1. Rumwriter

    Rumwriter Active Member

    May 11, 2011
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    Don't know where to begin on character heavy story

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Rumwriter, Aug 29, 2013.

    So, usually I write stories that are very plot heavy, but I've had a story in mind that I've wanted to write for about a year that is much more focused on the character, and it is proving incredibly difficult to even start.

    Just for the sake of being able to get suggestions from you guys, it's about a bitter old man who hasn't been able to move on from his past, and it ends with a big epiphany moment (think Citizen Kane). I spend hours thinking about what tense it should be in, what POV, etc etc. I'm thinking about having it be from an external character's POV so that the audience can relate to this external character in getting to know the old man, but at the same time it seems like having a third person narrator who can look back on the life of the old man may help as well...hard to say. There aren't any clear plot points that need to happen like in most of my stories, and instead I just need to find ways to gradually explore this old man, but also relate him to this external character I think...I don't know, I keep going back and forth and I'm getting NOWHERE! I think Bartleby the Scrivener is a good example of the sort of story I'm thinking of, but I just can't think how to get started on this story...

    So, just to be clear I'm not asking for any specific plot help, but just things to consider or get me through the door. How do I create the plot for a story that's centered almost completely around exploring this one character?
  2. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Jul 11, 2010
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    Near Sedro Woolley, Washington
    Well, using Citizen Kane as an example, I'd set up a second character and do a pretty close third person using him as the POV character. Like Joseph Cotten in Kane. Third person will allow you to follow your MC when Cotten isn't there, but Cotten can provide some degree of objectivity, which would be lacking if the story was in first person from the MC's POV.

    I might even borrow the device of having Cotten recalling these events from the past - Old Cotten telling the story, so to speak. That gives the perspective of history.

    This is actually a pretty powerful and versatile POV.

    Creating a plot shouldn't be that big a deal, but maybe you shouldn't listen to me on that because I'm a pantser. You could start when your Cotten character first meets your MC. I know that's obvious, but it'll get you started and you can always change it later. Start wherever it's convenient - a better beginning will surely occur to you at some point during the writing, and as the MC's personality becomes clearer to you, you'll perceive his arc, and that will give you your plot.

    The important thing is to get going any way you can - get some scenes on paper, some words on paper. Sitting there stewing about not being able to begin won't get you anywhere.
    jannert likes this.
  3. jannert

    jannert Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Mar 7, 2013
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    You say you don't have a plot yet, but you certainly do have a reason for writing. You know exactly what you want your character to accomplish, so that's a framework. Once you get started, your plot AND characters will build themselves towards this goal.

    Lots of writing people, myself included, start with characters rather than plots. It makes for more story editing once you've finished, because the plot will change as you write, but it also gives you the chance to write anything you want, any way you want, the first time through.

    Minstrel's advice is very sound, and he's right about getting started. You must get started and quit worrying about if you're doing it right or not. You say 'story' but are you envisioning a short story, or a novel here?

    If this were me, and I were writing a novel, I would get a very clear vision in my head of ONE scene involving your character. Preferably a scene with dialogue and one with a fair amount of excitement in it, action, etc. Don't worry about how it fits into a plotline, or stew about who the other characters are, or anything else. Just watch your character dealing with people in ONE scene ...past, present or future ...and write that scene the way that seems most natural for you. Don't worry about point of view at this stage, just write what you see regarding this character, the way you see it. Then look over what you've got, and decide if it works ...or even put it on the forum for feedback.

    This will certainly give you a clue as to how to tell the story, what point of view to use, and also something of what your character is like. This, in turn, will lead you in the direction of a plot.

    Be prepared to be surprised. This might turn out to be a very different story than you first envisioned. Part of the fun of writing this way is that it's very organic. One thing leads to another, and you, the writer, just follow along, writing it all down. You give up some conscious control using this method, but your subconscious mind will do a lot of the grunt work for you.

    Good luck. I look forward to seeing your story take shape, maybe in one of the workshops.
    minstrel likes this.
  4. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    May 19, 2007
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    Massachusetts, USA
    Start in motion, not in stasis. Even a character driven plot shouldn't have grass growing on it. Put pressure on a character. Changes are imminent, how will the character cope? Or perhaps your character is forcing change upon others.
  5. Gene Harmon

    Gene Harmon New Member

    Sep 16, 2013
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    I have found that once I start writing, the characters and plot(s) take on a life of their own. As was already stated - just start writing it.

  6. Burlbird

    Burlbird Contributor Contributor

    Dec 29, 2011
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    Somewhere Else
    @Rumwriter I think you spent too much time thinking and deciding on wrong things... I just wrote in another post, but the thought applies here, so well. The whole issue of tenses, points-of-views, external/internal narrators - it all comes from descriptive literal theory. It was never ment to be proscriptive and/or to define how to write stories, but to describe how stories were written[/]. Of corse, you learn some things about writting before starting to write (you learned how to hold a pen and type on keyboard) but there is no deffinitive grammar of narrativeness. Instead of thinking about formal aspects of a story that doesn't exist yet (and, as such, is still just a possibility) you should start writing and exploring your character through writing (thus moving slowly into the realm of probability)...

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