1. ArcticPhoenix
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    ArcticPhoenix Member

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    How do I start...?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by ArcticPhoenix, Apr 22, 2013.

    Hey everyone, it's my first thread here. I hope this won't turn out necromancing some terribly old, outdated and out-discussed topic. Went through the rules and at least it doesn't seem to be a big problem here, the necromancing of horribly aged topics, that is. Please correct me if I'm wrong. xD

    Thing is, I have this story idea that has been swimming around in my head for a while. The idea still interests me, I still like a lot of the characters, and I do still want to write them. And I have... up until half of the first chapter.

    ... And then I have no idea whatsoever as to what I want to happen. Not until they meet the Big Bad, at least, and this feels way too early.

    I think plotting would help me, but again, I really have no idea what I want to happen at all... Every time I try to get some plotting done (using yWriter, just for additional detail, because I do like using it and it usually helps me a lot with plotting), I end up not wanting to write anything more at all because I'm so stumped. But whenever I just go ahead and get some unplanned writing done, I'm just too worried it will end up being a messy worthless unplanned crap, and I'd be turned off for a while by internal editor mode...

    Would anyone like to help me by sharing your favorite way of plotting when you're just starting up a story? :)
     
  2. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    This can bring up the age old question of "plotters" versus "pantsers." You seem to indicate you are more of a plotter, but maybe, since you've got some of your characters and a general idea of what you want, you could try to "pants" it for a bit and see what happens? Maybe write a few scenes with your characters and see where it takes you -- even if you don't end up using the scenes, at least you'll get some good work done on developing your characters and getting to know them better. Often that can give you some hints as to what might happen. Or, if you have an idea for your big scene, go ahead and write that. Maybe you'll get some more ideas from there.
     
  3. idle
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    idle Active Member

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    It seems that you have the same problem as me - you don't feel like writing until you know where you're going with it. I understand you, but do not have many solutions.

    There are many people here who will tell you to just write and not care about whether it's crap or not, it's just the first draft anyway and you'll revise it many times later until it gets deleted or polished. It works for them. For me, it doesn't. But you could try.

    You can skip it and write the bits that you know - like meeting the Big Bad, as you mentioned. You'll probably realize later that there are things that need to happen or be mentioned before the meeting. Then you can go back and add it, because by that time you'll know what is is you need to write there.

    You could let it lie for a moment and think it through some more. But that's basically what you've done, right? I do that all the time and usually it doesn't work. So let's scratch this one.

    You could try and change the way you write - get up from the computer, pick up a notebook and a pencil and go sit in an easy chair or on a park bench. That sometimes works for me (if I need to make myself move forward and just write). Not always, but sometimes it does.

    I know you asked about plotting, but I'm afraid I don't know much about that.
     
  4. Nicki_G
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    Nicki_G Member

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    If you really are looking for the most effective use of your time for writing, this may not be the best advice but it might prove helpful if you have spare time.

    When I "get stuck" or just don't know where to begin, I free write. Free writing is a no stress way to get all of my ideas out on paper, I even get ideas out there that I didn't even know I had. Free writing is how I usually begin my stories and I play with some different settings and times until I find one that fits.

    If all else fails, I bring in a new character. Someone not too possibly important but that helps the story along or sheds light on something that one of the other characters doesn't know yet.
     
  5. Quille
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    Quille Senior Member

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    A couple of weeks ago, I had a scene I liked but not the rest of the story and I didn't want to just file it away. I started writing down questions and then answering them.

    My character wakes up in a strange place, all she knows is that it's a dream she's had before. So my first questions were 'who' put her there and 'why' and 'where' is here? etc. Generally came up with 2 or 3 answers to each question and managed to pull a plot out of those. Some of those answers led to other questions. Did it again when I got stuck later in the story and am now working on my 3rd ending.

    I have only done this with one story, so don't know if it will work again.

    Good luck.
     
  6. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    Something that you may find helpful is to make almost a timeline of sorts. Put down the first event of the story (the thing that happens in the first half of chapter one). Then, some distance along the timeline, put the meeting of the big baddy. Now connect the dots. What needs to happen to get your characters from point A to point Z? Where do they need to go? What do they need to do? Part of doing this means knowing who Big Bad is and why they are the Big Bad. But if you already know this, that shouldn't be a problem for you.

