1. Sarah's scribbles
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    Sarah's scribbles Member

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    plot building, what I don't know.

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Sarah's scribbles, Nov 19, 2015.

    Alright, so to sum this all up, I write rather well, and everyone always compliments me on my writing, but I find I fail at one rather key location, and that is plot. I need some help understanding it and knowing how to build a plot that works. I don't know what to do when it comes to this honestly. You could basically declare me plot incompotent really, so could you guys explain plot to me and how you guys work to build plot?
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Personally I hate the plot formulas but some formal writing instructors teach them.

    Can you describe the problem a bit more? Is it the pace, the ending, the story starts well but goes nowhere?
     
  3. wellthatsnice
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    wellthatsnice Active Member

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    These are great questions. I would also be interested in the answers prior to giving my own feedback.

    A couple additional questions for the OP.

    What tends to be your inspiration to write?

    Im curious what types of stories you have done in the past, can you give an example 2 sentence log line synopsis of past works (or current)?

    What do you want the reader to feel/think about your current writing when they finish it? (im not talking about their feeling on the writings quality "it was amazing", im talking about how you want to change the reader or impart upon them "its amazing what a parent will endure to give their children a better life!")

    I'm looking to get a bit more about what you are looking to accomplish with your storytelling which will help give you a better guide on addressing plot.
     
  4. Sarah's scribbles
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    Sarah's scribbles Member

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    Well to start off, I'll answer your questions. yes I have a problem with spacing and yeah my stories always start off well but end up going nowhere really. I never have problems with the endings because I never really get that far or half the time I start in my head with the ending and try to work backwards.

    My inspiration... hm... I'm not sure. Anything can really inspire me there's not one thing I take in influences from everything. movies, manga, anime, TV, books, etc.


    Hm... A synopsis.

    Most of my stories involve a bit of warring sides. whether they be angels and demons or any two factions. With my latest story I am trying to show a diversity between two nations and that to one the other is each wrong in a way. My latest story involves a dystopian/utopian future where each side is fighting for something. the dystopian for their own survival, and the utopian for their own luxury.

    In some ways I'm just interested in getting the message across that things are not always as black and white as people make them out to be. just because your side is doing something the majority defers against doesn't precisely make the one side wrong and the one side right.
     
  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    OK, my first suggestion is to ask yourself what is the underlying story you want to tell.

    Consider reading Lisa Cron's Wired for Story or peruse her website for an idea on what I'm talking about.

    I'll post more later, got to do some income earning right now. ;)
     
  6. Greenwood
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    Greenwood Active Member

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    I struggle with this as well. I tend to be great at starting things, making up characters and giving them a good introduction, but when it comes to that overarching story I utterly suck, and it's a shame. It's the one flaw that's keeps kicking me down and demotivates me. I mean, I have the personalities, the background, the struggles of all my characters clear in my mind, but when it comes to what will actually happen to them, I cringe. I know what needs to be done, and I think you know it too, but still, I fail miserably when I have to get things organised, and it sucks big time.

    In other words; I'm not going to give you any advise. Any tips and hints already found on the internet have failed me, so any advise I would give you based on that would be both hypocritical and dishonest, as it would not stem from any of my accomplishments. I'm hanging on to this thread to see what any more plot-gifted contributors have to say. We'll get there, one day:superyesh:
     
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  7. nastyjman
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    nastyjman Contributing Member

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    I use the Scene-Sequel format made by Dwight Swain. You can click here for a primer: http://writershelpingwriters.net/2015/01/writing-patterns-fiction-scene-sequel

    The beginning of that chain is Goal. Every scene, your character must at least have a goal, a want or a need. Vonnegut also advised that have your character want something even if it's a glass of water. This goal drives the whole scene, and along the way as the character carries it out, they will encounter Conflict. When I'm outlining the draft of my novel, these two components are summarized into this format:

    - Character wants/needs _____, BUT Something or Someone is/does ______.

