1. SilentDreamer
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    SilentDreamer Member

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    Struggling with where the plot is going

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by SilentDreamer, Dec 30, 2015.

    So, I'm part way through my current WIP - which for some reason has insisted on being written in disjointed pieces - never in order from start to finish.

    But I realised today that the focus of the story has become more about the MC's back story rather than...things actually happening - flashbacks and her dealing with them. Which is NOT where I really wanted to go with the story as I think it's likely to be boring....I'm enjoying the process of writing it, and working through it, but...I just think that if I had being reading if from someone else....ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ...

    I also realised - I started with an idea, a focus for the MC and a bit of a back story....rather than a plot...she's achieved the focus, but her backstory (which did have a lot to do with the focus) has decided that it fits in just after it by her issues getting worse....

    I'm sorely tempted to delete whole parts of what I have...but then am worried I'll regret it as well. Maybe, yet again, it will merely be a story that I wrote for me, to only be read for me - which also means my time away from my wife was...kinda wasted....as much of it was written after she'd gone to sleep!

    ANyone else had the same issues?
     
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  2. Toomanypens
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    Toomanypens Member

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    I'm having the same issue, you get so involved in the backstory that you get attatched to it and don't want to move on.

    Obviously, you can't keep deep diving into your character forever, and especially if it wasn't your original goal.
    You have to shift gears. You have to step on the clutch, put it into 2nd, and slowly ease off the clutch as the story takes the burden of the new gear.

    You maxxed out the backstory, so just define it by its best bits and say "how do these best bits operate outside of his head?". If the character was dwelling, forget about it, the audience has seen him dwell now, they get it, so show him when he isn't dwelling, show that he is more than an introvert in a room. And of course you have to show that he is not perfect in how he relates his inner world to the outer world.

    Why is his inner world intuiging when he is out and about in life, what perspective or angle does it put on reality?
    By writing a character, you have now just shaped a look upon your world, so start asking, what exists outside of him then show us.
     
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  3. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    You may think it odd, but a lot of writers get caught up in this dilemma in their early work (I'm assuming this is one of your first stories, so please forgive me if it's not).

    To continue with this story, you have two choices as I see it:
    1. forget the 'present' story and write the backstory as your story, or
    2. pull all that backstory out, put it in a different Word document (assuming you're using Word) and concentrate on the story.
    Some other things you might try:
    • Each day, when you sit down to write, make a new copy of your document with that day's date. That way, you can edit the crap out of it and still have your older work to refer to if needed.
    • Make an outline of the 'present' story to keep you on-track.
    • Decide which three backstory items the reader absolutely has to know about and toss the rest. Figure out a way to 'show' the effects of those three backstory items on the character's current behaviour.
    And finally, read everything you can get your hands on about writing and especially:
    • Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder
    • Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain
     
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  4. Aster
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    Aster Member

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    How do the events of her past relate to the events of the present?

    Does the reader need to be aware of them or is it just handy for you to know as the author?

    If the events of the present are not the most significant and meaningful and profound thing she will ever do in her life then why aren't you writing about that instead?
     
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  5. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Find something in the back story which you can link to the present story, link the two of them together, and weave them into one large plot.

    Like, maybe some problem that happened in the back story is the trigger for the character's present day dilemma; It has followed her her whole life and now it's stopping her from getting something she wants.

    Example, she was raped in her youth so now she's 30 and has met the man she wants to marry but they have huge intimacy issues stemming from her never really having dealt with the rape, and he may leave her because of this for a new woman who has recently entered the picture. She's still carrying the emotional scars of what happened 20 years ago, and it's stopping her from getting what she wants today.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2016
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  6. oTTo
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    oTTo Member

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    I utilize OneNote, making notebooks for stories to track character details, side information, maps, and any references I need. I compose the work in Word. This is how I keep my backstory ready for use, and maybe even a prequel story for later actual writing. Mostly this is for me to flesh out the entire idea and see it in full form. I have more notes than writing in one work, and that doesn't bother me... yet.
     
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  7. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Great example! That, IMO, is the best way to use backstory!
     
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  8. SilentDreamer
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    That's what I thought I was doing....maybe time to step back and see how much of it is necessary. Thanks for your suggestion.

    Thanks to everyone else as well. Now, if only the toddler would take her nap and I could get back to it!
     
  9. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    What I meant was, maybe think of something new that can be created or 'spun off from' a tiny element in that back story. There's got to be something there you can use to connect to present day.

    Hey maybe take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle and on one side list all the different things actions elements from the back story, and on the other side do the same for the present story, as many as you can think of even insignificant ones (like she bought groceries today or whatever)

    ...then look at the two lists side by side and try to match up two of the elements, dreaming up some way they could be connected together.
     
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  10. Lone Vista
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    Lone Vista Member

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    This is all quite interesting, especially because it's addressing some matters very similar to a story I'm considering working on.

