1. UberNoodle
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    UberNoodle Senior Member

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    Plotting and Macguffins

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by UberNoodle, Feb 13, 2011.

    My trouble is that no matter how many seed ideas I have and characters I explore (I have a stack of exercise books filled with notes and sketches, etc) I trip over at the plot. I can't 'just write' because I end up lost. I'm not a 'Nike' kind of person.

    I've read, read and re-read books on plotting, and I've tried so many ways to get to the stage where a plot might leak out of my stubborn brain. At best, I get through all the setup and line the characters up ready to go, but I can never 'see' the ending, not even as a mirage on the horizon. This is my problem, and part of it may have to do with the kind of stories I'm drawn to writing.

    A great many SF stories have a MacGuffin (something lost, stolen, rare or in demand) and these tend to relate to one thematic core of the story. In many stories, the Macguffin could save or damn the world, or at least the protagonist's world. In other cases the MacGuffin is a hidden truth with moral questions attached.

    I can plot the core of the story, because Macguffin stories are all essentially the same pattern, but it is the nature of the element that I falter on. I wrack my brain to define what this 'thing' is.

    Well, luckily I have a few ideas, sadly quite derivative, but hey, that's never stopped a successful story before. What I'm trying to figure out is how to end this Macguffin story. When the viewpoint character and ultimately the possessor of this 'thing' is being pursued and challenged by powers beyond his control - ones that would kill him just as soon as look at him - his options really start to dwindle.

    So far, I've considered that he has the following options:

    1) Give up, hand over the MacGuffin and die.
    2) Don't hand it over but run for the rest of his life.
    3) Throw the thing away but still have to run.
    4) Pretend to die while not handing over the MacGuffin.
    5) Hand it over and then pretend to die.
    6) Hand it over and somehow escape but probably still have to run.
    7) Give it to the authorities/'goodies' but still have to run.
    8) Make a 'status quo' deal that keeps him alive but in a fragile balance.
    9) Get a time machine.

    I don't really like any of those. Many of them are pretty ho-hum and read-that-one-before. I think that by putting a 'regular Joe Blo' in the sights of 'powers beyond his control or comprehension', I've given him very little hope. What's he going to do, short of kill everybody after him and everybody whom might be hired to continue chasing him?

    Anyone else had similar roadblocks? What was it and what did you do to get around it?
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe this is where using the plan you have got and just writing will help, as you get closer to the end you will have a better idea of what needs doing.

    Not sure really I am the opposite end of the spectrum I start with no plan and use my first draft as the outline and plan. My stories have never ended where I had in mind with all three of them I have just written a sentence and something in me says, well thats it then. Thats how it ends. The only one that ended sort of the way I planned was the middle one, but that is only because I added a scene onto the end with men dancing in their undies. The main ending point wasn't where I expected.
     
  3. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Even if you an outline writer generally that prefers to outline you stories, you every now and than run across an idea that fits another mode of writing better. I would just find a starting point and try to discovery write the story, without any planning.

    It usually works good when you already got an half formed half unconscious idea.
     
  4. Mezza
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    Mezza Member

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    Usually I plan the story and let it just push itself along. In my outline of events I just let it happen and then go what comes next?

    As that happens The inner conflicts usually present themselves and I'm able to see the Characters develop.

    I'd say let the Characters and the events dictate the ending. Get to know your characters, and how they would respond to the events happening around them. What is their motivation in all this? Why are they doing what they're doing? Why would they behave in a certain way?

    Then let them move through the world and guide you to the ending.
     
  5. CrimsonReaper
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    CrimsonReaper Active Member

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    Option 10)
    Destroy the damn thing.

    Seriously.

    Maybe your character was only running long enough to figure out how to destroy the freaking MacGuffin. Then the big bad corners him, makes a demand, and BAMMO. No more MacGuffin. Let Mr. Evil Overlord deal with that. After all, an Evil (yes, with a big E) guy would rarely think of destroying a source of ultimate power. Save of course out of spite so no one else can have it. Maybe then he still gets pawned by the bad guy, but Evil has ultimately failed.
     
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  6. UberNoodle
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    UberNoodle Senior Member

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    Informative responses, thanks. I just have this creative block that has followed since highschool. For the last 15 years or so, my creativity has been very very stubborn. It either gives me nothing, or suddenly lets fly with ideas. If I'm lucky, I get those ideas down, but once that window has passed, I am back in the doldrums again. At that point I tend to spoil the great ideas with mediocre onces.

    Anyway, in terms of listening to the characters, It seems that emotional development and desires still have limits when faced against the aforementioned 'powers beyond control and comprehension'. If such powers want you dead, there's not much you can do about it. Perhaps what I need is to even the odds somehow that doesn't seem contrived or too convenient. Perhaps my characters are too powerless, even the 'villians'. However, the world is such a world.

    Back to the MacGuffin concept, who out there reading this use them, and how?

    And 'option 10' is a good idea, but it still leaves the characters with few options. I don't want a contrived solution to the story. Realistically, the 'runner' would be shot in the head if he destroyed the MacGuffin, and if he escaped, he'd be chased down just for having ever come into contact with the thing. It's the whole dog chasing its tail conundrum.
     
  7. Malo Beto
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    Malo Beto Member

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    The macguffin could always bring about a deus ex machina but I would hate an ending like that. Anyway it would be next to impossible to actually think of something no one has used already. For me going on a walk while listining to some good music always helps me get ideas. Especially music where the words don't make any sense and I think about what the words could mean. Anyway I'd at least start writing sometimes good ideas come to you as you go.
     
  8. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    The most well-known MacGuffin I've read of is the LOTR ring (yes, LOTR is the only high fantasy I'm familiar with, but I'm pretty sure others will agree), and that was destroyed.
     
  9. FictionAddict
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    FictionAddict Senior Member

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    Wow, you really plan everything, huh?

    I'm not like that at all. I started my novel with the idea of a character. He grew in my mind, gaining personality, physical appearence, nacionality. By then, I started to write. The other characters and the plot itself came by then.

    I should be more like you to get the thing done faster, to get a more solid ground to step, to know where I'm going better. You should be more like me to get the thing finally started and begin the enjoying of writing. ;)

    As for the plot ideas... I'm with Crimson Reaper: destroy the damn thing.
     
  10. Yandos
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    Yandos Member

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    Maybe you should look at the MacGuffin it self. Maybe the thing can give you other options i.e. the MacGuffin could be alive, need symbiosis, it could have a time limit or just be hi-tech.

    What if it was an egg that was going to hatch and give the ultimate power to the first it sees, or it has a limited 'battery-/life' and was going to run out of it's power. Then all your charater needs to do is kill for time before he escapes or gets decapitated.

    You could also see this item as a vessel to transport the MacGuffin and he somehow transfers it into himself or to something else or changes it to something completely different.

    You could even make it a dud! Then the MC would have done all that running for nothing.

    There are pleanty more options out there.

    My favourite idea for this one was that the MacGuffin ends up mimicing it's bearers will. As your charater is so powerless the MacGuffin would be just as bad thus making it useless. lol.
     
  11. Yandos
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    Yandos Member

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    OR! You could make it a worm that has to live in the bearers stomach acid to survive, it give him weird visions, an itchy rash and uncontrollable diarrhea. MC at the end would be more than happy to hand it over as he's tired of having his ring piece hanging round his ankles.
    Even the silliest of ideas can be serious if looked at from the right angle.
     
  12. Jones6192
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    Jones6192 Member

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    Sounds like you're writing an adventure story ala Indiana Jones. Could you share more of what you've come up with so far?
     

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