1. QueenOfPlants

    QueenOfPlants Active Member

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    Can't identify story structure elements

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by QueenOfPlants, May 9, 2017.

    I'm still learning the art of writing and I have only recently started to engange in the theory behind it all.

    Now, I have this commenced story and I'm trying to give it some structure. I thought if I had a framework, it would be easier to fill in the parts that are still blank.

    But so far none of the basic structures I found match my story. I tried to identify the elements of - for example - an 8-point story arc, but I'm failing.
    I feel as if I had to change so much of it to press it into some mold, that it would not be my story anymore.

    Is anybody here who likes structuring a story and would be willing to "sit down with me" via PM and try to help me figure it out?
    I feel if I completely neglected story structure, this might be a sign of weak writing, but I also feel I might have to deviate from the usual concepts to tell the story I want to tell. And atm I'm completely overwhelmed with that task, particularly because I'm so inexperienced with writing theory and how to apply it.

    I appreciate any advice. Thanks in advance! :)

    Edit: genre is fantasy/historical/romance/bit erotica
     
  2. obsidian_cicatrix

    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    Do you have the story you want to tell outlined from start to finish?
     
  3. QueenOfPlants

    QueenOfPlants Active Member

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    Well, kinda. Sorta.
    There are things missing. I mean, there are problems of which I don't know yet how to solve them. And the antagonist is not really fleshed out because I have the feeling it's a bit dependend on how the middle goes.
    I have some kind of "archetype" in mind, but no backstory for him.

    I'm not certain whether what I have would qualify as outline.

    ... Ok, looked up "outline" again and I think it does not. On one page I found "Work to create a linear, well-structured plot with no gaps in the story".
    What I have so far does not meet these criteria. :(
     
  4. obsidian_cicatrix

    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    Ok...this is just my advice, others may chip in and disagree. I think you are overthinking it. Structure is one of those things that only becomes especially important when a load of other donkey work is already done. Some of us structure our work from the off, some don't, the most important thing is simply to write.Very often, in the case of long works, folks will have to rearrange anyway, for one reason or another, so giving it too much headspace right now is only going to mess with your confidence. Tell the story you want to....it doesn't matter if it's perfect. Once it's down you can field advice on how to make it work/better. Don't worry about your writing appearing weak....that's what editing is all in aid off. Most of us would be shy to post up our first fumbling attempts. They all read pretty poorly, at least to start.
     
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  5. QueenOfPlants

    QueenOfPlants Active Member

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    Thank you for your kind words. :)
     
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  6. obsidian_cicatrix

    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    :D I'm not being kind, I'm being honest. The writers learning curve can be steep. There are so many ways to go about it, and a cookie cutter approach doesn't suit us all. It's very easy to become overwhelmed and think you are doing everything wrong. You're not. You just haven't found your way yet. I felt the same up until 6 months ago. Just keep plugging away at it and eventually it'll all start coming together. Have a little faith. ;)
     
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  7. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    Plenty of successful authors don't use any of those structural frameworks, so please don't feel you need to do it!
     
  8. obsidian_cicatrix

    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    You could force your story to conform but, when it comes down to it the only thing that really matters is: When a reader finishes one line, will they want to read the next, (and the next, and the next?) Sounds simplistic but that's what we're all striving for.
     
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  9. Fernando.C

    Fernando.C Contributor Contributor

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    As both @Tenderiser and @obsidian_cicatrix said, structures and outlines aren't necessary for a story. Sure they can be useful if you feel they can help you organize your story better but they're not necessary and plenty of authors don't use them. And even those who do use them don't often themselves be bound by them.

    It's all about you and you're story, and whichever method works better for you in terms of telling that story. there's no one write way and not adhering to structure isn't a sign of weak writing at all, it's choice and it comes down to what you as a writer are most comfortable with and what helps you make the most of your story.

    I don't use outlines for my novel either and I've actually never cared one or the other about whether or not my book fits into a pre-defined story structure or not, it jsut doesn't matter I just write it and make up a lot of things along they way. Like, I have a general idea of where my story is supposed to go and all the major plot points but I don't have all the details figured out and I'm giving myself a lot of room so I can be flexible in my writing and make changes as necessary. I love writing this way and it really works great for me. But another author might have a different way of doing things that works best for them.

    I'm gonna quote a part of @obsidian_cicatrix's post above to put emphasis on it cuz it's really important and I agree with it wholeheartedly:

    And:
    Don't overthink things and don't worry about structures and outlines and rules. Just write, and write and write, the more you do so the more confident and comfortable you'll feel.
    .
     
  10. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

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    Yep, I agree with the rest of the crew. I've never had success working with an outline. I found it fenced me in too much and didn't allow room for my characters to surprise me. Usually I save the outline for when I'm finished with a novel, and even then it's rarely more than a page of scribbled notes and plot points. Most of the time I can keep it in my head and don't even look at after I draw it up. And then while I'm editing I'll fill up the comments in Word with a bunch of notes as they occur to me. I've found keeping a running dialogue with myself under each chapter heading works pretty well.

    I almost always have an idea of the plot points beforehand and a fairly solid ending, but I rarely know what the hell I'm writing about on the macro scale until most of the story is finished. The same goes for the characters. I have an idea of what they're about and what makes them tick and maybe a quirk or two that will give them a little flavor, but until I see them play around with each other a bit I have no idea how they'll really behave. I kind of equate the process to a long road trip. I know I'm going to hit New York, Chicago, New Orleans, the Grand Canyon, and Napa, but I don't deal with the actual roads and rest stops until I'm driving. Some writers spend months making outlines, flow charts, and index cards before they write a word and that's great if it works for them. Doesn't work for me.
     
