1. InkDancer
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    InkDancer Senior Member

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    This thread has nothing to do with whether a certain plot will work!

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by InkDancer, Jul 10, 2008.

    It's about plot creation in general. I find that developing plot is the hardest thing to do in my writing. I love characterization, I love setting, and I love dialogue. I can do that, at least to some extent. But as far as "moving the story along"... that's hard for me. I find that I have a hard time knowing what direction to take it in.

    How do you folks develop your plot? Do you start from conflict and work from there? Do you let the characters just interact "naturally" and see where it goes? How do you structure and outline a story before you write so that it actually moves along?
     
  2. Charisma
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    Charisma Transposon Contributor

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    I adopt option two. I, for instance, pick up a character. Say Alena. A pictures appears in my head. Let's say, she's nerdy, rebellious and sporty at the same time. About sixteen, has blond hair, braces and a sleek set of glasses. What could go wrong with her? Okay, she can have a nerd friend and a jockey friend. Conflict evolved. Story took a start. And randomly, I hit another touchdown and the story keeps moving. (This is one lame example, but yeah :p)

    I usually plan the story in my head, jot down a few 'landmarks' in the story, and then get to writing. How to connect the landmarks is just poking conversations, running into different situations. I let the drama take place on its own, without forcing any detailed plot line. Just ask myself several 'why, how, when, where, who' questions, and there I have a story.
     
  3. Marino
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    Marino New Member

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    For me, the story writing process all starts with an idea. It is usually in the form of "What if...?"

    Usually, the idea alone creates the plot. Just explore your idea in different angles & situations to see what you can add to make the story more interesting.

    Once I get a general idea of the plot, I make a list of the main plot points (or scenes) to make everything more visual. If I see something that should be added or taken away, I just edit the list instead of having to rewrite actual scenes.

    Each scene, each piece of dialogue, every detail should move the plot along. If something is not necessary to your story telling, take it out!

    If you have multiple directions a plot could go, write each possibility down! Usually, there should be one direction that should be easier to write naturally. Go with that direction.

    As for conflicts, a story should have MULTIPLE conflicts, a goal or desire & a need that the main character usually doesn't know he/she needs.

    Also, may I ask how you can come up with characters if you do not even know what the story/plot is about? :p

    All my characters come directly from the plot. They are characters that move the story along. Characters & Plot should complement each other. They should fit like a puzzle.
     
  4. The Essential Writer
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    The Essential Writer Senior Member

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    I get my ideas from around me... I'm at the library, I see a pair of friends (brothers?) and they are so unique they inspire characters for a writing project. One is obviously like ten years older, and he's always looking around, waiting, checking to see if he's being watched. The the other kid is chubby, lazy, always asking "Why? Why? Why?" Then I see an African American man come up to them. They keep talking. Not even reading. In a library. That's how plots surface in my head. And that's just one thing at one place that I saw.
     
  5. ChrisSmith
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    ChrisSmith New Member

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    Plot is as important as a general of idea of who you want to write about. Or even theme, some idea, something you want to explore. As mystical as if may sound one simply has to make the free time to day dream, to let these characters make themselves fully alive, without your forcing them into existence, and then pay heed to whatever they have to say. My best stories have required the least work because they are when I let these new people speak and let me know, page be page, what comes next.
     
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  6. ChrisSmith
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    ChrisSmith New Member

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    EssentialWriter is, by the way, dead right. Just let all these things flow in from what you see all around you. The whole world is just waiting to shout out its stories if we are listening.
     
  7. draciaveil
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    draciaveil Member

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    Wow, for me it's the exact opposite. Usually in my first draft the setting and dialogue are kind of stunted, due to the fact that I focus so much on what comes next in the plot.

    As for how I come up with the plot, well, the first few ideas I have about a story tend to have to do with the plot. Later, as I know more about it, I am able to add new ideas in where they'll fit. A lot of the time I'll add in bits of plot I was fond of in other stories that didn't work out.
     
  8. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    I must confess that for the most part I just make it up as I go along. *blush* I'm sure that's a load of help! :D

    Seriously, though, I mull over the plots of stories for quite a while before attempting to write them, letting bits and pieces fall into place so there's at least a general direction of where the story should go. Somewhere, at some point, a general idea for a story pops into my head, but that's all it is, is an idea--something I can't possibly write an entire story about yet. So I start to think about it.

    I get ideas for key scenes in mind, and the beginning and climax and end (if possible), and how I want things to turn out. For long stories this takes quite a long time of thinking, BUT, I don't make an outline. That might work for some people, and I'd advise it for them (I use brief outlines toward the end of long stories when I want to make sure I get all the remaining important points in there), but for me it's too stifling. And then, when I think I've got all the ideas in mind that I need, I start writing and hope that I was right! Unknown plot elements tend to fall into place as the story moves along, though I keep the key points in mind and have to build the story around them. I know where I want to go, I'm just not sure how I'm going to get there. In real life I'd need to map it all out ahead of time, but in writing, I just go along and enjoy the scenery. I find that the characters often move it along for me.

