1. Foxe

    Foxe Active Member

    Oct 21, 2011
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    Making stories out of the abstract

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Foxe, Aug 1, 2017.

    Hey all,

    I like to think of myself as a fairly knowledgeable and thinking individual. I've spent time cultivating interests and ideas throughout the years.

    After years of struggling with writing stories (getting started, conceptualizing them through to the end, applying the morale, the subtle psychology into characters, etc), I think I've discovered the problem:

    I have all these ideas and all this knowledge, but I don't know how to turn them into characters, into plot, into a story. I think this is a major bottleneck to my creativity- i don't know how to apply my ideas and turn them into fiction.

    How do you guys take your abstract ideas, simple concepts, random thoughts, inner feelings that are hard to define, and then turn them into stories, and story elements?
  2. Walking Dog

    Walking Dog Active Member

    May 15, 2017
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    I'm assuming you're talking about displaying through stories things like love, hate, despair, peace, and other emotions and experiences of life. Like painting, it's a matter of time and perseverance on a single piece. I start by making an outline of all the scenes I think are important to tell my story. I begin writing each scene until I'm satisfied with it, which is never in one revision. I work on a scene, then another, eventually making my way back to the first. As I'm writing, I think of other scenes to add, as well as changes I need to make to existing scenes; and in some cases, I decide to change the plot. I must start to reach the end. The means isn't always clear. To answer your question honestly, I don't know. I start with an outline and go from there. A story comes together only if I stick with it.
  3. Alex R. Encomienda

    Alex R. Encomienda Contributor Contributor

    Jan 12, 2016
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    I can relate to forming a story based on a single idea or feeling. What helps me put it into a story is alcohol...

    .. No, I'm kidding. I'll give you an example. My short story "Sacred Geometry for Ariel V." is a story about a single father coping with his mentally ill daughter. The idea came to me when I was listening to Sisters by Pain of Salvation. I wanted to write something sad. I didn't know what it would be but I knew I wanted it to be sad and to provoke the same feelings as the song I was listening to so I thought to myself, "How can I write it so that it can give that same feeling to others?"
  4. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

    Mar 9, 2010
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    If you were me, you'd be doing it backward. I seem to write the story and only then realize what it's about. IMO, much of storytelling comes from the same part of our brain that makes dreams. If you try to apply the logical cognitive part of your brain to the themes and abstract ideas and emotions that you want to convey, you're shutting the dream part out and that's the part that you have the most urgent need for here.

    I wrote Bitter Oranges a few months before I realized that it was about my mother, her relentless hunger for validation and attention and a particular kind of companionship where she is the total focus, and her teetering sometimes-able, sometimes-not ability to treat people decently despite her desire to emotionally devour them. I thought it was about a hungry cat.

    I wrote four tiny stories at that time, the time when my mother was dying, and three of them are about finding friends where you should expect enemies, and being betrayed by the people that you should be able to trust, and, come to think of it, characters being eaten, literally or metaphorically. The fourth, Recycling, is more directly about chasing a mother's love and what to do when that fails, but I still won't say that I was trying to communicate that; I was just letting it drip out.

    In the Harry Potter thread I discussed my realization (OK, opinion, since I'm not the author) that a critical scene in A Wrinkle In Time is about a child's desperate desire to reach a dysfunctional parent. Did Madeline l'Engle in any way intend that?

    But returning to me, since I'm saying "if you were me", if you were me I'd suggest that you try to write a very short story every day for a while, not worrying about making it fit a theme, in fact suppressing the desire to make it fit a theme; just let characters and situations drip out. And then come back a few months later, dig through them, and see what's in there.
    izzybot and Megs33 like this.
  5. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Funky like your grandpa's drawers.... Staff Contributor

    Jan 8, 2017
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    Rhode Island
    Not to state the obvious, but that's a pretty good definition of what writing is.

    There's a huge difference between knowing what to write and actually being able to write it. Those are two different skills sets. Everybody has a million great ideas but very few people can sublimate them into a familiar medium and make it interesting/enjoyable enough for anyone to care. Like @ChickenFreak said, it sounds as if you should practice with shorts or scenes, writing one a day to get used to the bare mechanic of putting words on the page. That's all it is really--a buttload of words arranged in the correct order. No different than laying bricks or stacking a wood pile when you break it down to a manual process. Until you have the words sitting on the page there's nothing to talk about. So just do it. I realize that's probably not the most helpful of advice, but there's no magic wand to turn the idea into a thing.
    Foxe and Laurin Kelly like this.
  6. Megs33

    Megs33 Active Member

    Jul 7, 2016
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    Flagstaff, Arizona
    in the interest of keeping my writing from sounding contrived, i've come to accept that i may never have the underlying theme i'm pushing for. i may never grace the world with a story about a bunch of kids daydreaming in their tree house as an allegory of modern day politics. but maybe i will. i just won't know until i've already written it.
  7. GlitterRain7

    GlitterRain7 Galaxy Girl Contributor

    Jun 24, 2017
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    It just all involves sitting down and thinking about it. That's what I have to do. Sometimes it takes me a few minutes to find the answer to my problem, sometimes it takes weeks. Sometimes I get so discouraged that I can't find this answer, but you just have to fight through and keep putting every idea together until they make sense. Just keep writing, and each time you revise and edit your draft it should get a little bit closer to what you're looking for, at least that's what I tell myself.
    Foxe and TheNineMagi like this.

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