    Writing out the next scene that you have in mind can also work out quite well. If you have no idea what comes next (the point B to your point A) then you can skip to the next point that you do know, by that C, R or Z. There's no rule that says you have to write your book in chronological order. There's no rule that says you can't write it from end to beginning. Write what you arleady know you want to or have to do to make the story work, and just fill in the holes in the story at a later date when you know what you need to fill them.

    And finally, it may be good to stop thinking of them as Chapters. Now, for me, personally, this doesn't work, but it does work wonders for a friend of mine. Rather than think "This is what needs to happen in this chapter," she instead thinks of it as "These are what scenes need to be included in the story to make it work." She can then go through and write the scenes individually, connect them all together, and then split them into chapters afterward.

    From the threads in this forum, you'll find that no one here can agree on what the best writing process is. That's because there isn't one. As individuals, our thought-processes are different. We each think in different ways, and that leads to different writing means. Some people get an initial idea and just start writing with no idea of where to go with the story. Some people (myself included) prefer to flesh out the plot and decide what's going to happen in each individual chapter before they get writing. And others, still, are somwhere in the middle. The have points A, F, L, Q and Z and they start writing to fill in the rest of the points in-between.

    So your best bet is to play with different techniques and tips until you find the one(s) that work best for you. Perfect your own writring process until you know what you need to get started and finish your book.

    Best of luck in your writing. x
     
  7. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Don't worry about writing scenes in chronological order. If you have a scene in your head, write it now—even if you think it will appear at the end of your story, or in the middle.

    Do write it as well as you can, with plenty of detail, dialogue, etc, to bring it to life. I GUARANTEE once you've done this, another scene will spring to mind. And then another ...etc, etc. Very soon, you'll know what your plot will be, and you can start putting your scenes together, and writing other scenes to link them.

    The worst thing you can do is get stalled for weeks or months on end, waiting for a plot to spring—fully formed—into your head. That method might work for some people; I'm not trying to be dictatorial. However, I know it doesn't work for me. I visualise a scene, then write it. Then write more scenes until the plot emerges. Then organise, and write till it's done. Then edit.
     
  8. SlimeWizard
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    SlimeWizard New Member

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    I don't know whether this will help or not but a week ago I was stuck on part of a story where it was just left completely open-ended and literally anything could happen. I gave some friends a brief outline of events so far and asked them where they thought it should go, recording their ideas and adding my own notes and adjustments.

    I know it looks downright lazy and unimagitive to do what is essentially letting people write it for you but the things I gathered were just very concise, single-phrase ideas that I would then plan and interpret however I wanted to. I would try to write a little about what would happen following each suggested event, spending more time on the ones I thought I was likely to choose.
     
  9. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    To be fair, have you considered that perhaps you're starting your story too much before the main event?

    Anyway, I'm not sure what your dilemma is. Just get down to planning, then, if that works for you - what's the problem? Saying "I have no idea what should happen" is just an excuse - that's why you plot. Much of plotting is really just sitting down and, well, thinking. A lot. Start thinking. There're no short cuts, but it seems that's what you're looking for.

    Use diagrams, post-it notes, drawings, story-boarding, flow charts, brainstorm diagrams, coloured pens and felt-tips to colour code everything, type it up as a list of bullet points.... Ideas flow better when it's with paper and pen and you have the freedom to scribble and position your ideas whenever you like or move them or connect them with arrows - none of which is half as easily done on the computer. But these are all just tools, methods - in the end, the only way you're gonna know what's gonna happen is if you sit down and start THINKING.
     
  10. SlimeWizard
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    SlimeWizard New Member

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    Thanks for suggesting this, even if I'm not the one asking for advice. I think what you've said will also help me quite a lot with story planning. :)
     
  11. Stukov
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    Stukov Member

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    Great advice here. If you've got a great idea, write it down.

    Some of my most complete and satisfying work that I've done so far came about from an idea I had where I wrote the actual death scenes of the characters in question, and from that point I've been inspired to weave out entire life stories of how the characters came to this point.

    In fact, almost always I'll find myself coming up with a great idea for a chapter or lines of dialogue that fit different parts of the story. It's an interesting way of working.
     
  12. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    This is what I was going to suggest. Writing shorts with my characters helps me to get a feel for them and where I want things to go. I often don't wind up using anything I write with these but they are very good at helping to get the creative juices flowing.
     
