1. Megs33
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    Megs33 Member

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    Practicality and Creativity

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Megs33, Jul 25, 2016.

    Okay, this is something that's been bugging me. Does anyone have any thoughts on how to generate a creative and engaging plot that still maintains a foundation that's rooted in something that makes sense?

    As I put together a loose framework for my story I feel like I go back and forth between "so realistic it'll bore you to tears" and "awesomely creative but holy crap that makes no sense". How do you temper one with the other, and how do you come back from sliding too far in one direction?

    I love to read the self published books on my Kindle, and lately I've really noticed when an author falls in to one of those traps. Their plot becomes contrived, and you can't help but feel bad for the potential you saw at the beginning. For example, the sword-and-sorcery books that start with a revelation, move on to a journey somewhere, and then end with some grand battle. Yawwwn. I'm interested in writing something connected to that genre, but I feel like all of my ideas are too kitschy and overused.

    That said, I know there are formulas to this whole mess that will help you stay on track so your reader doesn't get bored and give up halfway through.

    Thoughts on what you do? Better yet, resources you might recommend? I really want to spark some fun ideas that will get me moving in a positive direction.
     
  2. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Show that the realistic thing is awesomely creative. You know you have something that you think is cool about the world but that other people think is boring: show them why they're wrong and why they should love it :D

    Even if you characterize one person in the story as thinking something realistic is awesome but other people in the same story think it's disappointing, you've still added some depth and distinction to the person who loved it, and you still might convince real people to take his side over the nay-sayers.

    Invisibility, for example. In my Urban Fantasy novel, however, my human villain protagonist Alec and his boss Charlie find out that a rival bank robber "The KT Bomber" (who already put one of their friends in the hospital from the first time their paths crossed) is secretly a vampire who uses a ring that casts a glamour to make herself look human, as opposed to her natural Nosferatu-form. Problem is, she has to turn her own body invisible in order for the glamour not to make it look like two people are being superimposed over each other (the fake human and the real vampire), and when my protagonist finds this out, his first reaction (technically second, seeing as he's still recovering from the fact that magic and vampires are real) is "Great. So I just got beat up by a blind chick."

    The Bomber loves the fact that he pieced that together on his own, but Charlie has no idea what they're talking about. Alec then goes into a whole thing about how he was never the smart guy in high school, but that he was enough of a comic book nerd to hang out with the smart kids, so he picked up a few things about sci-fi science. Can you guess what he was talking about specifically with regards to invisible = blind?

    I think crazy connections like that are the coolest thing in the world, and I always want at least a few of my characters to love them for the same reason I do :)

    Or in my Doctor Who fanfic:

    Black holes aren't completely black, every black hole gives off radiation. The largest black holes give off less radiation than they suck in from the Cosmic Microwave Background, so they're technically growing and will not start evaporating until the CMB cools off a lot more, but the smallest black holes give off so much radiation that they can be used to propel spaceships.

    In 1915, the world record for the 1-mile run dropped from 4 minutes 14.4 to 4 minutes 12.6. Over the next 40 years, the record dropped a few more times, a couple seconds here and a fraction of a second there, before Roger Bannister finally broke the 4 minute mark in 1954. Over the next 45 years, the record improved a few more times before settling on 3 minutes 43.13 in 1999. This record has held for the last 15 years, but going from 4 minutes and a quarter to 3 minutes and three quarters is still an improvement when you look at it over the full 100 years.

    The vigilante serial killer protagonist of my Doctor Who story, Captain June Harper, was born 3000 years ahead of the rest of us. A 51st Century civilian in my estimation would be about as athletically capable as a Special Forces operative today, and June Harper used to be 51st Century Special Forces. She's not a villain, she is a supervillain, and even when she's running at full speed (100 meters in 4 seconds) she can pull of the most ridiculous gun-play tropes that only the most cartoonish action-movie heroes of today's films could "possibly" match.​

    Can you think of anything like this that you personally think is amazing because it's realistic?
     
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  3. Sniam
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    Sniam Member

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    I would recommend finding a concept you like, no matter how strange it is, and attach some drawback to it. I truly think it will give it some sense of reality and prevent you from falling into free-style writing.

    I'll give some (very random) practical example on this :
    - Arthur Delapatellière has a very useful power, which is he can open any door. Drawback : every door opens. I mean, the man can't close a door. For christ sake, going to the bathroom is a challenge for him. How do you live with your front door constantly open ? Well, you put a lock on your window and never get close to your front door. You have to adapt.
    - Boris Stattelstörm can transform into a cat. Problem is, he's allergic to cat hairs. I'll let you imagine the kind of hell he lives in.
    - Clara Stormbringer is supposed to be a fearless warrior, riding her dragon into battle but she's afraid of height and just kind of try not to throw up when they fly.

    I tend to extend these drawbacks into unpractical and somewhat comical situations, but you can use it in more dramatical or tragic ways.
     
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  4. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    You could remember that stories often have more than 1 plot (and I don't just mean 'tack on subplots'). As well as the external journey (e.g. the trite swords-and-sorcery adventure you described), there's the internal journey: how the character is changed by the experiences they go through, etc. I think a lot of the time, the aforementioned triteness comes from too much focus on the external plot and not enough on the internal. You might be able to come up with a unique and complementary pair between the two, and if you're aware of both, you can switch focus to one or the other whenever you think things are getting slow/cliched/boring.

