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  1. Electralight
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    Electralight Member

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    How do you come up with your plot?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Electralight, Jan 18, 2016.

    Plots come to me in the strangest ways. Sometimes I'll be sitting on a bus or taking a walk, and suddenly this seed of an idea starts to form in my mind. Usually, it is just that; a seed. If I don't write it down I'll forget it, and it takes a lot of thinking about to actually form a premise for a story or book.
    How do your ideas form?
     
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  2. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    I usually picture a scene and then build a plot around that. Sometimes the original scene ends up changing or being cut.
     
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  3. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    For me.. a character starts speaking. And then I imagine what worse I could do to him :twisted: and then I start thinking on how he/she can get out again :D
     
  4. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    I'm very much a seat of the pants kind of writer. I'll normally start a project just with one kinda vague idea about where I'm going. Some image of something that makes the project interesting to me. And then I just sit down and write. I find a voice, get into a flow and once I've gotten to know my characters maybe I'll make more of a plan. But more often than not I'll just write and improv it as I go. That leads to my first drafts being maybe twice as long as they should be; that's not a problem. Cutting is easy. I cut 120k words from my second finished project.

    Mostly I just let the characters guide me. I'll be writing and stop for two seconds and see exactly where I need to go. I don't know if that's lucky or not, maybe it is. It means I very seldom get blocked at all because I tend to always be able to get into a flow on something, even if I do need to ease back in sometimes. I just find anything more than the most general of plans (like a few sentences at most) don't fit how I work. What makes writing interesting to me is not knowing where anything is going and giving myself the freedom to go in a radically different direction. I think think all my favorite twists have come just from writing and having it just fall out onto the page. There's something incredibly satisfying about going from not quite knowing what I'm doing with a character to having that 'Oh s**t' moment when I find some sad, hidden thing just under the surface that blows up out of nowhere.

    I think the best time I've ever had writing was doing exactly that. Just writing. Just a scene of my present MC talking to her mum in the living room. And in my head I just saw them as this middle aged divorced mum and school age daughter and the daughter has to lie about where she got a bit of extra money from because she's really dreadful at hiding things. So far so meh. But as I was writing I had this little spark that maybe they have money problems. Maybe the mum thinks the money came from her ex-husband. Maybe her ex-husband isn't supposed to send their daughter anything. Maybe they aren't supposed to talk even. Maybe he's screwing his ex-wife over the mortgage and alimony. And maybe the daughter doesn't want to get her dad in trouble. And maybe she ends up giving that little bit of pocket money to her mum even though it wasn't her dad and she hasn't had anything nice in a year and all they do now is argue and... It's just the saddest thing.

    And it is glorious.

    And it just came from nowhere. Because I didn't know where I was going or who any of these people were. No plans, no preconceived notions. I knew kinda where the story was going in the end, but nothing of how I was going to get there. And it just came from no-where. Suddenly I have a whole framework for everything that's going to happen, a layer of pre-existing tension and pain underneath that made everything just... Into a wonderful gooey painful mess.

    Wunderbar!

    You let them out again? I am disappoint.

    Seriously though, this is a good process. Not my main one really, tend to work like this more to fill in gaps but yeah... If you aren't making your characters cry and scream and bleed then you're just wasting pages. Make them hurt, make them cry. Make yourself cry. Make everyone cry. Because that's the world we live in damnit. It's awful. All the time.
     
  5. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Seriously. I am writing novels that can be enjoyed. Or at least by some people. :twisted:. And what is a world without hope? You can go shut yourself in a cave if you seriously believe that. My world may seem hopeless at times, but there is always a way to get out. If you try enough, sacrifice enough. But not your heart. That is your own and will survive.

    btw. Another german speaker. Awesome!
     
