1. Artisan219
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    Artisan219 New Member

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    How do you develop a plot from an excerpt?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Artisan219, Aug 6, 2014.

    Alright, this is a little bit of a weird question, but my writing style is a little random. I tend to start a scene and just write forward. This can be really fun, but I generally do not really know any of the lead up to the beginning of the scene and I don't always have a solid idea where I'm going with the story.

    So on one hand, I have no problem starting from say chapter seven, but I still need to figure out chapters one through six. And while I can do straight-ahead writing for twenty pages at a shot, eventually I need to have a story arc, and this part isn't as easy for me.
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    So you are writing scenes but have no plot in mind? Some people do write and the story unfolds as they go. But I would think even then they started with some kind of plot line.

    Can you take scenes you've written over time and weave them into a story?
     
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  3. Chaos Inc.
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    Chaos Inc. Active Member

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    If your goal is to write a short story, don't worry about your problem because it's not a problem. If you're writing a chapter book then don't worry about dividing your writing into chapters yet. Write, write, write and get it all out.

    If you don't want to write chapter 1-6 because you started on chapter 7, you don't have to. If all the character, plot, setting, development happened during chapters that you didn't write then drop in details as you go that you would otherwise have already done. This way you don't feel bogged down by things you don't want to do.

    I would like more information of what you mean by "story arc." Bringing up the chapters and writing for twenty pages leads me to believe you want the next chapter not be where you left off from the last chapter.

    All in all, once you're done with your story, change chapter 7 into chapter 1 and bam, problem solved.
     
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  4. Artisan219
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    Artisan219 New Member

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    I guess what I mean by arc is that eventually my straight-ahead style makes it hard for me to really know where I'm going and it's hard to put in foreshadowing or rising actions if I don't have at least some idea what the high point of the novel is going to be.

    A little about my story may be helpful.

    I am writing something of a horror novel about a walking corpse. I am using a lot of elements of zombie fiction, a lot of supernatural elements. My protagonist isn't a shambling brain-hungry zombie, but rather some guy that woke up dead and only has a few scraps of memory, while retaining personality. Essentially his ghost, rather than passing on, simply lingered in his own corpse, so he has a lot more mystical abilities than would a traditional zombie. But I'm getting off track of my point.

    In the excerpt I've written, I have the zombie (who has no name because he can't remember it) standing outside the window of his girlfriend or widow. As he's watching her (still not sure who she is), he starts to notice that he's slowly freezing solid, so he tries to make his way out of town before he's noticed or spontaneously loses control and eats someone. He get's picked up by the gravedigger, one of the only characters I have so far to know about the supernatural, who leads on that he knows more about zombies than he's letting on. I cut suddenly to the zombie digging out of a shallow grave, having been tricked by the digger, and wandering to the peat bog while he contemplates what to do next. He has to wrestle in his head with the reality that if he doesn't kill someone and eat their soul, he's going to completely fall apart. He uses his magic ghost powers to sniff out someplace with bad vibes, and he finds a guy about to molest his stepdaughter, and I describe how the zombie absorbs new tissue into his rotting meat suit.​

    I have not gotten to stuff that happens earlier. I don't get into how the zombie woke up in his grave, but that is going to be relevant to the story. The zombie recognizes the gravedigger, so there's an interaction that I want to expand. I mention that the zombie has gone six days and hasn't killed anyone yet (because I wanted to work up to him having to give in), but that's days of him learning things about being dead. I have not gone into the other realities of a walking corpse yet, either. If he digs himself out of his own grave, eventually someone has to notice that, but I already have the gravedigger. If he wakes up in the morgue and just walks out the door, now there's a body missing and a police file about a missing corpse, plus a coroner that could potentially be a useful character. All of this is stuff I feel is necessary to have down. So I appreciate the idea of making chapter seven into chapter one, but I actually do need to back up and write some of that stuff. I might not tell all of it chronologically, but it all needs to be there.

    As far as going forward, I am at a point in the story where a zombie is in a room with a traumatized and abused nine-year-old girl. She is simultaneously terrified of the undead monster, but also has just been saved from repetitious abuse and now has nowhere to go. I realized that I'm going to need some human characters, so I thought it might be a humanizing influence to have this grotesque thing walking around with a little girl. He doesn't have enough of his own memories to keep a solid moral compass, so I thought having an innocent sidekick might be a way to handle that. Plus I thought it was going to get boring having to keep writing from the zombie's perspective since he keeps having to hide all the time.

