1. Moridin

    Moridin New Member

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    writing without a fully developed plot

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Moridin, Apr 4, 2019.

    I have the initial ideas of my plot. A country parish priest with a crisis of faith and an addiction to Jamesons who has recurring dreams which give him a sense of impending doom. The parish he is in has a dark secret which will slowly reveal itself to him - I'm not sure what it is yet though. There is going to be a school and the teachers and pupils get caught up in it all. That's the rough outline. Very rough outline. I'm just wondering if anyone else has ever started writing without a fully developed plot
     
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  2. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Oh yes, I certainly did. I had a situation, though. And a couple of characters. But where it was leading was NOT fully formed at all. I started writing with a couple of scenes between characters, which was not the beginning of the story. But I was able to not only work forward from those scenes, but backward as well.

    I have four POV characters—two major ones who carry the bulk of the story, and two minor ones who only POV a couple of chapters. One of the minor ones began simply as a device to show the readers another important character. This minor character didn't have any particular personality at all when I started to write him. However, his personality quickly appeared and took over his scenes without difficulty. He remained a minor character, but his contribution turned out to be quite important, and ended up linking up one of the themes. I've honoured his presence by giving him the last scene in the book.
     
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  3. Lemie

    Lemie Contributor Contributor

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    I think it works differently for different writers. Some need a lot of planning before they start - some need a basic idea. If you feel like you're ready to begin your actual writing I'd say go ahead.

    Either things will flow naturally once you start writing... or you can just go back to the planning stage if you feel like things aren't working as you want them to.
     
  4. DarkPen14

    DarkPen14 Senior Member

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    Oh yeah, definitely. But while I'm writing I'm also plotting specific story arc concepts and later making a general plan for those arcs.
     
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  5. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I started my WIP with absolutely no plot beyond the conflict and danger inherent in the first scene. It's working fine for me.
     
  6. sammieux

    sammieux Banned

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    Lots of people do that. They are called pantsers. Many others plan thing out in more detail because having a road map of where the story goes and how it starts and ends is a big help to them in actually writing it.

    Suggest you read a book or two about plotting and see what a true plot is.

    Or google and find the few good sites on the web that will tell you about plots.
     
  7. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

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    The inspiration for my plot came from James Michener where he put characters in situations based on what really happened. With that, the story I wanted to tell was about Haiti when the Taino (Arawak) Indians were killed off by everyone from Christopher Columbus to Charles Leclerc, and replaced by people from the Congo. Putting my characters in that environment and time period surprised me time and again of their interaction and the conclusion. People have said my story had a lot of twist and turns and I reply, not by me I was just along for the ride. I realize that may not fit your genre but it worked for me.
     
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  8. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Senior Member

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    It works perfectly for some people others not so much.
    From the stuff I have written plot is the one thing I do need. I have to know what's coming up next otherwise I find it hard to create a character arc that fits.
     
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  9. Kallisto

    Kallisto Ruler of the world... somewhere...

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    All the time. It's not like shooting without a script. Sometimes I have to start my story to see how the idea works on paper before I can make decisions about how the characters will works.
     
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  10. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Pantsing, that's how I write. The story just kept going. My characters would talk to each other when I walked in the woods and I could hear it either worked or it didn't. I wrote whole scenes at a time, some of which are in my dead darlings file. I wrote them out of order and rearranged them later.

    It came out pretty well. I'm struggling with the query now and it required some ending adjustments. I think if you are a planner your query might be easier. But from what I understand, a lot of writers struggle with queries.
     
  11. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    That's a VERY good point, about queries/blurbs. I, too, am in the throes of attempting to write a blurb, and geez-o.
     
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  12. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Supporter Contributor

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    I always start with the characters and just let the plot unfold as I write, without plotting anything. Life happens, and if the characters are dynamic, they meet other dynamic characters and dynamic things happen to them.
     
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  13. Infel

    Infel Contributor Contributor

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    Just to play a bit of devil's advocate here (which is a little difficult since I, too, am mostly pantser by blood)--if your story has a theme, or a moral, or a lesson, or a mystery, it can be really useful to plot it out rather than just letting it fly. With a bit of planning, you can figure out the optimal places to drop clues, or create twists that can thrill your reader. Especially if you're planning something like slowly revealing a mystery (I'm doing something like that myself) where the character slowly learns something sinister, it can be so incredibly useful to have a map of when and where that character--and the reader--learn certain things. You get MAXIMUM impact that way!

    ...but all that said, there's still nothing wrong with starting to write with just the basic plot. Most of writing is discovery, anyway. That's what art is.
     
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  14. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I don't inherently disagree, but you can also do this after the first writing. I'm doing this right now--walking through the first quarter of the novel (the novel is roughly three-quarters drafted, so the first quarter is solid enough to do some carpentry on) looking at where one major line of the plot appears and disappears, and reorganizing those pieces.

    Now, it is a lot of delicate surgery ("OK, I'd like to move scene Q earlier, but scene Q is partially dependent on scene M, which would now come after scene Q...."), and it would certainly be much more efficient if I were able to plan before writing, but I'm not capable of that. :) SoI wanted to note that you can get the effects of planning-before-writing, without planning before writing.
     
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  15. Rzero

    Rzero Senior Member

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    Absolutely right.

    There are two major camps: discovery writers (pantsers) and architect writers (planners.) Until you really get into the meat of a story or two, I think it's impossible to know which method will work for you, and no one can tell you which is best, because each works for different types of writers.

    You might start on a journey of discovery with your characters and find them wandering around aimlessly in dire need of a figurative map. Conversely, you might start with a well laid plan and find yourself constantly deviating from the path in ways that shred the outline but drastically improve the original story.

