1. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Talking yourself out of a story

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by minstrel, Jul 25, 2010.

    Have you ever talked yourself out of a story? I mean, you get an idea for a story that you really like, so you start working it out – plot, characters, background, etc. You spend a couple of days thinking about it. But then, because you’re examining it closely, it starts to fall apart. For example, say you decide to write about a knight in shining armor who rescues a princess from a tower. The tower is guarded by a dragon, so this will be a perilous mission.

    But then you start examining it. Why is this princess locked up? Did she commit a crime? Does it matter? (She’s a princess in a fairy tale – a member of a royal family, so you’d think she’d be pardoned for most crimes …) Who has imprisoned her? Can’t that person just be bought off with a ransom? She’s a princess, after all. Probably very rich. Why is the dragon guarding her? Doesn’t the dragon have anything better to do? What profit does the dragon gain by guarding her? And where did the dragon come from? If there’s a whole race of dragons, you’d think the humans would have figured out how to defeat one of them. If there isn’t a whole race of dragons, why is there this one? And why does anybody think it makes sense for one lone knight to attempt a foolhardy, almost-surely suicidal, rescue mission? You’d think the kingdom the princess comes from would have sent a whole army to get her back. That’s what happened with Helen of Troy.

    Before you know it, you have a whole slew of questions that all have unsatisfactory answers, and the more questions you ask, the less sense your story makes. You started off with something that looked like it was going to be fun and exciting and you now have a heap of wet garbage that isn’t worth writing.

    Does this kind of thing happen to any of you? Or am I the only one who over-analyzes my stories to death?
     
  2. Fisher
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    Fisher New Member

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    I think over-analysis can be a problem for some.

    I wonder if I've been putting too much thought into trying to plan my story step by step, until it hit me: I write best when I just write without generally thinking. So, I have an idea for a story, what's going to happen to kick start it all off.....the rest will take shape naturally as I write :)

    Last night I decided to just sit down and start writing, and let things take shape on their own.
     
  3. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Once. Well atleast one time I can remember.

    The story was going to follow a special military unit who was in charge of recapturing a nuclear device deep within a devestated city. It was partly inspired by the TV series Jericho and a game mode in a MMOFPS I play where you and your team need to either take the nuke case to an extraction point or prevent it from being taken(depending which side you were on)

    But as I went to bed and thought about it. I didn't feel like I had enough knowledge to make it seem realistic enough. Mostly when it comes to the Military and such. I also couldn't figure out why the Nuclear Device was even in that city.

    I do remember that I wanted it to end with the Main Character running for his life, with the nuclear suitcase on his back, trying to reach his backup. All the while passing a sign 'Now Leaving New York City' or well whatever city I decided to base this in. With the idea of it being a civil war set in the future.

    But I talked myself out of actually finishing it.

    Though thinking about it now, I might have to dust it off. lol
     
  4. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Hmmm, not really. I've gotten stalled on things because of that.. well actually now that I think of it there was one story I gave up on seven years ago. It was a cool premise but I really didn't have the knowledge to back it up. Someday I will probably pick it back up but I'm in the midst of a project that has characters I adore so I will continue to work on this. :)

    Over-thinking is definitely a great way to stall something out. Just because an answer is unsatisfactory isn't a good reason to give up. You have to keep tweaking the story until you do have a satisfactory answer. Don't let yourself give up so easily! Part of it is learning to discipline yourself to keep searching to find that answer and to keep tweaking it until you get it.
     
  5. BlueWolf
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    BlueWolf Banned

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    Sort of. I have had this idea for a horror novel for quite some time - the basic premise is good, but cannot come up with an ending, so I have just shoved it to the back of my head, until such time I come up with one (if ever), and work on my other stuff.
     
  6. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Seems like all those "overanalytical" questions you name are things that would actually make the story more unique, enriching and interesting.

    That's a good thing for a writer. :cool:
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I have, but only because I decided the story didn't have the potential I thought it did. I wouldn't say it's overanalyzing, though. Possibly, more analysis would reveal a slightly different story I could get excited about.
     
  8. Diablo Robotico
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    Diablo Robotico Member

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    I would say that if you answer all those questions, the story will have evolved, possibly into something more interesting and unique. Usually I'll think about how something doesn't make sense, then I'll think and create something in the story that makes it make sense, and that's what actually adds to the story as a whole.
     
