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  1. ElephantsandEskimos
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    ElephantsandEskimos New Member

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    Plot - Lack Of

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by ElephantsandEskimos, Jun 21, 2009.

    :confused:

    Do you have this problem?

    One particular set of characters, for example, has been in my head for a few years now. They are detailed and complex, and feel very real to me. I know how they feel about each other and how they act, how they speak, exactly what they look like. I've taken the time to let them develop themselves. I also know the setting: the place and the time.
    But I don't know the important part: what actually happens?
    How do I fix this?
     
  2. lovely
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    lovely Member

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    A good game of "What if...?" is usually really helpful. Try thinking of different situations, both realistic and completely strange. That's usually enough to get me started. You could also try looking at writing prompts and inserting your characters in the situations.
     
  3. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    The "what if" game, as mentioned above, always helps.

    You could also use this piece of advice from some famous playwright (I think, but I forgot his name anyhow): "Bring in a guy with a gun." (not exact words)

    Basically, he meant that if you want to add excitement - or, in other words, make a story - bring in some element of danger. It doesn't actually need to be some psycho with a shotgun coming to kill your characters, but you get the idea - something that could threaten their external (or internal) existence.

    You could also think about your characters' flaws or problems, and how these could create problems. Some bad examples (but I hope you get the point): If your character is fat and has bad self-esteem, maybe you could make a story about him trying to get into better physical shape; or, if you have two characters in love, but one is a rich white guy and the other is a poor black girl from the slums, imagine how much conflict could arise from that! Essentially, see what kind of "problems" you could brainstorm from your characters.
     
  4. Evelyanin
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    Evelyanin Senior Member

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    Since you got your characters all figure out, the next step you could take is to figure out what you like to write. Horror and romance are very different, for example. Let's say you like adventure, who would be your main character? Or maybe they are just a group of friends. Can you think of any one of them which is likely going to get into trouble? What are their interests? If they like to hunt for treasure then you can send them off on a treasure hunt. Then you need to find an antagonist. Do you want an actual villain, or are your people going to be stuck on an island with an active volcano? The possibilities are endless. You could even start them out on a path and see where it goes. My one tip is: dream up the story before you put it on paper. Keep a notepad of idea's, but only start the plot line when you have a simple beginning, middle, and end. You can always add more meat to the plot as the story goes along, but be make sure you have a strong bone structure onto which you are able to apply the meat. Not enough structure, and the meat of your story will sag into a blob on the floor. It happened to me once. I finished two chapters of my story and found that I was already halfway through the plot line. I had to get rid of that story because I had nothing to write about. I recently looked back at the plot line and laughed. It was extremely pathetic, two pages, double spaced, huge writing. I think I'll keep the idea in mind, because it does have promise, but for now, the only thing the plot line is good for is to start a fire.
     
  5. ElephantsandEskimos
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    ElephantsandEskimos New Member

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    Thanks for the advice! :)
    Now that I think about it, maybe a more accurate statement would be that, although I do have SOME plot, it happens over such a large span of time that I don't know quite how to fill in the middle. Also, I know that the story focuses on realism and relationships between characters, so I don't want to bring in a convenient (for me, at least!) havoc-wreaking monster or send my characters off in search of government secrets.
    I will try the "what if" game! And perhaps what I need is one more element to the story - something to add a little more excitement.
     
  6. Beaumont Hardy
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    Beaumont Hardy New Member

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    I once had that same problem, and I think I ended up confusing dialogue with plot. My characters had lively conversations, but nothing really happened to them.

    I took a writing class once, and in discussing plot, the instructor told us to think about what each character wanted most. Then, he said we had to put obstacles in front of the character to keep him/her from getting whatever it was he/she wanted. The teacher told us that everything had to be difficult for each character. If we could come up with any possible difficulty, we ought to include it. (I think this is the same idea cybrxkhan explained.)

    I don't think these difficulties have to be of the monster or government-secret variety. They just have to sufficiently thwart the characters in achieving their own desires.