  13. ArcticPhoenix
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    ArcticPhoenix Member

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    Wow, so many responses while I was away sleeping and working. This is about the warmest welcome I can hope for right after joining a forum. Thank you so much everyone for your helpful advice!

    Chicagoliz – I just always wondered if writing the big scene right off the bat would sap my interest right out of the rest of the story. But thinking about it again, it would make sense that writing such a scene would lead me to ask questions; how things came to that, who are involved, why, and the when and the where and the what. And when I ask questions, I get pieces of plot done. Thank you!

    Idle – Doesn’t matter that you didn’t really tell me things about plotting. It seems to me like we’re maybe the same type of writers here, and being understood helps a lot with my dwindling motivation, because so far I just thought that I’m weird for... being the kind of writer I am. Yes, I don’t like revising things over and over again only to delete them later, it takes from my overall motivation and like for my own work. Yes, I’ve let it lie for a long time and think and think through it, but it doesn’t work. Sadly, sometimes for some reason I’m not a big fan of writing things by hand. I used to love it, but now that I work I guess I’m too lazy to handwrite anything anymore. xD
    So what I’m gonna do, as the above poster and you suggest, is to skip things and the beginning for now, and write the scene I already do have in mind. That is, the big event of meeting the Big Bad – and figure out things that need to happen or be mentioned before the meeting AFTER I write that scene. Thank you for re-sparking my motivation.

    Nicki – Yes, unfortunately with the ungodly amount of time I spend at work, I can barely afford to freewrite, fun as it is. That and I am notoriously bad at free writing in that I fail hard at shutting off my internal editor mode, which always turns back on about every hour or so. xD

    Quille – Like I said above, I think it’s true that asking questions is a really good way to get started with constructing some semblance of a plot. Problem with me is, I can rarely bring myself to just sit down and think about questions to ask to myself. I am sure that questions will present themselves as I write that big scene I mentioned at the beginning, though. Thank you for the advice and well-wishing!

    Thornesque – Aha, am I looking at a pro plotter? Lucky. Thank you for enlightening me on these technical aspects of plotting; I need a lot of this kind of knowledge as I feel I am severely lacking, although I prefer plotting and have tried to read several books about it... to little avail, it seems. I’m writing down your advice (actually, copy-pasting... no actual handwriting as I am too lazy).
    So, with this, first I’m going to try to write that Big Bad scene I have in mind. As I stated in my first post, I do already have the first event of the story written in the half of the first chapter I have done, so there is that. Questions happen, and I connect the dots. Then I write the next scene I already have in mind, and connect the dots again. Voila, timeline.
    I now have a game plan. >) Thorn, you are magic.
    As for not thinking of them as chapters... mm, I like chapters as they prevent my story from being total chaos, heh. That might be something to try when I’m stuck down the line because of boredom, though, so I’ll keep it in mind.
    Thanks for the sweet well-wishing, too.

    Jannert - Yep, that’s exactly what I’m about to try. And yes, I always do try to write every chronologically random piece as well as I can. Even though I will inevitably have to revise it, I don’t want to look at it and be utterly repulsed that I won’t want to pick it up again with a stick for the next year.
    ... I did get stalled for months on end, until I stumbled upon this forum. Obviously, it did not work for me either. Ha...

    SlimeWizard – I do that too sometimes. Well. I would get inspired when I hear the idea, but when Igo to write it down I just get confused. So, it never quite works for me. xD

    Mckk – Starting my story too much before the main event? I’m afraid I don’t quite understand; I don’t feel like I’m starting anything at all is the problem.
    I’m sorry, but sitting down and thinking and thinking and thinking some more isn’t my cup of tea. I’m just the kind of person that can’t stay still long enough to just think; writing scenes I already have in mind would work better for me in terms to helping my mind figure things out. I’m not looking for short cuts; ideas for techniques that would suit me more is more like it. You just suggested one with the diagrams, post-it, and everything; thanks for that. =)

    Stukov – Didn’t expect to find this kind of idea from the kind of question I asked. I also have problems with writing backstories (or life stories) for some side characters because asking loads and loads questions gets boring after you get all the main characters done that way. Writing their death scene... now that’s new. Definitely something to try!

    TerraIncognita – Well, you’ve definitely convinced me on how good an idea that is to try out. =)


    Can't believe how much I've learned from just this one thread. I definitely have joined the right forum... Very glad to be here.
     
