1. sophia_esteed
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    sophia_esteed Senior Member

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    I'm having trouble developing the plot...

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by sophia_esteed, Feb 23, 2008.

    Just as the title says, I'm having trouble developing the plot for one of my works.
    Some background info: it's a novel I wrote when I was sixteen, featuring a "star war" but with a more realistic cut, meaning there weren't aliens, robots and such, just humans against humans; and also I gave it a "historical flavour", meaning I wrote it as though I would write a newspaper article about, say, the Iraqi war (the war in Kosovo was going on at the time).
    The first draft, however, was not readable. Then I just stopped writing for a veery loong period, and just only recently I began writing again; I tried writing a few things, but it's not as easy as it was before, so I thought I would try to fix up my old papers so to make them readable, but that's just as difficult!
    All this goes for "war". I have a lot of material I could use to write something good out of it, but I just don't know where should I start from.
    So, any suggestions on how should I approach the matter?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Try placing the focus on a small number of central characters. The newspaper approach is likely to be too flat to engage the readers' interest, Give the readers characters they can identify with and care about, and tell the story from their perspectives.

    Try to have at least one character who is present for the duration. In Star Wars, R2D2 and C3PO were to be the common "characters" through all 9 originally planned installments.
     
  3. sophia_esteed
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    sophia_esteed Senior Member

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    Yup! I'll try and do that.
    The original characters needed to be modified, anyway, since, well, I can no longer recall how I was feeling when I created them back then, so it's like...kinda...I can no longer recognize them or something.
    I'll re-create them anew and try building my story around them, then. :-D
     
  4. LinRobinson
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    LinRobinson Banned

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    It would be hard to read a novel written entirely in news style and format. I'd suggest you use material like that as inserts, perhaps as chapter intros. You can then use newspapers, broadcasts, vessel logs and unit reports, etc. It would be fun coming up with the title and attribution below each one.

    Speaking of chapters, readers don't need them as much as writers do. It sounds like you need a format or "pigeonhole system" to organize this and when you find the one that works things will fall into place. I was messing around with a novel set during carnival and when I divided it into a section for each day of the carnival week things got smoother.

    There are a lot of ways to acheive continuity other than a character. If your war lasts a century you'd need other ways of doing it. Some of Stanislav Lem's books span eons, as does Asimov's Foundation Trilogy.

    Hawaii, and other Michener novels, tend to be collections of stories of different characters with little connection except that they were part of the founding strains of Hawaii or wherever. Bradbury's Martian Chronicles is drawn together by similar broad concepts and recurring images or motifs. The Bridge of San Luis Rey (and other novels such as MacDonald's The Big Smash and the film Crash) involve a collection of lives of characters with absolutely no connection except that their various paths all cross at the scene of a fatal disaster.

    As an example of a visual motif that spans generations, look at the clock in the "Back tot the Future" series. It changes, but it's always there: not only instant cue that we're in "Hill Valley" but at what time, what the situation is at that time...and a constant symbol for a work that's very involved in Time itself.

    Spend some time thinking not about what the internal structure of the book is (the chronology, the relationships, etc) but the external structure (YOUR sequences of sections and their relationships to each other.)

    The real finesse on books of disconnected characters like that would an inventive event that ties it up: in the last chapter something is revealed or generated that bonds all the stories into a greater whole. A tall order, but writers pull it off.

    Good luck
     
  5. soujiroseta
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    soujiroseta Senior Member Contributor

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    i had the same problem a couple of months ago and i couldn't write at all, i'd spent about 6 months doing nothing. one day i told myself that i am supposed to be a writer and writers write, so i just sat down and started typing, it wasn't anything that i would put in the actual story but it helped break the shackles if you know what i mean. i suggest that its worked for me more than once.
     
  6. sophia_esteed
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    sophia_esteed Senior Member

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    Perhaps it would be useful to discuss the original plot and structure here...
    Sorry I cannot post the actual story in this forum, but the original version was written in Italian, so...
    But anyway, the problem now is how to fix up the plot, so I'll try and do my best to summarise it in a few words.
    Okay, here I go!

    The year is 3003. A war is being fought between the Galaxy Federation and the rebellious Colonies of the Outer Border.
    The reason for the outbreak of the war is to be found in the terrorist attack that annihilated Station One of the Heliopolis Complex back in 3001.
    Responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Outer Colonies' Representative as retaliation for the impossible sanctions imposed by the Galaxy Federation on the Outer Colonies.
    Even tough the decision was painful, the Galaxy Federation's Executive Committee deemed the Outer Colonies rebellious and had war declared on them (I actually wrote all this one year before the 9/11 terrorist attacks and it gives me the chills thinking a situation like this actually happended...).
    The story revolves around the personal experiences of the soldiers fighting the war: the nurse Amy, her boyfriend the ace pilot Dennis, a female private named Tory, and the female 23-year-old war correspondent Elize.

