1. oshkinlobinshla
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    oshkinlobinshla New Member

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    Hi guys, I'm new and could use some help with my "plot"

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by oshkinlobinshla, Jul 7, 2012.

    I'm brand new on this site, so I hope I'm using the forums correctly. I've been working on a setup and characters for my Camp NaNo novel for a few months now but am stuck, as usual, at coming up with a basic plot. I don't know why this is so difficult for me, but I was hoping some of you might be interested in reading what I have so far and giving some suggestions.

    I was thinking about a dystopian (sort of) society with 3 divisions that are socially and economically stratified and ringed around a central area where power is concentrated, essentially The City, The Sprawl, The Pasture, and The Slum. The system is set up so that you're born into one division with the opportunity to move your way up by acting as a police force for the government, so if you see someone breaking a rule, you can turn that person in and receive a reward ranging from food or clothing to a cash reward to a division promotion. So basically, this sets it up for the people who are starving in the slums to turn on each other in order to survive and for people in the higher divisions to turn on each other for the sake of power and luxury. I've got this whole thing worked out, and I'm interested enough in it to really want to write about it, but I just don't know where to go with it.

    I've thought about a few different ideas for plots...

    *One started with the mayor of the poorest division helping an orphan child escape and being publicly executed for his crime. The idea was that the boy would be supposedly the first to escape, causing the divisions to question whether there are others living outside the country who provided an escape network to the little boy, and eventually there would be other escape attempts and an overthrow, blah blah. I've been told this is too similar to the Hunger Games. I tend to agree to an extent. It's also a lot less interesting.

    *One (considering this society could be set up on an island or something like that) was about a race to the edge of the island, where anyone under the age of 18 could elect to try to finish this race, in which they would face levels of physical and psychological obstacles increasing in difficulty for the final prize of being able to take 6 people and leave the island... although what's past the island, I have no idea and have been stuck on.

    *One was that when the kids turned 18 they have the choice to either save a life and take their own or save their own and take another. I worked on this for a while and figured out a whole system of rules for how this would work out in different scenarios, and that was fun for a while, except - again - it's not a plot, just a random thought without much behind it.

    These all have more thought put into them and more complex motives behind them than I've written here, but those are the basics. I'm just very stuck and don't know how to move past this beginning stage of plotting. Does anyone have any thoughts about which of these ideas suck and which you think might be interesting? Other radically different ideas? Add-ons to current ideas? General advice on how to come up with something creative and twisty? I'm still very much in the learning process and I could use any advice from people who are a little more natural or successful with plotting. Thanks for welcoming me into your forum!
     
  2. JonSpear360
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    JonSpear360 Member

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    What time period are you looking at? Pre-technology, modern, sci-fi, etc. I get a big dystopian vibe from all three, I would google some dystopian fiction to see what themes you like.

    I guess you just have to ask yourself what your point is. What is the message you are trying to get across? Social commentary of any kind?

    I personally liked #2 the best, a race across the island. There has to be a compelling reason to enter into such a dangerous race though. And with all three ideas, you are greatly bordering on the likes of The Hunger Games, Battle Royale, etc because they are also dystopian universes where kids are placed in dangerous situations.

    You might even be able to combine ideas 2 and 3. When you turn 18 you have three options, kill yourself and a younger kid doesn't have to die when they turn 18, kill someone else so you live, or enter into an extremely dangerous game where if you lose your entire family dies, but if you win you get untold riches and your children are exempt when they turn 18. You could tie it into global overpopulation, or a UN type totalitarian world government, or something along those lines.

    Also, if this many people are dying and killing and doing absurd races, how are all the job roles filled. Do people still go to college? If everyone knew that they had a high chance of dying at 18 or they would have to murder someone at 18, do people live differently? Higher levels of anxiety, more risk taking, more sex and drugs before 18, how do you motivate kids to learn in school if they are going to die at 18? How do parents react knowing their kids will die or kill, do less people have children? Maybe robots do all the menial jobs so we have a lot less workforce needed to keep everything up and running.

