1. Gsouder
    Offline

    Gsouder New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2010
    Messages:
    9
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    San Francisco

    How do you go from concept to actually writing a story?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Gsouder, Dec 5, 2010.

    I know there has to be a thread on this somewhere but I went a few pages back in a couple of different sections and I didn't find exactly what I was looking for. Here is what I am looking for:

    What is your process of outlining?
    How deep do you go with an outline and what medium do you use- Pen/paper, comp. program, etc?
    What comes first, Concept, Plot or Characters?
    How important is it to stick with the outline?
    When you sit down to write, do you start with chapter 1, word one or is there a formula that you use to enter the actual text?

    As you can see, I'm looking for your "blue print" on how to go from "hey, that's a cool idea for a story" to sitting down at your computer and hacking out the chapters. I know that the answers to these questions will be different for everyone, I'm looking to get a couple of different perspectives on this part of writing. If I need to be more clear let me know!
     
  2. HeinleinFan
    Offline

    HeinleinFan Banned

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2007
    Messages:
    483
    Likes Received:
    33
    Process of outlining:
    Mostly mental, although I'll occasionally put down scene summaries in order when I have numerous casts of characters. For my only published short story, I didn't outline at all (nor did I have an ending or characters in mind when I started, but that's a different thing). For my current project, I have enough characters -- a family, a boyfriend/girlfriend pair of college students, a shop owner in a small Californian town -- that I'm finding it useful to write brief scene summaries and move them about a little to get a solid timeline down.

    How deeply I outline:
    Not very. I've used both computers and paper and so far the joy I've felt from writing seems stronger if I've only used slight outlining, so the writing is still half-spontaneous. Most of my notes are mental: "Add this," "Make sure the character has this particular personality trait established before Event Foo happens," "Mention the ivory-handled knife earlier; it's a plot point."

    What comes first:
    My answer is either "Varies" or "Wait -- you can separate them?", which is perhaps less useful than you'd like. Most often the character comes first. Occasionally the overall concept comes first, like "What if an EMP burst happened over the United States" or "If humans used genetic engineering to keep aliens away from the human colony, how would the aliens' legends be changed thereby?" But by and large, the "plot" -- the way the characters and their needs and wants come together to create story -- just sort of happens.

    Do you stick with the outline?
    Lol. I'm pretty good at keeping to the outline, but again, my outlines are usually light things, easily brushed aside. And the stories I write without outlines are frequently pretty good. So honestly, the only way I can claim to stick with the outline is if you include my mental plan of the story as an outline. When it's on paper or the computer, I tend to ditch it in favor of spontaneity.

    Do you write scenes in order?
    Frequently. If a beginning is blocking me, I jump ahead to some scene I really want to write and do that instead, then come back. But so far it's easier for me to just start at the beginning, write until I've reached the end, then quit. I don't know that I've jumped ahead in a story since I was trying to write my first book back in middle school, to be honest, although I did it a lot then.

    *wracks brain* Wow. Yeah, I guess I don't really jump around any more. It's been like seven years now since I've done it. So I guess I really have become one of those "Start at A, go until you reach Z" people.
     
  3. Mallory
    Offline

    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2010
    Messages:
    4,274
    Likes Received:
    191
    Location:
    Tampa Bay
    I personally start with a plot first and use the character as a tool for the plot. If you're more character-oriented, then begin with a character and give him/her a challenge to solve - but make sure there's a conflict and plot the whole way, because the "someone sitting and reflecting" short stories are really annoying.

    Start with general ideas. Then, flesh them out more and more. For example, this is the order I think of it:
    1. In one sentence, pinpoint the main goal/conflict that follows the character throughout the story.
    2. What steps does the character take to get there, and what obstacles does he/she encounter along the way?
    3. How does he/she handle each obstacle? Can each obstacle be split into further obstacles?

    Steps 3 and 4 will help with antagonists, subplots, etc.

    Then, think about things like character motivations, character personality changes, relevations, motivation changes, maturing, regression, flaw developments, flaw overcomings, etc. Decide at what points in the story these things will occur. This is the stuff you should focus on with character notes - steer clear of the "character profile sheets" that have things like favorite color/music/food/etc/horoscope sign/height of the MC, those are a waste of time.

    Hope I helped!
     
  4. Jonalexher
    Offline

    Jonalexher Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2010
    Messages:
    219
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    California
    check out these threads:
    Thread 1
    Thread 2

    hope it helps :]
     
  5. VM80
    Offline

    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2010
    Messages:
    1,211
    Likes Received:
    43
    Location:
    UK
    Well it's going to be different for everyone.

    Plot usually comes first for me. Although it has happened that I get a good idea for a character, especially if inspired by someone I've met or read about etc.

