1. Dan Kirkalnd
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    Dan Kirkalnd Member

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    Techniques to Avoid writing yourself into a corner

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Dan Kirkalnd, Apr 10, 2012.

    So I'm wondering if anyone has some good advice to share as to how to avoid writing yourself into a corner with your plot. What I mean by that is that you basically avoid doing what the writers for Final Fantasy X did, (which basically could be boiled down to "Nothing to do? Yuna's kidnapped again!)

    I have heard some good things, like making an outline, properly preparing your story, but what are some tricks that you all have found work to avoid this mishap?
     
  2. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    There are no tricks. Basically you already said it - plan your story, write an outline, and stick to it. That's the only sure fire way to avoid that situation. If you go off the map there is always the danger that you'll wind up in a dead end.

    The trick is knowing how to escape. If your plot has lost all forward momentum and you can't see any way out of the situation you've created, the only thing to do is backtrack until you get to the point where your story went off the rails, then take it in a different direction.
     
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  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    That's not plotting yourself into a corner. That's wearing yourself a deep rut by repeated;y walking the familiar path.

    The answer is simple, and not. The simple part is to make that path off limits, and have the self-discipline to keep your resolve.

    The hard part is coming up with something new. That requires thinking, and tuning into all your soiurces of inspiration - news, movies, books, nightmares,etc etc...

    Plotting yourself iinto a corner is setting yourself up with such an airtight threat you can't figure a way to get your characters out of it. You should strive to plot yourself into a corner from time to time. It's good for your creativity, and when you occasionally do fight your way out of it, you often have a winner of a story.
     
  4. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    Discipline and if possible some type of schedule to develop a habit of writing at least a couple hours a day. You write what you have in your head. If you can't work in sequence then work on whatever area you can.
     
  5. molly16
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    molly16 Member

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    To me, the best way to avoid corning yourself in your writing is to write with an end in mind, a "destination."

    You want your character to end up at Whoodawalla Island, so they need to get to a zeppelin.

    You want your characters to fall in love. Incorporate a scene where they accidentally touch.

    Basically, think where you are going, and from there you can fill in blanks. You may have to rewrite, but it all should be worth it. :)
     
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  6. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I just try to brainstorm as many possible outcomes for each action as I come up with it. Having betas to bounce ideas off also helps. I can't say it won't happen, but it doesn't have to if you do enough "what if...".
     
  7. Cassiopeia Phoenix
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    Cassiopeia Phoenix Contributing Member

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    This is basically what I do. I am not very fond of outlines but when I start a story I at least have an idea on where I am going with it. It's good for writer's block, but I do plot myself into a corner in the process of filling in the blanks -- and there's no cure for it, me thinks. Or the cure is finding the way out of the corner. Which is not good advice, is it?
     
  8. Kaymindless
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    Kaymindless Contributing Member

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    This.

    Stretch those brain muscles and find the hidden hatch in the corner. It's hard, it's annoying but, it can pay off.
     
  9. W. E. Burrough
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    W. E. Burrough Member

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    My first and second novel were utter disasters. I had to shelve them both because I simply couldn't think of how I could continue. When I started on my third I decided to make an outline detailing the scenes vividly, since then I haven't had many problems. Well, no problems other than starting multiple projects at once.
     
  10. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    I'm envisioning your problem to being something like your main character is stuck and has run out of options. If this is the case, make a list of 3-5 options they have and why they just don't work. Pick your favorite, and then go back into your story and foreshadow/set it up that they CAN make it out. This could mean giving them some device they found useless before (I'm thinking of James Bond devices, like his laser watch in Goldeneye which he uses to cut open the floor of an exploding train), having them identify a weakness in their enemy early on that let's them escape, etc.

    How are you stuck, what are your options, and why don't they work (right now)?
     
  11. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    I paint my lead character into corners all of the time. That's his job. If you can figure out a plot device to rescue him, then what's the point of the exercise? I could just have you write the story, it would save me a ton of time.

    Granted, it takes some thinking. I've even let him find seemingly logical solutions that trip him up later in the story. In other words, I deliberately booby-trap my own writing.