    So for example:

    - Katniss wants her and Prim to not get picked by the Hunger Games, BUT the lottery picks Prim.

    The next components is Disaster, which is the consequence of the character's failure.

    Now, after the Disaster, the next part is Reaction. This is where we get to see our character react with the disaster before them. And as they are in deep inner turmoil, they further sink into a Dilemma. This Dilemma forces them to make a difficult decision. Here are these two components summarized in this format:

    - Character is _____ (emotional state). Will Character do _____? Or will they do _____?

    So for example:

    - Katniss panics and fears for her little sister. Will she volunteer herself? Or will she let Prim go to the Hunger Games?

    Whatever decision she makes would then lead to the next goal of the character.

    So that's how I do my plotting. Mind you, I do not create an elaborate outline before I write. I use this tool after I finish my drafts. Also, the components of the Scene-Sequel is not set in stone: you can omit a Reaction and go straight to Goal, you can omit the Conflict and go straight to Disaster, and so on. Find what's best that serves your story.
     
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  8. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    You want warring sides? Take a real slice of history and crib from it; it worked for George RR Martin!

    e.g. Ruler (R) installs foreigner (F) to position of influence against the opposition of powerful subject(S).
    (S) persuades (R) to appoint candidate (X) to fill semi-powerful position vacate by (F) moving up.
    (F) invokes special rule to frustrate appointment of (X).
    (F) accuses (S) of dishonesty...and of being complicit in brutal death of brother of (R). [Things are simmering]
    Ex-husband (V) of sister (now-dead) of (R) visits. His men cause affray in territory of (S), get the worse of it, and he flees to (R) demanding justice against (S), which (R) supports. [Flash-point]
    (S) raises an army against (R), demanding justice against (V). (R) raises his own army by calling upon other powerful subjects. Uneasy truce. The army of (S) drains away, and (S) is forced into exile.
    Six months later, (S) returns with troops from abroad (provided by his son's father-in-law), his own men rally, and (R) is forced to reinstate him. (F) flees abroad.

    (F) believes he is doing good, as the one honest man, bringing in the idealized future.
    (S) believes he is doing good, holding back these damned foreigners from taking our jobs.
    (R) is trying to keep everybody from killing everybody else.

    By taking a real slice of history, the real incidents just need to be fleshed out, perhaps with the addition of motivation and characterization.
     
  9. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Get acquainted with some basic story structure formats. Three-Act Structure. Seven Point Structure. Hollywood Formula. Those are all pretty loose, basic concepts that are useful without being restrictive.

    A lot of people also use the Hero's Journey/Campbellian Monomyth, but I have some problems with that one for two reasons: First, it's too detailed. Second, it's actually not a story template. It's a reverse-engineered academic analysis of heroic myths throughout history, which means it's interesting but not always a great way to think about a story. Although, I do kind of like feminist author Maureen Murdock's "Heroine's Journey" template based on the Campbellian Monomyth for use with female protagonists.

    Personally I think of my plot in terms of Three-Act Structure and Hollywood Formula (these two neatly overlap, I prefer the way Hollywood Formula graphs the action in terms of matching with my thought process). If I reverse engineer my plot I can also find elements of both the Cambellian Hero's Journey and the Murdockian Heroine's Journey without fully conforming to either - which kind of works for me since I'm writing a female protagonist in political drama matched up against a female antagonist (which muddles the line in terms of whether gender-conflict is a major part of the story or not).

    Anyhow, that's my advice. I know some people aren't huge fans of "formulas" but they can be good tools to lay over your plot and see what's working and what's not.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2015
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  10. nastyjman
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    nastyjman Contributing Member

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    Agree. I think the aversion to formula is the misconception of using them before writing your story. For me, in the first rough draft, I write whatever the hell I want without thinking of formula or structure. But once I start rewriting and revising the rough draft, that is when I utilize the "formula." But, here's the catch, there's a lot of "formulas" out there, and you don't need to use them all or follow them to the T. Having knowledge of how they work gives you confidence in making your own "formula," the structure that best fits your story.
     
