1. TheWrite
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    TheWrite New Member

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    I need help developing this tragic plot (amateur writer here)

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by TheWrite, Jan 25, 2013.

    Hi everyone!

    So I've mapped out a a story I'd like to write for my Creative Process class. Here are the story blocks I have:

    1. Once upon a time there is a happy couple, Walter and Evelyn. Walter is in the military. What Evelyn does I do not know yet
    2. Time goes on and Walter decides to propose to Kate. She accepts and all is dandy.
    3. Before the marriage can occur Walter must leave and go fight in World War 1.
    4. Walter leaves with his best friend Thomas, but before he leaves Evelyn says she will write to him everyday.
    5. Walter is almost killed in a battle but Thomas saves his life. He writes to Evelyn about his near death incident.
    6. In another battle Thomas is about to die but Walter saves him. However Walter is injured in the process.
    7. He doesn't mention his injury to Evelyn in the letters. In a short time Walter dies due to his injuries.
    8. Evelyn is not aware of her beloved's death so she continues to write him letters.
    9. Thomas cannot bring himself to tell Evelyn what has happened so he writes letters back assuming Walter's identity. Thomas eventually falls for Evelyn and plans to propose when he comes home.
    10. Thomas arrives and sees Evelyn. He explains what actually happens and attempts to hug her. Evelyn pushes him back jumps aboard the train and runs away never to be seen again.

    For starters I know the ending is awful, I just couldn't think of a proper ending. Would it be better if she died? I'm desperately in need of suggestions. As for the rest of the plot-what do y'all think? Is it interesting? What could make it better? I'm really open to any and all suggestions/criticisms.

    Thanks!
     
  2. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    It sounds like you have the plot developed, don't write it based on what other people think, because in all honesty (and I'm sure Cogito will be along at any moment to make his trademark post) people will tell you "It sounds good" or "I like it". Which won't be much for feedback. I honestly can't see anything wrong with the plot, or any reason why it should be changed. Does the ending suck? Well no, it actually seems fine to me. Don't stress about what other people think though, write the book how you think it should be, then worry about the outcome.
     
  3. mg357
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    mg357 Active Member

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    Why not write it this way Walter and evelyn are already married when he goes off to fight in World War one and show through out the story Walter's war experiences and as he goes through these different war experiences he writes to evelyn and tells her about the things he is going through. When he returns from the war, they resume their lives.
     
  4. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't understand why he proposes to Kate if he is a happy couple with Evelyn. And he's probably pretty young if he's going off to fight in WWI, so how long has this couple been established, if he's proposing to someone else?

    This just doesn't ring true. How could he expect to show up and explain what happens and expect her to be okay with it? I think this storyline only works if Thomas actually assumes Walter's identity --he has some sort of facial injury that makes him unidentifiable, somehow? Even this would be a stretch, but perhaps he could attempt to explain personality differences to shellshock/ the trauma of war?

    Alternatively, you could have him come clean about the deception before he returns, and then he pursues her when he returns home.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You have a storyline. What I don't see here is plots. A storyline is a chronological series of events. A plot is a single dynamic element comprised of an actor, a goal or objective, a motivation, and an opposition. Plots chain, overlap, or compete, or conflict to form a plot network.

    Plots drive storylines by bringing about the events. Storylines tell you what happened, but plots tell you why.

    Find or add the plots to tie your story together. See What is Plot Creation and Development? for more details.
     
  6. La_Donna
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    La_Donna Member

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    Issues that I can see (hope this helps!):
    1) The Military would telegram loved ones of a soldier who had died/was missing in action. Even if they were not married, they would have telegrammed whoever he put as next of kin on his enrolment forms. So she would know he was dead and or injured, even if it was from a third party.
    2) I think it's probably more realistic if Evelyn does know Walter's dead, and then gets the conflict because she's writing to Thomas and kind of falls in love with him. She feels guilty for betraying Walter's memory. I don't know what you should do for the end (you have to come up with that), but you shouldn't make it tragic unless it would naturally progress that way. If it's happy (e.g. Thomas and Evelyn get married) keep it. If it's bittersweet (e.g. Thomas and Evelyn decide not to be together to respect Walter's memory) keep it. Do not just make Evelyn drop down dead for no apparent reason to create tragedy.
    3) You need a subplot. Doesn't matter what it is - Evelyn has a best friend whose husband is in the war as well, the other soldiers serving with Thomas and Walter - whatever, you just need to spice it up a bit.
    4) Themes - This is sort of a message you are making through the book. Traditional ones include religion, inner v outer beauty, ambition, dreams, passage of time, power etc. Do you want to create a message? i.e. trying to explore the different types of grief etc.

    I hope that has helped!
     