    Ya see what I mean? It would be especially helpful to pick a time period, genre, and then overall message before focusing too much on the plot.

    Anywho, brainstorming is fun. I am also doing Camp NaNo, TacticalChaos15, or find me on Figment, we have a CampNaNo group going. Jonspear360
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It's your story. Which variant(s) can YOU do the most with?

    A story idea means nothing. All that matters is how you turn the idea into a completed story. YOUR skill with characters, YOUR ability to convey YOUR imagination to the reader, YOUR mastery of language, YOUR skill with pacing, dialogue and tension.

    A writer must make the hard choices himself or herself, boldly, decisively. Never ask permission or forgiveness. Decide the path YOUR story will take, and trust yourself to do so.
     
  4. oshkinlobinshla
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    oshkinlobinshla New Member

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    I did think about most of those things, and I think the way I set it up will make it possible for there to be a large population of "Over-18s" because of a save system and voluntary sacrifice by older relatives... It got pretty complicated, though, and I have a ton more thinking to do about it. Basically all motivation comes from fear. My thought was once you got past 18 you'd be assigned a job in a particular sector, and since conditions are so bad and the gov't is so threatening, no one is in any place to turn down a job. So as far as the message goes, it would certainly be a social commentary and a call for skepticism, but there would be more to that when the characters come in. And it would be set sometime in the future, which I'm still mulling over, although I'm not sure it will be helpful to set a specific date. I haven't heard of Battle Royale other than the name, so I hope there aren't too many additional similarities there.

    I love the suggestion of combining the two different plot ideas. Like I said, I have a lot of thinking to do about the basics, but that comment got my brain going again. Thanks! I appreciate your answer.
     
  5. JonSpear360
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    JonSpear360 Member

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    @ Cognito - So you're against brainstorming and talking with fellow writers? Osh was just asking for a fellow writers opinion. I agree with you 100% that it ultimately comes down to skill and decision making on their part, but I can't possibly see anything helpful about telling them that their question is void.


    @Osh - No problem! It did seem to get extremely complicated quickly, haha. However, I think it's worth it. The story idea you had could be a winner. I know that I would definitely read it! Good luck. Keep us updated with what you chose or if you have any other questions.

    PS, Battle Royale is great. It came out about a decade ago, I'm pretty sure a movie was just released in Japan recently. It's basically a more stylized and brutal version of the Hunger Games. There are some differences, but they are compared a lot because of young students being forced into an arena to kill each other. Definitely google it!
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    [​IMG]
    I am against asking other people to select or come up with the story for the writer. That's the writer's job, to come up with a story and to present it to the readers. I want prospective writers to think like writers, and to shed bad writing habits.
     
  7. maidahl
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    maidahl Banned

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    So far, your skill is going incognito when you need someone else to validate your story for you. May your talent not be so concealed when I read your post!
     
  8. oshkinlobinshla
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    oshkinlobinshla New Member

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    That wasn't the intent at all. Jon's suggestion of combining two of the ideas was all I needed to get back on track. It's been spilling out since then. I've always struggled with plotting, and sometimes I just need that little push in the right direction to get "unstuck," whether that comes from something else I'm reading or something I notice in my daily life or an outside opinion from another person. This plot has been in the works for many months now, so I finally thought I'd see if bouncing my ideas around with someone else would help get the ball rolling again, and it did.

    I'm still in the stage of my life where I'm doing a lot of academic writing, and I'll get ideas for single creative scenes and write those very often, but I've never sat down and plotted an entire novel-length story before. I've tried a few times, but I've never gotten this far with it. So I'm kind of a first-timer, and I think brainstorming with others and seeking the opinions of more experienced writers can only help.

    If I don't know how to proceed with my plot, I can't practice my writing. This is just for me, just for practice, and not with any intention of publishing. It's nothing so serious. I'm just having fun. :)
     
  9. oshkinlobinshla
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    oshkinlobinshla New Member

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    I presented this question the way I did so readers would know I was open to all sorts of responses and opinions, as this type of question posted by other members was actually what brought me to the site. If I'm using the forum incorrectly, please let me know.

