1. bradbradallen
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    bradbradallen Member

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    How much should you know about a story before you begin to write?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by bradbradallen, Mar 26, 2012.

    Hello everyone,

    It's a bit of a general question: but how much do you all think you should really know about a story before you put pen to paper and begin to flesh it out? I always feel like I'm doing way too much planning or not nearly enough - and I have trouble finding that sweet spot in the middle.

    Any thoughts?
     
  2. Jowettc
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    Jowettc Contributing Member

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    This question is asked A LOT and the responses will be predictable.

    Some will say 'loads', some will say 'some' and some will say 'none' - and in the end it doesn't matter - its up to each individual to do it their way.
     
  3. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    I start with an outline. It's usually pretty basic like a list of things I would like to include in a story. The purpose of it all is to write down all the ideas that would really upset me if I were to forget them.
     
  4. Cyberdark
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    Cyberdark Member

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    I just try to flesh out the setting first. I don't really know what I want to happen in the beginning. Then I just put my characters into the environment and write what would happen. I do make a general outline of "major" events that I want to happen, but even as I write sometimes those change based on what's been happening with the characters.
     
  5. jc.
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    jc. Contributing Member

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    I know a lot about my characters and an idea of the society they come from before I write, but I flesh out most of it after I start.
     
  6. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    'the sweet spot' varies with every individual, so you have to find your own. It may also vary according to the stories. For some stories I felt the need to map out a detailed plot outline, for some even an idea of a character's mannerism is enough to spark a story, and yes, the idea of a setting can also inspire a story. Of course I mean short stories, novels are different ball game. You definitely need some planning and organizational skills, apart from good writing. Some details about the setting and your characters is definitely required, but don't get crazy on the planning stage.
     
  7. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Exactly what Jowettc aid. There are no 'shoulds'. it's all up to you. In my case I need to know a whole lot, I can't write blind, I need to know the start, the middle and the way it ends before I even begin. Otherwise my stories won't make sense. Every writer needs different amount of information before starting. Some need none, and doesn't want it either.
     
  8. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    I'm set as long as I know who my MC is, what he/she wants more than anything and why the MC can't have it.
     
  9. Kaymindless
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    Kaymindless Contributing Member

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    I love the last line :) To be honest, if having an outline and notes pre-done worked for me, I would love them. I'd have a use for the fancy software I keep downloading. I really kind of wished they did because then I could just have a bunch of outlines to choose from to work on instead of unfinished stories that I work with. Sadly, they work more like a bane to my writing than anything else.

    I run blind, though, start with a scene and expand from there. Once it's down, I can see tell how far it'll run, if it's a workable idea, etc. Occasionally, I get to a point and realize I'm 30k in and it really isn't going to match up with my original scene.

    The happy medium you're looking for will come to you eventually, just keep writing and you'll find it.
     
  10. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I spend more time deciding on the first sentence than I do figuring out what the story should be about. I have a character or two, a general thought (What if this happened?) and go from there. It'll work itself out.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    there's no single answer to that in re amount... you should only know as much as you need to know to start writing... period!

    to many of us, some stories evolve as we write, having started them from just an opening line, or a germ of an idea... while others may exist full-blown in our minds before we sit down and start to write... and still others feel a need to outline a story in great detail before beginning...

    so don't look for any kind of quantitative rule of thumb here, because it doesn't exist...
     
  12. Cassiopeia Phoenix
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    Cassiopeia Phoenix Contributing Member

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    I do tend to have at least my MC fully imagined in my head, and a general idea about the plot. Everything in between, such as minor/supporting characters and setting, I invent as I go. Or at least I try. Some times only have the MC and then I drop the idea because I can't think of anything else to add... Or sometimes the plot just don't come around and I archive the idea for later.
    Uh... So yeah.

    Edit: Whatever works for you -- some people have all the story already set before start writing, but that doesn't work to people like me.
     
  13. Foxe
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    Foxe Active Member

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    I think that you should know the basic so that when you do write, it's logical. You don't want to write a story that doesn't seem logical.
     