    Like most of us, you'll likely fall somewhere close to one, but also rely on the other to some degree, so keep an open mind. I, for instance, when working without an outline, paint myself into corners and find myself stuck many chapters away from the increasingly less vague ending materializing in my head with no obvious way of getting from chapter ten to the last three chapters.

    When I plan out a plot from beginning to end, details and all, I still leave room for the individual scenes to unfold organically. Sometimes I even deviate from the path in ways that change the destination, but I need that structure to get started and make my way through the bulk of the story. With an outline, if I get lost, I can more easily find my way back to course, even if that involves backtracking or even reworking the end of the outline.

    I only know these things about myself because I have a stack of unfinished works, many of which broke down because of these exact structure (or lack of structure) problems. When you find the method that best suites you, it will likely feel as if it should have been obvious from the beginning, because it will play to your strengths. I'm a architect writer because story and plot come easily to me. I could come up with concepts and flesh them out into outlines all day long. It's the paragraph by paragraph part that require a great deal of effort and discipline on my part.

    Everyone's different though, so give it a shot, see what happens and let yourself off the hook if you have to start more or less from scratch now and then. Most importantly, always leave yourself room to change your mind. It's your world, after all.
     
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  16. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Ambling back to add that while I'm a panster/discovery writer (though I'd say I'm an iterative discovery writer, which seems slightly different), I always, in the past, just discovered my way into dead ends.

    The fix to that for my current WIP was what I called the "highly flavored" strategy of high-emotion scenes. And I believe that the part that leads to an actual plot is conflict. It's all but impossible to have a high-emotion scene without conflict. And conflict contains plot. I kept writing high-emotion scenes with the same set of characters in the same setting, and that produced a lot of plot threads that I was eventually able to weave together. (With a lot of editing and tweaking, which is where the "iterative" part comes in.)
     
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  17. Infel

    Infel Contributor Contributor

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    Absolutely true. I think that's one of the best things about writing--people can really go about it in whatever way works for them. Even if a particular method doesn't work best for an individual, they can find a way to work around it, and apply it differently. Two people can write in drastically different ways, and still end up with magnificent books. I don't think there are many crafts that offer that much freedom!
     
  18. Rzero

    Rzero Senior Member

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    Something equally important to look into and consider is whether or not you'll edit as you write or write straight through. It's just as easy for some of us to get stuck for a myriad of reasons because we spend so much time improving what's already written, that we never get through to the end of a first draft. I'm speaking from loads of experience on this particular phenomenon. There are major pitfalls to this method. Personally, I find it very difficult to write chapter four in first draft mode knowing how much better the language and structure is in chapters one through three, which I've altered and rewritten a dozen times. I eventually set the bar so high that I hate the new material, even though it is likely as good as the first version of the previous chapters. For me, it's inadvertent self-sabotage.

    Other writers have the opposite problem and lose the thread if they aren't backtracking as they progress. Issues with pacing or consistency in character are far more difficult for some writers to correct in the second draft and need to be sorted before moving on during the first draft.

    Either way, and you'll read this advice often from folks on the forum and celebrated professionals alike, allow your first draft to be a first draft. Accept that your book will need editing no matter how good you are. Don't get bogged down in an attempt to write the perfect novel on your first pass, and never use editing as a procrastination tool. Keep writing new chapters.
     
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  19. LoaDyron

    LoaDyron Senior Member

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    Hello, friend. :superhello:

    Definitely. I'm writing fanfic, which I started writing the story without a plot. And it suits my style. I'm a gardener. I have the characters; their motivations, fears and dreams, and some ideas in mind, which I will plant and see how it grows during my writing progress. And yes, I cheated the end of the story, but I believe the majority of the writers do that. :supertongue: But even so, my ideas change a lot, mostly because I daydream and with my big imagination, a lot of new concepts comes and goes. While I was writing chapter 5 from one of the character's POV, it came to my mind to, later on, change the outcome of his choices. And I know I most try and see how it goes, even if at the end I found out it wasn't necessary or made sense.
     
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  20. badgerjelly

    badgerjelly Contributor Contributor

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    Constantly. Once I’ve written more, usually from several places in the rough narrative, I then set word counts - 2000 for part A 5000 for part B etc.,. Basically I sign post the story and gradually expand/compress as suits the story.

    Who would bother writing if they new what the end product would look like? That would be like painting by numbers.
     
  21. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

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    I recently started a short story about a teenager who was sent to a Boot Camp and I wanted to show her struggle of growth and maturity. It was kinda based on a compilation of two young lives I’m familiar with. That being said as the story unfolded the girl was captured in Mexico because someone recognized that she was the daughter of a money manger for a cartel who stole gas and oil. Now the girl is a back story and I have to figure out how to make the father the MC. So once again the story drove the plot but I’m still captain of this ship. (I think)
     
  22. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Planning too much messes me up. So, I don't do it. I just write. It works for me. And my novel is a murder mystery of sorts. I'm about at the halfway point and I still have no idea who did it, but I'm not worried. I've been writing long enough to know that these sort of things come to me as I need them. Some people put a lot of planning into their writing. I just put a lot of writing into my writing. Seems to be working. I do sometimes worry I'll get stuck, but it hasn't happened yet. Knock of wood.
     
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  23. Thom

    Thom Active Member

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    Write how you will. Whether architect or discovery writing, how you reach the end of the story is entirely up to you.
    No matter which you choose, we all still go through the edit and rewrite process that smooths out the finished story.
    Myself, I usually only know how it starts and ends, with a few ideas in between to tent pole it.
    The only thing that matters is what works best for you.
     
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  24. exweedfarmer

    exweedfarmer Contributor Contributor

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    All the freaking time! My story's seldom land exactly where I plan them to. If you just plan will never finish. Write badly until you write well. That's the trick
     

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