1. MacGuffin
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    MacGuffin Member

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    Techniques to help stop rushing through story

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by MacGuffin, Jun 10, 2009.

    Hello all,

    this is my first post and first foray into the written world so please bear with me.

    OK, so I have an idea for a story (don't worry I won't share it as I see that it's frowned upon on here) and I have started researching the period and setting (world war 2 and east end of london / welsh valleys).

    Now I have a basic outline of events but I am finding it hard to get anything structured down on paper. Either: Fragments come to me but I can't sustain the writing. Or: When I write I rush from one event to another without knowing when to linger over something.

    I have two possible explantations for this:

    1) I don't know the period / setting well enough

    2) I haven't developed the characters well enough

    I don't know if anyone will be able to help but any ideas from more experienced writers would be much appreciated.

    Thanks, Richard
     
  2. jlauren
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    jlauren Senior Member

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    Richard,

    I totally sympathize with you on this one. I tend to struggle with keeping a good pace also. I know what needs to happen in my head, and I know which scenes I'm really excited about writing, so sometimes I find myself rushing the story just to get to them.

    I find that I do this because, yes, I don't know my characters very well. The more I focus on who they are and what personalities they have, the easier it is to pace the story. I might be able to bring situations to the characters that aren't necessarily 'major story-line issues' but they are interesting enough to engage the character and reveal a little more to the reader.

    I also find doing A LOT of research helps. I find things that happened during the period I'm writing about, and I know I can reflect them in my story. Or if I'm writing a story outside the confines of reality, I look for great folk tales, or myths that I can expand on. That gives me something to write about which will also give the overall story great pace and momentum.

    BUT, I still have issues. So please.....experienced writers, help us!

    Best of luck.
     
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  3. design007
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    design007 Member

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    :)Mac, I totally agree with Jessica. Research, research, research. Did I say research? When I wade into unfamiliar waters, I study the hell out of the topic I'm interested in. Many times this results in turning up something I never considered and takes the story in a different direction. Since I'm not one of those writers who constructs outlines, character profiles, etc., I find this approach serves me well.

    Usually, when I get too excited about the piece, I have to literally take myself out of the process and get away from it---give it some space so I can see where I'm going. I'll read a book or re-read an old classic, maybe see a film or listen to some music. But I don't go back to the computer and pick over my work.

    It's ok to have fragments and only half-baked ideas; it's all part of the process. I know writers who can get it down with pen and pad. I have to type to keep up with the way my mind flows. I also tap out notes on my iPhone notepad when I get a lighbulb moment.

    The other thing is sleep. Nothing kills creativity faster than the lack of it.

    Hope this helps. Good luck.
     
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  4. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Research is important, I agree, but remember that you are writing fiction - storytelling is your number one priority, and if you forget that (I'm looking at you, Dan Brown) you're writing will suffer for it.

    As far as pacing goes, the only way I have for dealing with that is to make sure you know your plot inside out. Know what happens, why it happens, how it happens, what happens as a result. Once you've got that down, deciding how to pace them should be easy(ish)....it should be clear where your climaxes are, where you slow down and provide some respite (if you do), which bits are boring but necessary and should be rushed through, which bits are important and need careful elaboration...

    That will, of course, mean that you need to know how to pace your writing well, which is, perhaps, worthy of another thread all of its own...
     
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  5. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    While I agree that research of the setting and time period is important, sometimes it can get in the way of character development. Not so much that it hinders it, but that you can get so wrapped up in the setting,that the characters take a back seat in the development stage.

    When I am doing research, though frequently I don't write outlines, I start writing character bios. I start with their name, age, place of birth, physical description. Then I add a few lines about how they grew up as I research the time period and events that the character might have experienced while growing up.

    Take for instance, one of the characters I am writing now, she is in her 50's...so I wrote a few lines about where she was when Kennedy was shot. Where she graduated high school. When and where she met her husband and how many men she dated before marrying him.

    As I am writing her story, I am finding out more about her. Granted a little bit of myself is infused into her personality, but she is definitely becoming her own person.

    When fragments of what I want to happen during the story come to me, I jot them down on my blank sheet. I save it as my outline page, though I don't have thorough outline, just little tid-bits of information. When scenes strike me and the writing flows, I just go with it and save it all. In the end things may not turn out as you had originally planned, you may not use all the scenes that you write, or ever go back and expand on what you jot down, but at least you have it if you want it.

    As for pacing, well, that really depends on what you are writing, a character driven piece or an action piece...and I there are a few other types. If it is really more character driven, then well developed characters is a must. For more action/plot driven stories, while character development is important, it is not as focused as a character driven story. The focus is more on the events that are happening and the reactions your characters have to those events, and how they handle them.

    Which do you feel like you are missing? A good grasp on your setting/time period, or your characters? Which ever you feel you need more understanding of, focus on that for a little while.

    The important thing is to just keep writing. No matter where in the story it is, be it beginning, middle or end, write the scenes that come to you and fit them together later on during the editing process.
     
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  6. MacGuffin
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    MacGuffin Member

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    Thanks for all the advice!