    Big picture, I think I just answered some of my own problem. I can write from a cast perspective, and switch narrators. Write for the zombie, switch to the girl, switch to the cop assigned to the zombie's murder (his death is very relevant to the story, but I haven't decided how yet. I was thinking of having him kill the people that killed him but I've already seen The Crow so trying to see how what else I can do.
     
  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Here's what I've done:

    I have characters in mind, and a setting, but I don't have a plot. So I just write a scene involving them - a random scene, not part of any story. Just the characters having dinner, or training horses, or looking for water in a desert, or anything at all. I'll know more about the characters after I write that scene. Then I try another scene with them - just another random scene, unrelated to the first - and by the end I know still more about them and the world they inhabit. I know their concerns, fears, hopes, motivations. I know their goals. Maybe threads of a plot start forming, but it doesn't matter if they don't. If I still don't have a plot, I just keep going with the random scenes, trusting that something, somewhere, sometime, is going to click.

    It almost always clicks. I start to see the plot - I can't not see the plot, because by this point I've grown to love the characters and I become obsessed with seeing them dance for me. I'll see the beginning of their story and I'll even have some idea of the end, though I'm sure the end will change as I write. Some of the scenes I will have written to begin with will now clearly be wrong for the story and they'll be removed (but never deleted!). But at this point, I'm on my way.

    Good luck!
     
  6. Chaos Inc.
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    Chaos Inc. Active Member

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    With this genre and given who your MC is, you don't need to do squat. That's so trippy to be in the middle one scene then bam, you're in the middle of another. There was an amazing movie, Momento, that is similar to what you already have. Watch it or at least read up on it.

    Please, don't give up your natural inclinations just to conform to what other people think is good. From what I've read and how you've explained it, that's exactly what is cool about your story. Those gaps in information from the perspective of your MC is awesome. Who the hell are we to know how being a "walking corpse" experiences existence. Its totally fine that they become conscious at random times and have no recollection of how they got there. If you do this and embrace it, know how they got there but you're not required by any means to explain it in your story. You will have a more understandable story if every time your MC finds themselves in a pace they don't have any idea of how they got there they have a system to orient themselves, and the reader to the situation and then go from there.

    In my opinion, if you implement some of solutions you've proposed in your final paragraph you're going to lose too much uniqueness of your own inherent story telling ability. By this I mean how you jump around when you write. Embrace it.
     
  7. AliceJoan
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    AliceJoan Banned

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    I do this all the time! I often start writing stories because I love the characters I've created or the setting they're in but I have no idea where the story is going and then I get stuck.

    I've found exercises that help with plot development when you're just starting out with a story but when you're already in full flow it can be really hard.

    All I can say is jot down any idea you have when you have it. I'm awful at planning my stories but I'm currently writing a novel with quite a complicated plot and from merely jotting down every idea that has popped into my head whilst I was writing it, a story arc started to form almost without my meaning it to. Most of the time I just write and see what happens to my characters as I go along. But as I get further into my novel I'm starting to wish I'd brainstormed more at the start.

    That doesn't mean you can't go back and change things though if a story arc does start to emerge. As they say, all writing is in the re-writing!

    Sorry if this wasn't very comprehensible. I hope it can be in some way helpful.
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2014
  8. Sheriff Woody
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    Sheriff Woody Active Member

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    Who is your hero?
    What is your hero attempting to do?
    What is standing in your hero's way?
    Why is it important your hero succeeds?

    If you want a focused story, answering those 4 questions should be your first step. It's an old screenwriting exercise for condensing the story into one sentence, which screenwriters will ultimately need to do in order to pitch via query letters. Studios, agencies, management companies all receiver thousands of such queries every day. That is not an exaggeration. Thousands. Every single day. Nobody is going to read through all of those, especially if they are longer than a single sentence.

    Example:

    The sheriff of a small island community struggles to keep the beachgoers safe from a giant killer shark.

    That's a logline. I can write a far better one, but I don't need to, because you already know that I'm talking about JAWS. Every moment of that movie/story is in service to that singular conflict. That one idea drives the story. That's the conflict.

    This is not applicable to every story - in film or print. However, it is what I believe to be the greatest tool at a writer's disposal for crafting a focused and conflict-driven narrative.

    Find the conflict. Find the characters best suited for being involved in that conflict. Find the stakes. Then put them all together.
     

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