1. Karakuri
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    Karakuri New Member

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    Starting point -> Story??

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Karakuri, Dec 2, 2009.

    Hi guys,

    Out of my desperation to finish a story within a certain time frame, and after months of stubbornly trudging on by myself, I'm finally caving and asking for help. This is not a recent problem either, I've experienced this before at varying degrees and it's reaching a point where I'm seriously worried.

    My problem is this. I can't finish stories. Wherever I look for help, I see online guides to finding ideas, to building characters, to researching, all of which I am fairly confident I can do. In fact, I have tons of ideas for stories. But every single time I sit down to write one, I start off at full power, build up an awesome premise....and then I'm at a loss for what happens next, and the story peters out. It's not like I don't know the meaning or emotions I'm trying to convey, I'm pretty well aware of that, I just don't know how the story should play out from begining to middle to end in order to achieve what I'm trying to get. Sure, I could force myself to finish a story, but that's what the ending is: forced, tedious, and with absolutely no point. I could also just write anything and everything that comes to mind - that produces pages upon pages of bizarre prose that also never turns into a finished story.

    Right now, all I really want to do is finish a short story, and either my idea doesn't turn into a story, or my idea is novel-sized in complexity and the story would go on forever if I wrote it, and I really need to learn how to finish a story.

    Any advice would be seriously appreciated.
     
  2. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    If someone has the answer for this, I'd be interested in hearing it, because I'm in the same boat too. I totally understand what you're talking about. I get usually between 20k and 50k words and then the story fizzles out. I find it always happens in a lull of the action. I'll get through the first few lulls between the exciting parts, then I hit a brick wall somewhere between a 1/4 of the way and the 1/2 way point.

    I seem to operate on steam. I'll bust out the first 20k words in two weeks, then I'll stop, lose interest, or write myself into a corner and be too lazy to go back and change stuff to get out.

    So, I am trying something different with my current project. I'm writing it very slowly. A few paragraphs, pages, at a time with breaks in between. I'll let you know how it works out.
     
  3. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Try planning.

    I know this sounds almost sarcastically dry, but I mean it. You can build a framework for your story without making it the framework for a prison - just let it be your backup in case you don't come up with something better along the way. But running off with no aim or purpose is, to me, an exercise in futility. As an alternative, you could turn that into your signature style: letting stories not end but dissolve. Might work in experimental fiction.
     
  4. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is it possible that your plot was too narrow in the first place? You might try to expand the original plot, making the initial "story" merely a subplot in a greater tale.

    For example, you might write a story about a soldier who discovers a small child in a burned out hut, her parents dead. He protects the orphan and brings her back to his camp where local officials take her away to a government orphanage. Months later, he uses a weekend pass to visit her at the orphanage and he finds her dressed in rags, covered in skin sores and left unattended in a row of cribs where dozens of other infant orphans are similarly neglected. The rest of the story chronicles his life as he fights the war as a soldier but uses all his free time trying to adopt her and bring her back to the USA. He borrows money from his buddies to bribe local officials, suffers resistance from his mother who doesn't want her son adopting some "war ragamuffin" and you could throw in military leaders who prohibit such interactions with the "indigenous peoples". This might initially sound like a great human interest story, but lets say you help your MC overcome all the obstacles and end the story with some symbolic scene like the child giggling at the candles on her birthday cake with her doting grandmother showing her how to blow out the candles. Touching story, huh? Then you do a word count and the damn thing says you've only accomplished 55,000 words. Crap! Your great story just died. What now?

    Make the plot grow. Two years pass and the soldier thinks his post-war life is wonderful. Then, the State Department notifies him that the adoption has been nullified by the other government. Turns out, the little girl was NOT the child of the dead people. She was actually the kidnapped baby daughter of the former Vice President of the war torn nation. The Vice President and his wife (the child's mother) were assassinated at the end of the war leaving the little girl as the only heiress to a huge fortune in a formerly secret Swiss bank account. The dead "parents" in the village were actually caretakers watching the child for the kidnappers while the ransom request was being delivered...a ransom request that never got to its intended destination because of the assassination.

    Now what? Does the soldier try to hide the child while he fights the extradition? Are the child's relatives really interested in the child's welfare or just the child's fortune? How can the soldier and his "daughter" win in this story? You could take this story in any number of directions with lots of conflicts and obstacles to overcome. Another 45,000 words should be easy...all because the plot was expanded.
     
  5. Snail
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    Snail New Member

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    I have the same problem. I have heaps of ideas, but at around 40,000 words I give up and move on to another story. I don't actually get bored of it, but I always find the action will be moving too fast/too slowly and when I try to fix it I just turn it into a mess.

    It sounds like for you it is a lack of direction, so I think HorusEye gave good advice with planning. If you know step-by-step what will happen, you won't get to that spot where you are stuck for the next scene. Now I just need to work on finishing something myself:redface:
     
  6. Karakuri
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    Karakuri New Member

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    Thanks for your replies.

    Expanding the story's a good idea for a novel or series, but I find I have too much material for a short story, and when I cut down, it's very difficult to make a good ending. Yeah, I'm quite a planner myself, I just gotta do it without sucking the soul out of the story.
    You know what, I'll try writing the ending first and planning the story up to that point.
     
  7. writewizard
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    writewizard Contributing Member

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    I know just how you feel! Truthfully, every story I create seems to have "just the right" ending. The characters work themselves into a point and I decide that it is the end. However, the stories I have sucsesfully ended have all been fanfiction and have been planned out somewhat.

    You could get a journal type book and jot down possible endings for your story. One thing I do when I am stuck on a story is I write out twelve things that shold happen next. Say I'm stuck on how someone should get rescued from a kidnapping. Here's what I'll write:

    1. They jump from a moving car and land on the road; they get taken to the hospital where they are rescued
    2. They are in the trunk and punch out the tail light; someone else spots them and they get rescued.
    3. They are able to sneak away and use a phone and they get rescued because they were able to call someone.

    If you are stuck, write out twelve possible endings. Narrow it to half, and then half again, and finally, narrow it to one. This is what helps me.

    Hope this helped,
    Writewizard
     

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