    I've been advised by a lot writers and teachers to share my ideas with others, to let others read my work, to allow people to help me find plot holes that I may have accidentally overlooked, and just in general to brainstorm with other writers and readers. I didn't think presenting my ideas - especially as a beginner who could certainly benefit from the advice of more experienced writers - and being interested in peoples' responses to those ideas was breaking any major rules of writing. The intention was never to come on here and say, "Tell me what to write." In this case, the one suggestion to combine two of my ideas was all I needed, and now I've been able to come close to completing a full plot so I can go on and get more practice writing, which was the whole goal to begin with. Maybe someday I'll be better off writing with a partner.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you are looking for a process for developing your story, you can start with What is Plot Creation and Development?.

    And that's what the Writing Issues set of forums is about - developing processes and strategies for various aspects of writing.

    But what you ASKED for is for people to help you decide between different directions for your story. My response still stands. It's a decision YOU should be making. All anyone else can tell you is whhere they woult take the story, which would then become their story.

    Can you picture <your favorite author> going online to ask fans which variation of his or her next novel should be written? Or brainstorming for story ideas? Real writers learn to use, and to trust, their own imaginations. The sooner you begin doing so, the more rapidly you will mature as a writer.

    Real writers create. Real writers make decisions. They don't ask permission, and they don't offer apologies.
     
  11. oshkinlobinshla
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    oshkinlobinshla New Member

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    Thanks for sending the link. I'll check it out.

    No, I can't imagine my favorite author asking for ideas. Then again, my favorite author is not a teenager nor a beginner and is probably more confident with her skills than I am (or should be) at this point. I didn't consider this to be a bad practice, but I can understand why you say so. Like I said, this is an area where I struggle, and for me right now the important thing is that I get the practice doing the actual writing. I couldn't find a way to move forward with this story in order to get that practice, so I thought brainstorming with others would be more beneficial than not. The alternative seemed to be not writing at all. I asked for any and all different responses, including advice about how to do more brainstorming on my own. So if you have any other links or advice on that front, I'm totally open to it.

    For the record, I could never take and use an idea that wasn't mine, because I'd never be committed to it. Never planned on it. It just helps me to HEAR other thoughts to get the wheels turning again in the same way that reading other writers' stories can inspire a new idea, which is why I asked. I tend to get kind of stuck in a box at a certain point. I guess I'm not the most creative person, but writing is still a hobby for me. As you pointed out to me, I'm not a "real" writer yet, which is why I'm aware of my shortcomings, why I asked for opinions, and why I need more practice. So I completely understand what you're getting at, but I didn't intend the question in such an awful way. I would not use someone else's idea.

    I didn't realize it was this kind of community, but I guess it would be best to avoid posting again until I can call myself a "real" writer. Or maybe I'll avoid posting altogether, since this has been a pretty negative first experience on the forum apart from Jon's very helpful comment. I'm glad I got out of this what I needed for my story, but Cogito, despite the fact that I understand where you're coming from now, there would've been a way for you to be constructive, helpful, and polite with your response.

    @Jon - Thanks again! I'll add you on Camp Nano.
     
  12. Danbershan
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    Danbershan New Member

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    I agree with JonSpear360 that combining 2 and 3 would be pretty good. Because 2 is pretty cool, but it doesn't quite have enough substance to make a plot, from what I can see. So combining the two seems like it would turn out well.

    Other people have already done their own lists of ramifications, so I won't do so ;)

    EDIT: My impression of this forum was that it was to offer advice to people in developing their writing skills, at whatever level they needed it. Obviously, they should be pushed to do as much as they can autonomously, but I don't see what the problem is with bouncing ideas off others. I'm sure many famous authors do so with their friends or colleagues, so why not on a forum, especially as it's just practice? I realise I only just joined, but I figured I might as well weigh in.
     

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