  7. empower
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    empower Member

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    Hi, A lot has already been said about your story. I echo what was said about the Evelyn -Kate switcheroo; sorry, that needs some explaining. Re the Walter-Thomas switcheroo, sorry, strike 2; the human voice is so unique (think of NSA voice recognition software) that, even were someone to sustain severe injury, it is often a dead giveaway. I also agree with what Cogito said about plot which is probably THE hardest thing to nail down in a story. It reminds me of the great Amazon River which winds its way through Brasil. A good plot will sweep up characters, carry them along, pit them one against another and require them to make choices thereby revealing who they really are (Heart of Darkness). In more contemporary writing (which may be a fad), plot tends to be diluted by storyline, mixing in and flowing alongside, almost indistinguishably. My take on this is that modern readers don't actually want a clever, well-crafted, plot-rich story. They want action and its adrenline rush, not unlike rafting down an angry, whitewater river than slowly descending a lazy African one.
     
  8. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Hey, my lead character dies in the first chapter. If by definition we are engaged in "creative" writing, then we should attempt to be creative.

    I will give you a bit of overall advice. As an older man who has won the "National Bull in a China Shop" award three years in a row, let me state that knowing what I know now I would have lived even bolder.

    I would have walked across an empty dance floor more often, and I was a skirt catcher to begin with. I would have challenged authority more often, and I'm a biker who has told detectives to "arrest me now" when they tried to talk me out of my 4A and 5A enumerated rights. My mom was a drunk and my dad an enabler, and I let them off the hook more than I should.

    So now we come to your creative juices, the forum and the world's readership. My advice? Break a rule everyday. Dangle a participle just for fun. Use a technique called "Chekov's Gun" in your story, but just to drive people nuts, name one of your characters Chekov and make him a gunsmith.

    If you lived your life obeying every rule, law, opinion, statute, guideline, or tongue-wagging from every social reorganizer that shoots you a dirty glance, then you're never leave your bedroom, have a shot of tequila and you'd probably die a virgin.

    Get out you lap-top and write what you want. Don't stop to spellcheck, check syntax and make damn sure you stifle the lectures in your head from your mom and your parole officer. Then go buy a Harley.
     
  9. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    Well, you got it! Or at least some of it! There are many writers who are afraid to experiment, who adhere rigidly to the rules, and their writing suffers as a result. However (my favorite word at the moment) to break out of the box, you need the right tools and that means you have to know your stuff. I'm not a great one for learning rules and I'm even less likely to stick to them, but I do believe in reading the greats and not so greats. Look and learn is not a bad mantra.

    I you're going to break the rules, you need to make sure you make a damn good job of it!
     
  10. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Oh, without a doubt. But I didn't get my nose broken twice in vain! Things that come hard leave a long lasting impression. It's the old "give a fish" ideal.

    Now, as most of you know, my Aunt Clara is kind of the matriarch of the clan. Always ready to dispense some simple Sicilian wisdom. She relates, "Give a man a match, and the fire provides heat for just a moment. But set a man on fire and he has heat for the rest of his life."

    Breaking rules has costs. But you'll notice that there are no erasers on the handles of an ice picks. Take my advice, live bolder while you still have time, regrets are forever. BTW, bullies fold like a box kite hitting field stone patio.
     
  11. BallerGamer
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    BallerGamer Active Member

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    I just want to say that I was writing my own tragic romance myself with a bad ending. Bad as in it's not happily ever after. In the middle of writing it I watched Midnight in Paris. One quote really opened up my eyes as a writer.

    "The artist's job is not to succumb to despair but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence."

    My tragic story was a reflection of a real life experience of my own despair. I realized I was being selfish making my readers just as miserable as I was. Although what helped me change the course of my story was also reading a bunch of romance novels in between. I imagined to myself, what a crappy way for these novels to end if the couple never got together.

    It may be "unoriginal, predictable" for them to live happily ever after, but that's exactly why people buy them; they yearn for those emotions that the romance novels evoke.

    I'm not saying there's anything wrong with what you have, just food for thought. I actually like what you have down. This story could portray the loyalty the wife had to her husband, and that love would be very inspiring to read.
     
  12. jkranak
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    jkranak New Member

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    The way I see it, 1-9 seem like the setup for a good story to me, not a complete story. Thus, if I were thinking about something like that, I'd make steps 1-9 like maybe the first 30-40% of your short story or novella or whatever. I'd streamline it, by eliminating steps 1, 2 and 5 (and you'd have to have notification about Walter's death fail to be delivered, as someone mentioned, and Thomas find out about it, and at that point decide to pretend to start writing her as Walter). Then after step 9 you further advance the story. For example, you have Thomas return home and pretend to be Walter (like someone said above; he could like say he was badly burned and wear a mask all the time or continuously avoid meeting her or only speak to her through the door of the room he's locked himself in), and then when she eventually finds out, she's so repulsed by it and he so enraged with jealousy that he kidnaps her and they both die in a climactic murder-suicide. Or you could go even crazier and also have Evelyn have died (of like TB or something) when Thomas and Walter were away, and have her friend (let's call her Ruth) have pretended to be Evelyn and be writing to Thomas (who she thought was Walter) just so he wouldn't lose hope and then have them both fall in love. Then they're both be shocked and disgusted that it's not who they thought it was they were writing to and both commit suicide. Or you could go completely nuts and have it turn out that Thomas actually did die and that Walter, in his psychosis and guilt has convinced himself that he is Thomas (Spellbound-style), and Evelyn runs away because she hates the way the war has changed him (even though Walter doesn't know this, because he thinks he's Thomas). And then you have Walter commit suicide over grief from having lost his love (this is a tragedy, so, goddammit, someone has to die at the end).