    Or you could pursue syncretism, where you combine elements of two (or more) standards to create a whole new standard. Maybe you have a 'ye olde' external plot but a very 'modern day problems' internal one. Maybe your errant knight is tasked with saving the fair maiden from the dragon, but the errant knight has gender dysphoria and would much rather be the damsel in distress (...possibly sans the distress...). Can s/he (er... what's the PC pronoun here?) still save the day? Will s/he be personally fulfilled by the quest?

    ETA: not claiming that gender dysphoria only exists in the modern day. Poor wording, PC police, blah.
     
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  5. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    She. Her guy parts are no less a birth defect in this case than is a cleft palate.
     
  6. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    I don't see how something is "awesomely creative" if it doesn't make any sense. I also don't understand hoe something is boring by being realistic. Clear and engaging writing seems like it would fix both these problems. Probably easier said than done. But if you're finding parts of your writing don't make sense, you need to really focus on clarity and let the creativity follow and not the other way around.
     
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  7. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    Create boundaries, an out line if you will of your story.
    Once they're set, you can be as creative as you want within those boundaries.
     
  8. T.D. Dixon
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    T.D. Dixon New Member

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    I've said this before but, I've found that you can make nearly every story much more engaging by using one of the five most primitive fears that people can relate to. Fiction, non-fiction alike.

    * Fear of death
    * Survival
    * Hunger
    * Sex
    * Protection of a loved one

    Doesnt matter if your story is about an astronaut elf, wizard, president or a tree snake, as long as one of the five primitive fears are present (or most in some cases) you have a powerful tool to keep people turning the page. Its not a fix all solution but it definitely can/will more create reasons to keep reading for your audience.
     
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  9. Megs33
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    Megs33 Member

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    THAT is super helpful. I'm reading a ton of books trying to identify all the hidden patterns and tools people use to create an engaging story time and time again while still staying fresh. I need to write this down somewhere...
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    This question confuses me a bit. Are we talking primarily about fantasy?
     
  11. NiallRoach
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    NiallRoach Contributing Member

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    On this forum, we're always talking primarily about fantasy.
     
  12. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    How is "fear of death" different from "survival"?
     
  13. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    Fear of death is more of a terror/horror story type thing. Survival could have a character stranded on an island figuring out how to get drinkable water.

    Then again, that's just how I see it.
     
  14. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Then how is "hunger" distinct from "survival"?!?

    (Sorry. I like things to be very clear cut. Tidy.)
     
  15. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    (at this point I see some problems in the list as well, but I've accepted the challenge so, here we go.)

    Hunger is a deep, instinctual level, desire.

    Say you have a regular character, everything about them is normal, but they really really want something.
    The introduction paragraph was average, everything seemed right in order, but then someone took their klondike bar.
    Throughout this characters quest to get that bar back you find out the question isn't, what would they do for a klondike bar, it's what wouldn't they do.
     
  16. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I feel like if you use "hunger" in that sort of generic way, it covers ALL the other items in the list. Might as well shift over to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - we hunger for physiological needs to be met, we hunger for safety, we hunger for love, we hunger for belonging, we hunger for self-actualization...
     
  17. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    Yeah, I thought it might come off that way, that's why I mentioned the klondike bar.
    Its food, so it totally works with hunger.

    Maybe want or desire would have been a better word?
    Tons of media is based around a single characters desire for something that usually wouldn't permit that level of emotion.
    Like in Zombieland, that guy did crazy stuff just to get a twinky.
     
  18. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh, I hope not.
     
  19. T.D. Dixon
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    T.D. Dixon New Member

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    When speaking in story terms "fear of death" think any monster/creature movie you've ever seen. Jaws, The Thing, Jurassic Park, The Strangers....(Don't get eaten, dont look under the bed, don't look behind you etc...)

    "Survival" Mad Max Fury Road, I am Legend (this could also be about fear of death)etc. Of course I'm speaking movies. That's my realm. The same applies to novels as well. I can think of more but only after my third cup of coffee..

    Of course you can interpret any way you wish. The list is what works for me and I use it all the time to ground my stories in a certain reality - no matter how far fetched the concept may be. It makes the characters and world easier to associate with.
     
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  20. Megs33
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    Megs33 Member

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    Yeah, fantasy. Although the question doesn't necessarily apply to one specific genre.

    I'm having a hard time coming up with a good way to clarify what I mean here... I think my general thought process had to do with finding a happy medium between "MC hops on the bus, goes to work, and then comes home with some Chinese takeout" (yawn) and "MC's bus loses its brakes and nearly flies off a bridge, his office is held up by a crazed gunman, and then he gets home to find a mystery woman in his kitchen preparing spaghetti." (wtf?)

    And in both scenarios, you could make it work if you ask the right questions and fill in the right blanks, so I still don't think that's a very good example.

    Either my brain can't contort in the right ways to offer better clarity with this question, or I just answered it myself... pretty sure it's the latter.
     
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  21. Malisky
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    Malisky Fuzz Overdriver Contributor

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    A way to step out of the box is to combine possibilities with what is actually bothering you (what you want to write about, spread out in whichever form of writing). Instead of repeating the LOTR structure of epic writing, you might produce an epic fiction novel but written as a literature essay on 1rst person (or whatever). It depends on your inspiration. Focus on what is important for you to write about. Do not copy other inspirations and structures. Be brave and come up with your own. Fortune favors the brave. :p
     
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