1. Kilgore Trout
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    Kilgore Trout New Member

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    Storyline first?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Kilgore Trout, Mar 6, 2009.

    I have thousands of ideas for themes, characters and concepts etc. They just seem to flow really easily. The thing i seem to have difficulty with is thinking up storylines to wrap them in. I was wondering if anybody else has this problem and how they might deal with it.

    I can think up little snippets but then when i try to think out the details my storylines just seem to fall apart. Is it best to come up with a storyline first and then fit everything else into that? Looking forward to any advice anybody can give.
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I sometimes have the same problem. What I do is write down the theme or concept I have in mind along with any characters I think would fit in with the theme. I've found out that if I come back to what I've written down a few days (or even weeks) later, I can come up with a story to wrap it all together.
     
  3. Kilgore Trout
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    Kilgore Trout New Member

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    Thanks i'll give that a go. I tend to just scrap things the second that i feel they're not working. I'll try and hang to things for little while and come back to them later.
     
  4. laciemn
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    laciemn Senior Member

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    Yes, make sure not to scrap things too soon. Lots of times ideas will come to me, but they are fragmented and don't seem to have much of a central "theme" or the main conflict of the story is unresolved in my head, but as I give the ideas more thought and development, something usually pops up out of nowhere. I'm almost positive this is from my subconscious mind, which works even when you are not aware of it. If you give it ideas, they will sort of incubate in your brain, and if you put in consistent effort you will eventually see a result!
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Actor. Goal, Motivation. Obstacle. These are the elements that define a plot, in the order I would suggest assembling them. A bit less tersely:

    Who is the character this plot is centered upon? It may or may not be the main character, although usually the main plot of a story will center on the main character.

    What is the goal or objective the actor wants/needs to achieve?

    What is motivating the actor to reach the goal? The more urgent the motivation, the more intense the plot. Let's say the goal is to arrive at Chicago. The motivation that he has never seen Chicago before, and is curious is not as powerful as he needs to convince a neurosurgeon there to treat his son, who will die in a week if not treated.

    Who or what stands in the way of the actor achieving the goal? This is the force that counters te motivation, introducing tension. It's what makes the story interesting. The actor may fail to make goal, or may gain it after a lengthy struggle. Furthermore, the opposition may involve an actor with goals and motivations as well, which defines a new subplot, Ig the same actor has a conflicting motivation that defines the subploty, you have an internal conflict.

    When you add up all the actors amd their plots, you have the framework of a story.
     
  6. Aeroflot
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    Aeroflot Senior Member

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    It might be easier for you to come up with a theme to keep the story tied together, first, and then move on from there. If you know what the story is supposed to say, then all you have to do is think of the outcome of the story, and then you have the ending right there. Now that you know the ending, it is possible to explore ideas for a beginning, such as placing your main character as far as possible from the goal achieved at the ending. To fill in the body--everything remaining between the beginning and ending--you must write down the main character's turning points, epiphanies, anything that'll affect the main character and bring him closer to the goal at the end. This is also when you can add in secondary characters to assist the plot.

    That's if you want to plan the story first. But you could also create a character, give him a goal, add an opposing character with a goal that conflicts with the first character's, and write from there. That allows you to write with spontaneity, but it can also be a hassle if you are sure about how you want the story to play out. This route is more for people who want to see where their mind will take them.

    Just a couple ideas right there.
     
  7. sweetchaos
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    sweetchaos Contributing Member

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    I tend to have a lot of trouble planning out my story lines. What i found that helps me is asking questions. And not necessarily to myself. I will go online and bounce ideas off a friend. For instance: what d oyou think of a lost island? and then suddenly out of that, I'll get ideas. I don't even need them to answer back.

    I also find that when I tell them about something I'm writing I suddenly get ideas. Retyping notes i've written really helps. Somehting in that note will spur an idea for something else. I was telling my best friend about a character and one small note about him having scars on his back suddenly expanded into a whole story about him having the scars. I didn't even know at the time how he had gotten them. I even got character development out of it and personality traits/flaws. lol
     
  8. Kilgore Trout
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    Kilgore Trout New Member

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    Wow there has been some fantastic advice here, all of which i will try. Thank you all. You're all fantastic :D
     
  9. TereFaerie
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    TereFaerie Member

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    Spending a little time pondering a what-if scenario might give you some ideas about story-lines.
    Personally, I have a concept in mind before I have the plot, but plot comes after what-if-ing and brainstorming. Sometimes the characters are a large part of that scenario, developed along with the initial idea. Usually it is the vague character sketch that leads me to think about how the plot should unfold.

    In short:
    I start with a situation, plug some characters into it and see how they react.

    Sometimes this requires a little bit of character essay writing on my part (which I do longhand in a notebook because I think the act of writing helps me be more creative than just sitting in front of a computer screen), stuff that won't exactly wind up in the completed novel, but gives me a taste of what the character would do in a situation and why. This opens up a whole new realm of possibilities and gives me some great ideas to try out, as well as fleshing out the MC(s) with flaws and fears and goals.
    Don't be afraid to "essay write" a little (think of it as brainstorming of a type) before you start writing the actual prose. It can keep you from getting bogged down in specifics like "what should my opening line be?", or "what tense/pov/style should I write in?"
    Even little scenes of backstory (that can just be daydreamed if you don't like to do so much writing that will never wind up in the book) can help you to solidify the character in his/her world.
     
  10. Jiggy
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    Jiggy Member

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    What I've ended up doing is designing a bunch of characters and giving them personalities, and then molding my story around their personality traits.

    For instance, I have a character who's main character trait is that he's power-hungry. He's a cunning brute who will stop at nothing to be the best and most powerful at what he does, and yet he's still a member of the protagonist group. This personality that I've given him allows me to write a storyline that involves his gluttonous strive for victories cloud his judgment. Annoyed by the others' often passive ways of dealing with problems and offended by their complaints when he crosses the line, he eventually gets fed up and decides to leave the group.

    I sometimes notice that trying to focus on how the story is gonna go before who my characters are often doesn't work at all. I feel unsatisfied with what I've written and rework and I have to sit down and think to myself "who exactly is involved in this story? why are they there? who do they know? what will they do? how will they be effected by these events?" It works for me to design my characters, and then come up with a story to build around them.
     

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