1. scrambleburgan45

    scrambleburgan45 New Member

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    Disappointing characters, too much planning?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by scrambleburgan45, Oct 28, 2022.

    Hi, for some background, I used to be completely a "discovery" or "pantser" writer (pretty much zero planning, just jumped right into writing), but ever since starting a project with a friend, I've become more of a plotter/planner. But what I've discovered while I'm working on these new, more planned stories, is that I'm quite disappointed with how much characters are turning out and it seems like everything sucks, whereas when I had no plan, I also had no character expectations, no story expectations, so I was usually quite satisfied with it.
    I tried writing down just bare minimum ideas for my latest story so I could try more of the "pantsing" again, but I'm still disappointed in my characters. But this is also the first story I've ever done where the character came first and I made the story to fit them, and not a character made to fit a pre existing story idea.
    So I guess what I'm asking is, does anyone have any advice for "how much planning is too much", and how to be more satisfied with my story and characters? (And also, has anyone else had the same problem with you used to be one way with writing (discovery/plotter), but now you are a different way?)
     
  2. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor Blogerator

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    Yeah, overplanning is no good. If you plan everything out then there's nothing left to do, and writing it all out is just a chore because you've already done all the fun stuff. You need to find the right level of plotting for you.

    I like to work out character arcs, at least for the main character, or more if other characters are going to have one. And at least a very minimal plot, just a bare skeleton. Just the major turning points and some rough idea of how it ends. But it's all subject to change as I write.

    I also come up with some ideas—parts of scenes, little snippets of dialogue, an image I want to include, anything that seems like it will fit. I make sure to write them somewhere, in my plotting software or in Evernote or something, and I keep checking as I write to make sure I'm using these things if they fit (sometimes they don't or need to be changed).
     
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  3. scrambleburgan45

    scrambleburgan45 New Member

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    Yeah, with my lastest one I did leave it at the bare minimum ideas but it still feels like rubbish... Idk why *wheeze*. I think maybe I've been thinking about these characters too much and I can't do them justice somehow. :/
     
  4. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor Blogerator

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    What kind of plotting approach did you use, and how did you build the characters?
     
  5. scrambleburgan45

    scrambleburgan45 New Member

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    Thanks for your reply. Pretty much I made a cool character design and was like "Oh wow, this is cool, but he doesn't fit in any of my current stories", so I started trying to make a new story for this character. I thought of a good (but fairly basic) story idea with a couple more characters added, wrote down the couple ideas that came to my mind (because I have a horrible memory lol), then got to work on writing. But I'm having trouble getting the characters and story to feel as cool as they did when they were in my head, I guess. Idk, I'm still trying to pinpoint the real problem here.
     
  6. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor Blogerator

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    Are you just winging it then? Have you studied any methods of story structure or character development? Do you know what the three act structure is? An inciting incident, a turning point, a hook, or rising action?

    You should have at least a passing familiarity with these terms, they're what story is made of. This might be what the problem is.
     
  7. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor Blogerator

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    If you're not aware of it, I would recommend looking into the three-act structure. It's the basis of all story structure and the best starting point. Just do a search for it and read several web pages about it, maybe watch a few videos. After a week or so of immersing yourself in it you'll have a pretty good basic understanding, and if you continue to delve into the components of it you can develop that further.

    Also look into character arc. That's the other major component. If you just familiarize yourself with these two aspects of story you'll have a much better idea of how to plot.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2022
  8. Lawless

    Lawless Active Member

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    I find the whole idea absurd that characters are somehow primary and the plot secondary. My advice is not to sweat the character sheets and character arcs and whatnot and just write good stories you're satisfied with like you used to.
     
  9. Not the Territory

    Not the Territory Contributor Contributor Contest Winner 2023

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    Even serialized characters tend to have a personal stake in whatever mess they've ended up in. I would look deeper than life and limb. What does the outcome mean for their past, future, present? Let off the clutch, get them locked in.
     
  10. ps102

    ps102 PureSnows102 Contributor Contest Winner 2024 Contest Winner 2023

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    I would also like to ask what your planning entails to. What do these character designs of yours entail to exactly? What parts of the character do they define? What kind of planning method did you use?
     
  11. Alcove Audio

    Alcove Audio Contributor Contributor

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    This is what stuck out to me most. How involved is your friend? I don't mean to say that s/he is sabotaging anything, but that could be the problem. Sometimes when a solo artist gets a new producer, or a band takes on a new or replacement member, the "chemistry" changes. Or the management of the artist/band changed and the atmosphere is different.

    Of course, there's always the possibility that there's something wrong with your character(s) or your basic plot.

    Or maybe your life circumstances have changed and knocked you off your groove.

    The possibilities are myriad. Perchance you should shelve the project for a while and start something new.
     
  12. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor Blogerator

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    The reason I recommended what I did is because, if you want to do minimal plotting, I would just write the inciting incident, the major turning points, and the climax, whith a strong eye toward the character arc, which is the heart and soul of the story. But you should understand what these things are and how they function. People who can write effectively without ever having studied story structure are generally people who have absorbed these ideas without realizing it, just from watching a lot of movies and reading a lot of stories, or they just somehow have a natural feel for it. If a person tries to write 'freehand', without learning these important elements, some can do it well and some can't. If someone can't, then the best course of action I could recommend would be to study and learn about them.