  11. QueenOfPlants

    QueenOfPlants Active Member

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    Ok, cool. Thank you for your contribution, guys. :)
    That encouraged me.
    So, I gonna continue what I'm doing now.

    But still I hope some day I can "get" at least some of the theory. I just think one should know the instrument at least a bit before one can start improvising.

    One thing that I had trouble with was, that most of these suggested structures were for one protagonist.
    But I have two.
    If some of you use structures as help, how do you handle that? If you have two persons who both want to do their thing and both have a character arc - how do you plan with that? Are there online resources about that?
    Thanks for hints.
     
  12. obsidian_cicatrix

    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    @Homer Potvin Yesss! I'm the same. I actually need to get my characters interacting in order to flesh them out. I gave an excerpt to Jannert yesterday, and she commented on something she felt I'd glossed over. I had to explain that particular scene was dependent on another, as yet unwritten. Thing is, I could have bullshitted something for sake of keeping form, but I'd only be giving myself more work to do as, likely as not, I'd complete the other scene, then read back and realise my bullshit was no longer working. Found that out the hard way.
     
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  13. obsidian_cicatrix

    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    That's a different kind of structural issue. Most of us can pitch in on this. Basically what you are asking is how you should arrange both characters points of view.
     
  14. QueenOfPlants

    QueenOfPlants Active Member

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    I was happy that I didn't have so much trouble with developing my characters in my recent story attempt.
    They really came alive on their own as I wrote. Things just fell into place and it all made sense.
    But the plot itself still has holes, so I still have a lot of work in front of me. ^ ^


    Hm, I suppose the POV is indeed a question that's not fully solved yet.
    Since they spend a lot of time together for most of the book, I have for now a weird mix of 3rd person limited and 3rd person. (I should really look up on POVs again.)

    But what I was getting at was, IF I wanted to use story structures, how do I make them work for two people?
     
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  15. obsidian_cicatrix

    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    If you can see the holes, you can fix them. It's the ones I can't see I worry about. ;)
     
  16. QueenOfPlants

    QueenOfPlants Active Member

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    Well, I'm not certain whether I am able to see the holes correctly.
    That's why I thought giving that blob-y jellyfish of a story some bones might make it easier to figure out where something is missing.
     
  17. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I think you need to have a structure at the very basic level - like, you need a central conflict, rising tension, and a climax.

    But anything more detailed than that? If it's the way your brain works, great, but if it isn't, that's fine too. I've written 20-30 novels and I've never successfully used a more detailed structure.
     
  18. Fernando.C

    Fernando.C Contributor Contributor

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    @QueenOfPlants, I might be able to help you with your multiple protagonists/POV issue. I have four different protagonists in my current WIP and I constantly switch between their POVs throughout the story as needed. Oh and I always use third person limited.
     
  19. QueenOfPlants

    QueenOfPlants Active Member

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    Yes, this.
    I think one of my troubles atm stems from the fact that the antagonist does not reveal himself early on. The conflict is a latent one until an attack happens which is the beginning of the 3rd act.
    And before that there is not so much in the sense of rising tension. I have realized in the last few days that I need to create some more and I already have a few ideas on how to do it. But I don't know yet how the antagonist is introduced.

    Thank you for your offer. May I write you a PM if I have questions?
     
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  20. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    Queen,

    I can help you with story structure. Please PM with your questions.
     
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  21. Fernando.C

    Fernando.C Contributor Contributor

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    Sure I'd be glad to help, just throw me a PM
     
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  22. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    Count me in as another author who mostly writes without a formal outline. I always know the beginning and end before I start writing, and have a vague sense of how I'll get from the former to the latter, but once I have my characters down mentally I just like to start banging away at the keyboard and see what happens.
     
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  23. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    Musical theory is centred around the fact that the notes bear fixed relationships to each other; change the key, and the notes still bear the same relationship (OK, there's a slight difference, but ever since equal temperament was recognised it's not been relevant).

    You can't say that "the words bear fixed relationships to each other". The same word can have different nuances dependent upon context. So there is no science behind the theory, just a bunch of guys who've come up with something that seems to work. With a scientific theory, there's a big deal about the ability to repeat the experiment and repeat the results. Repeat the experiment in literature and you get accused of plagiarism, or at the very least being derivative.
     
  24. Thomas Babel

    Thomas Babel Member

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    Just my two cents!

    I think learning about things like tropes, structures, archetypes, what-have-you, is a sign that you care, and you should know about them. But some forms of writing benefit more from them than others.

    You might think about it like this: "I know full well that the proper contraction is 'isn't'... but I'm making the informed decision to write 'ain't' instead. What you're talking about is just a larger scale version of that principle.
     
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  25. Thomas Babel

    Thomas Babel Member

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    To expound: the structures you're probably referring to almost certainly relate to classical tendencies, inevitably referencing three acts and such resulting in even more complex 9-point set ups. Okay, you might do that, but as you have experienced, this is not helping you write your story.

    I propose you focus on your characters instead. You've had a lifetime of experiencing great stories. You're gonna know when things are working. So get into the characters. Any good writer I've heard talking about this says that characters start taking over the story.

    Put in leg work. Write pieces you know won't see the light of day, but feature character monologues, interactions between characters, etc. And allow the world you've built to provide the perfect stage for their trials and their victories.
     

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