    It's still very much in the WIP stage, but the concept is this: There are multiple books, each one focusing on a different main character in a five person party. The individual chapters of each book alternate between the past and the present, showing the relationship between them. The "past" chapters lead up chronologically to the present, with time skips as necessary in between, while the "present" chapters follow a single story line all five protagonists are interacting with.

    For example: Protagonist V returns to a place he has been in his youth, because of something to do with the main plot arc. Via scenes from the past, we experience his younger self enduring a harrowing experience with a creature in that same location. He fends it off, but is badly wounded. He is found and his life is saved by someone who, back in the present, he is meeting with once more as an old friend. Later, his glove is removed to reveal a prosthetic limb, and it is revealed the original arm was lost in the attack.

    The purpose of this is to show how each character became who they are now, since each of them has been impacted severely by the events of their life. What I'm wondering is: Am I telling too much in an unnecessary way? Should I simply be focusing on the present, and the parts of their history that specifically have impact on it?

    I should also mention that I'm actually considering telling this story in a visual medium like a graphic novel. Are there any differences between mediums I should be keeping in mind?
     
  11. stormr
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    stormr Member

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    I know how you feel here. I write short stories, and decided I would write a three or four part series. In part two I realized I got too attached to my Mc. I started to write backstory for her, and it went on and on. It got to the point that the idea of my actually story had gotten so far away that I hit a wall and eventually stopped altogether writing the story. Now it's been a year and I went back through it, and decided that the original story was actually good the way it was. So now I have a ton of backstory for her in case I want to write a different kind of story with her in it.

    Needless to say, I am now finally starting part four.
     
  12. SilentDreamer
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    @Tea@3 - Sorry, it may have come across wrong from me - I appreciated the suggestion, particularly as the example you gave is incredibly similar to my MC (aside from the fact she's gay...). However, the trauma in her back story is part of the focus for the story - so I'm thinking I may have made her backstory too much into her story-story...(meh, long day).

    @Lone Vista - I'm probably not the one who should be answering it - but I kinda like the way you're bringing his event in - they were both there, they will both have different views of it, but it's about him.

    @stormr - I'm considering putting her aside for a bit, and starting something new, going back to her in a while...
     
  13. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Maybe it's time to back off a bit and do some thinking. Your story has evolved in a different direction from where you expected it to go. So what have you got now? What have you learned about your story? What do you think your story is saying now?

    You can't always write your way out of a problem. Sometimes you have to think your way out of it first.

    If your backstory IS the story, then maybe you should refocus and write it as the story itself. If the backstory has simply swamped the present story, then you should pick the pertinent details out. Maybe present the backstory as a prologue. Not as an infodump, but as a well-crafted series of scenes that let the reader know how the protagonist got to be what she is now. Then you can forget the backstory, and concentrate on what happens next.

    If your protagonist had a traumatic childhood, what does she do about that 'now?' Find the essence of your present-day story. How somebody copes? How the past can return to bite you in the arse? How you can transcend your past and redress wrongs you've done, or forgive others for wrongs they've done you?

    Spend some time playing with possibilities in your head. Do the 'what if' exercise. Turn lots of things around. Throw something unexpected into the mix. A new person. A new job. A new home in a new location. A disaster that comes out of nowhere and needs to be addressed by the protagonist. A mysterious question that needs to be answered. A choice that has to be made.

    This is the joy of writing in a 'disjointed' way. You may spend time writing stuff that doesn't work, but suddenly it can all click into place, and you realise that you're writing something that's very very close to the bone, and something that is more meaningful than you originally intended.

    The solution is easy, though. Step back from the writing and editing, and just live with your story for a while, inside your head. Perspective is what you need here, not more words piled on words.
     
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  14. LostThePlot
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    I agree that you'd probably be better off going for one or the other. If her past if more interesting then just run with that. You certainly can frame flashbacks etc into a later narrative but the payoff for those flashbacks needs to be something really big. If it's not a huge deal then just stick to writing in the past, or at least writing those flashbacks as the present; take us through her whole life with those events in it so it's more about her whole life than a now that isn't that interesting.

    That said - It's totally ok to just leave chunks of her backstory untold, leaving in the best flashbacks but leaving other stuff unexplored and only hinted at. I'd absolutely write all of the past stuff too so I know what happened in pretty clear detail but the reader doesn't necessarily need to know in detail unless it's something really hugely important. That can have weird and unpredictable effects in your story and needs to be done with care because it can strongly re-frame things that you've written but even then it's fine to leave something up to the readers imagination or planted between the lines for them to figure out. I know it's tempting to make sure you get things across exactly as you imagined them but it's totally ok to just leave it up to the reader.
     
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  15. Lone Vista
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    Lone Vista Member

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    (Oh, goodness. It took me rather too long to realise this, but it seems that while I was replying to this thread before, I somehow became confused and thought I was starting a new thread about my own project - I was somewhat tired and muddled, you see. I do apologise.)

    (That said, much of what has been said here I have found to be quite helpful. Many thanks.)
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2016

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