    Of course it's possible that when you were a pure discovery writer you were able to tap into something that planning prevents. Or maybe the collaboration has put obstacles in the way of your natural process. Especially if you're collaborating with someone who works very differently than you do.

    But I wouldn't get hung up at this stage on the idea of writing character-driven fiction. Each writer leans one way or the other—toward plot or character—but you don't try to force that or pre-determine it. The only way you find out which you are is to learn about structure and keep writing. Your natural tendencies will emerge as you do this. I guess it's natural though when somebody learns about the divide between plot-driven and character-driven fiction that they might immediately develop a liking for one or the other, but you might choose the wrong one and hamper your growth. Of course, I guess if this happens it will eventually pan out and you'll find your real approach, assuming you stick with it. I would say stay open-minded toward both, because whichever way you go, you do need to learn about both. They're both necessary, it's just a shift in emphasis.
     
  13. Not the Territory

    Not the Territory Contributor Contributor Contest Winner 2023

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    And when issues arise, I think even hyper-intuitive craftsmen still wisely retreat to the manual to see where they went wrong. Or perhaps they at least know how to seek out similar constructions from which to learn when needed.
     
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  14. scrambleburgan45

    scrambleburgan45 New Member

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    Oh wow, thanks for the replies. I've read them all, but I'm not going to try and reply to each of them individually, sorry lol, but I do appreciate them all. Yeah, I think maybe I ought to just try and work out a character arc for this guy (I sort of do but it's fairly minor) and figure out the story structure and what needs to happen in each "act", as you mentioned here:
    To clarify with this question:
    that was a different project, not this current one. My collaborator for that past project was certainly a planner so we met somewhere in the middle and it made me think that maybe I ought to do more planning than I usually do lol. So that's why with this new story I tried to get back into my "not planning and just running with it" mode (but it's not really working obviously lol).

    To answer this, I drew a character design and was like "oh this looks awesome" and sort of subconsciously started coming up with a story and background around this character. I didn't really use any sort of method to plan it, I just sort of grabbed another story-less character and was like "okay, scenario time" bahaha.

    I think what I have decided to do, besides what I said earlier, is to maybe let it sit and stew a bit and come back to it later, maybe figure out some better details and character arcs and whatnot. I've had this problem with another story of mine as well, and I found that when I left it for a while and came back, it wasn't as trash as I originally thought it was lol, so I suppose this one might need the same treatment.

    Danke~
     
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  15. ps102

    ps102 PureSnows102 Contributor Contest Winner 2024 Contest Winner 2023

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    We were having a small discussion about this very thing somewhere else in the forum. Sometimes, when you're really stuck, it's best to leave it alone. It basically helps freshen up your mind about it.

    This is how I wrote my first project (a trilogy) first the characters, then the story (though there were no drawings, just sheets). It can be done but I don't really recommend that you do it this way, unless you have a purely character-driven story. It's a pain to write a story around pre-existing characters as you might end up with some third-wheels, so to speak. And all characters should have a solid purpose, or else the audience will notice.

    That said, you don't necessarily need a plan, but you'll need a solid story structure. And because you tell me that you build the character first then the story, I suspect that you don't really have one. Without a story structure, and therefore without a character arc, it doesn't matter how much potential your character has. It will never be drawn out. It'll feel dry and that's why you hate it.

    It also sounds like you're still discovering yourself as a writer, as in you can't decide whether you're an outliner or a pantser. I struggled with this a lot myself and ended up figuring out that although I can work as a pantser, I work more efficiently as an outliner. For this reason, you should try some methods to continue this discovery. The three-act structure @Xoic suggested is good if you want something minimal. If you want to try planning everything, from story to characters, then I'd suggest the Snowflake Method.

    Good luck!
     
  16. w. bogart

    w. bogart Contributor Contributor Blogerator

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    The characters reactions to events and internal struggles with those events are a major force in driving the story forward.
     
  17. w. bogart

    w. bogart Contributor Contributor Blogerator

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    My editor recommended "Wired for Story" by Lisa Cron to me. My characterizations have improved, just being part way through the book. The author examines current neuroscience discoveries, and how they apply to story telling.
    Hope that resource helps.
     
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  18. scrambleburgan45

    scrambleburgan45 New Member

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    Thank you, I will check that out. :)
     
  19. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor Blogerator

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    I checked into that book when you first mentioned it. A lot of the comments say it's pretty basic and if you're at all familiar with story and character (from reading other books or watching a lot of videos about it) it doesn't give you anything you won't already know. But it's probably a good starting place if it's new to you.

    I don't know if that's true, I haven't read the book. Maybe the comments are by rival writers or publishers? Or just spiteful people. But I do like to check comments first. You do seem to be pretty knowedgeable about many things associated with writing though.
     
  20. w. bogart

    w. bogart Contributor Contributor Blogerator

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    I can see why some folks would say the points are basic, because they are. What I find fascinating about it, is the points are given reasons they are that way with neuroscience. And that is the key. Understanding that the reader processes the story like an actual experience, gives us what we need to make the story more engaging.
     
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