  14. Nicki_G
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    Nicki_G Member

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    That's just impossible! You need to relax and let the creative juices flow. Not everything will be perfect when you first lay it on paper; editing is a final step. You need to explore your story and tell yourself it's okay if it's not just right.

    But in the mean time, if you can't get yourself to free-write...in the mean time, outline or write up character bios or setting details. =)
     
  15. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think editing is the final 9 steps of a 10 step plan
     
  16. Nicki_G
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    Nicki_G Member

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    But you need to get some kind of story down in the first steps. You can't just write one paragraph and edit it like crazy and call it a day. You need some way to get ideas down first.
     
  17. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    Haha! I wouldn't call myself a "pro" at anything, least of all plotting, or really anything to do with writing. But yes, I do do a lot of plotting and always have so I do have a few ideas in mind.

    I'm glad if my suggestions could help out in anyway. Let me know if you have any questions or if you just want to chat some day. ^.^
     
  18. ArcticPhoenix
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    ArcticPhoenix Member

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    Yeah, hahah. I know that I need to relax and that it's impossible to be perfect right from the get-go. I guess I'm always overly worried that I'd be absolutely terrible right from the get-go. xD

    Yup, coincidentally, that's what I'm doing right now. I was just gonna write the Big Bad scene, got some character ideas instead, and started playing around with them. Characters are always fun to play with, aren't they.

    Thorn - Your suggestions helped a lot, definitely. And you have a message sitting in your inbox, if you're still up for a chat. =)
     
  19. Nicki_G
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    Nicki_G Member

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    Never! You can only be terrible if you never put yourself, and your words, out there.

    I love playing with characters too. Sometimes, I might spend a little too much time on them. But, it helps me know them forward, backward, and upside down. =)
     
  20. ArcticPhoenix
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    ArcticPhoenix Member

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    ... Alright. That's definitely the way to get someone writing, if that's what you intended. xD

    Ah, on that matter, what do you usually do? I know that a lot of people like the "sit down and interview the character" method, but I guess I'm not a good enough interviewer for that to work effectively. xD Do you do the death scene thing too? And considering that you seem to quite like free-writing, I assume that you like writing random little scenes about a particular character here and there whenever the idea pops up.
     
  21. Nicki_G
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    Nicki_G Member

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    Great! ;) You got it!


    Ha! I'm definitely not an interviewer. Seems too scripted for some reason. I do, however, love to think of what my characters would do in different situations (e.g. if they were dropped in the middle of the rainforest, if they were trapped under a collapsed building, etc.). I find I learn more about them that way than if I just think up answers to a list of questions. I let the characters tell me who they are, not the other way around.
     
  22. idle
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    idle Active Member

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    Don't discount it. I used to write with a computer only, writing by hand seems to be terribly slow in comparison, but that's the point. Sometimes you need to accept that writing is a slow process.
     
  23. Nicki_G
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    Nicki_G Member

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    Agreed! I find that I get distracted if I'm writing on the computer. If I just have a notebook and pencil, I feel more determined and focused.
     
  24. Stukov
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    Stukov Member

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    The thing is, you don't have to plot out a characters entire life story and personality straight away. If you find that sort of thing boring when you try and do it for prolonged periods of time, then don't do it, because you're only going to force yourself to come up with ideas that won't necessarily suit the character. It's perfectly feasible to have even the main characters in a story only outlined in vague details, let alone the side characters; because the more you write, the more ideas you'll get to fill in the blanks of these character's memories and personalities. It doesn't matter if your later work doesn't really reflect the vague details of the character that you had when you started, because you can just go back and edit that earlier work. Writing is such a fluid thing, there is no optimum way to do things, it's what works for you that matters.

    Just to be clearer; I felt like writing something a little grim, so I came up with two death scenes for new characters right off the top of my head. I enjoyed writing them so much that it inspired me to come up with a basic origin story and then some of the events in those characters lives that would make good tales, ultimately leading up to what I had already written. Now I've got a novellas worth of stuff written just based off that initial spark. Nothing is set in stone though, I might wind up changing how they die, or choosing to let them live. I find that the more I write, the more new ideas I come up with.

    Apologies if I've just repeated what others have already said in this thread, I only skim read the other posts.

    But, the point is: It doesn't matter how you start. Just start, and see where it takes you.
     
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  25. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Glad to help. :) It's worked well for me!
     

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