1. Amphetamine Stoat
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    Amphetamine Stoat New Member

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    What do you do to plan a plot?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Amphetamine Stoat, Mar 10, 2014.

    Whenever I attempt to plan stories out it seems like I never end up actually writing the thing. I can start out just spontaneously writing, and while I think that goes well, it seems like this always leaves me with a meandering story that is often almost devoid of events; "Dude winds up in foreign world because reasons and wanders about the alien landscape" isn't much of a story.
    So my question is what do you guys do to plan a story? Flow charts? Spontaneously write? How do you personally put together a story?
     
  2. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't do well in preplanning, either. It always makes me feel like the story is done, just because I've written an outline. So I don't outline. I start with a character and a situation, and a possible ending. (The ending is likely to change drastically as I write.) That gives me enough to start writing by the seat of my pants. Sure, I take some wrong turns along the way, and a lot of what I write has to be deleted and replaced in the second draft, but that's okay.
     
  3. Amphetamine Stoat
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    Amphetamine Stoat New Member

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    It's good to know that writing a story can be so flexible. My idea of planning has always been pretty rigid.
     
  4. FrankieWuh
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    FrankieWuh Active Member

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    My plots always start with a scene, and that can come anywhere in the story. I then start asking loads of questions about that scene, like who are these people/person, where do they come from, why are they here, what will they do, etc. Once I've answered them, especially the "what will they do", I have a destination in mind, so all that remains is the journey to get to it. So I start writing down a synopsis of what should happen along the way and the characters that inhabit it, nothing too detailed, just enough so that I don't get derailed along the way.
    I could plan it meticulously, but that's what first drafts are for. You'll end up changing characters anyway (maybe changing the focal point of the story as I've done for my current WIP - it's an ensemble piece with lots of characters sharing the same page), maybe even the destination itself. I wouldn't worry about it too much. What I would say is that it helps to have that destination in mind. Some writers write "aimlessly", that is without any idea of where it is going; whatever works for them, but for most writers who do can end up with many thousands of words for a book with little or no plot.
    If you have the end in mind and the characters who will get there, I guess you're good to go!
     
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  5. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    I usually start with a scene. Then, that just blooms into more scenes. Then, I write an outline to piece them together. By the time I write my first draft, much has changed.
     
  6. Jak of Hearts
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    Jak of Hearts Member

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    How I plan a plot is:
    1 - Where does the story start? (characters and setting)
    2 - Where does the story end? (what is the last scene, climax, moral, character changing moment?)
    3 - What needs to happen between start and finish?
    4 - What else do I want to happen between start and finish?

    I then usually start writing those scenes that I have down. When I started my last draft, I had a rough outline that would have lasted a total of maybe 20K words. But one scene makes me change something, and writing down something new, and change this idea, and now I want them to go here and there also to do this... and bam.. its a story.
     
  7. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    I'm very similar to @minstrel, but I will also plan a little bit as I'm writing. Say that I find out something new about the character as he or she speaks, then I'll write it down for reference later. I do sometimes fill out character sheets, but very rarely. As soon as I have a story and a couple of characters in my head, I'm off.

    For me, it's the characters that write the story; if I planned it too much, they'd just change it all, anyway. ;)
     
  8. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I didn't mention that, once I'm writing, I take tons of notes. Piles of ideas come to me - I can't seem to generate ideas unless I'm actually writing text - and I have notebooks crammed with everything I can think of regarding my WIP. Some notes are highly philosophical and some merely technical, but they all get written down.

    I find it educational, and more than a little refreshing, to go back and read my notes on stuff I was working on years or decades ago. My younger self is fascinating to me. :)
     
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  9. Jak of Hearts
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    Jak of Hearts Member

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    That's exactly how I am. I'll be writing and I have pages of notes that I flip back and forth between. I'm constantly coming up with new ideas. 3/4 of my story/plot comes to me as I'm writing, not before. That and I always come up with ideas at the most inopportune times such as when I'm in class or at work.
     
  10. Okon
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    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I start with a base conflict and motivation/goal, then add complexities and disasters. Once I have an idea of everything that happens, I string it into chronological events that don't have settings or even characters worked out yet; I save that for last.
     
  11. Amphetamine Stoat
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    Amphetamine Stoat New Member

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    I, myself, always start out with a scene and then build around that. Typically I struggle to build the story, and now that I think about it my most successful stories (IE the complete ones) have started with me realizing how I wanted them to end. I like seeing how others do it because it gives me a way or two to do things differently. You guys have all helped me, so thanks for responding.
     
  12. ddavidv
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    ddavidv Contributing Member

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    My stories begin with a key scene I get in my head, then I ask how/why would this scene come to be? Sometimes it may take years for those questions to be answered!

    I've learned to outline my stories (something I used to dismiss as 'unnecessary'!). Sometimes I will work in reverse, if I have the ending and closing scenes far clearer than the earlier parts of the story.

