1. divided_crown
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    divided_crown Member

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    Outlining - wrapping my head around "goals" and the beginning

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by divided_crown, Mar 8, 2013.

    (I hope this is the right place to post this - it's more of a borderline plot development/general writing issue...)

    For a long time and for some less serious projects, I have been the epitome of a pantser. I started writing out of some flash of inspiration, sometimes in the middle of the story proper, and eventually just lost track of everything.

    Since I am now looking to get into some more serious writing, I am trying to find a way to outline my story before writing. Of course, I am struggling.

    My key issue at this point is with goals and character motivations. While I have a pretty good grasp of the story's stakes and conflict (let's say for sake of this example that the story is going to be focused on the main character trying to survive in a hostile environment), I have a hard time applying these at the scene and chapter level.
    This is especially problematic during the opening section: I have never written a real first act before and so far everything I could put into it feels expository and empty. I can't apply the story's central conflict either, really, since it has not been set up yet in the very beginning.
    I am trying to stick pretty close to the scene/sequel principle, but even there I find it hard to actually spell out what the character actually wants out of a scene. I know what *I* want (i.e. "the plot needs this to happen"), but I don't want to write scenes based on that, but on the characters I created.

    Has anyone else encountered something similar? I'd appreciate any hints from my fellow writers :)
     
  2. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    sorry DC, I'm a bit lost without something more specific.

    If you are having trouble ourlining your story then maybe you should give up trying to outline your story and just write and write and write. It will come to you and you will always thicken the plot. I'm 50,000 words in and still adding bits to existing plots which means I have to go back 30,000 words and fill it in to prepare for the plot I've just added.

    By not outlining and sticking to rigid skeletons of a story I have the freedom to do as I wish.

    Hope this helps - just write and see where it takes you
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sounds to me like you're too much into outline minutiae and not enough into writing... i have to ditto all of the above...
     
  4. creative_nothings
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    creative_nothings Member

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    My personal method is handwritten notes. I start with a notepad that is just random ideas that come to me at any given time. When I look back through it and find an idea I think works I pick up a new notepad and start working out characters, jotting down plot notes, background for the world and the races in it, I might draw some maps of the world I'm creating, etc... Basically, anything I might need to reference in the future to maintain the stories integrity. Then I start writing... could be in the middle, could the end. As the story develops, my reference notes might change, things will get added and deleted, but I always keep it handy so I don't forget the important stuff. Hope that helps! :D
     
  5. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    Time to take yourself out of your mind and body and put yourself in the shoes of your own character bucko

    Time to see what they see
    Breathe the way they breathe
    Feel the air around them on your skin
    Think what they're thinking
    Say what they want to say

    And if you can do all that, scenes will literally flow straight out the woodwork for you. After that it's just a matter of revision.

    You need to throw yourself into your story and experience it first hand in order for you to write about it, think of it as your memoir from your character.

    Hope I helped some! :D

    Also this is very important when you start planning a story: think of the ending FIRST so no matter what happens when you plan or change the beginning, middle, dialogue here and there, a character's gender changes yadda yadda, you know EXACTLY where it will end
     
  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    and 700,000 words later...

    I think using an outline is down to personal preference.

    I personally don't - in fact I doubt if I could - but lots of people do. An outline helps you structure your story, plan the bits you're going to write, determine how one event segues into another, etc. This may well make for a more perfect story than just sitting down and writing whatever comes into your head.

    The writing "whatever" option is great for inspiration, following paths you didn't know were there when you started, turning up bits of treasure you hadn't even dreamed of. However, you also end up with a helluva editing job at the end.

    The spear-carrier you casually named Fred Fantom and then forgot about, back in Chapter Four, has reappeared as Amos Vainglorious along about Chapter 48; he has just kidnapped all your dogs, cats and children, and his involvement in the climax is now crucial. In fact, you've lost your original plotline altogether, your historical romance has become a thriller with sci-fi overtones, and it's now over 700,000 words long. So, unless you're willing to sit down after you've finished your first draft and go through your manuscript with a fine-toothed pen about a million times, by all means, use an outline.

    Me speeks from experience...
     
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  7. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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  8. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    Your characters' wants and desires are what drive your story, plot, and narrative. So, with a structured and outlined approach, you should really not be in a place where what 'you' want to happen in the plot is what drives it. The only exception to that might be the very final climactic ending, which is where the characters need to end up, which you might need to settle on as what makes you want to tell the story in the first place.

    My experience (which I hasten to add is not the be all and end all), is that it is best to start with the ending, then figure out characters who will lead you there and get their desires and wants in line with reaching that ending.
     
  9. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm confused about the confusion. Is it possible that you're trying to make the character's goals too lofty?

    Some random examples of little, un-lofty goals:

    - I walk into a restaurant. My goal is to eat.

    - I walk into a restaurant for a job interview. My goal is to impress the interviewer.

    - I walk into a restaurant wearing new clothes, haircut, and makeup when I've never worn makeup or dressed up in my life. My goal is to wear my new "self" out in the world without getting stage fright and running home to my room.

    - I walk into a restaurant because I'm wearing new shoes that turn out not to fit. My eventual goal is to get home. My short-term goal is to sit at a restaurant table long enough to soothe my feet and to get a cab on my cellphone. So I'm going to order as little as possible, but enough to justify tying up the table, because one of my ongoing life goals is to avoid people, like waiters, being angry at me.

    Now, _you_, the writer, may want the character in the restaurant so that he can witness a holdup, or get food poisoning, or meet a waitress. But the character has to have some goal of his own, like the above.
     
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