    Can you break up your overarching plot into smaller subplots that involve obstacles for the characters?
     
  7. tbeverley
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    tbeverley Senior Member

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    For me, writing is just another form of communication. Stories are intended to say something. If I start reading a book with a plot but no message, I'll get bored. So, to make a plot, I'd think you first need to figure out what it is that you want to say. Then, build a plot around what you want to say. If you want to say that the sky is blue, have your characters go outside and look at the sky. If you want to say that art is great, have your character learn something from being an artist.

    My point: Plot comes from intention. What you intend to say, to mean, to communicate. Plot just says it by means of situations that characters learn something from.
     
  8. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    I have found that when my plot is lacking, I ask my brain "I need a problem" and my subconscious throws something difficult into the mix.

    For instance, my main character just got back from his first mission which went off without a hitch, so I needed some sort of interlude - some strange problem that adds a note of depth to the story.

    So I had him get interrogated by his own people. He was isolated and drugged for a week. It was actually fun writing as though in a chemically induced haze. I used a lot of poetic mechanisms like "he was trying to catch the shadow of a ghost that was the memory of his recent past." or "he was mentally casting about, trying to grasp at names, faces, sounds, anything that would remind him of who he was"

    When I was done with that particular scene I realized that it was vague and confusing and would certainly create a heightened sense of "WTF is going on!?" - which is exactly what I needed.

    I need my reader to get this foreshadowing that everything isn't quite what it seems right now - a chapter or two before "the fall".

    The scene I just crafted I realized was like the Barrow Wights from LotR. I still don't understand what was going on there.
     
  9. lyethia
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    lyethia Member

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    ^That is a very nice strategy for creating plots.

    So you have your characters. You have their personalities at least semi-planned out (hopefully). You (probably) have some kind of genre your characters would fit into. The next step is creating scenes. A personal example: my entire novel sprouted from a page-long piece I typed up late one night, cuz it was floating around in my head and begging to be let out.

    You plant a seed, and you nurture it. If you have somewhat developed characters, you could write anything. A sentence. A paragraph. A page. From there, if you really like the idea, you can work off of it, add more stuff, save it and tailor it later on to fit into the story.

    For me, that's the easiest road to plot-creation. I hope you find yours. =]
     
  10. Anders Backlund
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    Anders Backlund Contributing Member

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    You need to give these people some problems to solve, some conflicts to work out, questions of answer, and/or something to fight for.

    And it can't be something they can solve with a discussion over coffee, either. Something important must be at stake.

    “When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.”
    -Raymond Chandler

    ;)
     
  11. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Contributing Member

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    It comes down to creating momentum through action and reaction. When something happens, or is caused to happen, your character must react to the resultant situation, which in turn affects whoever these actions are directed towards, even if it is themselves. This, in turn, must be acted upon, moving the plot towards the next action/reaction and, ultimately, to a conclusion. Nothing should stand still. If your characters are not trying or being forced to achieve an objective, it is superflous and should be cut. You need to be brutally honest and make a real effort to distance yourself from the characters you're creating in order to recognise and accept that which isn't contributing constructively. Good luck with it.
     
  12. Infinite Bob
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    Infinite Bob New Member

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    I see stories as, excuse this analogy, a braid. A series of problems that eventuallycome to a conclusion. As each "weave" bends and turns the story line lengthens and grows stronger. When I'm stuck in a spot (or it just gets too rambly), I add in a new problem (some don't fit in the the story, but I take those out and start again) and have the characters react. I've been playing a lot of (oh how I regret to say this) Pokemon Roleplays, they help me react and develop my own writing.
     
  13. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    How DO they feel about each other? Are there conflicts among them? Doesn't anything ever happen to any of them that's a little bit suspenseful? They probably don't agree with each other about everything in the universe, do they? Does this cast of characters have one among them who is likely to be more interesting (or more flawed or damaged) than the rest? What's he (or she) think? Somewhere in that conflict and difference among characters lies the possibiity of creating a story, I think (at least that's where I'd look). Are you writing a novel or a piece of short fiction?
     

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