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  1. darkriver

    darkriver Member

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    Where to start with a plot?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by darkriver, Jul 22, 2017.

    I have a novel in my head. In fact I have had it in my head for about 8 years but I am having trouble getting it out. I have tried plotting and everything else but I cant get past the first line. Does anyone have any ideas were I can begin please.
     
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  2. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    Hey @darkriver,

    First, welcome to the site!

    Second, it can be tough to get started because beginnings are intimidating. There's a ton of information and blogs and articles about how to craft the perfect first sentence, paragraph, page, chapter, etc. But you can't worry about that right at the beginning, especially if you're having trouble getting it out!

    You also have to understand that your opening will likely change multiple times as you craft your draft.

    All of that said, my advice is to just start. Plotting might not be your thing. It works for some people, but I'm not one of those people. I prefer to write by the seat of my pants. I find that plotting stifles my creativity, which is just my experience. Plotting is a valuable tool for a lot of people.

    Have you tried just writing the first paragraph without worrying about notes and outlines?
     
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  3. darkriver

    darkriver Member

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    Yes In fact I have spent the last five hours doing it today. lol.
     
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  4. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    There is fives point you should have figured out before plotting. They are as followed.

    Lead: Your MC. Try to use nouns and verbs when you describe your MC and a single-well-picked adjective.
    Objective: What is his or her goal? It should be a physical goal that serves to satisfy a spiritual goal.
    Conflict: What stands in his or her way?
    Knockout: What would victory look like? What would defeat look like?
    Situation: With as few words as possible, what is your character's life like before the start of the story? A little bit of Background info works here.

    A note on irony: Either the goal or the conflict (or both) should be Ironic in terms of your MC. An example of this would be "A serial killer who tries to save someone's life."

    A note on the Spiritual goal: While you need to know what the spiritual goal is, you don't need to state in the logline. Spiritual goals are mostly for subtext and theme purposes, not so much for plotting.

    A note on groups: A group counts as a single character as long as they all share the same physical goal. What separates this cast of characters is their spiritual goal differs.

    -

    On a more personal note, I tend to write the climax first then work backwards, but this approach is not for everyone.

    Good luck,

    -OJB
     
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  5. Trish

    Trish Damned if I do and damned if I don't Contributor

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    Hello @darkriver and welcome.

    As Spencer said, for some people just running with it works, but for others OJB's is the way to go. There's really no way to know which way works for you until you try. I am like Spencer, and trying to do it OJB's way is a surefire way for me to get a migraine. Neither approach is better, they're just different.

    What works for me is - Picture your MC in your head. Notice anything important. Now, what's he/she doing? Where and why are they doing it? Who is with them? Then expand on that. If you do it that way - Don't look back until you're done writing for the day. (I do now, but in the beginning, if I looked back I'd spend all day on 3 sentences). Then, see what you've got. It will get easier (most of the time). Good luck!
     
  6. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Begin with . Some obstacles, particularlobjective. Your character need not know the objective or goal from the beginning, but the writer must.

    Then set a "starting point" for your main character or characters. I've put that in quotes because it probably won't ent up being the starting point of the story or novel.

    Next,place one or more obstacles between your characters and the primary objective.

    From there you can develop complexity by placing more obstacles, which may cause you to move the starting point(s) further from the goals.

    Add secondary objectives. Some of these may be suggested by some of the obstacles, particularly internal obstacles like self-doubt or fears. Conversely, secondary goals may suggest or dictate additional obstacles.

    In addition to obstacles that merely slow progress, add setbacks (reversals) that actually make the goal further away, or even impossible to attain.

    Late in the process, decide when each character will become aware of each goal, fully or partially. Decide whether every goal WILL be reached, or whether one goal need be sacrificed for another.

    Decide where the story actually begins. There should be some initial obstacle, which may or may not have any relation to the primary objective. In any case, each character should enter the story with a challenge to overcome.

    Keep it moving! Straight lines nake dull stories.
     
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  7. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    What do you mean 'you have had a novel in your head for the past 8 years?' Do you mean just an idea for one or maybe a character or two? Or have you visualised lots of scenes with lots of characters doing lots of things?

    If you've already visualised lots of scenes, try writing one. It doesn't have to be the start of the story. Just any one that seems fully formed.

    Scenes can be (and often are) written totally out of sequence. So if you're having trouble getting started, start by writing one scene you're familiar with. Don't worry about explaining how things got to that point. Just jump in. If your characters are in a particular location, don't worry about how they got there. Just focus on what they are doing in that particular scene. Of course the environment they're in will also influence what is happening in that scene, so don't skimp details—but don't go overboard describing it either. Just feel the wind, smell the dinner cooking, hear the loud music coming from next door. Put your characters in that scene. Just picture that one scene and write it.

    Whatever the characters are thinking and feeling is just as important as anything they are doing or saying, so make sure you let the reader in on these innermost workings of the people you're creating. If you try to let dialogue do all the work, you're going to make a piece that reads too quickly and runs to the superficial. This will not engage the reader. So don't worry about overwriting or being melodramatic or going on too long or any of that. What you should be concerned with is getting a start on actually writing, and getting a feel for your story. It's easy to cut things out later on, but it's a lot harder to add them in, so don't skimp.

