1. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    How big are your plots?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Chinspinner, Nov 13, 2015.

    I like the thought of keeping my plots small; a limited cast of interesting characters within an intimate setting. But every time I write it starts expanding outwards, and then I feel like I am losing control over it, like the parameters I have set myself have come undone.

    For example, in my hard sci-fi piece, I just found myself writing a section of back story on earth involving one of the characters. My intention was to stay strictly upon the spacecraft, but then I wandered off elsewhere.

    My problem with "big" plots probably stems from my hatred of CGI in movies. I find the destruction of cities, or the world at peril intensely tedious. Everything becomes bloated and impersonal and ridiculous to the point that all my interest erodes. I just stop giving a crap when the stakes are unrealistically high. Watching a small cast of characters traverse a small plot is much more interesting to me.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    You know those posts you write, thinking that it will capture the attention of people. And all you get is silence, and you start to wonder, I am using italics for thoughts here, I do not condone this behaviour, I think in close third it is unnecessary and I accept the wrath this will bring... but, I wondered (I am also using an unnecessary tag here), have I uttered an inanity? Do not get me wrong, I think that often. I have often uttered inanities, but rarely have I used italics to utter them.
     
  3. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    These are the kinds of stories I like to write. I outgrew the need to write RPG-style plots a while ago (and that's really, truly, not meant to be a dig at fantasy writers, I promise!). Even when the stakes are high, the plot is kept small--my newest novel will find the main character traversing several parallel universes...in order to find the plot coupons she needs to cure her love interest's illness. My last novel had my heroes fighting the evil organization that ruled every day life...to rescue someone they kidnapped and escape. Even when my scope is big, I keep the conflict small, grounded with just a few characters and a small (but often complicated) goal. The rest of my stories are all real-world, small-town deals.

    I don't find the need to expand beyond that, since I know going in what the premise will be, what the goal is, and usually what the resolution is. I focus in on one character for POV and keep that focus the whole time. The story is about that one character reaching that one goal, however complicated that one goal is in reality. That's what gives the story its content for me, without having to increase the stakes to include the whole world.

    If you find yourself wandering while creating your story, that's not necessarily a bad thing. But if it's impeding your work, you may want to try a more structured approach. Most of us fall somewhere on the spectrum between planning and pantsing...maybe you're closer to planning than you originally thought?
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2015
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  4. JenHLewis
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    JenHLewis Member

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    sometimes you just have to press delete....no matter how hard...no matter how much work and effort you have put into it. You as the author know the back stories, the history, the extended consequences, but the kindest thing to the reader is to omit them. It also navigates your plot into that small parking space in the multistorey garage.
     
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  5. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well I think there are two definitions of "Big" here. Once being a massive SCOPE (personal vs. global/universal) and the other being massive PLOT (large cast, multi-POV, lots of subplots etc.). The two tend to go together but you can certainly do one without the other - for instance if you did a family saga in the American Old West you can have a massive cast and tons of subplots without the scope ever leaving a few families in a small town (Come to think of it, Laura Ingalls Wilder did that with the Little House Books - although it's been so long that I'm not sure if she ever broke POV). You could also do global scale with a small cast and few subplots - which sounds like a lot of thrillers.

    Sounds like you have a story with relatively small scope but potential for a somewhat complex plot. Which could actually be fun to read for me as a sci-fi reader. If you can keep the tight focus and small scope within a sci-fi saga, you really could do something beautiful by keeping the camera focussed on the little people and resisting the urge to get into the universal aspects of whatever is going on around them.
     
  6. halisme
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    halisme Contributing Member Contributor

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    I tend to focus on what we'd normally deem as side characters. For example, there's an 'evil' empire. While most fantasy would have some hero come along and destroy, I'd write a story based on criminals within the empire who don't care whether the people running it get taken down.
     
  7. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    And I feel your pain on containing the plot. Mine keeps ballooning and tying it all back together is not always fun (unlike you, I purposefully went global...*sigh*)
     
  8. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Good point but don't actually delete any of the stuff you cut. Keep it in a folder somewhere so that you know your own "canon".
     
  9. karmazon
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    karmazon Member

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    I also like small plots. However, the story is the master. If it dictates that you introduce more characters and bigger settings, let it. There's always the 2nd draft if you wish to cut them out.
     
  10. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    This is one of the reasons I find Signs such a good movie. It's about one family in the middle of a global alien invasion and the way they deal with their situation. None of them save the world. None of them are Chosen Ones™. None of them have special powers. They're just doing what they can to survive, like most of us would. I'm past needing to look up to MCs - I want to relate to them.

    Having said that, a backstory on earth is going to help me relate to a character rather than make me feel more distant. I know that was just an example, but if by scope-creep you mean exploring characters further... I say go for it.
     
  11. Grenwickle
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    Grenwickle New Member

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    I think in a way the plot is irrelevant. The plot is just a tool to push your characters along certain paths that lead to certain emotional responses in the reader. It also is for guiding the reader's attention, so the scope of the plot reflects this (eg. Dune by F. Herbert - in-depth worldbuilding and a complex plot, with a focus on changing times rather than characters). And with a lot of stories you can get ever more complex (up to a point perhaps) as long as you draw in your audience well.
     

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