1. Banananarchiste

    Banananarchiste Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2017
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    Montreal

    How can you shape a plot from a character development based story?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Banananarchiste, Aug 25, 2017.

    Hello everyone!

    (Firstly, keep in consideration that I am a french writer writing in french for my works.)

    By spending countless hours on my WIP I kept having this major issue: How can I work out a plot from a character based story?

    Let me explain myself, this story involves a sixteen years old guy, fighting his fears of a big city at night and its inhabitants by doing some illegal stuff. Even thought the hero finds lots of friends and has countless adventures throughout the book, my plot seems really weird to work on. (Also, the story is written in the first person)
    The point of the book is to build this character mental strength, making him tuff and fearless. But what is HIS goal? The story is evolving around graffiti since I can relate to it. But should I give my character a specific goal for himself or let him flow by the elements that I place him on?

    Theres the ending that I, the writer want to develop "subconsciously" throughout the book, but theres the dreams and objectives that my character should also have. I'm struggling to mix up the two.

    Thanks a lot! I hope you understand what I mean and tell me if you need more information about the story or the character.
     
  2. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    Messages:
    3,269
    Likes Received:
    2,735
    Welcome to the site!

    I tend to take the brute-force approach: I pick an idea at random, I play with it for a while to see if I like it or not, and if not, I figure out what I don't like about it so that I can come up with another idea that I like better.

    When I'm having trouble coming up with a good starting point, I stop trying to come up with a good idea and try to instead come up with the opposite of a bad idea :) I take an idea that I do not like seeing people use – either in fiction or in the real world – and I try to come up with something which demonstrates why this popular idea is wrong.

    Also: your English is a lot better than my French ;)
     
    Banananarchiste likes this.
  3. DueNorth

    DueNorth Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2014
    Messages:
    349
    Likes Received:
    293
    Location:
    Minnesota
    Let me recommend 2 books: "Story Engineering" by Larry Brooks & "Thrill Me" by Benjamin Percy. In my opinion, an engaging plot is crucial. Fascinating characters are necessary, but will not carry a failed plot. Think through and outline your plot and suspense points as part of your revision. Good luck!
     
  4. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    4,542
    Likes Received:
    2,825
    Location:
    England
    I couldn't write plot if my life depended on it, but I think your problem is you're taking two different types of story telling and trying to make one. Either go for character-driven or plot-driven - don't try and do both.
     
    Banananarchiste likes this.
  5. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    Messages:
    3,269
    Likes Received:
    2,735
    ... I have never had that problem. I've always tried - and I would think managed - to do both.
     
    Trish and Banananarchiste like this.
  6. surrealscenes

    surrealscenes Senior Member

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2017
    Messages:
    366
    Likes Received:
    242
    Location:
    a room made of impossible angles
    You are writing about a person's journey.
    People have needs, desires, psychological needs, moral needs, etc.
    Using your example, I would say, his psychological need- to feel safe and/or fit in to the society he is in; his moral need- to stop breaking the law. (put simply)
    The psychological need is something we usually see in ourselves (he wants to feel safe and/or fit in with those around him and feel as an equal).
    The moral need is something usually seen by others (he needs to stop commiting crimes).
    When reading or watching something we get to know what the character wants, but we see what they need to stop doing that hurts others, while he doesn't see the crime as really hurting others. So, we kind of root for the hero in different ways at once. We want your character to see value in himself, and finding value in himself will cause him to see that he has been hurting others with his criminal activity, which causes him to reevaluate himself and make positive changes to himself & his life.

    In a story I am beginning to outline, my MC hurts his mom (by thinking & treating her, and the world, as a thing that needs to be dealt with). Thinking and treating her, and the world well is his moral need; the audience will see it, but he will not, until his revelation.
    His psychological need will be along the lines of saving the world.

    I hope this is what you are looking for and I am not babbling the opposite.
     
    Banananarchiste likes this.
  7. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    4,542
    Likes Received:
    2,825
    Location:
    England
    I have no doubt you did manage it :)

    I think what I meant is that a novel will be stronger in one area than the other, and that the writer should be naturally drawn to one. I'm not suggesting character-driven means abandoning all plot, or vice-versa, but plots are an anathema to me and I will always be drawn by characters in both my writing and reading.

    Plot, shmlot. What is plot anyway?
     
    Banananarchiste likes this.
  8. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    11,002
    Likes Received:
    11,613
    Location:
    Scotland
    Start with your character. What motivates him? What does he want to happen (or not to happen?) What are the problems he's encountering? Make sure he's got problems. In fact, it adds depth to a story if you can come up with a problem he can't actually solve, but can only deal with in some way. Every time you're tempted to make something easy for him, turn that impulse on its head and make it difficult instead. Do a lot of what-iffing. What if this happened? What if he did that?

