1. Shelby Howell

    Shelby Howell New Member

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    Plot Development Troubles

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Shelby Howell, Jun 20, 2018.

    So, I’ve been attempting to work on my second novel for a while now, and I know my characters and setting pretty well, as well as some of the conflicts and story elements. However, I keep hitting a wall with the actual plot, if that makes any sense. I’ve tried several storylines, and none of them feel right for the characters. I’ve actually swapped genres a few times, and it’s growing sort of frustrating.
    I truly love these characters and the basic idea that I have for the story, so I don’t want to give up on it at all. But the plot is lacking any sort of “kick”, you might say. I want to give the story an element that will grab readers’ attention, rather than writing a bland record of the characters’ daily lives without any sort of real interest.
    Anyway, I guess you could say I’ve been experiencing a strange form of writers’ block. I was just wondering if anyone else had experienced this, and if so, do you have any advice on how to overcome it and drum up some inspiration?
     
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  2. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Hi and welcome to the forum!

    I'm sure this is a common enough situation, actually. You have come up with characters and you're getting to know them. I think when you do eventually form a plot, your story will have a lot of life, simply because your characters haven't been created to enact a plot, but exist, in your mind now, as 'real' people. That's not a bad place to start.

    Now ...start to have fun with this. Start playing 'what if' games. What if she found herself in . ..what? What would she do? What would the others do in that situation? Push these situations into almost surreal territory and see what happens. Don't just have them start college. Have them fall in with the mafia. Or have them embark on a trip to Patagonia. Or have one of them go suddenly blind. And etc. Give them something really unusual to do, or have something really unusual happen to them. This can normally start a story. What is the worst thing that could happen to them? No, even worse than that ...omg, no not THAT...

    Or pick a setting, maybe, that you know nothing about. Start doing some research about that setting, and see what the research throws up that might set off an idea or two.

    If something isn't working for you, it's a good idea to change your approach. So instead of trying to think up a story element that would grab reader's attention (in a sensible way) just throw the book at them. Play that what-if game. Scan news stories. Look at picture books. Visit YouTube and follow crazy leads. You know your characters quite well by now, so sooner or later something will pop up that you will know is going to be your story.

    Take the brakes off and rattle off down the hill. It's fun.
     
  3. Shelby Howell

    Shelby Howell New Member

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    That’s super helpful advice! Thanks :)
     
  4. Zerotonin

    Zerotonin Serotonin machine broke

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    This is literally exactly how I write anything, except it's more of my ADHD taking the wheel and asking stupid questions like "What if balloons had feelings, and them popping was just a quick, painful death rattle?" You know, normal things like that...
     
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  5. SolZephyr

    SolZephyr Member Supporter

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    You're describing how I started with my current WIP (and my previous idea for a story that got shelved for now).

    Pretty much this.

    For example, I knew early on what I wanted my characters to ultimately accomplish, so first I worked to come up with a reason for that to be significant and desirable to them. They needed motivations to reach that ultimate goal, so I gave them some (one set of motivations to get them going on the journey, another set that arises later to push them towards the ultimate goal).

    Next I needed to get the characters together, so I put together the basic journey. That by itself ended up pretty boring, just go here, go there, meet up later because reasons, etc.

    Now that's not an exciting story, so I made the settings more hazardous (not just physically; I'm talking things like dangerous locals and whatnot as well) and thought of ways things could go wrong in a believable way given the new settings. Once I had something interesting for each location, I came up with ways the characters could overcome those obstacles.

    Add in a dash of overarching theme and that's where I am now. I've still got more details to work out in a couple of the middle sections, but what I've got now is much more solid than it was.

    I don't know if the same order of steps is best for you, but it worked for me, so I thought I'd share.
     
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  6. BlitzGirl

    BlitzGirl Senior Member

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    Yeah, some of the most exciting/interesting scenes/plot ideas I've come up with were completely improvised, where I was feeling a bit bored or stuck, and ended up having something either dangerous or intense happen to mix things up. I didn't always write those scenes with the intent to keep them in...but they ended up sticking because they gave the story what it needed to not be "blah". If that means my main character is in constant danger, then so be it. What matters is that she finds ways to overcome those dangers, and hopefully discovers something about herself or the bigger picture in the process.

    So I, too, started with the "what if" game when I felt things were dragging! :)
     
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  7. Shelby Howell

    Shelby Howell New Member

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    I can definitely relate to this. Those are good ideas! Thanks for sharing :)
     
  8. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Something else I meant to add.

    In the 'what if' game, it's useful to play with what the worst thing might be. What is the worst thing that could happen to these characters? (Individually, or as a group.) Dig deep. Aim to create a problem that really can't be solved.

    Just an example. Your main character is under attack. That's bad enough if these are all 'evil' people doing the attacking—but that's such a cliché. What would make it worse? The person attacking them is somebody they thought was a friend. Or actually IS a friend. (So why is this friend attacking them?) Or maybe it's a family member. A family member whom they love? What if the attack is actually the main character's own fault, and he's in the wrong? Or feels his actions have inadvertently caused this situation?

    Or ...what is the best thing that could happen? What does the character want most of all? What happens if he gets it? Is there a sting in the tail? Of course there is. Nothing is ever perfect, is it? So what happens then?

    And etc. Push this worst/best exercise till you reach a point where your story suddenly has meaning.
     
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