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  1. Stammis

    Stammis Senior Member

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    The core of a plot

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Stammis, Jun 11, 2019.

    I'm struggling with a really messy writing process and I'm trying to correct this by simplify plot as much as possible. I want to hold on to the core of the tale which should enable me to make changes to everything else without growing too attached to them.

    So, I want your opinion on this, would you say the core of the LoTR is: A hobbit finds a magic ring?

    Everything else is to discover how the hobbit finds the ring and what the ring is.
     
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  2. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Senior Member

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    A harmless being must destroy a weapon of infinite power to save the civilized world from darkness.

    To me it's a story about temptation and trust. It's about letting go of wealth, power, and even your own life to save others.
     
  3. Maverick_nc

    Maverick_nc Member

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    That is a complex example to break down the plot to its core. So many themes in LoTR. At its heart I agree with SevenCrowns, its a story of temptation, sacrifice and redemption. But plot-wise, I'd be hard pressed to condense it, so I wont even try!
     
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  4. Stammis

    Stammis Senior Member

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    I don't agree, from a writers perspective, I think everything can be broken down to it's core. If Biblo doesn't find the ring, there is no story. What you and Seven Crowns suggest is simply the theme. The theme is something you discover later and is not absolutely essential to the plot.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2019
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  5. Stammis

    Stammis Senior Member

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    A story doesn't come out fully formed, what I mean is, from a writers perspective, what would you need to know to write LoTR's? The very core of what the story is? The building block which you place all other blocks on top off. This is of course to assume that you write as a discovery, I don't recall what this type of writer is called, but it's the opposite of a planner.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2019
  6. Lifeline

    Lifeline Going South. Supporter Contributor

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    @Stammis: Gardener/Pantser

    A theme is not the same thing as the main plot thread. Theme is an underlying message that's often only obvious after the tale is told. For me, LOTR theme is that friendship is the most precious thing in the world and conquers all. The main plot thread would be to destroy the ring. (I am not expert on LOTR so correct me if I'm wrong.)

    A plot can have many different sideplots that produce events to move the plot forward, and I think this is what the OP struggles with: Too many of them or not focused enough so that they move the plot forward. He wants to cut all that don't contribute to the main plotline.
     
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  7. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Senior Member

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    In many cases the theme of a story is its foundation, not its plot.
     
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  8. talltale

    talltale Member

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    When you say core, I believe you are referring to the central theme of the story.

    In LoTR, the central theme is not to let your lust for power/money corrupt you, and to find contentment with the simple things: family, friends, etc.
     
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  9. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Spitting .45 caliber grammar.... Contributor

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    I think you might be referring to what I call the "driving engine." Basically it's the plot mechanism that keeps the story moving forward... or to put it another way, it's the mechanism that allows the story to be adorned with all the themes, characters, imagery, messages, etc. Kind of like how a car could be a Ferrari, BMW, Honda, Gremlin or whatever. Strip away the bells, whistles, and adornments, and it's only a gas engine that moves a heavy hunk of metal forward.

    So for LoTR, then, yes... the driving engine would be a group of dudes that need to destroy the ring. The characters can take a chapter to explore a creepy forest, meets some magical creatures, sing some songs, explore some themes, but then it's time to stop all that and get back to the journey to Mordor. LoTR is a good example of this, because none of its many poignant themes have much substance, dimension, or context without the ring and the journey to Mordor.

    That's not true in all cases. LoTR is a fairly straightforward adventure story with a single destination and a limited number of outcomes, at least plot-wise. So it's unlikely that Tolkien came up with a list of themes first and then decided to create a magic ring and a bunch of fantastical characters. But once you veer into literary fiction, which isn't always plot heavy, then themes and other fancy stuff definitely occupy the driving engine of the story. Though I suppose even the dude in the Old Man and the Sea had a fish to catch.
     
  10. Stammis

    Stammis Senior Member

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    It's more or less what you're saying, I'm afraid of being pulled in different directions because I don't have a guiding light, of sorts. It's not so much about subplots but more being that I didn't know what the story was from the beginning. When I write, I give in completely to the tale and and lets it pull me in whatever direction it wants, but I think that was a mistake.

    The idea of the story sprung from something and if I lose sight of the so called 'core,' I lose sight of the story itself. It becomes a mess of random ideas without a direction.
     