  9. MJ Preston
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    MJ Preston Banned

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  10. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it a part of of healthy creative process to have loads of ideas, drop some, pick up some, drop some and then pick them, combining them, merging them and toying around with them.

    Not every thought fits to be turned into a novel, but you learn and develop a sense of storytelling by playing around with hundreds and hundreds of concepts. Heck. Do anyone have even the possibility of ever living long and writing fast enough to develop all the idea that they have?

    I share your experience and say that is sound and healthy, as long as you dont trash all of them.
     
  11. OvershadowedGuy
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    OvershadowedGuy Member

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    I have numerous story ideas that seemed great at the time but I don't really feel are of novel quality. I'm going to cram some of them into short stories, let some of them go and come back to the rest later in life.

    I have probably 20 different concepts in rought outline and only four of them are worth a wooden nickel.
     
  12. Northern Phil
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    Northern Phil Active Member

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    What you've done is overcomplicate the whole process. Already I can see a simpler method of writing the story where the answers to those questions make sense.

    You may need to alter some of the aspects in your story, afterall does it need to be a dragon that guards her, does she need to be in a tower, what happened to her kingdom?

    Try and look at it from the simplest point of view and it will make sense.
     
  13. dogboon
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    dogboon Member

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    Minstrel, I totally understand where you are coming from. Today I have hit the same wall which led me to read this thread. I have had an idea for a story and finally decided to put into words. The twist is awesome (I say so myself) and the plot actually is very good (pat on my own back) but as I jot down bullet points and outlay the story in brief it doesn't seem to work, with a lot of dodgy tacking together. Blast my inferiority!

    I have to say your original post for me has unexpectedly set up a good idea for a 'knight in shinning armour' story. Go with what you wrote in post #1. Put all those ideas in with the unanswered questions that could be answered throughout the story, and I'm sure as you write the answers will be very exciting. Make them up- do anything with it, use your imagination. The cynicisms that your having could be the basis for the wondering Knights personality, which would be humorous and I'd like to see where he goes with it. You could even turn the Princess into a real annoyance for the Knight once he meets her. The dragon could be there for her (or everyone else's) own protection. Or she could at some time previous have wound up the dragon, so its actually trying to get her. Or the people from her kingdom would rather she was imprisoned anyway (or they put her there for similar reasons-because she is a damned irritation). Finally concluding with a rescued Princess that her own people don't want back and a Nobel Knight outcast by those people for his troubles, with the hen-pecking whining and down right bitchy princess in tow. Who, of course, he can never ditch because his code of chivalry forbids it.

    Have a think about it dude
     
  14. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I was using the "knight rescues princess" idea just as an example because it's so familiar.

    But the basic issue I was talking about is something writers have to deal with a lot, and many just lower their heads and bull their way through it without a second thought. For example, in the movie The Terminator, it suited James Cameron's purpose to have the Terminator and Kyle Reese sent back to the mid-80s naked and unarmed, so that Reese would not be able to bring any weapons or other equipment to even the odds against the Terminator, or to bring back another time machine so that he could get back home after his mission. But in order to achieve this story-wise, Cameron had to postulate a time machine that only works on living beings, not on inanimate objects. It's tough enough, from a scientific viewpoint, to accept the idea of a time machine, but one that only works on living beings? That was really pushing the bounds of credibility - it's kind of preposterous even within Cameron's own story. Cameron risked losing his audience's suspension of disbelief there. And when Reese is directly asked about it by another character, Cameron dodged the whole issue by having Reese just yell "I don't know tech stuff!"

    The movie was good enough for the audience to forgive this kind of silliness. But Cameron knew the issue existed and just bulled his way through, plugging this plot hole with this piece of techno-ridiculousness. I find myself unwilling, usually, to do that. I find myself unwilling to include even one dumb element to save the story. I should be willing - everyone else is - but I find I'm usually not, and I lose quite a few stories that way.
     
  15. erik martin
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    erik martin Contributing Member

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    Yes, I've done this. Generally it's because I decide that the story isn't is good as I thought it would be. Overanalyzing doesn't tend to be a problem for me. I love to overanalyze. I like to world build and will come up with lots of minutia that probably will never come up. Sometimes, I do all this before writing, sometimes during. Sometimes, it bogs me down, but generally if I know how everything fits it makes the story richer. But it's no defense against something that sounds cool at first, then I decide is stupid the way I've conceived it. I have abandoned some ideas because of this, or placed them on the back burner. (That back burner is getting pretty crowded.)
     

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