1. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    But does it have legs?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Spencer1990, Jan 19, 2017.

    Recently, I've been struggling with developing the legs of my stories. I have a ton of interesting premises, but I can't seem to find the motors. Sometimes a story idea comes complete, but this is a rarity.

    It's frustrating because I'm not sure if this is a phase I'm going through, stress strangling the life out of my creativity, ideas not fermented. I don't know.

    So I'm wondering if anyone has had similar issues, what you did about them, or if anyone has strategies to develop the legs of a story. Obviously there are times in which I won't be able to find the legs, but I'm looking to see what other ideas I can try to incorporate in my imagination.
     
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  2. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    Hello Spencer,

    I have a lot of things I could suggest, but when you say "The legs" do you mean your MC?
     
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  3. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Get off my Balzac... Staff Contributor

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    Not sure what you mean by "legs". Do you mean you have some thematic and character ideas but nothing to draw them together? Do you have a few scenes but no real plot developing?
     
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  4. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    What worries me is that several of the ideas I'm entertaining seem like they would "go" only on the back of certain hackneyed tropes. I'm not letting it get to me since I have enough to work on before I get to them, but yeah, it's uncomfortable wondering if you don't have what it takes to pull your story together.
     
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  5. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    I mean does the story have the endurance to take it from inciting incident to conclusion. This is strictly about plot. I don't seem to have trouble with characters.
     
  6. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    Exactly this. Sometimes I have a few good scenes, or an inciting event, or a conclusion. I have no trouble with characters/theme. It's just a robust plot that I seem to be lacking lately.
     
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  7. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    Okay Spencer,

    Plot and Structure are my strongest areas when it comes to a story; so I feel as if I can help you on this. Before I start plotting away here I fill this little blurb out.

    -
    There is fives point you should have figured out before plotting. They are as followed.

    Lead: Your MC. Try to use nouns and verbs when you describe your MC and a single-well-picked adjective.
    Objective: What is his or her goal? It should be a physical goal that serves to satisfy a spiritual goal.
    Conflict: What stands in his or her way?
    Knockout: What would victory look like? What would defeat look like?
    Situation: With as few words as possible, what is your character's life like before the start of the story? A little bit of Background info works here.

    A note on irony: Either the goal or the conflict (or both) should be Ironic in terms of your MC. An example of this would be "A serial killer who tries to save someone's life."

    A note on the Spiritual goal: While you need to know what the spiritual goal is, you don't need to state in the logline. Spiritual goals are mostly for subtext and theme purposes, not so much for plotting.
    -

    Since you brought up inciting event let me explain how it works.

    The climax of the story is where the MC's world forever changes, and nothing will ever change it back. The Climax of the story happens because of the inciting event. So once you figured out what your Climax is, you can ask yourself "what event can I create that will send my character down this path?"
     
  8. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    Thanks @OJB. That's all very helpful. I appreciate that little breakdown.

    Let me get a little more specific and say that I do understand the elements of a story, and, usually, I have most of the information you talked about. The problem I run into is putting the meat on those bones. I often worry I don't have enough.

    Which I guess is just a matter of doing it sometimes, or letting the idea marinate in my brain a little bit. But I do understand a climax, inciting event, denouement, etc.
     
  9. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Get off my Balzac... Staff Contributor

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    Yep, sounds like you got the narrative blues. Can't speak for your specific issues, but when that happens to me it's almost always because I've done too much planning or outlining or reached conclusions about the story that I have no business assuming. You know, because the sucker hasn't been written yet. For me at least I need to have everything happen organically. Usually I start with a character in a situation with no idea how it will evolve. Sometimes it gains traction. Sometimes it doesn't. Planning all that crap out ahead of time never works for me. The story always pratfalls because I've made assumptions that have no base in an existing reality. If that makes any sense.
     
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  10. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    This actually hits pretty close to home. The first (only) novel I've written was done with little to no planning. For the second one, I thought I might try something different, so I've been working on my planning skills...with little reward. Maybe I'm just one of those people that operates better by letting the story develop as I write.

    I'm glad revision is a thing!
     
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  11. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    Okay, The meat and potatoes of a story can be hard to gather. For me personally, I put in 17+ Challenges between the call to Action and the Climax of the story. I also Have (in this current story I am writing) 6 subplot challenges (the romance part of my story) creating a total of 23 obstacles my MC has to overcome to search the end. Each Obstacle takes up a chapter (I have 24 chapters).

    Now how I create these obstacles is based off my theme (Perception is reality is my theme.)

    One obstacle challenges my MC's Perception of self.
    Another one challenges my MC's perception of her desires.
    Another one Challenges her perception of her friends.

    And so forth. I am not sure if you are going for action heavy, or theme heavy, or both type of work, but all I can say is I try to challenge the MC in the most personal ways, as often as possible (I put her through a Nightmare, and when she thinks things can't get worse I put her through hell.)
     
  12. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Get off my Balzac... Staff Contributor

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    Same here. And the reason I think is because of the gaps, that quadrant of the story that even the author is clueless about. Roger Waters of Pink Floyd always said that his music was never the notes, it was the spaces between notes. For writing, it's like there's little interstices between the characters, the plot, the imagery, the themes, etc.... Those spaces are left for the reader's imagination. It's their little hole to fill in because even the author isn't sure what motivated a character here, or what happened "offscreen" to make a scene unfold the way it did there. And I think if you plan everything ahead of time they'll be no spaces. No gaps for the reader's imagination to fill. And it won't seem genuine to the reader because the characters look like they're following a script and not feeling their way through the situation.
     
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  13. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    My story's best 'twists' came about as the story was being written. I started with only a very vague notion ...characters, time and place, possible problems, etc. The characters and their interactions suggested the story, and it built from there.

