1. StihlStamper

    StihlStamper New Member

    Jun 25, 2016
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    Tons of Backstory, No Plot, What am I doing Wrong?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by StihlStamper, Jun 25, 2016.

    Hi folks, first post so here goes.

    I have been developing two characters and their story world for years. Whenever I write something it's usually an unfinished scene with lots of talking or explaining. I really don't like that. I have a really good grasp on who these characters are and how they got that way. I have a good grasp on their relationship to each other.

    Problem is whenever I try to think of a plot or central conflict for a story I come up dry! Whenever i try to create action it just turns into a lot of talking or stream-of-conciousness nonsense that doesn't fit together.

    Any tips on how to brainstorm a conflict?
  2. doggiedude

    doggiedude Contributor Contributor

    Feb 15, 2016
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    Florida, USA, Earth, The Sol System
    Main character + what they want + what stopping them from getting it = plot

    That's about all I ever do to come up with something.
    Tesoro likes this.
  3. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

    Jul 5, 2010
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    California, US
    Why not write a story focusing on the events that are currently backstory?
    Simpson17866 and Sifunkle like this.
  4. MissBri

    MissBri New Member

    Jun 16, 2016
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    Step 1: Figure out what your character wants. Ex: Bob wants the Holy Grail
    Step 2: Why do they want it? Ex: Bob want to save his sister with the magical powers of the Grail.
    Step 3: What's keeping them from getting what they want (or accomplishing the task) Ex: The Grail is guarded by a terrible, fire breathing, man eating dragon.
    Step 4: What happens if your character fails? Ex: Bob's sister turns into a turtle.

    These are the steps I tend to take when I have all character and no plot. Hope this helps.


  5. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Mar 3, 2013
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    Ralph's side of the island.
    Hi, welcome to the forum.

    You have characters you can relate to, maybe a setting. You can imagine a world.

    Ask yourself what you care about in the world today. What bugs you about the stories you read, what are they missing, what do they get wrong?

    What is the conflict in your own life? Or what was the conflict you experienced in the past?

    Search your own soul, we all have stories there, waiting to be told.
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  6. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

    Jan 28, 2014
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    Maybe your characters are too contented in your story world. What could happen to disrupt it, or to leave them wanting more?

    Incidentally, it doesn't always have to be: "If my MC doesn't act, the Universe Will Be Destroyed!!!!!!"
    MissBri and GingerCoffee like this.
  7. terobi

    terobi Senior Member

    May 20, 2015
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    Manchester, UK
    Pretty much, work out what your character wants, then chuck as many obstacles in their way as you can.

    Don't spend pages of scene-setting, description or worldbuilding. Add a few sentences explaining something when it becomes necessary, and not before. Nobody needs to know about the Expansion of the Holy Empire of Zarn in the Millennia before the Great Ice War until it becomes relevant to what your characters are doing (or about to do) at the time.

    Some of it is nice background texture, sure - but your characters and plot should take centre stage. Fill in the exposition later.
    Catrin Lewis likes this.
  8. DeadMoon

    DeadMoon The light side of the dark side Contributor

    Dec 7, 2014
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    fargo, ND
    What do I want? to help you with advice.
    Why do I want this? its art of what this forum is all about.
    What is stopping them? everyone else already gave good advice
    What happened is I fail? ...in this case, nothing but that turtle this sounds pretty bad. unless its the ninja turtle and NOT A MICHEAL BAY NINJA TURTLE!!!
  9. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributor Contributor

    Jun 7, 2015
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    Most of the time, people will tell you that conflict takes the form of:
    • human vs. human,
    • human vs. god,
    • human vs. society,
    • etc., etc.
    But all that defines is who's fighting, not why.

    And it really doesn't help when we're trying to come up with a story idea interesting enough so someone will want to read it (or if we're being honest with ourselves, make it interesting enough to write). For the type of dilemma you seem to be in, we have to look at this in a different light.

    Conflict takes two basic forms:
    • Conflict Type A: the protagonist and the antagonist both want the same thing: the box of gold, the sweet thang, the promotion... you get the idea,
    • Conflict Type B: the antagonist wants something, but the protagonist doesn't want him to have it (or vice versa): world domination, a better life, to build a skyscraper,
    You could imagine this like a football game:
    • two quarterbacks both want to win the game (Type A), and
    • Team A's Quarterback wants control of the ball, but the Middle Linebacker on Team B doesn't want him to have it (Type B).
    This is why, in some Hollywood circles, certain types of stories are called football stories even though there's no sport whatsoever played in the entire movie (that'd be Type B in case you didn't guess; whoever's got the football has the advantage because they're closer to scoring than the other guy).

    When you break it down into these simple terms and work out something the pro- and an-tagonists can fight over (or fight about) you've got the beginnings of a story idea.

    Hope this helps.
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2016
    GingerCoffee and Simpson17866 like this.
  10. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

    May 20, 2012
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    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    Just analyze a story - take Charlie and the chocolate factory.
    Starving boy is hungry - situation.
    Golden tickets to a nearby chocolate factory are being sent out - catalyst
    Charlie wants one - mc's desire
    But Charlie is poor - mc's problem in getting what he wants
    Charlie gets a birthday chocolate - delay - he doesn't win one. Don't make the getting easy.
    Charlie finds money wins ticket - Charlie gets what he wants
    Charlie visits the factory - He gets to luxuriate in his heart's desire
    Kids are bumped off one two three - there's something more at stake than meets the eye
    Charlie proves he's a good kid - Charlie situation changes when's he's asked to stay at the factory. It has come full circle. From filling the momentary want of the golden ticket to fulfilling the overall want of food and good shelter not just for him but also his family.

    Think in terms of wants/ desires/ needs - delaying the mc's getting them and what decision actions he must go through to achieve them. Notice there's not just one desire but two.
    doggiedude and GingerCoffee like this.
  11. Eric Bickernicks

    Eric Bickernicks New Member

    Jun 19, 2016
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    I'll just leave this here and let myself out. :)

  12. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

    Jan 28, 2014
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    @StihlStamper, one thing you could do is, once you've fulfilled your new member waiting period and produced the posts and reviews required (see Rules, in the Information menu at the top of the page), post a sample or two of the dialogues you mentioned to the Workshop. Other pairs of eyes may be able to detect conflicts and plot possibilities you've overlooked, being too close to it. It may be just the spur you need. And frankly, I'm curious.

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