    The original story was written in the first person, and the point of view kept shifting from one character to the other, following the flow of the story and the way the battles unfolded. The novel was interspersed with newspaper articles, diary pages (Amy's) and letters to and from home.
    I was very young back then and my writings was much influenced by Ernest Hemingway's newspaper style - so it was all dialogue.
    The novel was very poor when it came down to the descriptive part, and very hard to follow, containing also major plot-holes.
    This is pretty much the situation I found myself dealing with when I decided I wanted to fix it up and make it readable.

    Now a quick summary of the chapters' content:

    CHAPT 1:

    The space battleship Seraphim is ambushed while trying to penetrate System Myst - where the Rebel stronghold the Captain was told to take down is located. The captain launches the battleship's fighters and together with them tries to create an opening to use as escape path, but in the process Ranger Leader's fighter is shot down and crash-lands on a nearby moon.
    The point of view shift's to Amy's, a young nurse assigned to the battleship's medical staff - knowing her boyfriend's fighter was shot down, she rushes to the rescue, but when she and other two members of the rescue team land on the deserted moon, they find out Dennis had already been taken away, most likely by the Rebels.
    Back on board the Seraphim, Dennis' sister Rebecca, another member of the fighter squadron, decides to infiltrate the Rebel stronghold to rescue Dennis. Amy tags along.
    The chapter is interspesed with flashbacks from which we come to know how the war broke out and how Amy, Dennis and Rebecca came to the decision to join the Starfleet and fight.

    CHAPTER 2

    Tells how the makeshift, improbable rescue team made up of Rebecca, Amy and another one of Rebecca's fellow pilot succesfully sneak into the Rebel stronghold and succeed into rescuing Dennis.
    However, back on the Seraphim, Amy is punished for her behaviour and sent to fight on the frontline (I know this is a ridiculous turn of events).

    CHAPTER 3

    A letter Amy sent to her friend Rebecca, telling how Amy is managing to survive on the frontlines. (reading it now, it's enraging).

    CHAPTER 4

    Tells the story of an unnamed sentinel fighting for its life in some unnamed planet very far from home (Earth). (this is kinda enraging, too).

    CHAPTER 5

    Another letter, this one sent to Amy by Rebecca.

    CHAPTER 6

    Introduces the character Tory, a young female private fighting in the same battallion as Amy. Contains a very brief description of how hellish the frontlines are, and describes the solidarity which is established between the soldiers as they fight for their lives.

    CHAPTER 7

    Tells how Amy is wounded in battle and sent to an hospital behind the lines.
    The rest of the chapter describes Amy's recovery.

    CHAPTER 8

    Another letter

    CHAPTER 9

    A short poem written by Amy.

    CHAPTER 10

    A newspaper article, written by war correspondent Elize Robinson, describing the life and achievements of Dennis' fighter squadron.

    CHAPTER 11

    Another article by Elize Robinson, describing how the privates Toryn and Simon (siblings), after being captured on the front, manage to escape from prison and are later rescued by fellow soldiers.

    CHAPTER 12

    Yet another article, this one featuring the Hell's Angels, the nurses and medicians risking their lives on the front to save their fellow soldiers' lives.

    CHAPTER 13

    This chapter features a victorious battle

    CHAPTER 14

    A letter Amy sends home to let her beloved know the war is finally coming to a close, and hopefully she will be able to go home soon.

    CHAPTER 15

    A short story Amy wrote to come to terms with the traumatic experience she had in the war.

    CHAPTER 16

    A letter Amy receives from home.

    CHAPTER 17

    The very last battle fought and won by the Galaxy Federation. With this, the war has ended.

    CHAPTER 18 and 19

    Amy's letter and her folks' reply.

    CHAPTER 20 and 21

    Two articles by Elize Robinson describing the Rebels' withdrawal and the GF soldiers' return to home.

    CHAPTER 22

    Amy's return to home.

    This is, pretty much, the plot and original structure of the story.
    And this is pretty much the stuff I'm dealing with now that I'm trying to fix it all up.
    I have so many doubts as to how I should treat each chapter's content to make the story more plausible, more consistent, and more readable.
    There are so many plot-holes and parts which drag it all down!
    I'm also having trouble dealing with the newspaper articles, diary entries and letter exchanges, not to talk about characterisation.
    And overall, it sounds so childish! (well, I did write it when I was 16...).

    Right now, I'm struggling fixing chapter 1 and 2.
    I'm not really fond of the sneaking-into-the-prison part, to be honest, so I'm unsure whether keeping the original material or start back from scratch, writing a whole different story...
     
  7. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    As I've already stated, I find the idea of uses letters and the like to express the characters personnel feelings an intriguing plot device (Whether or not it works has yet to be seen).

    I read over this and can't help but feel its seems, disconnected. It's possible this is just the effect of your summary but I feel like all the characters stories are disconnected. How do they all tie in together? I suppose I may have just lost this in your summary.

    A helpful note: Have you considered telling some part of the story from the perspective of the rebels? It would be an interesting addition to see the war from both sides.

    Perhapse you can space out the rescue of Denis. Instead of having that plot line fill out in the first few chapters you could cut it up and spread it out a little more to make us read through more of the book wondering when we're going to hear about him again.