    Allowing your story to 'create itself' is not as wackeroni a process as it sounds. As you come to know your characters, you come to know what they will and won't do, what they love and hate, what their quirks and strengths are. This influences the story. As long as you stay true to what you've created thus far and follow it through to its obvious conclusion, you'll be fine.

    I think that determining all things ahead of time limits you to what you can 'think up' in the planning stage. If ideas occur to you later on ...well, they weren't planned for, were they? So you're reluctant to take them on board because they'll scupper your plan? Even if the newer ideas are better than the originals? Or—worse yet—you DO take them on board. Maybe you change your character's personality, or alter some events— but that means your original plan probably won't make sense any more. If you grimly stick to 'the plan' anyway, while sneaking in these changes, the overall story is bound to suffer.

    I think there's a lot of difference between an idea and a plan. I'd go with ideas, and let things develop naturally. You will end up with a more honest story. Sometimes it's not at all what you thought you'd be writing when you started out. Just envision a scene or two, write them, and see where they lead. You can always go back and tweak changes, as needed.
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2017
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  14. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Aunt? Supporter Contributor

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    I'm in the same boat. Got the basic event, very light sketch of the character, and where the story is going to end up but... all the bits in between seem to be missing.

    Thanks very much for this, I really need to look more into the whole craft and planning thing. Too much work in flash-fiction, but this post could really get me pointed in the right direction.
     
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  15. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    @jannert, I think you're right about just doing it. I've been getting hung up on what I don't have, rather than creating something to have. I can always go back and add, remove, modify. I think the conclusion is that I'm just not a planner. Maybe I don't have it in me, and that's okay.

    @Iain Aschendale, I'm glad I'm not the only one, haha.
     
  16. Dnaiel

    Dnaiel Senior Member

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    This is exactly what I discovered on this, my first novel. You can create the characters, the circumstances surrounding their lives, and be God a little bit to mess with them, throw a wrench into things, and generally direct them to the climax you are looking for. There's a lot of fun to be had in just sitting back and watching what happens. At this point, though, they don't like me much. :bigmeh:
     
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  17. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    My first thought was



    my second thought was that any worthwhile idea has legs or can be given legs in development, you just need to get your head down and write it. Doubtless it will evolve and change significantly (possibly out of all recognition) but waiting for the perfect idea before you write something is a recipe for never writing anything
     
  18. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    This wasn't about waiting for a perfect idea.

    It was about strategy to "give legs in development." Lately, it hasn't been happening easily, and I'm in search of ways to do this.
     
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  19. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    In terms of giving legs in development for me its about developing and expanding the idea with lots of what if type questions most of which will never get used but having a 'blue sky' ( I hate that term) session does allow me to bring out lots of options.

    although there are all sorts of software for doing this personally I like to do it on paper with coloured markers.

    The other thing I like to do occasionally as an exercise to flex those creative muscles it to pick an idea at random and do the same thing, either by picking some completely random plot, or by picking a book I like and trying to imagine it differently
     
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  20. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    You might want to just let it sit for a while, and let things cook in your brain, rather than forcing yourself to write when you're not sure where it's all headed. I'm a big believer in what I've discovered to be the truth for me ...that a lot of writing happens when you're not actually writing, but just thinking and letting your left brain make connections your right brain isn't geared for.
     
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  21. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    This is the method I use - I usually have a few key scenes or plot points to hit, but all the in-between stuff I write on the fly. It sometimes leads to this weird feeling that my fictional characters are driving the bus instead of me, but it seems to work.
     
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  22. Reed R Gale

    Reed R Gale Member

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    This is a really powerful technique, I think. It combines the best aspects of planning and letting ideas come naturally. I feel like there is a strong inclination to let things come 'naturally' from people and it works to an extent. But having goals, or, as you put it, 'challenges' is like...

    I guess it's like this. If ideas are like water, and the story is like a flow, then a few things could happen. If you have no direction, the river twists and turns and that isn't bad sometimes. You discover things that you never thought you would and are pleasantly surprised, but sometimes the story doesn't really take you anywhere in the end. If you overplan, the story can be exactly how you like and mean what you intended but it almost feels like a chore of finding some way to make what needs to happen happen.

    With your method, you let the river flow, but scout ahead looking for paths that you could divert it down. Could it be cool if we took this route? Does it do what I kind of wanted it to do? Cool, lets go that way. You know what you're looking for but at the same time, you give yourself the opportunity to discover it as you go along. And that's absolutely brilliant.
     
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  23. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    Hello Reed,

    Thanks for the kind comment. Plotting, especially the middle, takes some time. Personally, I thought of 200 scenes before I narrowed them down to just 60. Even after I did that, as I wrote my first and second draft I came up with new and better ideas. Developing a story takes time and effort, and there will be doubt and frustration. What @Spencer1990 is going through is normal. I also had a time where I just did not know where to take my story. I spent night after night, with a stack of index cards, thinking of scene after scene. I still have that stack of cards. While a lot of them did not make it into my story, some of them were good ideas for other stories.

    In essence, this is what my note cards looked like.

    Goal:
    Conflict:
    Disaster/hollow victory:
    Emotion:
    Dilemma:
    Decision:

    There is a lot of ways to plot a story. I am not sure if one way is really better than another. All I can do is suggest what worked for me, and hope that method works for the person I am suggesting it to, and really that is all any of us can hope for with our replies.
     
  24. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Does it have legs? It sounds like something a creative writing teacher says. It's like saying what are the stakes of the story? I think it could mean the same thing. If the story has stakes, it probably has legs and will be pleasing to creative writing teachers everywhere.
     
  25. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    Legs is a pretty common term for potential in terms of a full-fledged idea. When did this become about pleasing a creative writing instructor?
     
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