    I don't know if any of these ideas are any good, but as I was saying, I think this is a good setup for a story, perhaps even a good seed. I'd continue to embellish it.
     
  13. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    Love your take on life.
     
  14. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    This concept, as you've outlined it, is lacking any kind of excitement or passion. If it is to be plot based, then you need to have something more powerful to tell. If it's to be character based, you need to know your characters really well, which you don't at the moment.
    A story needs a strong beginning, a strong middle and a powerful ending, whether that be a tragic ending or a gentle happy ending. I don't think you've spent enough time on your ideas yet.
    Your beginning (again, I'm talking about what I see here) seems weak. And to say that 'time goes on' suggests that there are large parts of the story that are still unknown to you.
    You could be beginning in the wrong place. Maybe you need to start your story in the trenches with the relationship between the two men, the letters between Evelyn and Walter being the back story.
    The middle is slightly confused and not really that believable. You have have each man being saved by the other. Yes it can happen, but it's an easy option that's been done so many times it's a bit of a cliche.
    I think the most interesting part of this is the deceit being carried out by Thomas. That's the part that I think you could really do something with. That's the part where you can build characters, emotion and suspense - there is the conflict. But to do that you need to know your characters well. You would also need to know exactly where you're taking it and at the moment you have no ending so you don't know where you're going.
    That's not to say that you have to stick to a rigid idea. Ideas are flexible. But there's a difference between allowing the story to follow it's own natural path and allowing it to flounder.
    Maybe writing a paragraph on each character would help get them clearer in your mind. Write some snatches of dialogue between the two men and Walter and Evelyn. Write an action scene with the two men. When you have all these 'snapshots', it may help you put the whole picture together.
    Don't give up on it, just put more work into it.
     
  15. BallerGamer
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    BallerGamer Active Member

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    Maybe it's because I enjoy those kinds of stories (sandwiched in between a bunch of happy ones) but I think there could be passion and excitement in a story like this. The thing is the central character will have to be the wife. And as I've said before the key theme in the story will have to be the wife's undying loyalty to the husband, so there might have to be a lot of backstory being told between their relationship and why this wife became head over heels for Walter. For me that's the only way I can see this working if you don't teeter with any of the plot lines.
     
  16. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Remember the series _Thirtysomething_? I remember a story that when it was proposed, the writers wrote pages and pages about the character Michael, his background, his education, his ambitions. About his wife, they wrote "Hope is Michael's wife." Nothing more.

    All we know here is that "Evelyn is Walter's fiance." We don't even know her name for sure - she's Evelyn or she's Kate. But your ending depends on who she is and what she's like. Evelyn is far, far more important than Walter, and she's a fair bit more important than Thomas. You need to figure out who she is.
     
  17. TheWrite
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    TheWrite New Member

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    I had originally named the fiancée Kate but found the name didn't fit the time period as well. So to clear that up, Kate and Evelyn are the same-just a typo on my part.
     
  18. AndyB
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    AndyB Member

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    writing the letters home would be great for exposition, if you did a few gritty ones describing the horrors of war you could pack a lot of pace in few words; it could be really gripping stuff


    I like the premise you have but it sounds more work then fun moving the story from one plot point to the next and writing filler passages to connect the dots

    personalty i start with mapping out the movement in the story in outline.

    where does the story begin? In the middle is good as you can start with action and a good pace to draw readers in and back-fill with exposition in the form of the letters and dialog:
    sort of style.

    where next? do you start with them at the station, then on to the train, then on to a ship, then an army base behind the front lines. and if you need to cover a point later in the story that you think would add to the plot just have one of the women left behind read a few of the old letters and talk about it with a friend - bingo, plot hole filled in, back story beefed up and no mass of rewrites to shoe horn it in earlier in the story.


    but most important of all dont confine yourself to starting the story at the beginning, some of the best books i ever read started with the final chapter then back tracked to tell you how they ended up there and if used right this flexible approach to time can be a very powerful tool.

    saying that try and avoid using the flashback too often without support as it can be messy and confusing for the reader
     
  19. mg357
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    mg357 Active Member

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    AndyB: That is exactly how i would start it Walter and Evenly are standing on the dock near the ship that walter is going to board and they are saying goodbye. Then the story shifts to Walter on the ship and he is writing to Evelyn, Then to the Army base in France before he goes into battle in the trenches. Then he is in the trenches during all of this Walter is taking every spare moment that he can to write to his Evelyn who he loves so much.
     
  20. AndyB
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    AndyB Member

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    cool, as you need not let the reader see every letter, we could find out he is writing them by him being dragged away and that gives you loads of room to hit it from the readers side later

    edit: saying that think very carefully on how you use the first chapter to pull your readers in, a compelling first few pages can sell a lot of copy as that what people read in bookstores before buying
     

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