    Jessica: so how do you build your characters? Do you start with real people you know or other characters you've seen and bend them to what you want? Or do you take a basic character type and add little quirks. or to take a series of traits and add them together and see what you get? Or do write a bio of the character and work out how their life has shaped them. Or is it a mixture of all these things?

    Design: I have done a fair amount of research but I almost feel guilty doing it as if I'm putting off the hard task of writing. I will push this guilt to the side and research for the next feww weeks at least.

    Arron: See above, and also how detailed do you make your skelton plot? Can you be confined if you make it too detailed?

    Bluebell: I think that what you have said about research getting in the way of character dev is correct. I mean I've been wrapped up in the minutiae of how many planes were shot down each day of the Battle of Britain. Trouble is I'm really interested in the period so this seems like too easy when compared to hard work of actually getting on with it.

    but then research does throw up some gems; like the fact that George Orwell was shot in the the throat in the Spanish Civil War and spoke with a raspy voice for the rest of his life. I want one of my characters to have fought in that war so this kind of thing is interesting to know.

    Anyway, sorry for rambling on and probably contridicting myself but I'm still working out my toolset and how to get it all down.

    Thanks!
     
  7. BadPenny
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    BadPenny Member

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    I think the above advice was excellent, so I will only add this: you can’t write unless you write.

    To begin: write what you have to say, be it rushed or gushy. Write phrases or chapters. Say what you have to say, and no more. Don’t judge it as you write it, or you will limit yourself. You can’t write, unless you write.

    Then, survey what you have. Keep what works. Cut was does not work.

    Then, listen to what the above posters have to say.

    The, write some more.

    If I could follow my own advice, I would be so much better off for it.
     
  8. jlauren
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    jlauren Senior Member

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    To answer your question MacGuffin:

    I seem to build my characters from people I know and like. Most times the female lead is a better version of me or another woman I know. Before I start writing, I always know my characters though, well, at least my lead characters. I know what they look like, sound like, how they might respond to certain situations etc. It's usually easy because I draw from real life, but not every story can do that.

    In my mind, I see what I want my characters to look like, so then I start searching online or through magazines for pictures of people who match my ideas. Sometimes I will see someone on TV that I know straight away is exactly what my lead looks like. For example - the male lead in the story I'm currently writing is actually a contestant on a reality TV show I watch! Everything about his appearance (not necessarily personality) agreed with the character I saw, so I found pictures of him and now I use them as my inspiration. It helps if you have physical images to refer to when trying to write how the character laughs, frowns, cries etc. I also find pictures for location, housing, trees, what the landscape looks like throughout the seasons, clothing of the day, etc. I draw on all these images when writing about them.

    When it comes to character background, I don't tend to go into much detail before hand. I seem to discover this as I write. I might have an idea of where I want to take the story but then I will think, "hang on, if I want this to happen, then that needs to happen to him when he's a child" etc. I take ideas and characteristics from people I know and then think about what made them that way. Did they have a tough upbringing? Were they hurt by a wrong decision etc.

    Before I start writing I always feel as though I know my characters as though I've met them. Maybe it's because I spend a lot of time day dreaming about them!

    Hope this helps :)
     
  9. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    It depends on who you ask....in my opinion, as long as you realise that writing a detailed plot outline doesn't mean you have to sacrifice flexibility in writing, there's no reason it would confine you - in fact, I find the opposite to be true...in drafting a detailed plot outline, I think of new plot elements, new ways to have things happen, new characters to introduce...generally just new ways of solving the problems I face in writing the book. So (in my opinion at least), plot outlines are if not necessary, then infinitely useful, especially if you are embarking on a novel or another long text.
     
  10. OrdinaryJoe
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    OrdinaryJoe Member

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    I don't know about anyone else but I write on my computer. There is a reason I do this. It's called multiple folders. I create a folder for my main story and another one I label Bits and Pieces. That's the one that usually fills up alot faster. I have flashs of dialogue or scenes that jump into my mind. I don't know where they will go, I just know I want to use it somewhere. I write without concern for story structure or timeline. I save each one of these sessions into the Bits folds under it's own folder. Then when I am working on the main story I write until I think I have made my way to one of those other parts. Then I search through what I have and see if it will work. The important thing is to get it written down before it escapes. You may never use it the way you intended, it can become it's own story or change the one you thought you knew. But if you are taking the time to think about it and write it or type it or dictate it or however your doing it, then it's probably worth taking the time to save it.
     
  11. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    By advice is to relax and have a good time. You're just starting out, as you say, so just enjoy yourself andf learn as you go.
     
  12. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    I assume you're novelling (judging from the preliminary organization you describe). What it sounds to me like you're facing is the moment when you actually begin to WRITE your story. If it were me, I'd write those fragments you mention. I wouldn't worry about how they string together with each other right now. Round them into short stories, even, if that's what they seem to want to become. At some point, they may begin to hang together in the form you envisioned for your novel, or the characters may take on personas that can wander back into that story.

    If they don't, maybe you'll learn something about writing and/or storytelling that'll help when you go back to the novel. You might even end up with some awfully good stories and even more "novel" ideas.
     

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