1. Holo
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    Holo Senior Member

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    Plot and Setting Development/Writer's Block

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Holo, Apr 17, 2012.

    So I've got a protagonist with a personality, backstory, and beginning circumstance. I've also got an assortment of other main characters with equally fleshed out information. (I'm using this program called Scrivener to keep up with character profiles and whatnot). I've also got a main antagonist with a history, goal, etc. I'm writing a contemporary alternate reality fantasy story, just fyi. Now here's my problem:

    How do I connect the dots? I'm not asking people to tell my how to write my story, but I need some advice on how to brainstorm and what methods to use when your plot gets you stuck. When you have your protagonist and antagonist, how do you connect the dots so to speak to set your story in motion? How do you decide on whether to make your story set in one place, or be set in an assortment of places?
    If anyone has experienced this (being unable to properly focus their plot and conceive a setting that fits the story), what steps did you take to move your story forward?

    So far, here are the details of my story. The U.S. is ruled by a Prime Minister. The government is made up of a class of nobles who are essentially magicians or witches who have been ruling the country since its conception. My protagonist is a werewolf. Werewolves are treated like pariahs in society, and live in slums and usually work as miners who mine this stone called "aetherium" (still deciding on a name) which is difficult to mine and is the only stone that the nobles can use to store magic in. The protagonist is a member of a resistance group named the underdogs. I can't decide if it should be set in one city or be more of an "epic" fantasy so to speak where several locations are visited. Basically, I'm having trouble connecting the dots. For anyone who has trouble like this (being unable to form a catalyst or plot device that gets your protagonist involved in the main events) what methods do you use to jump start your story?

    I'm not asking for advice on what to write in my story, because I know that ultimately it is my story and it depends on how I write it that makes good. But I'm stuck and need some advice on how to push the story forward and basically how to start. I've got character profiles, a couple of setting sketches and basically a bunch of background stuff, and an idea for the conflict, but no story.
     
  2. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Nearly every story I've written has started with a character and a situation he's in. It has to be a situation that requires him to act; a situation that motivates him to DO SOMETHING. It sounds like you have a character, but no situation. Lots of background info - you've built your world - but that's not a situation that requires your character to do something. Something has to happen that makes the status quo intolerable to him. A protagonist has to be motivated to act, to change his situation from intolerable to tolerable. Or from bad to good, if you will.

    If your character is not motivated, he won't budge and you won't have a story.
     
  3. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with Minstrel. Regardless of his situation, he has to have a goal, and a motivation, something to struggle for. What does he want? Start asking yourself questions, it's a good way to get started.
     
  4. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    What method do I use to push forward when my plot gets stuck?

    There're 2 ways:

    1. Add some convenient detail that helps your characters move forward and get out of a sticky situation, and on your rewrite, add said relevant detail at an earlier point to "foreshadow" it so it doesn't seem convenient to your readers.

    2. This is more painful, but essentially, re-evaluate your plot. Does it actually work? Does it actually flow logically from point A to B to C etc? Revisit earlier plot points and stop to decide which bits are good, and which bits are the chinks that are throwing you into confusion and essentially getting you stuck. You'll know because those are the bits that you'll have major questions about that you do not know how to resolve. Think long and hard, and then, perhaps, change your plot. Change the direction it's going in, change the catalyst that propels your story forward, change the circumstances that surrounded your problematic plot point. And start again from there.

    I've used both myself. My first idea for my current novel was that my MC was a created weapon of mass destruction, and he meets a random girl who helps him run away from some assassins. It didn't work, it was too convoluted in the end. So now my MC is just a guy with a special power, but not a "created weapon", and said random girl was part of the assassins group, and the assassins are no longer assassins. It took writing from scratch twice and ditching 80k words, but I finally have a workable first draft! (still incomplete but nearly there woohoo!)
     
  5. prettyprettyprettygood
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    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

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    Some may scoff at this, but I like to use an index card app (or just index cards). I can then lay out brief notes of the main things I want to happen in my story, make sure I have enough going on to keep it interesting and moving forward, and I can also rearrange the 'scenes' as necessary. Many people prefer to avoid this type of planning and write as they go, but you sound like the organised type so the index card approach might help you figure out your plot, and experiment with different situations/settings.
     
  6. Kaymindless
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    Kaymindless Contributing Member

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    So not going to scoff. Even though I write as I go, if I hit a hic-up, the first thing I do is grab the index cards (Or Scrivner program, because it's pretty with index card ability) and start putting my plot into a colorful organization. Really, really helpful when you get quite a way in and just need a push because everything is laid out right in front of you and you can see that little piece that you missed/forgot that's going to move you towards the finish.