    There's this old canard that good survivalists should be able to get out of tight jams with just their wits and a knife. Okay, great. I gave my lead the same folder I carry. He's on his own.
     
  12. RowenaFW
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    RowenaFW Member

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    I don't try topush my characters into corners, but neither do I avoid them. Usually every other novel I write will have a major corner problem in it. I know I can always get out - I just don't know how long it will take or how hard the struggle will be. When I ask people for help, they get frustrated why I can't just change this/that or gloss something over to solve it simply, but I won'ttake any solution which isn't in play with the background which has very good reasons behind it (although sometimes some background is dropped because that doens't have goodreasons behind it!). I find talking to people about the plot/characters and rereading helps. In the end, the results is much better than it would have been without a corner.

    Agree with funkybassmannick's points baout foreshadowing to give yourself new options.
     
  13. Pythonforger
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    Pythonforger Carrier of Insanity

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    My writer buddy has a little trick in which when he "writes himself into a corner", he simply starts to develop a subplot and then link it to the main plot.

    For example, if your character has nothing to do but wait for another character to arrive with startling information, he spends the time thinking about his romantic interest, getting into a heated argument about a trivial matter(character development), and when he's done all that, the other character has arrived.

    Personally, I find that if you write well, you have this "momentum" which prevents you from getting into this in the first place.
     
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  14. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    One of the overall ideas I see writers profess is a yearning for 'realism.' Even in "The Fifth Element" Bruce Willis still worked driving a cab, was befuddled by trying to quit smoking, feared the police and was about to lose his job.

    My point is that even in fantasy we build a gridwork of a known reality.

    So here's my take. Your fantasy characters, while living in Wonderland, still have to function. And they function much like you do.

    For example, as you leave your house this morning, you have to work, you might get hit by a bus, you might catch a cold--or you might develop a huge zit days before the prom. In other words, your life constantly paints you into corners. We trip over our own feet dail, but we seldom win a lottery. Strife is the rule, not success.

    One night at 2:00AM while I was sharpening a caping knife for a client, the knife slipped, did a perfect 180 and stuck into the top of my left foot. I had to get to an emergency room for treatment, and then to add insult to injury, my wife and I were both interrogated by "domestic abuse counselors."

    That's what happens in life, and the solution is not found within 30 minutes like a sit-com.

    I like the way they handled Brad Pitt in "7." In filming the movie he actually hurt his wrist. They wove it into the plot and he wore a split for the rest of the movie. Don't fear 'corners,' revel in them. Make them happen, in fact. And when you find you're back's to the wall, be grateful the full measure of your creativity is called upon.
     
  15. EAGLE
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    EAGLE New Member

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    Couldn't agree more!

    As for suggestions. Write a loose plot with a vision of where you want to end in that story/novel.

    Now that the loose plot is written you need to make sure it is loose enough to be able to change things mid story. You have to create twists and bring in completely new elements that the reader would never see coming.
     
  16. ArnaudB
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    ArnaudB Member

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    I would go in either of those two ways in order to make further development:

    1-Use a character/group that hasn't been directly in play before in the story. Do note that you need to clearly etablish the person/group goal as well as what they were doing before they met the protagonist. (So that they actually have a reason answering why they weren't there a few scenes ago and why they come now. (Much easier if you actually created the character or group in question before making them come into the story.)

    2-Apply Murphy laws. Create an event which turns the tide against the protagonist. If it's for when the 'arc' of a story change, this must be applied in a insane yet believable way. (beware of redundancy though.)

    From my (modest) personal experience, I can say it's much easier if the tide-changing turning point of the story are before starting writing the story itself. (If only because you can give clues and some background setting regarding future events.)
     
  17. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm a devoted planner and I have to say that so far I have never written myself into a corner. Most of the times I know what is going to happen every step along the way and it doesn't feel boring at all, I actually find it's a good assurance, I know things like this wont happen and stop me from writing the story. I have to say an outline is the best advice I can give you. it doesn't need to be too detailed but at least give you some direction. Everyone is free to put as much detail that they need into the outline.
     
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  18. Metus
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    Metus Senior Member

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    Of course, you could also go back during editing and add the background and hints.
     

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