    Once you have this scene written you will already have an idea where it's going and what came before. So just keep writing scenes. If you just write the important scenes—the ones that are the most vivid in your head—you might find you don't need a lot of other scenes. Just a few links to tie everything together might be all it takes. Your plot will evolve with the writing. If you've been thinking about this novel for 8 years, chances are you already have an idea of what the story is 'about.'

    I think as you become more experienced as a writer you'll have a better idea of story structure and be able to 'start' closer to the beginning of the story. But right now, you just need to start writing. So write the scene that means the most to you ...even if it comes near the end of the story. And build from both ends.

    I know this method works because I did it myself. And I now have a complete novel in the very final stages of editing. It was the most fun I've ever had sitting down.
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2017
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  8. TheNineMagi

    TheNineMagi take a moment to vote

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    sounds like you are feeling your way thru a slew of ideas, and for now these appear to be unrelated, and disconnected. perhaps 3-4 story lines coming in to a central theme from what feels like wildly different directions. A general feel of an ending but nothing is really connecting these pieces together other than possibly a general amorphous theme evaporating anytime you try to concentrate on it from the corners of your story.

    if so I would say the 3-4 story lines you are feeling your way thru are the corners of your jigsaw puzzle.

    you could start this with a venn diagram putting each main idea in an outer circle or box and then look at it as does each individual piece merge with another piece in the diagram.

    this become the edge pieces of your jigsaw puzzle

    one of the things I did early on was like a disconnected mind map, just index cards, each one containing a different prompt or idea. just a fast synopsis or snippet of what my mind was visualizing or mulling over. Every time an idea would hit me I would write it down. it could be a single sentence, a small paragraph, or even just a phrase. I then started putting these up on a cork board and shuffled them around and started connecting them for confluence, continuity, points of conflict. but mostly selecting some here and there as prompts when I could connect things together in some coherent manner. Sometimes just looking at the card as a disconnected prompt, allowed for me to write about 1000-1500 words around it. Setting it aside as a piece of the overall puzzle.

    start creating clusters and work your way into defining a central position where it merges along commonalities.

    this is where you fill in your jigsaw puzzle.

    it's an iterative process, with a morphing boundary, allowing for changes to occur as added information is discovered. each step should clarify what the central goal of the story is until it's merged to a point where a common or main plot is discernible.

    This may or may not work for you, and I fully recognize I might be way off the mark, it is simply offered as a potential path you can try, or mold portions of the suggestions into your own style, which works for you at a personal level.
     
  9. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Contributor Contributor

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    You say you've tried plotting. Do you know how the story ends? I'm guessing you do if you've held the idea so long. Every ending can have a billion beginnings. The problem is determining the best one (there are many best ones). You want the action underway and the characters in motion. What I like doing is choosing a beginning that builds a bookend; it pairs up with the end in such a way that the two complete one another. The reader only sees the completion on the final page, and that makes the ending feel inevitable.

    So lets say (dreaming up something I've never considered. . .) a story ends with a guy unknowingly drinking from the Holy Grail. There's a zillion starts to this, but I would choose one that pairs with the end. Maybe he's an appraiser and looks down on an underling for not recognizing a work of art.

    "<MC> turned the chalice of Charlemagne with latex fingers and adjusted the lamplight just so. The gold had touched the mouth of divinity. Only a blind eye failed to see its worth, yet <secondary char>'s dreadful sense of history had relegated the piece to the museum's minor Carolinian holdings. <blah blah blah . . .> "

    Of course it has to fit your first scene in terms of tone and purpose, but this sort of approach always works well for me.
     
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  10. Walking Dog

    Walking Dog Active Member

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    I'm one of those writers who always start in the middle. For instance, a detective story will either begin with the crime in progress, or the detective arriving at the scene. I supply backstory as needed, which is little as possible. So, if you have a plot in mind, begin the story with something happening. Pretend you are a witness to the story, and report what you see.
     
  11. RWK

    RWK Member

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    I always start my plots 95,000 words from the conclusion. ;)

    Work on an opening. A good novel grabs you from the start; not necessarily exciting, but definitely interesting. Look at the first pages of your favorite novels and see how established writers start.

    Then don't write a novel; instead, tell a story in all its dimensions. If the result is novel length, kudos. If not, write another story. Sooner or later you will end up with a novel.
     
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  12. darkriver

    darkriver Member

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    I seem to be writing today. I decided that it doesnt have to be perfect. Even though I am daunted by 95000 words.
     
  13. RWK

    RWK Member

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    It's just one word after another. Tell your story, then go back and add more adjectives and character development, etc.

    It's like a ten mile road march: nothing matters but the next step.
     
  14. Dreams_on_Mars

    Dreams_on_Mars Member

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    Get the old piece of paper out.. and a pencil split the page into five divisions. BTW if your mind won't let you write anything maybe you need to lower your fears, you may be too worried about not getting it exactly right.. but know.. you won't. It will take time for the story to get to where it is like in your head! It will not come out a masterpiece! It will need your love to get it there. And you need to not worry about this if it doesn't sound great.

    Now your paper is split in 5 lines. The first one, opening the story. Write some vague notes about what goes here. Then do that and split the story into five vague parts from beginning to end. Ta-da! You have a very rough outline!

    Next on another paper, (in my opinion this is harder) write about the characters.. Start with just one. What do they want most? What is the obstacle? How will change over the story? What do they Really want, deep down though they may not know this? It will take time, but you will want to get to know your characters well.

    I hope this helps you.
     

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