    Writing in series stories can greatly help come up with plot ideas since a sequel's plot can build off of the prequel, but that's obviously not always the case, especially with unrelated stories. I can't advise to pick a general plot idea and build off it because that doesn't tend to work for me personally. :/ The greatest help I've found is just thinking about a plot, and thinking about it, and thinking about it some more. And daydreaming about it, and wondering, "What if...?" and maybe journaling about it, and then thinking about it yet again. And keeping this up for a few days or weeks for a short story or novella, or for a few years for a novel or serial.

    I didn't say it would be quick. :D That's why I work on more than one thing at a time!
     
  9. Sato Ayako
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    Sato Ayako Contributing Member

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    You love characterization, so it shouldn't be that hard to "move the story along" because most stories are comprised of events that characters create for themselves, or that happen to characters that they have to react to. Develop a sensitive ear and eye to your characters. Often, they'll tell you where they need to go. If you're breezing through a section, your characters are sure and they're in the right direction. If you're barely crawling through another section, mabye your characters are unsure, apprehensive. Maybe you've put them down the wrong path and they're resisting you. Listen to your characters. They speak.

    For short stories, I start with a conceit. For example, "android kangaroos". I throw a character in there. "A man who has to catch android kangaroos." Then I complicate it. "A man who has to catch android kangaroos who are way smarter and meaner than he is." And the story launches from there.

    For books, I ALWAYS write an outline. No exceptions. Some people just can't develop a plot as they go along. I'm one of them. It's perfectly okay. Like with short stories, I start with some kind of conceit. My current novel, for example: "A boy who's brainwashed into thinking he has the soul of a dragon. Takes a drug that makes him go crazy thinking he actually is one."

    With an outline, I don't follow it strictly. If you were to read my outlines, then the book itself, you'd discover there are places where I skipped an entire event or shuffled it around. There will be characters the original outline didn't have, arguments the outline didn't call for, etc. If you insist on your plot playing out exactly the way you planned it, you stifle your characters and they don't grow.

    The nice thing about outlines if you go through the story's natural progression, so can see where things may or may not work. Of course, when you get in and start changing things when yo uwrite the actual story, the outline may fall apart in some places! Where it falls apart in one place it can almost always be connected to another, or at least bridged.

    If you're having issues with plot, my recommendation is to try an outline. Different outlines work for different people. I use the essay-outline. It goes like this:

    I. MAIN IDEA/HAPPENING/ETC. Introduces characters with first and last name. Always grammatically correct.
    1. MAIN HAPPENING UNDER MAIN IDEA. Doesn't have to be correct--try use dashes sep. things--abrv., don't have to write all out
    A. DETAIL OF MAIN HAPPENING
    a. DETAIL TO A

    If we apply that (from a novel I wrote a month ago):

    I. Kiba Eupo wakes up to the sound of an explosion and meets a herd of crystal dragons.
    1. Half awake--breakfast--explosion rocks neighborhood
    A. Underground pipe explosion
    B. Injured people, train derailed, police about
    C. Kiba has to work--goes away

    Other people use the notecard method. You write all the scenes you want on notecards (number them, this is important!) and arrange them somewhere where you can leave them until you're done. You can shuffle the cards at will. I've tried this method and it seems solid, it's just I had 500 cards worth of scenes, all unnumbered. I dropped them and, well, returned to the essay-outline method.

    Another method some people use is the act or list method. They're similar, so I put them under the same heading. With the act method, the idea is to divide your story into several acts like a play:

    ACT ONE
    1. Bob goes to the gas station. His head pops off his shoulders.
    2. The town reacts to Bob's accident.
    3. Etc.

    With the list method, you list things that can happen in the story in order. This is great as a preliminary planning activity, too, where you can see how your story might pan out before you put it to another outline. From an old novel of mine, this is how a list outline might look:

    1. MC's life is introduced.
    2. MC's town and family try to kill him.
    3. Etc.

    Whew, derailed that, didn't I? In any case, plot flows from characters and often starts from a mere conceit. Good luck!
     
  10. Rebekkamaria
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    Rebekkamaria Senior Member

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    One of my favourite authors once told me how she creates her work, how she develops the plot. She said that she has these stepping stones, like something that lets you pass a river. She creates plot points here and there and then develops the rest as she writes.

    That was an amazing advice to me, because I had always had difficulties with the idea of either creating everything beforehand or creating the plot as I go. I can't do either. But these stepping stones let me have my freedom, but they also give me my direction. This works for me. :-D
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I have mostly written short stories, in which the progression of events was pretty clear from the beginning. For those, I've mostly developed the plot by developing the character.