  11. Lifeline

    Lifeline Going South. Supporter Contributor

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    That's a good analogy. The theme would be that it is a car. The plot would be where it is driving to. The central conflict would be the driving engine.

    @Stammis : Maybe talk to a friend about your story. When I was starting out, back in early 2016, I had a co-worker who I always talked to over morning coffee. One day I told him about the story idea I had. It was unformed and I only had a few scenes in my head, not knowing or caring where it'd lead (I am also very much a gardener). In talking, I emphasised the elements of my story that made it a story to me, even though I hadn't formulated them to myself earlier. This summary I gave over steaming coffee kind of condensed my story for me. My co-worker also got it. He laughed. You know the glint certain people get in their eyes when they challenge you, make fun of you, and dare you to do something not-entirely-wise? And then he said, 'I dare you to write this story.' I am still writing :D

    Whenever I need to focus on what I am writing, I remember this coffee break.
     
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  12. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I'm not an expert on the jargon, but I think of "a hobbit finds a magic ring" more as an inciting incident, in the non-jargon-y definition, rather than the core of the plot. The hobbit finding the ring is what sets everything in motion, sure, but when I think "core" I think of something that extends right through the structure, and finding the ring is resolved quite early in LOTR (doesn't he already HAVE the ring at the start of LOTR? Bilbo found it, but isn't LOTR about Frodo? It's been a long time since I read those books...)

    I could see "a hobbit has to destroy a magic ring" as being the core of the story, maybe. But just finding it doesn't seem like enough.
     
  13. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    First off, the finding of the Ring isn't even, strictly speaking, part of the LotR. The Hobbit is a separate story entirely, and the main theme of that is the evolution of one provincial and comfortable person into a adventurer and leader.

    The principal central plot of LotR involves a war between Good and Evil. Like any plot, you have to have an actro (LotR has several, but the Fellowship represents the actor for the principal plot), an objective (to win, or at least survive, the war), a motivating force (victory or defeat hinges on the destruction of the Ring), and the opposition (Sauron and his forces will do anything to capture the Ring and use it against those whom he would conquer.)

    A plot is what moves a storyline, It isn't the storyline itself. And a plot is typically constructed of a network of smaller plots.
     
  14. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Senior Member

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    @Cogito I can't tell from your post's context the difference between the "objective" and "motivating force." Would you mind clearing that up for me?
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2019
  15. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A goal or objective is more or less static. It's where you want or expect to end up due to the motivating force. But the motivating force is what actually drives the character toward the goal. The opposition is the forse that tries to prevent or deflect the character's movement toward the goal.

    Consider getting a college degree. The goal is to achieve the degree. The motivating force may be that you are having difficulties getting job interviews because you don't have that degree, and your bills are piling up. The opposition is the amount of time and effort (and money) required to obtain that degree.

    In analogy to a physical system, the character is an object, the objective is where want the object to end up, the motivating force is a force upon the object to accelerate it toward the goal, and the opposition is the a force (vector) on the object that opposes motion toward the goal.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2019
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  16. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Senior Member

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    I understand now. Though using your terminology & perspective, I believe you've misdiagnosed the LotR.
    The objective would be the destruction of the ring. The motivating force would be to survive the war against evil.
     
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  17. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I think the core of any plot revolves around the wants or desires of the character. The plot is what happens when it comes to reaching or failing to reach whatever that is, but the ore of it is whatever that is.
     
  18. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I understand the need to simplify the plot. The idea of holding onto the core of the plot is a good one, but you need to be clear what's your core.

    I think, when all is said and done, all the technicalities aside, the core is whatever excited you about the story. What's the essence of it that caused you to love it so much, you just have to write this book? Because if you lose that, you either won't finish or you'd end up with something quite mechanical. It might still be publishable, why not, but it will have lost its soul.

    So I wouldn't say it's necessarily the plot. A man can get water through a variety of ways, and the way he gets that water would be the plot. But the man is the same in each version. For me, I'd say the characters and their backstories are the core, because everything else is driven from these. So, what are the non-negotiables of your story? Take care - beware you don't change things just because you need it to go a certain way. Keep what you love - fight for those aspects, make them work. Because what's the point if you no longer love the story?
     
