1. UnrealCity
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    UnrealCity Active Member

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    Lost the Plot

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by UnrealCity, Jul 3, 2013.

    I have an idea for a novel I would like to write. I know where and when I want it to take place, and I have a very basic idea on the two main characters, but I'm completely missing a plot or a story altogether! Obviously I cannot write a story without a plot, and I am quite new at trying to write a novel. How do you go about developing a plot? Do you just write and see where each character takes you, or do you outline a basic plot structure to begin with? I began to write about 2,300 words and then I stopped to ask my characters what the hell are you doing in my story??? They looked at me blankly and said they don't know.

    There's a lot I need to learn. I'd appreciate any thoughts or suggestions:)
     
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  2. maskedhero
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    maskedhero Active Member

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    Not knowing where they are going is quite problematic. Where they go matters less than the journey there, but I would suggest having some sort of journey. Even if it is to the corner store.
     
  3. UnrealCity
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    UnrealCity Active Member

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    Thank you for your reply, maskedhero. You're absolutely right about needing a journey.

    I have taken a closer look at my ideas to better explain as ambiguously as possible:

    My two characters share a common goal. Meanwhile, half of the world in collaboration are building something of grand scales (which was originally the idea the two main characters had, as a joke-around).
    However, after I looked closely at how quickly this structure would have to be built, to be built before the main characters die, for them to see it unfold, I decided that it was unreasonable to have it built that quickly.

    Perhaps I could introduce the main characters near the end of the construction, but then it wouldn't be their original idea as it would be built before they were born.

    Or I could build a plot, a journey, that takes place before and during the construction, and they never see the end.

    This is where my question sets in - how do I go about building a plot? I have an idea that I've fallen in love with about a construction of grand-scale, and I know the multiple purposes of that construction. But I have no idea what my characters are doing in the story other than being shocked that their idea is being built.

    How do people in this writing community build plots? Do you build the basic plots before the setting? Do you learn the characters as you write?

    I have taken a look at some of the other threads on this site which has some very helpful information. I hope I'm not repeating questions. I know some of the answers are simple for new writers like me, like practicing with short stories and writing often, and critiquing, and reading other books which are similar.

    I was just hoping to find out more about how I could develop a plot and build my characters into the plot.
     
  4. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think maybe you need to let these ideas cook for a while. Don't feel obliged to write immediately. Do whatever you do to get yourself into a daydreaming frame of mind, and play around with the ideas, the characters as you know them. Throw odd things into the mix. How do your characters 'feel' about this thing being built. (Shock isn't really enough.) Do they like it, and are pleased as punch? If they do, you might struggle to find a story. If they don't, however, you've got lots to play around with.

    Are your characters strong enough in your mind that you can decide what they might do? Is some 'bad' person or organisation behind the building of this structure? Someone they know? Have their ideas been hijacked or stolen? Have they warped the original idea?

    I don't know enough about your story to offer any more, and maybe these ideas are way off the mark. My main point is to think before you write. Think until the ideas come to you. Play with any of them that do. Don't be afraid to let your brain go off on strange tangents. If you keep this story in the back of your mind as well as the forefront, trust me, the plot WILL come to you—probably while you're standing in a grocery store queue, or walking to work, or someplace you least expect it.

    You don't need to plan everything out in detail, but by writing before you have a clue why, you're getting the cart before the horse.
     
  5. maskedhero
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    maskedhero Active Member

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    People seem to have different methods. My ideas come to me in the form of meandering day dreaming, and spring to life in bits and pieces. An idea, a theme, a setting, a cool place, a story, parts, and then...it all comes together. Once I get the ideas to paper, it all starts to flow. Plot can spring forth whenever, but interesting characters matter a lot too.
     
  6. UnrealCity
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    UnrealCity Active Member

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    Hi there jannert:)

    Those are some really good questions I need to ask myself. I really appreciate your comment. I should let my ideas sit for a while and think about it all. I can try to develop my writing skills in the meantime with short stories so that maybe I'll have the tools I need to write a solid story.

    Thanks!
     
  7. UnrealCity
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    UnrealCity Active Member

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    maskedhero - yes it is important to to have interesting characters. No matter how good a plot or a setting could be, it would mean nothing unless the characters were interesting to the reader.
     
  8. Macaberz
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    Macaberz Pay it forward Contributor

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    [MENTION=54966]UnrealCity[/MENTION] There are architects and there are gardeners. Architects lay out a blue print first, they know exactly what they are going to build. Gardeners, though they know which seeds they'll plant, have little control over how the garden will end up looking as the weather and the fertility of the soil might influence the end result.

    Almost all writers are a bit of both. What I think you've done is you've strayed a bit too much to the gardener side.

    What I did myself just two days ago was sit down and write down in present tense all the events that happen in the book, in order of occurence in the book. It felt like writing a summary of my own book which doesnt even exist yet, but it did help to organize my thoughts.