  11. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah you can't please everyone. Personally I don't write to an outline but I try to keep the Hollywood Formula in the back of my brain at all times just to think about which general direction my story need to be heading (I'm sure I'll do even more structure stuff in the revision pass). Some of the more complex formulas like the Hero's Journey I think are worth knowing but not universal. Actually I just ordered a copy of Kim Hudson's "The Virgin's Promise"

    Hudson postulates a "Virgin's Journey" monomyth that exists alongside the Hero's Journey in modern fiction - and honestly I think that one lines up a lot better with what I'm writing than anything I've seen in terms of character development.
     
  12. CristianOrtt
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    CristianOrtt Member

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    I find that, in the writing community, there are some "blind" writers that can just kind of dive in and get a good and continuous piece from it. Then there are those that write outlines. I have tried both and I am definitely an outliner. If I go in blind, I can get maybe three chapters and then I'm blank. What I like to do is what I call a "storyboard" before I start writing. I list my characters first, then type up a description for them, including how they are relate and feel about the other characters, as well as their history or encounters (this helps with plot points sometimes). However long or short it is depends on how important they are and what their traits and struggles will be. Then I move to the possible locations, listing them and describing them based on importance. Then I drop down to my "scenes". This is the part that definitely helps with plot. If you know your main character(s) and possible locations for your scenes then you can start to build an outline of chapters, the scenes and events that will take place within each one, and then move to the next. I used to struggle with my plots dying off on me before I started doing this. It seems like a lot of work, but it's worth it when you find what works for you. I spend a day doing the storyboard, let it sink in, and then start my story the next day. I hope that helps!
     
  13. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    :superagree:
     
  14. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    It sounds like you're trying to write by the seat of your pants, but you may be better suited to outlining.

    It can sometimes be helpful to look at things in reverse - instead of thinking about how your story begins, think about how you want it to end. In this case, you're probably going to want some major conflict between your two cultures, or maybe the threat of a major conflict that is averted because your main characters realize that nobody's a bad guy.

    So once you've figured out what the final conflict will be, try to figure out the best way to lead up to it? What events will make this conflict inevitable, and what events came before those events in order for them to make sense?

    It sounds like you know where you want your characters to be in the end - can you figure out a logical, step-by-step way to get them there?
     
  15. Toomanypens
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    Toomanypens Member

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    Just start on stuff you think is below you, write a short story about "saving the girl", then write a short story about "saving the world", then add a twist like "but it ended up saving me" in the next story. After that write a story where you save the girl, save the world, and it all ends up saving you.

    Our desires in life are not that complex, we instinctively crave a FEW things, and when we crave them we want to see and feel it all. As the story develops think about what the reader craves, or what intruiges them, it usually helps flesh things out.
     
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  16. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    @Toomanypens I did that once, and it made me cry. Now I try to write less conventional shorts. Just started one about a wiry fellow literally named Gimp Mitch, and it's his Orbit day (aka Birthday). It is more of an experiment to see if I can do third person without totally hosing it up. :p
     
  17. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    One mistake I often spot when I beta read is that there's no story. What they have is a novel length ms with a sequence of things happening but no actual story. There's no goal, no motivation, no conflict related to the goal (there can be conflict, in the sense that things go wrong in the characters lives, but nothing that ties into the story, mind the difference). So I think to start with you could think about what the actual story is that you want to tell and what the goals and motivations are for the mc. If there's an antagonist. What his reasons are. Then you can study some story structure to learn how to organize this into a novel, if that is what you're aiming at :)
     
  18. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Well said. Great post!
     
  19. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Like this post, thanks.
     
  20. Raven484
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    Raven484 Contributing Member

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    Maybe you should try a collaborative work with another writer. They can come up with a plot and you can help them write the chapters. Sometimes working like this can get your creative juices flowing.
     

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