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  19. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Not really. The Ring was thought a useful trinket, until it was revealed to be the key to the Enemy's victory. Even leaving the Shire was out of fear of the threat of the Enemy, long before the Ring's destruction was seen to be the only chance of surviving the developing war. Even then, some like Saruman and Boromir thought to use the ring against the Enemy - for survival.

    The Ring was never a motivating force. Fear of the Enemy (and what He would do to neighbors and friends) was the motivating force for Frodo to leave the Shire with the Ring. After the Council of Elrond, the new motivating force was to deliver the Ring to the only place it could be unmade. But surviving or ending the threat of the Enemy and the war was ever the goal of Frodo and company, even when the means or the path was unclear.

    However, you are correct that different readers (or writers) will extract different elements of the principal plot. Some work better than others, but there is no specific, single right answer. For the writer, the important thing is to have a dynamic that both moves the story in the right direction and provides tension. A plot with a weak opposition lacks interest, and in fact you usually want to add plots (subplots) that increase the tension by adding more oppositions AND more motivating forces. Thus the story takes a meandering route rather than an easy straight-line path to the goal.
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2019
  20. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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    Remember, Tolkien took 12 terms of CW class and purchased every available manual before 'Hobbit' was self-published, and on-line in his 80th year.
     
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  21. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Senior Member

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    None of this is relevant imo.
    Both of which serve as antagonists/sources of conflict.
    I agree. You're the one who said it was.
    Disagree. That's the new objective. The new motivating force is to win/survive the upcoming war against evil.

    I don't see this disagreement going anywhere interesting, so this is the last time I'll comment on it.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2019
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  22. Malisky

    Malisky Mercury Retroblade Contributor

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    @Cogito and @Bone2pick , this is actually an interesting mini analysis. You are both right from your POV's I think. Anything could work depending from which side or character or even object you see it. This is why LoTR is so popular. It's very clever storytelling.

    Now to the OP.
    There are two main paths that an adventure starts. Either the adventure comes to the heroe and he has to leave his hometown, or the hero goes to the adventure and that's why he left his hometown from the beginning. In LoTR, the adventure (Gandalf) came to town and found Frodo. If he didn't Frodo would be irrelevant. It could be anybody else. But the story doesn't have just one hero. It has many and each hero has his or her adversaries.

    A very simple structure the way I see it for epic fantasy from the heroes side:

    1) Adventure comes to town. Hero has to depart.
    2) Hero looks for comrades to help him. An alliance is made.
    3) The alliance departs for a hell of an adventure. (On the road). They bond or split. Friends and foes revealed.
    4) Hope is lost. Tragic event.
    5) Hope is found. Something overpowering happens when you least expect it.
    6) Epic battle. Heroes against evil forces.
    7) Heroes win. One of them made the difference to end all conflict though. Maybe sacrificed himself.
    8) Heroes return to mother Russia and drink vodka merrily. They get stupid drunk and have rough sex. Happy end. :p
     
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  23. Selbbin

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Something tells me you haven't read or seen LoTR because he gets it right at the start. The core of Lord of the Rings is wanting the destruction of the ring, not the finding. Bilbo 'finds' it in The Hobbit, but it's not even a major plot point in the Hobbit. It starts as a magic ring of invisibility in a book where the plot is about finding a mine full of treasure.

    Anyway.... You have your characters, their desires, the opposing force, and the the world they reside in which makes up the rules. How the characters (try to) reach their desires in defiance of the opposing force within the constraints of the rules, is your plot.

    So based on this, it's about a hobbit wanting to destroy an evil ring in defiance of the dark lord in a world of wizards and magic. That's the plot.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2019
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  24. badgerjelly

    badgerjelly Contributor Contributor

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    Hero’s journey. They’re all hero’s journey stories - innocent dies, suffering is felt, and if they don’t die - dying would make it a tragedy - they slay the proverbial dragon and gain some prize.

    There you go! That is the whole plot of every single narrative in the world - they only differ in theme and style.
     
  25. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    I distrust the desire to simplify a plot down so much to a simple essence, and the desire to construct an "ur-narrative" or base narrative for every story. I'd rather talk about the stories as they are in detail, because that's what truly gives them depth and individuality.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2019
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