    From what I've gathered so far you have a central idea and two characters but there is no story. Be very careful that you don't force a scene to fit. Either way, lets think about why your characters would be suprised that their building is being built. Perhaps the man in charge of construction is an competing architect? Perhaps his entire goal is to build the structure then have it collapse to demonstrate to the world how terrible your MC's are at designing? Your story idea makes me think that there are all sorts of political and personal tensions, as if everyone has certain stakes with that structure being built, yet everyone wants to go about it differently. If you can't come up with anything to fit then I would set the idea aside for a moment and delve into the history of the setting, perhaps there is some interesting event that your characters could take place in?

    Good luck!
     
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  9. The Peanut Monster
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    The Peanut Monster Senior Member

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    I have had more or less this exact problem. What I did to overcome it, was to write some key scenes that I knew I wanted in there. Example: my MC is trapped in a large building, and he wants out. That's all I had. So, I wrote a scene with him standing looking at the locked door from inside. I started describing the door. I described his feelings, and suddenly felt he needed to be talking to someone. Who? I don't know, I just started writing dialogue, rather than feelings. Then there were responses, and another character was born. They talked together, and now, i had a co conspirator. How did they meet? Why? All this started coming in --- the story just evolved.

    What are some of those scenes for you? Maybe it is as simple as your MCs looking at the construction, complaining about it, or whatever. Just get the stuff out you WANT to write first. Then, don't put pressure on yourself to force events to happen in that scene, just write, and go where your pen takes you. If it seems appropriate to put a dialogue, put one in. If it seems right to have another character come on in (like a defensive foreman?) do that. If they walk away alone, thats fine too. Maybe they sit down and do nothing. All fine. Let it come, and see what happens, it might be bad, it might get dumped eventually, but it begins to give life to your setting, your characters and what they need/want/like to do. You have started to build your world, and from there comes great things. :)

    Good luck!
     
  10. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh, but you can. And a great many authors do. Although not everyone can work this way, and some folks can't do anything without an outline, those authors who are true "pantsers" (a word that has come to be accepted as meaning one who writes by the seat of his pants, not having any idea what is coming) write only this way. If you've got your basic scenario and your characters, just sit down and start writing. Your plot may emerge.

    If it doesn't, you've gotten in some good practice and made vast strides in developing the characters. But there's a good chance it will, as you learn more about your characters motivations and backgrounds. You may find a lot of good conflict that you can work with, or they may tell you the backstory and the problem that they're dealing with now. Give it a shot.
     
  11. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I was going to say something about internal and external conflicts and goals but your specific examples say it so much better.
     
  12. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well, said, The Peanut Monster. That method of attack certainly works for me.
     
  13. ChaosReigns
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    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

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    The Peanut Master has a good point, something i do on occasion, Write scenes, then somehow put them all together, if there is something i think would work then id write it and put it in my notebook until it was used, then file away the original idea... its a good method
     
  14. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    Give your character(s) a problem. Right away on page 1. It doesn't have to be the main problem they face in the book, but something for them to worry about and/or take action on. What would they do to solve that problem? It helps build plot if their solution creates a bigger problem. In dealing with that, maybe by now they see the BIG problem that makes the plot.

    As a silly example, since I don't know enough about the story you want to write, suppose an author wants the MC to be involved with drug dealers. How do you set that up? So to start the book, make her late for an appointment. Minor problem, reader can sympathize. Reader is is introduced to the character and her world. Solution: she speeds. She gets stopped by police - bigger problem. We learn more about her - is she scared, defiant, contrite, pretending contrition, depressed, or what? She doesn't know where she will get the money to pay the ticket by the time it is due. Bigger problem. Solution: she asks her no-good cousin who lives in the same building for help, and he offers to hire her for a little job - bring a package from across the country. Now you have lots of potential for really big problems that make up the main plot, intrigue, moral agonizing, and suspense. If you want a side plot, she just broke up with someone and meets a handsome drug dealer, but knows what business he is in. Now she has more choices to make.

    Just keep building like that on your own ideas. If you don't like where it goes, set that aside (never throw away any writing or planning), and try again.
     
  15. UnrealCity
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    UnrealCity Active Member

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    Wow, these are some really great responses. This has definitely helped a lot.

    Thank you maskedhero, jannert, Macaberz, The Peanut Monster, chicagoliz, GingerCoffee, ChaosReigns and B93

    I will take on board these ideas:)
     
  16. maskedhero
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    maskedhero Active Member

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    Always glad to help. Best of luck in finding the lost plot.

    Heck, a character could be looking for a plot...
     
  17. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    This has helped me in the past.
     
  18. UnrealCity
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    UnrealCity Active Member

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    I've been making a lot of progress in building a plot -

    I've been writing short summaries of each chapter, then I write the chapter.
    Still not sure where the story is going but I've been having great ideas and scenes in my mind, and things I note down for later.

    I feel as though I've found a more natural mix of architecture and gardening and things are starting to move forward:)
     
  19. Makeshift
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    Makeshift Active Member

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    I liked the analogy with the architect and the gardener. For me, having the ending is more important than the beginning. Recently I reversed this and now I'm stuck with an otherwise good story but I have no idea how it will end and how I should take it there. Normally I come up with the final scene before writing down a word.
     

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