  6. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    For my WIP, the kernel of the plot (which can be described in a few sentences) comes from a fanfic I once read. There is also a checklist of things I want to accomplish for the reader -- some of them are things the fanfic did for me; others are things I wish the fanfic would have done; others are things I come up with when brainstorming. Some of these constraints are vague (e.g. "the reader should see the tragic ending as the natural consequence of the protagonist's mistakes, but should empathize with the protagonist for making those mistakes"); others are specific (e.g. "the protagonist should be in this place during this significant event so that the reader has this mental picture of the scene").

    My brainstorming largely consists of a rather exhaustive search for a plot that satisfies these constraints. I go with the best of the results I find.
     
  7. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    Aww I thought I made a friend :(

    But seriously; of course you're right. Part of what makes those really nasty gut punches effective is dragging your characters back up out the other side. It's where you get those touching little moments as characters make a connection through adversity, some life affirming little thing that reminds you that regarldess of how awful the world is (and srsly, it's awful) nothing is really that black and white. Everything is grey. Even in bad stuff there's a sliver of good. That good stuff is radically more touching and important because it's there in contrast; a light in the darkness. I felt super happy when I got secondary tears after a dark and painful crash when my characters were making up. Tears when you go up, tears when you come down. Always tears!

    Interestingly I think the process for those things need to be handled the same way. When you plan out the thing that's going to get someone out of the hole it never rings true. You just need to sit and write and let the characters talk and slowly let them drag themselves out of it. And yeah, you cut a good chunk of it. Sometimes you need to write in circles over and over until you stumble over the right direction to go from there. Just let it come to you. Let the characters find their own way out.
     
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  8. kateamedeo
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    kateamedeo Active Member

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    @Renee J, it's the same for me. It all starts with one scene :)
     
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  9. Wild Knight
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    Wild Knight Active Member

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    I have the characters get the ball rolling. Quite literally.
    I imagine excess numbers of characters, have them all play a game together to determine which character group goes best together, who doesn't... and then the hero and whoever they clash with volunteer to get the ball themselves.

    - one character fell into a poisonous gulf
    - another group discovered a starving, ill child
    - a girl discovered that her father kept another child in a basement

    Those are just a few of my previous projects.
     
  10. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Plot and idea aren't the same thing. I can get the seed of an idea pretty much anywhere but that doesn't mean I have the plot fleshed out. That takes a little more work, for many of us, I guess. Plot usually isn't something that comes in an instant. So this title was a little misleading IMO.
     
  11. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I start by thinking "what could keep two people apart, even though they're in love?" and there's my conflict - the most important part of any book (arguably). The rest is a logical deduction: what kind of person would be kept apart by that barrier? That gives the characters' personalities and backstories. Then, what will it take to overcome the barriers? That provides the motivation and plot.
     
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  12. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Usually a what if happens. I'll be reading a book, watching a movie or just out and about and something will spark my attention and I'll have a what if moment. For one of my short stories I was waiting for a friend out in the parking lot so long I began to think of an idea about someone hearing a tap-tap-tap coming from the trunk of a car next to them. It took a while to hash out the reason but that's how my plots happen just filling in the Who, What, Where, Why, When and How.
     
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  13. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    I just cackled like a maniac reading this Oprah article cuz it's too much for me to ponder:

    2. Have a bilateral conversation. For this exercise, take a pencil in your right hand (even if you're left-handed) and write the question: "How's it going?" Then switch to your left hand, and write whatever pops up. Your nondominant hand's writing will be shaky—that's okay. The important thing isn't tidiness; it's noticing that your twin hemispheres have different personalities.

    The right side of the brain, which controls the left hand, will say things you don't know that you know. It specializes in assessing your physical and mental feelings, and it often offers solutions. "Take a nap," your right hemisphere might say, or "Just do what feels right; we'll be fine." You'll find there's a little Zen master in that left hand of yours (not surprisingly, left-handed people are disproportionately represented in creative professions).

    http://www.oprah.com/spirit/How-to-Tap-into-the-Right-Side-of-Your-Brain-Martha-Beck-Advice
     
  14. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    I echo the 'what if' moment. They pop all the time, and moreso the longer you have been cultivating that trait. (translation: opening yourself to it, to allow it to occur, not stifle it)

    A person walking on the street, the expression on a grocery clerk's face, a leaf falling from a tree near my reading patio, a quick shot from the evening news, ....it's endless!