    I still think this is a solid approach for developing a scene. But not long ago, I began working on a novel. Trying to develop the novel the same way, I learned I had a serious problem - the story was moving forward, but it was dull. So I started over, with a new focus on finding and developing conflict.

    It's still a character-driven approach. And because I am finding the conflicts that are "already there" instead of just throwing in random complications pulled out of my - pulled out of the air, it seems to be keeping a natural flow. I am not far enough along to say whether this is a sufficient change, but so far the story feels more interesting to my unbiased self. :)
     
  12. Fluxhavok
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    Fluxhavok Active Member

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    i pretty much come up with a cool ending, something like the world blows up or something. then i come up with the beginning; a young man wants to go to school for astrology. then i come up with a general outline that connects beginning and ending. boy's first gf loved the stars she ends up dying somehow, boy becomes obsessed. goes to school for astrology or something, discovers comet heading toward earth. blah blah blah world is destroyed. then i break it down even further and decide what will be in each chapter or scene. once you know where the scene has to begin and end you kind of just let the characters take it where they may using only a little bit of guidance. that's what works for me anyway.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i simply write what comes to me and keep on writing, till i feel i need to stop and organize what'll come next... which doesn't happen with short works, but does, with book-length stuff...

    i'd never use anyone else's idea of an 'outline' or whatever and wouldn't advise any of my writing mentees to do so, since everyone needs to develop their own 'best' way to do it, imo...
     
  14. InkDancer
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    InkDancer Senior Member

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    I love that everyone has a different approach! I guess I need to just figure out what works for me, and the only way to do that is by trying lots of different things. Thanks to all of you... now I at least have a place to start!!
     
  15. Afterburner
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    Afterburner Active Member

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    I find it hard to start a story with a definite plot in mind. I follow the method I read about in a magazine. I get a very vague plot outline, and then I begin to write the scenes I already have planned out. Once I have those different pieces of the story, I will connect them together in a coherent way. That way, I'm not trying to work my ideas into a defined plot, but instead I'm working the plot into my already developed ideas.
     
  16. vivo_neco
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    vivo_neco New Member

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    I used to try detailed plot outlines, but they always completely stifled my writing and my characters. Instead of letting my characters develop naturally, they forced them to act in ways that didn’t necessarily work, and as a result most of my earliest stories are pretty dull, both in terms of characters and plot development. Since then, I’ve experimented with several different ways.

    I usually find that I can get away with just seeing where a story takes me in short stories, allowing my characters to interact and so allowing them to carry the plot forward. This can also work in longer stories, although in these I usually have a vague ‘plot’ somewhere in the back of my mind - albeit a fairly organic one that can change and grow and take different directions.

    Some of my stories do not so much start with characters as with scenes. These stories are a progression between fairly fixed points, and it’s like fitting a jigsaw-puzzle together. I create characters that will fit these scenes, and everything falls into place as I write.

    If a story is not developing, I will jot down points and vague ideas down to help progress it, but a set-in-stone plot always sucks the excitement out of writing for me.
     
  17. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    I've been all over the place in my short writing life. I started out completely winging it, with absolutely no idea of what was supposed to be going on or why the heck it was constantly raining with the force of a hurricane in my story (or indeed, why there were no floods after weeks of said rain). That way was doubtlessly the most fun, but it obviously created a legion of plot holes and overly convenient solutions to problems that I had written myself into (the main villain is immortal... he must be removed from power... he cannot leave his cursed fortress... Oh, I know! Someone present just happens to know how to imprison people within swords!).

    Next I made sure I knew exactly what was going to happen every step of the way. If a pebble got lodged in the main character's boot, I documented it. I was impressed with myself, to be sure. But when it came to actually writing it, I could hardly get started. How was I to create a good opening that matched the plan I had laid out? That pretty much foiled me and I've since lost interest in that idea.

    These days, I find the best way for me is to just know where I want to start, know where I want to end up, and have some idea of what needs to happen in between to get there. Major events are usually dreamed up ahead of time, but it's up to me to work them seamlessly into the story on the fly. This way, I can still wing it without the inevitable plot holes or clumsy conclusions. It's still fun, and the path isn't dark.
     
  18. Kirby Tails
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    Kirby Tails Member

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    Usually, I have a basic outline for the story, but it almost never stays the same! My characters tend to act naturally along with the story...so my beginning will usually stick, but the ending almost ALWAYS changes.
     
  19. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    My characters HAVE to interact naturally, there's entirely too much that could happen for there to be any main plot. I almost don't even have a main goal for my MC for the entire series. I'm playing this by ear. I think, though, that generally, the idea is that he wants to see his world go back to the way it was (think in terms of how the world is today).
     

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