speaking metaphorically. I don't literally talk to blank pages and give them cups of tea.
     
  17. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    I sincerely hope it hasn't come to that stage :)
     
  18. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Trust me. I'm not that out of touch with reality. I've already got OCD with General Anxiety Disorder.

    Now let's get back on topic. :)
     
  19. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I actually shy away from "the chosen one saves the world"-formulas. It's just so worn out and often really quite corny and, well, stupid. Or not necessarily stupid, but personally, being an individualist, I hate the idea that there's the one chosen person who's the only person in the universe who can save the world, and everyone else should just accept their roles as cannon fodder. To hell with that. I much prefer stories that are about ordinary people put in extraodrinary situations. I find such characters infinitely more relatable and interesting. Especially if they're imperfect. You know, normal people.

    Put characters like that into a fantasy setting, and you have my attention. As for action... well, I like action so my advice is to have at least some in the story, but I suppose there's a market for non-actioney fantasy as well. It's just not my cup of tea. That's partly because I also really enjoy seeing how normal people deal with mortal danger. You know, throw your average medieval farmer's daughter into a fight and see what happens (or how she even survives since in a realistic setting, her chances are pretty slim if she's untrained in combat, unarmed, and the opponent is, say, an armed man intent on ending her days). In scenarios like that, authors usually have to come up with original resolutions to the conflicts because it no longer works to write her do some kung fu move or magic spell, and have the bad guy sink into a rock.

    The story could even be about something else than saving the world. How's that for a novel idea? Maybe it's about fetching medicine from another village for a sick mother and that's all the geographical scope of the entire story: no visiting other realities, no journeys to the end of the world to defeat the arch baddie intent on enslaving all of humanity (or hobbitity or whatever); that's all been done to death and then some. Not that somebody couldn't come up with a truly original way to write a chosen one saving the world, but unless it's the next LOTR, I'd likely leave it in the book shop.
     
  20. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sure - there are plenty of fantasy stories that aren't save-the-world.

    - Most fairy tales are much smaller than world-scale, and many of them are individual scale. The world, for example, doesn't care whether Cinderlla's stepmother gets her comeuppance. _Ella Enchanted_, a relatively modern version of Cinderella, is a personal-sized tale.

    - While _The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe_ saves a country, some of the other Chronicles of Narnia books are just adventures.

    - The same for many, I believe most, of the Oz books.

    - _The Hobbit_ isn't a save-the-world story, even if _The Lord of the Rings_ is.

    - Monica Furlong's stories are individual-scale. Karen Cushman's are historic rather than fantasy, but they're still a good example of personal plots in not-our-current-world.

    - I think that the Harper books in the Pern series are stories on an individual scale, though my memory is a little fuzzy on that point.

    - I think that the Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser books tended to be individual stories. Googling to confirm that assumption reminds me that the phrase I want is "low fantasy" as opposed to "high fantasy" or "epic fantasy."
     
  21. La_Donna
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    La_Donna Member

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    I'd just write it, and see where it goes: have a plot goal in mind and just aim to get there, but don't create a fixed, in stone way to get there. Once you've got something written you can streamline it and fix plot holes in the re-write. For example, I wrote this short story about a girl who fell in love with a boy but her family didn't like him. Originally, the romance was the most important component of this story. However, when I just wrote it, her sister became the main character and it was all about how she dealt with the break-up of her family.
     

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