    If you engage with this process, you will find a plot will start to emerge, but the character basis for your story will remain strong. Obviously when people read, they don't want to just be led through a lot of stuff to no purpose. So you will need to take your character somewhere, and hopefully he'll either change (but maybe not quite the way you expect him to) or he'll remain unchanged while life leaves him behind. But make sure there is some sense of change as you work through the story.

    I'd concentrate on change. What's going to change? Then make it happen.
     
  9. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Digging out my Balzac Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2017
    Messages:
    4,319
    Likes Received:
    6,826
    Location:
    Rhode Island
    When did these become mutually exclusive?
     
  10. DueNorth

    DueNorth Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2014
    Messages:
    349
    Likes Received:
    293
    Location:
    Minnesota
    Characters show themselves in the context of a plot. "Character-driven" only means the strength of the characters overshadows the plot. Good novels have both compelling plot and characters, not one or the other.
     
  11. Walking Dog

    Walking Dog Active Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2017
    Messages:
    151
    Likes Received:
    105
    Location:
    Texas
    I think you're close to a plot. A sixteen year old boy involved in crime, making friends (accomplices) along the way. What if he and his friends steal something of immense consequence, such as a container of plutonium being marketed to the highest bidder. The seller must get it back because he has already accepted payment. But he can't report the crime to the police. Yet, the government knew about the sell and was waiting for the transfer of goods before making the arrest. So now, your MC and his friends are being chased by the government who want the plutonium and to make arrests. And the MC is being chased by the seller and his people who want to regain the merchandise and exact revenge upon the thieves. Now the MC has a goal. How does he get himself out of this mess? The government and the seller must collide, and the MC has to arrange it so that he walks away with his freedom and his life. How's that sound?
     
    Banananarchiste and Simpson17866 like this.
  12. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    4,542
    Likes Received:
    2,825
    Location:
    England
    I'm not suggesting they are, but you can't say someone like Charles Bukowski wrote novels with plots matching those of someone like Tom Clancy.

    Anyway, like I said, I don't really know what 'plot' is, so maybe I should have kept me gob shut.
     
    Homer Potvin likes this.
  13. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2017
    Messages:
    787
    Likes Received:
    845
    Location:
    Traveling Contractor
    There's an excellent thread on Plot Creation and Development by Cogito https://www.writingforums.org/plot-development/
    When people discuss 'character driven' and 'plot driven' stories I think of the 'plot device' character who is only there to move the story along. I believe this is the 'plot driven' story. Action movies tend to have a lot of these sort of characters. But, they are still characters, just under-written.
    You seem to have an actual character here, so, that is a fantastic start. I recall reading a book , Berlin Zoo ( or something) about teenagers in Germany surviving on the streets of the big city. It started with a group of friends and ended when the only survivor decides to leave that life style. Your MC could have a similar journey with a climax of dealing with his fears and then a resolution on what he will do next.
     
  14. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Digging out my Balzac Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2017
    Messages:
    4,319
    Likes Received:
    6,826
    Location:
    Rhode Island
    Hahahahaha. We'll call it The Hunt for Ham on Rye.
     
    OurJud and jannert like this.
  15. Banananarchiste

    Banananarchiste Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2017
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    Montreal
    Thank you so much!

    I actually started my story, like many, by focussing on the character (especially because it is a character driven novel). And he has many major issues which all form his everyday life. Violent bullying, lots of headaches (sorry but 'migraineux' in french), huge parental issues since his dad is a depressive alcoholic and his mom a prostitute. They live in huge poverty because of indebtedness. All of this made the character hateful towards society and the city he lives in. He is lost in darkness, inside a world in which he doesn't socially exist.

    I want to develop throughout the story how he can escape this nightmare he lives in, but I never thought about those little problems as the main plot. Graffiti is the answer because he feels alive and existing (on the walls that people have no choice but to see), and he makes friends, guys with similar issues. These guys are the answer for the MC social issues, his bullying issues and parental situation because he comes living with them at some point of the story.

    I guess I did the thing about starting with my MC issues. But I feel like he has no motivation. Should I make him want to exist and starts painting? Or maybe he wants the thrill of the thing, like after a violent shock. Maybe he gets beaten up and bullied violently and feels outraged and just goes painting like crazy? but it goes no where for the "big plot".
    Maybe I can start with one of those ideas, then by discovering the graffiti world he wants to accomplish something within that world? Is this something to have many small steps throughout the book?