    The one I'm doing now (from my bad MC thread) came about in such odd stages over time that I intend to write a little article about how the idea came about. Just for me, but I feel it's interesting enough to document.
     
  15. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Love it! That's great. :)
     
  16. nastyjman
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    nastyjman Contributing Member

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    For me, before I embark on a writing session, I'll need at least an "inciting incident" and a "possible ending/climax."

    "Inciting incident" would be my starting point whereas the "possible ending/climax" would be my ending point. I say "possible" because the ending may change or be replaced by a better ending. Having a possible ending in mind helps me steer and explore the middle of the story, increasing complications and conflicts as needed.
     
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  17. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Which is why I talked about both idea and plot. :)
     
  18. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Plots are like madness. They just suddenly hit without warning, and then a story starts coming out. :D
     
  19. dedebird
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    dedebird Member

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    Personally I write books because I crave adventure! So generally I get my idea's from that. I think of something I've always wanted to do or experience and I've got it! The story of what happens as I embark on the adventure comes as I experience it with my characters, and I love it! :-D
     
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  20. BoddaGetta
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    BoddaGetta Active Member

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    This.

    There is a precarious balance between having a general idea of where I want to start and where I want to end up, verses detailed plotting. Most people need some degree of "pants-ing" to keep ideas fresh, and to not tire of writing the story.

    I can't pinpoint which comes first, character or plot. Sometimes I'll have the concept of a person and the events that shaped them into who they are inspire the plot. Or I come up with an event, and the people affected become characters in how they respond to the event. It depends on the story or what I'm inspired by.
     
  21. J. Johnston
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    J. Johnston Member

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    When walking, I often imagine up worlds, with battles, systems and characters to help pass the time. Otherwise, a film will usually drag my attention to one small bit, which I'll explore, then expand into a unique, new story (e.g. the things you can do with time-travel, PTSD, supernatural abilities etc.)
     
  22. Robert Musil
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    Robert Musil Contributing Member

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    I'm mainly interested in writing genre fiction, so to me plotting is tied up pretty intimately in world-building. So I tend to think of premises first: what if an alien colony ship shows up at Earth, not realizing that it's already inhabited?

    From there, it's sort of a matter of spinning out the implications: would the aliens want to stay here, or leave to find somewhere less crowded? If they want to leave, do they need anything before they can get underway again? Can they get that stuff themselves, or would it be easier to buy it from us in exchange for their advanced technology? You can see how this can quickly set up problems (or conflicts) that can then drive the plot.

    Of course, with this method it's easy to spin out of control, and wind up with a bunch of details leading to a bunch of potential conflicts/problems/plot points. It can quickly become disjointed, and takes some paring back, but I do tend to write out all the angles and then compile a somewhat-coherent narrative from the pieces.
     
  23. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    Mostly, I write non-fiction, so stories generally come from whatever is happening around me.
    As for the fiction, I have no idea where they come from. The current WIP started as a joke (my brother and I were discussing porn with my 18 y/o son, wondering why it was impossible to have sex AND a plot), 105k words later it was a book. There isn't even that much sex in the book, but the hunting scenes are good!
     
  24. TheoremAlpha
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    TheoremAlpha Member

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    I don't so much come up with them...

    As they just appear in my head when I'm lost in thought about real world issues.

    Because if you try to force it...
    You aren't really that interested in it are you?

    So I make my plots based on what's intense in my mind at the time.
     
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  25. Raven484
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    Raven484 Contributing Member

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    I get plot ideas from nightmares I have. After the dream, I write it down right away. It then evolves as I go back to it and try to outline what I think was happening.
     
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