1. Sarah's scribbles
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    Sarah's scribbles Member

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    Something I'm missing.

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Sarah's scribbles, Jan 12, 2016.

    Okay, so I've been at the writing game for some time now and I still find myself unable to understand something that on the surface looks pretty simple and basic, plot. But no matter what I try to do I can't seem to make a sustainable plot for my stories. Like I have great ideas. I would rank myself slightly above average on my actual writing skills, and I can craft me some character. But something just doesn't click when it comes to the whole "plot" thing.

    I guess I should explain farther so you can kind of see my dilemma. I always have a start, and I have an end goal, but I can never seem to make out a story line for the middle. I can't find the real good meat for my stories, and that's where I think the plot comes in most for this. For example. I'm working on a story right now. It's about a group of humans who are selected by a higher being to take part in a death match to decide the victor. They are placed within a domain of her ruling, and set off like rats in a maze to try and find a way to survive and escape.

    But then, I have my beginning, I can write out something, maybe not something good, but something, and then.... nothing. My story falls away and I don't see it anymore. I know it can be a good story, but I lack structure for the whole thing overall. It's not a problem of coming up with ideas or anything like that. It's that I literally can't find a single thing to keep the story going.

    So I think my problem is plot. if you think differently please let me know, but plot overall is something I'm trying to understand more. How do you scheme crazy shenanigans for your character or how do you keep the pace in the story without it going stale? any answers would be greatly appreciated
     
  2. The Mad Regent
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    The Mad Regent Contributing Member

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    Here is my two cents: don't plot so much; let the characters guide you; it's their story.
     
  3. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe you're a candidate for one of the more structured methods of plot development? I've never had the discipline to see one through, but maybe the snowflake method, or one of those "beat sheet" type structures would work?
     
  4. Sarah's scribbles
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    Sarah's scribbles Member

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    never heard of them. do tell
     
  5. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know too much - like I said, I've never been able to actually work through them! But the snowflake method is outlined at http://www.nownovel.com/blog/understanding-snowflake-method/ and "beat sheets" probably vary from genre to genre, but the one I'm familiar with for romance can be found at http://jamigold.com/for-writers/worksheets-for-writers/#Romance Beat Sheet . It looks like the same author has created other beat sheets, which you can find at http://jamigold.com/for-writers/worksheets-for-writers/ .

    Again, I'm not necessarily advocating these - I've never really used them myself. But they certainly have some loyal followers.
     
  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is it possible that you're perfectionizing, trying to find a perfect plot that doesn't exist?
     
  7. Sarah's scribbles
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    Sarah's scribbles Member

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    possibly I never considered that.
     
  8. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure if you problem is knowing how to structure your ideas or just coming up with them for the Middle section?
     
  9. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    That's a new concept to me too. What do you mean??

    I kinda have the same problem as the OP you see, so I'm kinda curious. I'd write 10-30k words and then get stuck, no idea what to write next. My previous drafts were filled with plot holes. So I also think my problem is plot.
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, I'm not a good source for advice for this, because I have a similar problem with finishing plots.

    What I mean, I guess, is that you may be thinking, "What's the right thing to happen next?" as if there's one best thing and that it's your job to discover it.

    I'm suggesting that you just go with, "What could happen next?" and write it, accepting that you might very well throw it away. It might look boring. It might look too straightforward. It might run you into a blind alley. It might have all sorts of flaws. My suggestion is, just write it. Even if the actual event turns out to be useless, having your characters interact with each other and with their world might tell you more about them, and that might inspire a bit, later, that actually works.

    Me, I have four book ideas right now. I decided a few months ago that I should work on just one of them, the one with the most simplistic plot. I sort of did a (shudder) outline, but it wasn't The Perfect Outline, it was just a path that leads to an ending. In my mind it looks rather like:

    The problem.
    The argument.
    The protagonist's nefarious plan.
    The shenanigans.
    The meeting at the social event.
    More shenanigans.
    The authority figure's life refocus.
    The protagonist's life refocus.
    The rebellion.
    The ending--the expected one or the joke?

    I don't know exactly what happens in each of those lines, but they're moderately independent little plot bubbles. I could write that book. I could grit my teeth, tie myself to a chair once a day, and write the thing.

    But now I've come up with an idea where I combine ALL FOUR book ideas into a weird kinda-surreal kinda-supernatural thing with history and present and dream communication and I go "OooooOOOoooOooh."