    Thanks again for your answer it seems that I wrote the beginning blindfolded but now I understand what I didi and mostly where I should go.
     
    jannert likes this.
  16. Banananarchiste

    Banananarchiste Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2017
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    Montreal
    Well that was great thank you very much for the idea.

    I first started to write the novel as a way to express what I lived myself doing graffiti. But I'm absolutely doing it more intense and imagining crazy stories like yours.
    But I used the word 'stories' I can also say 'anecdotes'. I want the book to be filled with chapters all representing (put really simply) one anecdote. So I could totally use your idea, and I might! But this would be written within one and a half or two chapters.
    I have this chapter (that I might write in two because its filled with information) by the end of the book where theres a protest against police and institutions. A big event happened (maybe a shooting went wrong or someone died because of the police) so people come protesting all over the city. The graffiti writers, all my main characters, go there to paint a huge wall and paint a mural against the cities institutions within the crowd. While painting the eight meters high mural the police starts going on the protestants with water guns and non lethal weapons. The main character is stuck on a fifteen meter high advertising panel against the wall. He has no choice but to climb his way on another building next to the action.
    In another story the graffiti writers go paint in a train yard and a police chase happens. They manage to knock out a police officer and steal his gun. its all over the media and the kids have to get rid of it because they are wanted all over the city.
    The book is filled with small anecdotes but I was talking about the big major plot. The reason I wrote the book, does it has to be the same my MC has to have?

    Thank you again for your great idea :)
     
  17. Banananarchiste

    Banananarchiste Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2017
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    Montreal
    Thank you very much I'll go check it out. You might be right I'm not sure if my story involves just another character or if it is actually a character based story. Since I wrote it in first person I was sure that it was a character based one. Should there be a line between the two types of story or can I mix them up?

    Thanks I'll go check the book also, this was sort of my idea, fighting fears by placing the character inside them.
     
  18. Banananarchiste

    Banananarchiste Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2017
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    Montreal
    Thank you very much!
     
  19. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    11,002
    Likes Received:
    11,613
    Location:
    Scotland
    Why does he start doing graffiti in the first place? (I assume you mean artistic graffiti, not just scrawling 'fuck you' on fences and walls.) Start maybe with his reasons for beginning that form of expression. Does he start doing graffiti art while he's still living at home with his dysfunctional family? What materials does he use? Chalks? Spray paint? After he gets home after a day of making pictures, what does he feel like? Happier? More in control? Or maybe very despairing because his reality is nothing like the dreams he has while he's hard at work on a picture. Does he put a 'hat' out to collect donations while he's working on a picture? Who does he meet in the process? And what about if/when the pictures are destroyed? Most graffiti is temporary, at best. Does he want to do something that is more permanent?

    Just keep asking yourself questions like this and the story will start to take shape.
     
    Banananarchiste likes this.
  20. Banananarchiste

    Banananarchiste Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2017
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    Montreal
    Thank you again for your answer you are really helping me out!

    Well I could go within your way by the end of the book, the character realizing he was wrong.
    But actually I want the reader to be as 'inside' the book as possible and as 'with' the character as possible (at least for the illegal stuff/graffiti part).
    For example I have a chapter with the characters protesting against the police and institutions, in that chapter I want the reader to be with the character, on their side.
    The novel is filled of denunciations against society: The character has an alcoholic father and a prostitue mom, he meets a hobo in the street, a rich guy trying to kill himself, he gets bullied at school.
    But by the end of the book, this whole lifestyle became to much and way too stressful. I want the reader to shift and be with the character when he takes a break.

    So maybe you miss understood the way I wrote the book I'm sorry.
    The question regarded the 'big story idea' that I had in mind: character not becoming afraid of anything the city had to give him by the end of the book, and what the character had in mind. Should I mix the two or should the character have a distinctive idea f what he wants for his life?

    Thank you again :)
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  21. Banananarchiste

    Banananarchiste Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2017
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    Montreal
    Thank you very much
    It's a simple way to get it done correctly. I'll try it out even more than I used to and hopefully I'll be happy with what it has done.
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  22. Banananarchiste

    Banananarchiste Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2017
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    Montreal
    Thank you very much for you advise.
    And thank you again I'm trying my best here :)
     
  23. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    Messages:
    3,269
    Likes Received:
    2,735
    Just a quick pointer, it's generally preferred on this site that you quote a bunch of people at once instead of making a separate post responding to each.

    Like this.

    Or this.

    And this ;)
     
    Banananarchiste likes this.
  24. Banananarchiste

    Banananarchiste Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2017
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    Montreal
    Thank you very much and sorry for the inconvenience.
     
  25. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    Messages:
    3,269
    Likes Received:
    2,735
    No problem :)
     
    Banananarchiste likes this.

Share This Page