    I also make constant notes as others have mentioned. What was the name of that town I had them go to? What color eyes did she have? All of that stuff gets put in my notes so I don't have to page through 100 pages of written text to find it. I'll get little scenes or chunks of dialog during the day and will email them to myself or write them down, then insert them into my outline/timeline where I think they should go. Sometimes they get moved around, sometimes they get canned...everything is in flux. Remember, though, that the outline is just that: a basic road map to keep you from getting truly lost. Taking the 'scenic route' from time to time is fine and will show you some things you'd otherwise not see, but you still need to travel a path back to the main road.
     
  13. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I never plan anything. Like others, once I get a plan, the story's been told and who wants to rewrite it? There's no surprises left. I start with an idea, maybe a character or two, and go from there. The key for me is to not let myself meander - if I get a Great New Idea, it still has to fit with what's already happened. If it doesn't, it goes into my notes file for some other story. But yeah - outlining/planning is the death knell for my stuff.
     
  14. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    I like writing when I know what's going to happen. It's like rereading a favorite book or rewatching a movie.
     
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  15. outsider
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    outsider Contributing Member Contributor

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    Refreshing to hear others are as meandering and shambolic as myself in their planning. :D
     
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  16. Jak of Hearts
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    Jak of Hearts Member

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    I can't write without a plan or I feel like I'm just rambling about characters with no direction.
     
  17. Sheriff Woody
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    Sheriff Woody Active Member

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    Think of what conflict your hero needs to conquer before the story can conclude. If it's a sci-fi story, for example, come up with a cool science fiction concept. This is the most important part, because it's what ties everything together. If the hero is not working toward a goal, what are they doing and why should we care? And if the idea isn't interesting enough, the reader will not be interested.

    The pursuit of this goal also needs to be the most important event in the hero's life, and because of how important it is for the character, major themes will evolve based on who this character is, what their flaws are, and what they need to learn in order to complete their goal, and it's from these themes that you draw your principal theme for the story.

    After you have this unifying theme, this principal theme, come up with all kinds of scenes that illustrate different aspects of that idea. If it's an action story, be sure those ideas are present in your action scenes. If it's a romance, be sure it's present in the romantic/love scenes. This idea will also give you ideas for different characters and how they can each represent different parts of your unifying theme - the good and the bad - through mirror characters, counterpoint characters, etc.

    The unifying theme should be something that means a lot to you, and the story is your way of communicating that idea to other people without flat-out saying it. It resides in the subtext. And if you deal with ideas and concepts and beliefs that mean a lot to you personally, it will be easier to create situations and characters and events and locations and props and dialogue that help communicate your message.

    Just remember to be subtle with your ideas as to not alienate the viewer or some off heavy-handed. It's more important to tell a good story that people will enjoy; you are simply using your opinions to generate that story.

    Also, when telling a story, you need to balance the reader's emotional needs with their logical needs. You can't be all logic all the time because that doesn't leave room for emotion, which is what helps people care about your characters and hope they succeed, and you can't be all emotion because without addressing emotions and relationships and comedy and horror and suspense and everything that makes the reader feel in logical ways, the reader will have a difficult time believing the situations.

    I recommend addressing the emotional aspects and internal character dilemmas through brainstorming, and then addressing the logical needs through plotting by fitting in your emotional ideas in realistic, cause and effect ways in scenes that make sense.

    That's just my approach.
     
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  18. Smoke Z
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    Smoke Z Active Member

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    When writing a story, I usually start with what I want to happen, and then build about how to get there.

    I have a feeling that you already know why you want to write this story. Use that as the seed around which the rest of the story crystallizes.
     
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  19. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    I have a rough idea of where my story wants to go before I even put words down. This usually means the setting, the problem, the resolution/ending and maybe a few key events I want to happen along the way. I then open up a document and write down what I want to happen in the novel/series, either by book/part/chapter. It's very rough, about half a page of A4 for each novel. These documents tend to get very out of date though, as I come up with new ideas, which I either scribble down or, far more commonly, just remember.

    However, although I have a fairly good idea of what I want to happen, I don't plan out each scene, I just write and see where that takes me. It's far better to get words down on paper, then go back and completely change it, than it is to umm and ahh about what would be best to write. I'm in the second draft of my first novel at the moment, and I'm just writing it again. The first 12000 words or so are completely different. The same things happen, the plot is the same, as dictated by my plan, but the events happen in different ways, places, order and with different people.
     
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  20. outsider
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    outsider Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sounds a very similar approach to me. I'm glad I'm not the only one that wants to get in with the business of just writing and see where it takes me. The first chapter of my WIP now bears no relation to what it's organically grown into now I'm 70 - 80k into it but I don't see that as a problem at all, I'll just rewrite it in the edit with a much clearer idea of where it's going and how I'm going to precede what comes later.
     

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