    And so now I'm not sure what to write.

    Um.

    What was my point?

    My point was that the solution to breaking out of your dead end is probably to embrace "good enough", at least for a while. And that I am having trouble taking my own advice.
     
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  11. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Oh but I did "just write" - I've got 3-6 complete drafts, each with its own rewrite and edits, reused old parts and completely new parts, most of the drafts don't even resemble each other. Dead end every time. It's been 5 years. I'm not gonna "just write" this time - 'cause if I have to ditch another draft I think I'll just give up on the novel altogether. But I don't wanna - this is the first novel I ever tried to write and it's still my baby and I know I've got all kinds of good stuff in it. The moment I don't see a point for the scene - the direction the story is going - I lose interest.

    That's not to say I never "just write" - I do, very much - but I can't go for very long before I lose my patience if I'm not seeing where it's going. A few chapters maximum.

    @Tesoro - how do you come up with ideas for the middle? I definitely have trouble with that!

    Overall I have discovered that my problem - I think - is that much of the story requires me to give the reader a tonne of info and I don't know how to show that rather than just tell it. They need this info to understand the story, so I must put it somewhere. But it's a lot of stuff and it's clearly the main point of the first half of the book. Now imagine half a book of info dump. BORING!! :supersleepy:

    :cry::cry::cry:
     
  12. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    If my setting seems limited then I really look it over to see what I can use of utilize for my story. If it's too bare I stick things in. Or let things happen. For the Worms of Wicher Woo which takes place in a sealed garden I decided to have a rain scene. Not essential to the plot - just a nice scene. I also had the worms give Tetty a present ( a feather ) again not especially essential to the plot but I worked with what I could given the little world I created.

    Really examine your maze. Don't think in vague terms think concretely what kind of maze is it?what can be put in the maze? what things can happen in the maze? what's the goal of the maze? Really go wild with your options. Make a list.

    Then I move onto options concerning characters. I try not to let them agree too often. If they're in agreement there's no room for conflict. It especially narrows your exterior conflict. Give everyone there own goal not just a singular goal - for instance - they maybe out to kill a monster or get out of the maze - but they have their own reasons for doing so - maybe to prove their bravery, avenge a friend's death, face their fears, bask in the glory of saving everyone etc. With each persons goals and motivation you can create trip ups in their journey to success. An arrogant person might not listen to reason. A coward may trip up their efforts. This helps to create another layer and delay the end of the story.
     
  13. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Do you know the ending? My problem is that I rarely do. The chosen book is the only one with an ending.

    I'm also curious for more detail about all that information. I usually feel that the reader never needs all the information that the author thinks they do, or at least not at the level of specificity that the author thinks they do.
     
  14. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I used to have this problem too. I had a beginning and end, so I'd just start writing and hope it came together in the process. But it never did. So I started free writing. (I actually saw it online once referred to as "storm writing" because it's much more intense than free writing.)

    Essentially, I take a notebook (a real one, not computer, because I find pencil to paper helps creativity more) and I write down what I know. A small paragraph on the characters, the setting, anything else of note. Then I'd start from the beginning. How does it start? Write that down, pretty close to exactly how I want it to go.

    "Story starts with Giselle eating dinner. Her family talks about pretty mundane things, until they start talking about her aunt. They tell Giselle she was arrested for crimes against humanity. Her father is concerned more about his campaign instead of his sister. Giselle throws a fit and runs off."

    Then what? So then I write more. Put myself in her shoes and follow her. What would she do? Where would she go? Eventually she'll have to meet Lonnie. So I guide her there. Then what? Well, they have to get to know each other. How do they do that? Make them have lunch. But that's not enough time. So they should do something else to drag it out. What could that be?

    I think you get the picture. I ask myself a lot of questions. Always. What next? Then what? How? Why? In the story I talked about above, Giselle and Lonnie have to get from Denver at the beginning of the book to Florida by the end. I had no meat or even an idea of where it would go before I started free writing. I mean, nothing. No scenes, no other characters. Just Giselle, Lonnie, Denver, and Florida.

    Now, the entire novel is planned, chapter by chapter, and ready to be written. It's on the back burner while I work on another story, but it's ready.

