1. divided_crown
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    divided_crown Member

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    Plotting and the Talking Heads Problem

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by divided_crown, Nov 15, 2011.

    Having decided to opt out of Nanowrimo this year in favor of more thorough plotting for my next project, I have finally found the core problem that has kept me from really getting engaged in my own stories so far.

    A little background: The story I am currently writing is supposed to be a crime/mystery type plot, a murder investigation with hints of political conspiracy strewn in. There is plenty of potential in the characters (after quite a few revision sessions), but somehow, after the first few chapters, I just can't seem to get the story to take off. The problem? Talking heads.

    About 90% of all plotted chapters so far play out as "X arrives at Y and talks to Z, argues and something happens that complicates things". While this might be inherent to the detective genre, to me it seems more like I might be afraid of introducing events that are less "realistic" - in real life, most conflict is dialogue. It might also be that this only reads as a very bland story in the outline and that it will be much better once it is spelt out. So far however, I am not too happy with my story playing out as a series of dialogues with changing cast. There has to be more to it.

    In addition, it leads to me growing tired of my own story after only a few chapters because it becomes harder and harder to complicate the plot in interesting ways without using somewhat obvious reveals.

    Have you experienced something similar? What do you think? I would really appreciate any help on this matter.

    Cheers,
    DC
     
  2. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I look to Dean Koontz to solve this issue.
     
  3. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It doesn't sound like you even have a story. If it's a murder mystery, what happened to someone investigating the crime? How does he go about investigating? What rules does he break? What gives him the clues? How does he interpret the clues and are they always correct? It sounds like you're trying so hard to make it all fancy that you've, well, lost the plot :D

    And why don't you pick up one or two of your absolute favourite murder mysteries and study how they got their plot moving? Was everything necessarily "realistic" and how did that impact on the story and reader?

    Do you know how the crime was carried out, and what was the motive for it? How did the criminal succeed? What did he leave behind, if anything? How will the investigators find out about the crime and any clues he's left? Did the criminal want the investigators to find it? And if yes, why? what's the big picture? And if no, then what's the criminal gonna do to cover it up? And how are the investigators gonna react? They won't just be talking - they need to start DOING something - so what are they gonna do and why?
     
  4. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    I'm a crime/mystery "writer" myself, and I recognize that if you just write the main plot... essentially that IS what you will get: talking heads. I go about solving this three ways. The first way is within each of these main plot scenes, perhaps there are details maybe unrelated to the mystery (although sometimes it has everything to do with it). Maybe the main character and the suspect/witness they are talking to have obvious opposing view points and it occasionally distracts from the interview because their strong opinions get in the way. Or maybe one of the people involved has a strange habit that again distracts from the interview. I'll give you an example of something I've used. I had a story where someone was murdered and they tracked it down the crime scene to a nightclub. Now, there were three "good guy" characters going to this club and the plan was for the two younger characters (one male and one female) to go in first because they blend in and they can scope out the place and then the older guy that's obviously a cop would head in and try to find an owner or someone in charge to talk to. So the two younger characters go in first and sit down at the bar, and the bartender turns out to be the charmer type and hits on the female MC who flirts back but when he tries to get more serious with her she turns him down. So he gets pissed off and tries to get rough... and then the male MC has to step in to help settle this. They nearly get into a physical confrontation before the other guy backs down and they leave. Now... as it turned out the bartender turned out to be the killer, but that's not really the point. It could've just been a random encounter (the type that could certainly happen in real life), and as a reader probably first read it thats probably what they thought as well.

    The second thing I like to do is to just have scenes that have virtually nothing to do with the main plot. Maybe at the end of the scene something will happen to direct the plot further but for the most part it's just a throw-away comic relief scene. And these can be things that last a few paragraphs (similar to the nightclub example I just gave), or sometimes the whole chapter. Usually it helps develop the characters as well. My character loves video games, so a lot of my throw-away comic relief scenes involve games. Maybe the investigation takes them to a Go-Kart track and because they find they have an hour or two of free time so they decide to race Go-Karts for a while.

    The last thing is to basically just have a sub-plot that has nothing to do with the mystery (or it could if you wanted). Maybe the MC is having his house fumigated and has to stay with someone, so you could have a few scenes where the two people have to deal with each other.

    That one is kind of hard. I find myself having a hard time extending the story. Usually I want to have one "plot twist" in the middle of the story. And most of the time its something like... maybe the person they thought was the suspect turns up dead, or maybe the person they suspect suddenly has a strong alibi... or maybe just some strange action that they can't explain happens. For example, they are walking to their car at night and suddenly someone starts shooting at them. Or they find out someone has set fire to their house. And you were talking about this being a conspiracy type of plot... things like that will happen. Maybe another character runs into you out of the blue with new information about the case.

    I hope this helped.
     

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