1. like*mother~like*daughter
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    like*mother~like*daughter New Member

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    What questions do you ask yourself when developing your plot, characters, etc?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by like*mother~like*daughter, Oct 27, 2014.

    A few days ago a user gave me a couple examples and it helped me a lot. So what questions do you ask to help come up with details?
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    What does each want? What are they missing that the progression of the story fulfills (or doesn't, be that the case). Example: Yesterday I was watching The Color Purple, which I have also, of course, read, by Alice Walker. I have a pet theory that all the important women in the story are really one women. All the men are really one man. Ceilie and Shug are clearly two sides of the same coin, one ugly and discarded, the other beautiful and wanted by all. They both have the same need to fulfill, being loved. Neither is seen for who she is inside, only who she is outside. Miss Sophia is another facet of the same woman. She isn't afraid to be who she is regardless of how people take her, and she's put in her place, the same place in which Celie and Shug are. All of them are only trying to find love. That is their goal and their need. Netti is the symbol of that love actualized and made whole. That's why she is hidden away in Africa. the different women (or one woman if you follow my theory) all need to find ways up out of the suffocation of their lives in order to find the love. They each find their path, Netti comes, and that love is made whole.

    Sorry, enough waxing rhapsodic. :) Anyway, I ask myself questions like that.
     
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  3. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm a bit of a pantser setting is one of the biggest elements that helps me shape my characters. I always ask myself what can I take from the setting? When I put them in say a shopping mall what he puts in his basket, how he reacts when someone is blocking the aisle, when he reaches into his pocket and pulls out his daughter's pacifer that has been missing for three days -that shapes the character more than anything that I can stick in a character sheet or anything that drives the plot. I try and stay in a moment and look around. Mood is also key - what is the mood of the characters and the scene? A characters mood could be opposite of the mood of the scene - an unhappy bride at a vigorous wedding.

    I toss around character goals but usually their goals stay somewhat small in first draft. I usually have to write the first draft to find the real, embedded, overall goal. Not always though.
     
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  4. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    For the little stuff, I tend to people watch and then let my characters 'play' with different scenarios. For the bigger stuff (and I do write these questions down) I mainly ask myself who/why/how/what etc.

    Lets say I need my MC to be injured in a car crash, I start with the crash and ask myself:

    Who causes it?
    Why does it happen? (accidental or on purpose)
    If on purpose, who was following the MC and why did they think they needed to make him crash?
    If accidental, does the crash serve a purpose to the story?
    Is the MC badly hurt or just cuts?
    Who else is affected by the crash?
    How does the MC get over it?
    What happens to the car? (daft question but I'd rather answer it now than have my reader asking that question instead of reading the story)

    And so on. When I started my WIP (second fiction) I started with one question, what would my MC do if ......?

    I thought about it for a few days and then wrote down 15 more questions that were all to do with the conflict. One by one, they were nearly all answered. Some led to more questions, some didn't need to be answered but having them there in front of me gave me the chance to really think about the story and make sure it was heading in the right direction.

    Good Luck x
     
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  5. Christine Ralston
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    Christine Ralston Active Member

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    The questions are too numerous to post in this forum...you have to know everything about your characters, even details that won't make it into the pages of your novel. That's how 3-dimensional characters are created. As for plot, a detailed outline helps keep your story on track. There may be unanswered questions as you begin your first draft and you will likely have to go back and "fix" things in subsequent drafts to establish continuity as you answer those questions. But that's ok; no one has all the answers in the first draft.
     
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  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, this. If you want to create real characters, who don't just serve the plot but actually drive the plot (and help you create their story) this is the way to do it. If you can strongly visualise your character in realistic settings, doing mundane things ...you've done the job. Forget the role-playing-game method of character construction. You can riff off people you actually know, if you need a place to start. Put a person you know into a fictional situation. What would they do? And go from there.
     
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  7. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    I usually start by giving my characters two unrelated traits and then asking myself how those two things would reconcile themselves (or remain unreconciled) within a single individual.

    The example I usually cite is the devout Jain (an very anti-materialistic religion) who I made a professional fashion blogger (I did that one by accident and ended up with character with serious identity issues).

    Other examples - Rebellious Rocker Girl who is also a Ph.D Candidate in History, Circus Acrobat who is a member of a major royal family (don't ask - it was a product of worldbuilding), Aboriginal Australian who grew up in an impoverished single-parent home but became a famous TV journalist. It's been a fun formula.
     
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  8. Aled James Taylor
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    Aled James Taylor Contributing Member Contributor

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    For me, the overriding question is: What happens next? There needs to be a story and in a novel, lots of little stories making up a big one. Then I ask: What character traits do my characters need in order to act in this way? Then: How can I illustrate these character traits? (show don't tell) Every time I decide something, I need to re-work what I've written already to implement it.

    They say the first draft of a novel is where the author discovers what the book's about. I've found this to be true. Once you know what your're doing, you can take your tangle of yarns and weave a tapestry.
     
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  9. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    For the most part, in general, whether for characters or worldbuilding or development, I always ask:
    How does this fit or interact with the other elements?

    If Clara's mother dies after trying to kill Clara due to psychosis from the incoming alien invasion, how does Clara's current life change? How does it affect the other characters directly and indirectly? She'd have to leave, maybe finally set out for Hawaii like she always dreamed of which is where Tom can meet her as she journeys toward the island. This causes Tom to develop a conscience and stop murdering everyone he sees.

    That's how I develop everything, really.
    I see how the world, the environment, and the characters all mix together to create the over-arcing story while developing their own personal arcs.
     
  10. Tyler Danann
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    Tyler Danann Active Member

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    For me It's not questions but what they / it actually IS. I usually have most of it mapped out already in my head, as I write the scene and story down more I normally have whatever the question is answered.
     