    Holo, you've got a great idea where you're standing. Ask yourself some questions to push yourself forward. What are you trying to say with your novel? Is your character going to struggle against the prejudice that makes him stuck into horrible mining? If you want to move out of just the one city, what will cause this? Small rebllion? Large scale rebellion? Acceptance of situation? You have a great start and there are so many different ways to go with it, you just need to ask yourself the tough question of what you want the main point of your story to be.
     
  7. Jowettc
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    Jowettc Contributing Member

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    Get a big bit of paper and start a bubble map - you know the ones - you see them on crime dramas. The MC is the center of the map then you start drawing links to other characters with situational devices e.g. conflict, love interest, pursuit and so on. Least thats what I do.

    Hopefully this may help you develop some of those holes you want filled.
     
  8. PeterC
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    PeterC Active Member

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    I say start writing. Even if you're not sure where you are going put something down and see what happens. You may find some of the dots coming together on their own as the story takes shape. You may find that you are going in totally the wrong direction and you'll have to scrap everything and start over. That's fine. Going down a few wrong paths will make the right path clearer.
     
  9. Rickswan
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    Rickswan Member

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    Here is the short form of the Hero story, the plot structure that most "hero" stories can't help but to follow, in "The Hero With 1,000 Faces":

    The hero is introduced in his ordinary world, where he receives the
    call to adventure. He is reluctant at first but is encouraged by
    the wise old man or woman to cross the first threshold, where he
    encounters tests and helpers. He reaches the innermost cave, where
    he endures the supreme ordeal. He seizes the sword or the treasure
    and is pursued on the road back to his world. He is resurrected and
    transformed by his experience. He returns to his ordinary world with
    a treasure, boon, or elixir to benefit his world.

    This formula can be loosely applied to most stories with Heroes. For instance, the Matrix: replace the wise old man with Morpheus/the Oracle. It begins in Neo's common everyday life (aka the matrix) before he crosses the threshold into the "new" world (reality), etc.
    So according to this, you can begin by introducing the setting from the protagonist's POV... and for resolving plot threads when you get stuck, there's always Deus Ex Machina and the MacGuffin to move the story along.
     
  10. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure Deus Ex Machina is a good way to move the story along. What would be better is to think through the situation and figure out where it went wrong and come up with an alternative development. If you get to a point where it seems there's nothing to do, or that the character/s have no options to choose from, it's either bad planning (and even in this case you need to sit down and think it through) or there's a bug in the story you've created.
    Don't be tempted to take the easy way out.
     
  11. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    I have several distinct issues that I experience, and I'm not sure which is closer to your problem.

    First is when I have characters, plot, setting, but no spark to start it. In this case, often it turns out to be because I'm stuck in thinking the story has to start at a certain point, when it would do much better starting either earlier (so I don't have to give a bunch of backstory) or later (so I can jump right into the interesting bits). If I'm really stuck, I just start writing whatever scene I do have, even if it's the climax of the story.

    Second is when I have characters and setting, but no plot, or huge gaps in the plot. If I have any plot decided at all, I start thinking 'what has to happen for this to happen?' That usually gives me the rest of the plot. If I have nothing, I look for an unrelated idea that is plot without characters or setting, and see if I can put them together.

    Third is when I do have the plot planned out, and I'm writing it, but I've gotten stuck on part of it. This can be two things. Either I don't know how to solve a certain problem, in which case it's time to do research and ask advice, or I have convinced myself that the story needs more padding than it actually does and I should really just jump ahead to the next plot point.
     
  12. Joey Batz
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    Joey Batz Member

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    I have a novel I'm writing that had a conflict for the character, but was otherwise an anthology story detailing that character's obstacles (it makes sense if you know the story's premise). A couple of long walks outside on a nice day got me an ending, and a few months later, a full plot.

    My personal advice is to write the first few chapters as the protagonist's normal daily life. If he, as a werewolf, is seen as a "pariah" of society, then perhaps a motivation for him to act will appear naturally. And don't get discouraged; my novel's plot only came to me about a month ago, and I've been writing it for over a year. Don't ask me how that works out.

    If you REALLY get stuck, your character can just fall in love with a personality-less girl who's already in love with a sparkly vampire who watches her in her sleep. That seems to work no matter how little talent you have.
     

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