1. DaveLu
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    DaveLu Member

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    How to figure out what your story is about?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by DaveLu, Jun 10, 2016.

    Hi all!

    Often times, and especially this time in particular, I have setting, characters, and small snippets of plot. But I have a hard time finding the main purpose of the story.

    I can't confidently say that "My story is about a character who [blank], while overcoming [blank] and in the end learns that [blank] (theme stated)".

    I know I have themes that I want to include, but I'm not sure what I want the overall theme to be.

    I know one of the main ways to figure this out is to pin down down the main goal and motivation of my main character. This will guide the plot of the story and tell me what it is I'm trying to write... I may have just answered part of my question.

    I have trouble finding goals, wants, and motivations for my characters so I think that contributes to why I can't formulate what the story is about.
     
  2. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    There's a long thread about theme over here that may or may not help you (if you haven't seen it yet).

    I can only speak from experience here, but the more I work on timelines and outlines the easier it is for me to pin down what a story's about. If you don't know what you mc wants, what are they doing in the story? What do their actions imply that they want? How do they get it? What stands in their way? More pointedly, what key trait allows them to get it; what obstacle is working specifically against someone like them? Digging into those kinds of things might help you work it out. What are your important events about? How do characters navigate them or how to they change those characters? What motivations or consequences keep coming up?

    For me, my mc in the current novel wip wants information. Her obstacle is that she has trouble trusting anyone, so getting information that she considers reliable is nearly impossible. An inciting event spurs her into beginning to trust, the climax revolves around her trusting to wrong person and figuring out to trust the right one. I can roughly say that the story is about her learning that trust and friendship are pretty cool after all, because by the end of it, although she doesn't have her information, through trust and friendship she's now equipped to get that information.

    Maybe that helps as an example, maybe I just got to blather about my thing for a while and act like it helped. Either way!
     
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  3. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you know what battle your MC fights in the third act (in other words, if you know where you're going) the rest is easier (still not easy, but easier) to find. Knowing what items he needs in order to fight the battle (and keep in mind, it can be a metaphorical battle) tells you what he'll need to get his hands on and that gives you smaller battles for him to fight throughout the story.

    Check my sig for a couple of good books on writing. They'll help with plotting, etc.
     
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  4. aguywhotypes
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    aguywhotypes Active Member

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    Instead of asking what happens, ask what goes wrong?
     
  5. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    I concur with what @aguywhotypes said. Don't ask what will be next, ask what can I do to screw shit up? (can be mild, to oh holy hell)

    Good luck with your works, and own it like a Boss! :cheerleader:
     
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  6. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yup. When I started doing this, my plots suddenly got more intense. These days, I have to keep reigning myself in so I don't dig holes so deep the MC couldn't get out in a thousand years.
     
  7. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Alternatively, you may be more of a pantser/gardener rather than a plotter/architect. Maybe you need to just start writing and see where the story takes you. Then, when you've got a first draft done, you can go back and look at it, figure out what the main themes/conflicts were, and rewrite in a way that develops these aspects more effectively.

    Play around. Experiment. See what happens!
     
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  8. Buttered Toast
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    Buttered Toast Active Member

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    I also have trouble but more on the lines of not knowing what my theme is?
    I have just sat down and wrote out what izzybot has said:
    What does my MC want?
    I know he wants vengeance!
    What is his obstacles?
    So this is where it gets complicated...I started writing them down and I kept writing and now it's getting silly, I seem to have loads of obstacles, maybe too many!
    So I'm going to go though each one and make sure they go with the flow of the story, make sure they are relevant and are needed and will bring you to the conclusion :)
     
  9. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Well, why did you come to this idea? And what does it make you think and feel? I consider that the themes.
     
  10. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    @L C Cranston Complexity can be a good thing. Even if it ranges from being a minor nuisance to full blown intricate obstacles.
    My dear old Poppy use to tell me (god rest his soul): Variety is the spice of life.
    So play around with what you have for a while, you might find a nice mix of both minor and major events that work for your story.
    Good luck and all the best, you got this.
     
  11. Siena
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    Siena Active Member

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    One of the ways is to take a moral and prove it:
    Don't judge a book by its cover
    Think before you act
    and so on.

    The trick is in the execution. One way to learn execution is to analyze fables. It's not something that is easily explained on a forum.
     
  12. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    I know a lot of books where the 'theme' is not clearly defined; nor should it be - for these kind of books. I suspect my own will fall into this category.
     
  13. Buttered Toast
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    Buttered Toast Active Member

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    Ok, thank you, I'm glad that might be the case, I think I have both minor and major obstacles and I'm happy with it now :)
     
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  14. mashers
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    mashers Senior Member

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  15. DaveLu
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    DaveLu Member

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    Thanks everyone, so much good advice! Asking myself what my character wants and what the story means to me personally (what I want to get out of it) has I think definitely put me on the right track. I have no problem mulling this over for as long as it takes haha As long as I'm moving somewhere.
     

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