    I don't always start out with a precise outline. For short stories, I don't have one.
    For the novel I was working on, I naively tried to do without, but eventually needed to jot 'something' down, to see where I was going. Nothing too indepth.

    Writing in order - yes I think that makes sense. It gives you flow, and allows you to build on situations 'as they happen', as it were.
     
  6. Melzaar the Almighty
    Offline

    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2010
    Messages:
    1,792
    Likes Received:
    55
    Location:
    UK
    I usually carry around an image for a little while - well, sometimes a year or two, sometimes a month or so, sometimes it comes to me and within the hour I'm hammering away on my keyboard (literally - brought up using the most ancient old keyboard so my poor laptop is totally abused by someone who thinks that to make a key work you have to smack it hard enough to break a nail :p). When I actually come to write it down I've been sitting on the idea long enough to have an idea of what I want the opening scene to *be*.

    For example, the most recent opening I wrote is for this sort of vague Twilight parody I'm writing very much on the side. Obviously Twilight starts with whatserface moving to that place with all the vampires, so I had to open in the same way, so it was nice and easy to know what the scene had to be. I tried a couple of times before and failed to get into the story, but this time I realised that if I was doing a parody I had to mock myself as much as anyone else, so I decided to set it in a fictional village which was a setting for a series I've been working on quite seriously. After that it was easy because I knew A: where the character was going and what they were doing there, and B: where it was going to be set.

    So I just thought through the process, to a point where I could introduce all the elements I wanted easily, and then sat in a history class not paying attention with my notebook open in front of me, and thought, "okay, they're driving along..." So I just wrote a random line about the road (I never start with really good opening lines - usually I go back and edit much later and change them when I know a better idea of how it's going anyway :p) and from there just used it to jump into the scene, not really trying to be artistic - really just outlining in prose, so with dialogue and some minimal description and stuff. But I was taking notes and watching a video about Robespierre and the reign of terror as well, so, you know, not 100% attention. Only started fleshing it out and making plans once I got home, and had this completed scene I'd written half-blind.
     
  7. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    I don't have a process lol beyond writing - I sit down with a basic idea in my head and just write and keep writing - when I am stuck I write filler or I use my magic fairy Millie to zap the story along (she doesn't make it past the first draft sometimes the next rewrite).

    Once I have the first idea written - then I order it take out what is usually an excessive amount of magic, sex, talking to dead people and Millie.. Next draft is about learning to show rather than tell (much easier when I can see the story laid out - for example rather than explaining how the children in my story came to be - I have them find one). This draft I play with punctuation to get effects, I choose words etc - deepen and define characters.

    Then it is ready to edit. I always start with the beginning because it depends on that how the rest of the story will flow - I will delete and restart if it isn't working. I find once I have nailed the beginning the story tells itself with twists and turns.
     
  8. Gsouder
    Offline

    Gsouder New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2010
    Messages:
    9
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    San Francisco
    Thanks everyone~ this is really helpful. I'm an account manager/sales guy IRL so most of my time is structured and strategic. My instinct was to attack a book like a sales call- have an outline, goal, agenda and execute off of that. My fear is that my writing will come off stale and predicable if I go that route.

    The thing that interests me the most is the characters. The roll around my head like friends that I have not met yet- some sort of me/someone from my past hybrid that I would really like to know better. My second fear was that if I gave them the focus they would lead me down a less focused path- they are different people with different motivations.

    This thread helps a lot because it lets me see a few different ways of doing things, all of which I can take from.
     
  9. FrankABlissett
    Offline

    FrankABlissett Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2008
    Messages:
    422
    Likes Received:
    22
    Location:
    Sault, Michigan
    It's not universal for all the prose I write, but I usually do brainstorming and something of an outline.

    First, I write a couple paragraphs brainstorming what I want to write. If I just have a general theme I want to explore, I ask myself what memories or thoughts that provokes. If I have characters in mind, I ask what I want them to do. If I have a plot, I ask myself who, what, when, where.

    After the brainstorming, I (often) create a page break, then turn caps-lock on. I then write out the synopsis in short sentences, each separate and double-spaced. When that's done, I turn caps-lock off, go to the end of a point I feel inspired to tackle, hit carriage return, and start writing.

    When I've got a rough of the point done, I delete the caps-lock line. If it's still feeling incomplete, I caps-lock another line describing what needs to go there - even if only "SOMETHING MORE HERE".

    I don't NEED to do this to actually write, but do need it so I don't lose ideas.

    -Frank
     
  10. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    I personally like to let my characters tell the story or if I have a story it informs the characters. Some people need a detailed plan but if I had done that the best elements of my stories would never come about.
     