  11. Shayla
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    Shayla Member

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    All characters need development. The best thing to think about is; what is your character like at the beginning of the story? And what is she like at the end of the story? Then you need to think about how they're going to get there.
    Simple example would be someone starts out very shy. End would be they have a lot more courage. How they got there could be they met someone who changed them through a series of events.
     
  12. jauntbooks
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    jauntbooks New Member

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    Everyone here should be proud of themselves, thanks for the helpful insights...I feel the love coming right through my computer screen.
     
  13. J Faceless
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    J Faceless Active Member

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    I ask myself a lot but most importantly i ask myself is my MC relatable or likable for the audience.
     
  14. EllBeEss
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    EllBeEss Contributing Member

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    I start with what I already know about the character and just write down any questions and answers I have as they come to me. I don't go through a specific set of questions for all characters because they're all in different scenarios. The questions I write down don't all need answers but they get me thinking about the characters and getting a feel for who they are.
     
  15. lashley2
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    lashley2 New Member

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    I don't remember where I got it, but I have a huge list of character questions. It is so helpful! There are the basic questions like hair color, eye color, looks. What/Who does the character truly love best? How do they get long with kids, spouse, parents, neighbors, police? What do they believe about God and the universe? What would he/she die for? And so much more. It has helped me a ton with character development--you really learn a lot about them!
     
  16. archerfenris
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    archerfenris Active Member

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    In the initial stages the characters are just "who fits here? What am I looking to do/say?" but after that first conception stage there's no real "questions" anymore. The characters start to mold themselves.

    The plot is always the same: What are the characters doing? Why are the characters doing it? Who/what is trying to stop them from doing it?
     
  17. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think that is SO true! It's why a writer really needs to finish a first draft before they start picking away at it. You won't know what you've got till it's all done. You can spend (waste) a lot of time crafting and re-writing a scene to perfection, only to discover later that it doesn't fit into the rest of the story as it actually develops. Been there, done that!
     
  18. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Characters usually come to me in a flash, along with the setting. The only question is, what has jarred the character out of his routine so that he has to take some unusual action?

    It's very easy to write about a character's routine. He gets up in the morning, showers and shaves and dresses, goes to work, comes home, eats dinner, watches TV, and goes to bed. Maybe he walks the dog somewhere in there. Boring. The question is, what jars him out of that routine? What requires him to do something he doesn't usually do? How does that work out?
     
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  19. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Once I've gotten into the story a bit, it's essential that I ask, "Would my character really do this in this situation?" It's way too easy when the words start to flow to send him or her off in some stereotypical direction. But when you put your mind to this question, you'll often find the key to the character's true behavior lies in what you've written about him or her already.

    Suppose, though, that I'm stuck. I might know in general what needs to happen but the scene or chapter simply won't come. Then it's helpful for me to think of the story as complete in time, I just need to remember it. "All right," I ask myself, "what happened that day at the old mine? Who was there and what did they do?" Then I write it down. I might even put it, "Remember what happened that day at the old mine, when Roscoe and Herb made their plans to . . . ?" (etc., etc.). Dunno why, but it gives me more confidence in getting past the blocks.
     
  20. Adora Belle
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    Adora Belle Member

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    When writing the first draft, I just go on the fly, but when I'm editing I ask two questions for each scene or chapter: is there enough tension/conflict and is there something that makes the reader wonder what will happen next.
    For instance, I had a chapter where my MC and her best friend are discussing some esoteric subjects and this strange woman comes up to talk to her and tells her these aren't things people should dabble in. Instead of ending with that, I decided to add that the MC was worried this woman was following her and as she watched the woman leave, she made a vague plan in her head to try to find out for sure if she was being followed. And why.
    The other question I ask - in later drafts - is if I really need this scene there right then or not. Especially early on when I'm still trying to get to the main overall conflict.
     
  21. AoA
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    AoA Member

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    I generally go and work out basic personality traits and such first. Names are also a particular pain in my posterior. If I'm writing towards a certain goal, like a certain theme, I routinely ask myself varying questions about how settibgs, character and other stuff makes the reader come to the conclusion I want them to.
    When I started writing the two stories I am currently working on, Far'krar and Under the Neon Lights, I figured out a bunch of theme related stuff first.
    My writing process is odd though. I come up with stories out of thin air as things just pop into my head. Characters from my stories hang out in a mental fortress (I believe I borrowed this term from Marcus Aurelius if I'm not mistaken) and thus when I sleep I grill them to help me figure out what to write. It's really just an odd way my mind gets around writer's block probably though. It makes it seem as if someone else is doing the thinking, so it helps avoid my brain running out of steam during a story.
    Note: May be semi-off topic, but be very cautious about past tense in writing. It makes things less able to grab a reader and if you're not careful, in my experience, they just appear in the writing although your mileage with my advice my vary.
     
  22. Gigi_GNR
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    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

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    Wrey's advice is great - I always look for characters and write characters first, myself, so I always ask where these characters came from, where they want to go, where they'll be at the beginning of the story vs the end, what made them who they are, etc.
     
  23. Danielle Fatzinger
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    Danielle Fatzinger New Member

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    I tend not to ask specific questions. I mentally place characters in different situations, both inside the plot and outside it, to see what they would do in order to define them. I also will write little journal entries from characters about things that are happening, which is a good way for me to figure out why exactly they're doing something. Other than that, I just let the characters go with the flow, and then when I rewrite I'll have a better idea of who they are and can make their personality more consistent.
     
  24. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    Researching, remember you mentioned The Colour Purple and stumbled across this quote, which I find very interesting.

    The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any. -- Alice Walker
     
  25. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure I ask myself anything - at least not consciously. I just let things happen.
     

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