  14. DaVinci
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    DaVinci Banned

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    Depends what type of writer you are.
     
  15. PrettyLittleWonderland
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    PrettyLittleWonderland New Member

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    Generally I know a fair amount about my story: the main characters, possibly secondary characters that will be introduced, plot, setting, main themes, etc. I always write the middle of the story without any kind of outline, but I always have to have a clear vision of how my story will begin and end (this usually gets changed around a bit, you don't have to stay concrete in your original ideas). It's helpful for me to make an outline before I start, just with main events that will occur and how characters react/how it will lead into the next chapter/novel.
     
  16. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I start with a character, his motivation, and a direction for the plot. I may have a small notion of the end, but that is very likely to change as I write. Everything else is exploration as I go. Ideas keep bubbling up as I write and I trust them. If I had a detailed outline, then writing the first draft would be so boring that I'd never bother finishing it. I need the sense of advancing into the unknown to keep me interested in the story.
     
  17. Loyalty
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    Loyalty New Member

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    There are times I write a Story with only the MC and his/her background in mind and other times I know everything about my story, and both turn out rather nice, so for me, I don't believe it matters how much of a story you start with, if you are a good writer you will make it work out in the end.
     
  18. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    You could say that pantsers discover the story as they write it and the planners discover it first, in their mind, then write it down, if they find it interesting enough. In the end it doesn't matter which method you choose as long as you get the story written.
     
  19. Birmingham
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    Birmingham Active Member

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    Aside from the research, there is another thing you oughta think about. If your fear is writing something that would be wrong, you can also try to alter the society in such a way that it won't show. For example, I study a lot about American society, but I know that no matter how much I've learned about its government, there is a lot I'll miss. So if I write a story set not today, but in a near future, about, say 50 years ahead, and add some unusual developments that would shake the country to the core, nobody can ever distinguish my errors from my intentional changes. If something I write is off, people could always assume I meant to do that. That means though that I have to think about future technology, and I'm not a scifi-author-material, so I also add some cultural and financial reasons that the US is relatively behind in technological advancements.

    So, yeah, do the research. Think about what your characters know, which subjects they understand better than you ever will, and read about those subjects. That's what I do. But you also wanna think about how to "save face" if you're bound (like every author) to miss something big in your research.
     
  20. Birmingham
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    Birmingham Active Member

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    One other important thing, it all depends on the situation. If, for example, a character rants about some topic he/she is into, yeah, do some research. But if that character makes a public speech... well, you should do more research, and maybe even consider skipping that segment and keep writing, filling out the gap in the story as you go along with your long research.
     
  21. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Exactly as much as you, personally, require.

    Some people have to plan out every detail, every nuance, in advance. I prefer to plan only the barest bones of the story in advance, and let it develop organically as I write.

    It's one of the most individual aspects of the writing process.
     
  22. Whirlwind
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    Whirlwind Member

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    IMO you should know the story before you begin writing a word.

    But I know that other people start writing to discover the story they want to tell.

    Lots of people who write professionally and work to deadlines don't think of writing as sitting down and typing the chapters or scenes...the first thing they do is brainstorm the whole thing with say, post-it notes, on a wall.

    The actual writing, while still important, is almost functional, in that ideas are put on paper.

    There's a big grey area, in that you may have thought out some post-it note scenes but then you test them by seeing how they come out and feel on paper.
     
  23. Olivia Ashe
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    Olivia Ashe New Member

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    I think its important to know your characters background, presnet and future. Even if you dont put it in the story, you'll know how they act to situations and why they are the way they are.
     
  24. Edlamp
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    Edlamp New Member

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    From what i've garnered, there's no right or wrong way. Some published authors create the story as they go along. Others plan it all out from the beginning. And others something inbetween.
    The important thing, i guess, is to do what comes natural, what is most enjoyable and leads to maximum creativity.
     
  25. There_She_Goes
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    There_She_Goes Member

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    Different people like different techniques. I prefer to plan everything before I start writing.
     

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