1. Fictionfreak
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    Fictionfreak Member

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    Plot

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Fictionfreak, Mar 2, 2009.

    While I understand that Plot is a very vague topic, I am doing a study on what makes a great novel, and was hoping that few seasoned writers could point me in the right dirrection.

    I am nearing the end of my research, I've just finished my notes on characters, and I know how fundamental they are in the conflict. But, as for the whole plot... are their important things I should know? Or is it more of, as long as I know the characters the plot should piece together nicely?

    This is something that has irked me for quite some time. I just want to have firm grip of what I might be getting into, and so far, when asking questions, specifically about conflict, other writers just tell me to know the character and go with the flow.

    But is going with the flow neccessarily the right thing... if somebody could show me a light, or give me some focus areas, that would be very much appreciated. Thanks.:)
     
  2. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Are you wanting to know these thinge before you delve into writing your own novel? If so, I'd say stop right there. Don't waste your time analyzing and studying. Just read the books that you like, even if you cannot yet define why they are good. After a while, as you read and write, you develop instincts. You can look at any great book and see what is good about it, but being able to identify those factors is not the same as being able to produce it. Picking books apart doesn't give you that ability.
     
  3. RomanticRose
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    RomanticRose Active Member

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    Some great books break all the 'rules' about what a great book should be.
    Some books that follow all the 'rules' blow chunks.

    The very term great novel is so subjective to be nearly meaningless. Do you mean bestselling? Critically acclaimed? The most money paid for movie rights? How long the lines outside the bookstore are the night before the launch? How many websites or fanfic devoted to it?
     
  4. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    If you're really this perplexed about what makes a good plot, perhaps you should start with a short story first? Writing a novel is a HUGE commitment, and yes, plot is a big part of it. Plot often builds off of character, as you said, but one really can't say that just because they know the characters, a plot will magically fall into place. There's a lot more to it than that. I know my characters better than I know my family but if I tried starting a novel or serial without any plot ideas in mind first, it would go nowhere.

    I'd suggest starting with something a lot smaller and getting practice that way first. (Just keep in mind that a short story and a novel are NOT laid out the same, so eventually you will have to jump into a novel.) And, yes, reading other novels to see how they're plotted.

    And, yes again, "great novel" is kind of a meaningless term. I hear it touted everywhere that Hemingway was a great novelist, for example, but I can't stand his work. What's great to me won't necessarily be great to you.
     
  5. Fictionfreak
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    Fictionfreak Member

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    (sigh) I wish writing was something you could put reigns around and just break down, but, alas, it is much more complex than that. I know this, but I keep refusing to believe it. For some reason, I am comforted by hard facts.
    ---

    Rei- I have been reading many books over the course of my study. I've just been taking a lot of notes because they are said to be great novels, and not as much time, reading it because I want to. So maybe I could throw in some Dan Brown or something (love his books).

    Rose- Thanks for the advice. Maybe I should spend less time thinking too hard, and more time doing what I want.

    "No, it's not a very good story - its author was too busy listening to other voices to listen as closely as he should have to the one coming from inside."- Stephen King

    techuti- I've written short stories before. I think the most daunting part of plot for me, is how many events should I throw at the reader at any given time. And I think, simply reading books can help me a lot on that one.

    ---

    Thanks guys. I appreciate the comments.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A single plot is essentially simple. You have an actor, a goal or objective, and an opposition. The goal/objective drives the actor forward, while the opposition resists that motion, creating tension.

    You couild also separate the motivation from the goal and consider it the dynamic that moves the actor foward, and then the goal becomes a static target; if the actor achieves the goal, the plot is completed. The only way to move forward is if there is still another unresolved plot.

    Plots can and do interact to build a story. The opposing force is often another agenda by another actor, or even the same actor in the case of internal conflict. The sum total of the plots determines the path the story follows, as surely ad a billiard ball follows laws of physics in its trajectory across thr felt.

    So where does character enter in? In each individual plot, the character determines the motivatioln that drives him or her to the goal, as well as susceptibility to be defeated or deflected by the opposition. This applies as well to opposition in the form of internal conflict. As the character is continually growing (or decaying), so changes the motivational force.
     
  7. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sorry, didn't mean to sound like I was implying that you weren't reading. I meant that you should forget about all that note-taking and analyzing and stick to ONLY reading. Since "great novel" is so subjective, as art is in general, you can delve in, do whatever the hell feels right, not worry, and you figure it out as you go along. I had a creative writing teacher in high school who knew all the technical stuff, loved it, but I doubt he could even write a short story to save his life. Shakespeare has been called the greatest writer ever. Do you think he thought about all that stuff they teach in theatre school? Nope, he took the ideas he liked and what he knew would entertain his audience and turned them into plays. Some of my favourite writers wrote the books they did because they discovered something, thought it was cool, and decided to investigate it more, or knew that this was something they would love to read if someone else had written it.
     
  8. JohnNoZ
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    JohnNoZ Member

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    I like Cogito's answer.

    I would add that conflict, suspense and tension are important characteristics to a good plot (all related to the ideas that Cogito mentions).

    Also, the best stories tend to have two levels of plot (I am not talking about subplot here, though they may have many of those, as well). They have the outward journey of the main character, and a corresponding but separate inward or emotional journey. The main character usually should change in some meaningful way.

    Finally, plot is of varying importance, depending upon the type of story. In a milieu story, the plot is largely a device for walking the character throughout the world so that the reader can share in the cathartic walk, as an example. Though strong plots generally don't hurt stories of any type.
     
  9. Fictionfreak
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    Fictionfreak Member

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    There seems to be a balance, as to the relevancy of what the "proffessionals" tell me to do, and what I tell me to do. I just don't want to fall into the trap of being that overly cocky teen, who thinks he knows exactly what he's doing. Because, I think we can all agree, there is a certain skeleton to the plot that all writers must follow to an extent.

    Rei- I understood what you mean't completly. All I was saying (and forgive me if I wasn't clear on this), is that I have been thoroughly critiquing books deemed great by the "proffessionals", and I think that your idea of a more laid back approach might be worth trying out. I was merely admitting that I have been thinking too hard on this.

    Cogito- I appreciate what you've said, as it not only backs up much of my research, but crams it into a precise paragraph or two. I find this a lot more helpful than a "just go for it" kind of response, but I can see where others are comming from when they say that too.

    --

    I think most of my concern is something that I have to face by myself. When will I have added too much conflict? Would this plot twist seem like bull**** to an audience? That sort of stuff. Thanks for the comments though guys. And I wouldn't discourage anymore advice if it comes to mind.:)
     
  10. ManicParroT
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    ManicParroT Contributing Member

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    "Aspects of the Novel" by E. M. Forster has some good stuff on plot. See if you can find it at the library.
     

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