    You've sort of grouped the stories of the lesser characters together and I think spacing things out to hold supsense would be benificial. For example, don't but the reporters onyl appearences back to back. Have one at one poaint,a dn another later on.

    I think that with some work this could be very interesting, especially since this is the kind of Science Fiction I enjoy. Military SF rulz :p.
     
  8. sophia_esteed
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    sophia_esteed Senior Member

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    You've got the point. It IS disconnected!
    It's the same impression I had when I've re-opened the file.
    The only two chapters that were somehow connected and worked by themselves were the first two!

    I did not, back then, but now I'm considering it.
    Eh, this takes me back to the creation of the characters-stage.
    Also it would be a dramatical change in the plot.
    I'll note this down, thanks!


    Hm. This would be an interesting twist of the plot, too.
    It'll be my first time, too, writing this kind of situation.

    I'd like give the reportes "full coverage" this time - I mean, insert the reporters in the plot as full fledged characters which interact with the other characters, not only let them exist as the authors of the articles.
    Hm. Did I manage to explain myself?

    Thanks! This gives me courage to go on fixing my work.
    I think I will do some brainstorming and then go back to the design stage, now.
     
  9. sophia_esteed
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    sophia_esteed Senior Member

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    I'd like to discuss character creation.
    Can I do it in this same thread, since it's related to the same work, or should I do in the Character Development section?
     
  10. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    It should probably go to character creation (you can post a link to this thread if you want so people can come read what's here.)
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Even though it relates to the same work, you should post in a forum designated for that topic. After all, the people interested in that topic will be more likely to visit that forum than one discussing another topic entirely.

    That is a good guideline to follow on any discussion site.
     
  12. sophia_esteed
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    sophia_esteed Senior Member

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    Is it possible to create a link to connect the two topics, even though they're in different sections/forum?

    EDIT:

    I mean, like in this thread I discuss the plot and make an hyperlink to the thread discussing character development in the character development section to create a direct connection between the two.

    Also, I'm just asking out of curiosity.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You can put a link within one of your posts, if you feel it is really relevant. However, they really are distinct topics, even if they do relate to the same piece of fiction.
     
  14. sophia_esteed
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    sophia_esteed Senior Member

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    Should I put this in the novel, too?

    There's another story I set in the same universe as the novel I'm writing, which is a spy-story. I've written just the first chapter, and then I had a feeling it wouldn't work so I abandoned it. But I was thinking of retrieving the material from first chapter and adapt it to use it in the novel I'm writing right now.
    Here's a summary of first chapter's content:

    Alex Owen, a 15-year-old high school girl, receives an e-mail.
    It contains the instructions for her next job.
    Alex is, indeed, no regular high school girl: she's a spy - an assassin created and brought up by the military to carry out dangerous under cover missions (the idea is the same behind Treadstone in the Bourne trilogy).
    Her next mission involves the assassination of the leader of the Pacifist Movement, who's trying to resolve the tensions between the Galactic Federation and the Colonies by diplomatic means.
    Her superiors want a war, so killing the leader of the Pacifist Movement would mean catching two birds with a stone: get rid of an inconvenient character, and create the conditions for the war to break out - making the murder look as if it was carried out by the Colonies.
    Alex was taught never to question the content of her orders, so she sets out to kill her target.


    This is the extent to which I was able to write this story.
    I thought, since the novel opens with a terrorist attack, maybe I could use this material to write the prologue, making Alex a spy for the Outer Colonies and the one responsible for the destruction of Helipolis Complex Colony I.
    I'd like also to introduce the character of Elise here, as a young journalism student at Heliopolis Academy (situated on Helipolis Colony II); I thought through her eyes I would show the people's reaction to the tragedy.
     
  15. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    It depends on how complex that storyline would be. It could indeed be interesting to add to a book that tells a war story from multiple perspectives but if its very complex or very long it might be deserving of its own book.

    Also this book appears to be a hard core military SF and a spy doesn't normally seem like it would fit in to a miliary SF.

    Unless you can make that storyline intertwine with the stories of other characters I would say don't add it.
     
  16. sophia_esteed
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    sophia_esteed Senior Member

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    It's been quite sometime now I've been thinking about merging the two stories into one, but it sure is hard! But if I keep just some core elements from the spy plot, maybe I could do it.
    I think I'll give it a try, anyway, and look how it turns out.
    If it turns out an impossible task, I'll go back to the original idea of keeping it as a pure military SF.
     
  17. chrisbassist
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    chrisbassist New Member

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    you seem to know the events, but so much the story within them

    how about you make a story about your reporters journey covering the events?

    you could still use your letters, maybe as prefaces to chapters, use them as a tool to let people know whats going to happen in the chapter, but from the writers point of view, so the chapter itself, becomes more about your main character (the reporter) and his/her reactions to the events,

    you could then add in your article cuttings, as and when the journalist writes them, give the reader a brief summary of what has just happened.

    this way you'll be sure your reader will not get lost, and will know whats going on all the time. I do think that the articles and letters should be used as separate elements to the story, to add to it.

    just my thoughts.
     

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