1. Salamandrine

    Salamandrine New Member

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    Interesting characters, but struggling with plot

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Salamandrine, Sep 30, 2020.

    I'm feeling a bit lost because I have been developing these characters for years, and I think they are pretty strong, but I have been criticised (on Reddit) for not having developed a plot first.

    I just need a bit of inspiration. 3 siblings, separated for years, reunite after the death of their father. Something happens. I don't know whether it should be a dystopian power struggle or a modern family feud. I just feel lost and can't come up with a plot/setting. I had a dystopian world mapped out, divided into 3, controlled by a different system (religion, politics and military), but then, after the death of the king who oversees them all, the leaders of each tries to seize control and chaos ensues. The first son is shunned for his sexuality, the second son struggles with his religion and his lust for his cousin's wife. The only sister struggles for recognition for her gender and marriage to a man who her younger brothers view as beneath them.

    I can expand in more detail (and would love some feedback to explain where I get stuck), but any advice would be extremely welcome.
     
  2. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    Character arc - what do you want your characters to learn? What do they each want, and what do they need?
     
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  3. JuliaBrune

    JuliaBrune Member

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    Character driven plot can work, but I'm shit at it. I have this huuuge project that's a complete mess that makes no sense at all with the same character evolving in completely different genres over the years of me coming back to it from time to time. So you can do one of two things imo :

    1) Don't do what I did. Pick a starting situation, and force yourself and your characters to see it through to the end. Make them earn their keep. When things go a bit too easy, throw a disaster at them. Make it a true character play until they have shown all the good and the bad they have in them.

    2) Do what I do ! It's fun ! 90% of my well planned projects these days have a main character that's picked off from that whole mess I described earlier. In effect, that story has become a character training ground. What would they do during this battle I know super well ? How do they react to that dude doing a bunch of murders ? Which side do they pick ? Do they get killed by the bad guys after 3 days ? Do they get killed by the good guys after three days ? Why ?

    In fact the main character of my autumn WIP is derived from a friend of the second in command of the main character in the Unholy Untitled Mess.

    Either way, character driven writing can work but it requires a lot more discipline than a more balanced form of writing. I admire those who can do it greatly but I have to admit not everyone can. The only way to know if you can do it is to try.
     
  4. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

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    Don't be offended, and this is only my opinion, but I too would criticise you for creating characters before a plot.

    Why? As writers, we write because we have a story to tell. A story is a vehicle for your characters. Characters on their own are nothing. They may be the best character concepts in the world, but without a story, they're just profiles. The problem you have is that you're trying to fit a story around your characters, not the other way around.

    However, now that you've come this far, and selected your setting and start point, plot it out step-by-step. At each step, think - "What would my characters do in this situation, and what is the outcome of their actions?". That will help you to gradually formulate a plot.
     
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  5. J.D. Ray

    J.D. Ray Member Supporter Contributor

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    This is going to seem like it's out of left field, but watch "The Sons of Katie Elder" (1965), a John Wayne movie. The blurb goes like this:
    Can you use the plot of that movie in your genre with your characters? If so, I say go for it. :D
     
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  6. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber Contributor Contributor

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    Such a great movie--Dean Martin really elevates the whole thing.
     
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  7. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    Creating characters first is fine so ignore people who want to criticize you for that silly detail. I create characters first all the time and no one is in the position to judge the way others create their story as we are all different.

    So you think you have these characters very well developed which surprises me because if you did surely you would know the struggle. What is your characters lie? There ghosts and scars? their motivations? What is their arc? positive or negative?

    Conflict is important is a story and is usual stems from the characters goal, which stems from the characters want. Characters goal is to retrieve the precious gem to save the village (goal) so that they will accept him even if he's ugly and illegitimate (want). You could include a try fail cycle into that. He goes to the cave and isn't successful in retrieving the gem and wakes up the dragon that begins terrorizing the village increasing their hate towards him. You just keep building. Play what if what different scenarios. But my point is every story begins with a want, not necessarily a goal, because a goal is something tangible and obtainable. But something they desperately want with is often the opposite of what they need. So maybe this character needs to let go of confirming to other people's opinions and expectations of him. He's a kind person and doesn't need to become a hero to win people over, he just needs to expose himself to people and let them see the real him. That's what he needs to do.

    So what does your character want?
     
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  8. More

    More Active Member

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    Personally, I would not worry too much about the plot . If your intrests is the relationship of characters , write that .
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2020
  9. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I, too, create characters first. But then comes the fun. Make something happen to them.

    I'd say try to avoid getting 'too big.' By that, I mean getting your 'world' all mapped out ahead of time, especially if it's Fantasy. In a Fantasy world, you can manipulate details as they arise. So don't let the fact that you don't yet know every physical, religious, political, interpersonal and cultural detail hold you back. Even if you did know these things, you still don't have a story. You've got a vague idea about your world, right? That's good enough. Go for it. Construct details as you need them.

    The most important thing to do is get your characters directly involved in something. It can be something simple. Send a character out to feed the chickens ...one of the chickens escapes. This is either a minor annoyance—or a major problem, if the character is likely to be punished for losing the chicken. In tracking the chicken down, your character encounters something they didn't expect that forces them to act. Witnesses something they shouldn't? Or meets another person (someone they know, or a perfect stranger) doing something this character finds intriguing, or off-putting. Do they hide and watch and go away puzzled, until the situation crops up again? Or do they confront the situation then and there, getting the plot ball rolling...?

    In other words ...start small. Most stories do. This big overblown-world-building thing, that so many new writers delight in, can be a huge block to actually starting a story. I mean, if you're going to write about the real world which does exist and doesn't need to be built from scratch, you still have to find a story in it, don't you?

    So by all means start with characters, if that's what you like to do. But make something happen to them. Right away. EVEN if you don't know where the incident is leading yet. Just start. Let the plot evolve.
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2020
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  10. MusingWordsmith

    MusingWordsmith Shenanigan Master Contributor

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    I too often come up with a character before a plot, or characters-and-plot simultaneously. For me often when I have characters but no plot-- I'll make a note of those characters in a Scrivener project I've got especially for that purpose and leave it alone till I do have a plot that would fit those characters.

    If you're really struggling to figure out what kind of plot, what kind of world even to stick your characters in maybe it'd help you to jot a few notes down and leave them? Notes will help you not forget the characters (or at least they do for me) and then you can concentrate on a story that's got both characters and plot. A thing I've discovered for my writing too is sometimes I put characters in a story they don't belong. I have at least once broken up an ensemble cast and sent them to entirely different books.
     
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  11. Maggie May

    Maggie May Active Member

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    My characters seem to always be intertwined with the storyline. I can't seem to separate out the character from the story that evolves around them. Not sure if that makes sense.
     
  12. Thomas Larmore

    Thomas Larmore Active Member

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    I have a bunch of characters made up and I have no idea what to do with them. So -- I get it.
     

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