    So maybe "just writing" isn't what you need. Maybe you need to start planning. Start very basic, the beginning, the setting, and the characters, and work from there. If you have some middle scene ideas, great. But be prepared to scrap them if they don't fit with your story anymore. Let it flow naturally.

    Hope that helps some.
     
  15. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Well in my case it's a fantasy novel where the villain is trying to merge the realms of the Underworld and that of the living, and near the end it's revealed that essentially the merge would actually be a good thing because of dryads tree of life reincarnation great big vomit of in-world-logic. Yeah the readers definitely need to know this otherwise it's gonna be just a great big WTF.

    I'm just struggling to think of events that would show how the Tree works (when the Tree won't feature until right at the ending), how souls are drawn to the Underworld (again, Underworld is part of the climax but not before), what role dryads have (I do have a dryad character but she's more of a necessity to give Will something as opposed to someone with much of a role in the story...)

    Anyway yes, I do know the ending. It's slightly altered from the one I've already written but it's the same idea. I'll also be reusing an old scene I never thought I'd be able to use for it.
     
  16. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Your question got me thinking. I've always considered that part pretty easy, at least in the cases where I have a story with a clearly defined goal or dilemma to handle. But How do I actually come up with them?

    I usually let my ideas stew for quite a while before starting to write, either consciously or subconsciously. And regardless of how much I try to not think of it but let the story come out naturally, these ideas for the development keeps popping up. After having studied everything I could find about story structure, this seems to come almost automatically nowadays. Sometimes to the point where I get a little lazy and accept the first ideas or sequence of events that show up, instead of exploring the idea further. I admit to that and try to get better at looking up every possibility the story might offer plot wise before starting to actually write.

    I'm not really sure how I do to come up with them, I just do. My mind usually explores the entire story before I even get the time to write. Of course, sometimes, not to say often, I have to add scenes after having finished the first draft.

    What I don't do is starting to write without a clear idea of the story from start to end. In these cases it's usually a sign (in my case) of a thin story that doesn't offer much of a plot, and certainly not enough for a novel length story. I've scrapped so many ideas I really like because I couldn't visualize the plot, no matter how I tried, or it just seemed dull and eventless to me.

    I'm sorry not being able to offer any more of help. The only thing I can say is thinking in terms of goal and conflict and visualize what the character must or should to in order to get from A to Z. Like, physically have to do, plus the obstacles she might (or should) encounter on the way. But yu already know that.

    Some of my ideas, I realize, are too much in the characters head and doesn't really offer much as a matter of physical action. Like, they are more a maturing or an accepting a state of being or changing into someone else, even though I can really visualize how that change takes place.

    Tough question.
     
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  17. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Thanks for the reply! But surely there are numerous novels where there's not much physical action and much of the story is in the character's head, and yet it's still an entire novel. How does that work? It's more or less eventless and yet it pulls you along just fine. There're probably little bits here and there that I've not noticed but that serves the purpose, but what might they be?

    The action in characters' heads - yep that's me :cry:
     
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  18. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Mckk Yes, you're absolutely right, I just have a hard time writing those novels myself. I need something more visual. Of course a lot happens in my characters heads as well as around them, but I need just that, a plot, I'm not quite there yet where I can write an entire novel from inside a characters head. :oops:
    I really would like to be able to write a novel like that though :)
     
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  19. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Sometimes I think that's the kinda novel I'd be good at - but I don't yet know how to write one :( I love writing internal monologues - some of my best writing is in this area.
     
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  20. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    When I think of the novels I've read that uses that kind of storytelling, they often follow characters in ordinary day-to-day situations, but somehow they seem to lead into reflections or memories of some kind, or just the way the character handle these situations is a way to getting to know them. In these stories it's not so much about what's actually happening but more like getting to know the character from the different situations he ends up in, and with the right character that can be just as interesting as a more goal-driven story. :)
     
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  21. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Have you read Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain?
     
  22. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Chiming in from Sack-a-Doo's post, I also have a suggestion for a great book if you want, Plot and structure, by James Scott Bell.
     
  23. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    My five cent.

    You have the start and you have the finish. You have (hopefully) an interesting character at the beginning. I for myself start by imagining things to do to this character that plunges him/her into chaos. And then I think of things which can make it even worse.
    And that really is the halfway point. Because if this character gets pounded to a pulp he/she needs to get out of it and pound the one who did that the him/her. And that is the second half.
     

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