  11. TobiasJames
    Offline

    TobiasJames Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2010
    Messages:
    203
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    England
    If I have an idea one day and think, "That's pretty cool," I'll incubate it for a couple of weeks, letting the idea grow and explore the possibilities it could create. In this incubation stage, if an idea doesn't have much mileage, it collapses in on itself and dies. If, on the other hand, it has enough strength behind it to keep pushing the boundaries and growing, it will start clamouring for my attention in the hope that I might release it from my mind and put it into words.

    At this point, I sit down and write "word vomit", just whatever ideas are in my head coming out onto a page. This usually only takes about an hour and I'm typically left with 2,000 - 4,000 words of tangible idea. I will try to arrange this into a story (if it wasn't already) and then read over it. I will then incubate it again!

    If, after a couple more weeks, I feel that the idea has blossomed into a genuinely feasible story, I start writing it!
     
  12. dizzyspell
    Offline

    dizzyspell Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2010
    Messages:
    421
    Likes Received:
    35
    Location:
    Wellington, New Zealand
    I'm very vocal with my outlining process. I feel like when I say things aloud, a lot more falls into place. So my poor boyfriend now knows the intricacies of the entire universe I'm writing in, and all my characters. I find that chatting about them is much more useful than writing things down.

    I don't like knowing too much about my plot, though I need to know my characters and setting perfectly. I'll have a couple of ideas - I normally know the conflict and, if there is one, the twist. But I don't like knowing everything, it takes a bit of joy out of the writing. I like the story to reveal itself to me as I write. Of course, I edit HEAPS after its done.

    Normally I am struck with my concept first, then my characters. The plot comes after I get to know them.

    Hahahaha, I NEVER stick to my outlines, if I do them. As I write, new ideas inspire me, and they're usually much better than my original plan, so I just go with them instead. I like to come up with a story as I write, rather than write one I've already thought of.

    I always write scenes in order, too. I guess, because I'm so into having the story told to me as I write it. I have, when rewriting stories of mine, changed the order of scenes to create tension, but I always write them in the order they happen.

    Needless to say, this style of mine requires a lot of pruning after its written. But its the way I find writing enjoyable. I find the editing enjoyable too, but in a different way.
     
  13. Donal
    Offline

    Donal Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2010
    Messages:
    260
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Limerick, Ireland
    At the minute what I have is a character driven novel with a basic outline of what way the story will turn but not set in stone. Gonna see where the writing takes me.
     
  14. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    i sit myself down and write it... period!

    i've no need of any 'process'... i simply start writing the story/poem/article/essay/whatever and keep writing till i finish it...

    it 'evolves' as i go along... if it's a complex novel, at some point i may do up a rough skeleton outline to keep from getting time frame and subplots tangled up...
     
  15. darthjim
    Offline

    darthjim Member

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2010
    Messages:
    90
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Cumbria, England
    As has already been said, it really will vary from person to person. Some love to outline every plot nuance, every stage of character development, before they begin writing. Some just sit and write. Most writers I've known fall somewhere in the middle.

    It's always good to have at least a rough of idea of how you want your story to end. I personally like to allow my characters to lead me to the end. As they're fleshed out and developed, I often think that some action or scene I had planned and thought was pivotal, just doesn't sit well with the characters. Thus, they kind of dictate their own path to the end.

    That's how I do it anyway – I decide how I want to start and finish, I invent a main character(s) and just write. I find that if I over-think things and plan too meticulously, the story becomes stilted, the characters caged, and the end result compromised.

    A word of warning: It's kind of creepy when your own characters surprise you...
     
  16. Lalis
    Offline

    Lalis New Member

    Joined:
    May 16, 2009
    Messages:
    0
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Brazil
    What is your process of outlining?
    It varies, most of the time I just outline it in my head. I start off with the middle; sometimes a specific conversation or metaphor in the story; then i get around to the stuff that builds up to it and the outcome or continuation.

    How deep do you go with an outline and what medium do you use- Pen/paper, comp. program, etc?
    I hardly ever outline it. The one time I did it was when I was working on a 248-page vampire novel that never saw much daylight (no pun intended, LOL). Now I'm only working on tiny projects, so I outline it in my head only.

    What comes first, Concept, Plot or Characters?
    First the concept, then the characters, though I usually write either fanfiction or stories involving people I know as the characters. Sometimes when I decide on the plot, I wind up switching all the characters, though... :)

    How important is it to stick with the outline?
    Not much, really. The outline is just a loose plan. When I get started, I usually drift away from the plan quite a bit.

    When you sit down to write, do you start with chapter 1, word one or is there a formula that you use to enter the actual text?
    On my bigger story, a few years ago, I worked on several separate pieces I came up with as I went along, then slowly sewed them all together. On smaller projects, it goes from top to bottom.

    Hope I helped! =D
     

Share This Page