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Starting out again and needing a little explanation...or...?

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FattyFattyPorkFace



Joined: 10 Aug 2004
Posts: 6381
Location: Michigan
Starting out again and needing a little explanation...or...?  Reply with quote  

So, I've tried on and off to write something over the past 10 years. Sometimes I've written quite a lot and it has been pretty good from the feedback I received. However, I always stopped because I could never get the plot to work properly. I had a reasonable set of characters I just couldn't seem to couple a story together.

This time around, my inspiration came from a title that popped into my head, my book and t-shirt winning entry (for those who remember) and a general set of locations that would work together with these. THe problem I have is plotting the entire thing. I have probably enough plot for the first 4 or 5 chapters but it won't be enough to carry the whole thing to some sort of conclusion.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to develop a good story from humble beginnings such that an appropriate conclusion forms?

I'd love to give more details and even post the first couple of chapters but I don't want to fall foul of the "Why do I stop?" problem.
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Post Mon Jun 13, 2005 10:16 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
FattyFattyPorkFace



Joined: 10 Aug 2004
Posts: 6381
Location: Michigan
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Oh yeah, and Chris (or anyone else), do you know of any way to get hold of my old competition entry? It isn't drastically important and I'd be more than extremely surprised if I could, but it would be nice.
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Post Mon Jun 13, 2005 10:18 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Q



Joined: 19 May 2004
Posts: 297
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I think the majority of people who are true book lovers ( devoted not only to the resulting work and its author, but those devoted to the entire milieu, its principles, process, the shared community etc.) will eventually feel the urge to write and tell their stories.

I think the first and most important question to be asked and answered honestly is, "Do I have a story to tell?"


Q
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The first forgets,
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Post Mon Jun 13, 2005 11:13 am   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
FattyFattyPorkFace



Joined: 10 Aug 2004
Posts: 6381
Location: Michigan
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I definitely have a story to tell...but there are certain parts that I am having difficulty piecing together to make them readble and flow properly. My problem isn't the story as such but the ability to plot it into an enjoyable yarn. I know this is what sets writers apart from non-writers and I know practice has a lot to do with it...I thought that maybe some words of experienced wisdom might aid the practice.

At the end of the day, I could tell my story the way a five year old or a drunk down the bar would, "And then we had ice cream and it was good and we ate chocolate and then we went to sleep and then we had a dream. My Dad say, "Stop shouting" and I did" but that doesn't necessarily make it a good read.

I'm not sure I'm explaining this point as adeptly as I ought, but I'm pretty sure I know what I mean. If you can guess, then please answer. Confused
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Last edited by FattyFattyPorkFace on Mon Jun 13, 2005 12:45 pm; edited 1 time in total

Post Mon Jun 13, 2005 11:24 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
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well, since you asked, I think that there has to be growth for each character in the story. And if you could have a story arc for each character, it could flesh out the story. I like to know in advance what has to happen in each chapter for each character. And since i am such a raving publishing success, I'll shut up now.

Post Mon Jun 13, 2005 11:57 am   
Q



Joined: 19 May 2004
Posts: 297
 Reply with quote  

FattyFattyPorkFace wrote:

I'm not sure I'm explaining this point as adeptly as I ought





Nothing confusing in your post, FFPF. Made perfect sense.

Q




.
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Angels, Devils, and Men:
The first forgets,
The third regrets,
and the second has all of the fun.

--Analytics of Five

Post Mon Jun 13, 2005 12:15 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
knikkki



Joined: 13 Jun 2005
Posts: 3145
Location: Davis, CA
I have a beginning and an end.  Reply with quote  

When I start to write, that's all I know ... I know how it's going to start and how it's going to end. The inbetween just sort of comes. Two days ago I wrote something that I had NO idea was going to happen and it just set the tone for the last 1/4 of the book, which was perfect because I needed some direction.

For me personally, if I try to figure it all out ahead of time I feel daunted. I actually still feel daunted, but I'm excited too.

The cool thing about writing this way (and I'm sure it's not how you're 'supposed' to do it) is that I'm constantly surprised. Fortunately for me, i'm writing my book for me. I don't truly believe it's good enough to be published (most days) so entertaining myself along the way is really important.
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Post Tue Jun 14, 2005 11:12 am   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
XanderesqueMan



Joined: 24 Sep 2004
Posts: 6
Location: Maine
Those who can do sometimes teach too, you know.  Reply with quote  

Quote:
I know this is what sets writers apart from non-writers and I know practice has a lot to do with it...


I've always believed that this is what sets published authors apart from non-published authors. What sets a writer apart from a non-writer has nothing do with a talent. There are lots of people who can string words together. That doesn't make them writers. That makes them people who write. A writer is someone who can't not write (I know that's grammatically incorrect, being a double negative and all), someone who is compelled to do so from the deepest parts of themselves. A writer breathes words and lives storytelling. The act of doing so completes them in a way other things can't. That's what sets apart writers and non-writers. In my humble and meaningless opinion, anyway. -Smiles-

Quote:
Does anyone have any suggestions on how to develop a good story from humble beginnings such that an appropriate conclusion forms?


Plotting is one of the more difficult aspects of writing. If you think of writing in terms of biology, a well structured plot is the skeleton that gives form to the flesh and muscle of it (the concepts and characters.) It's sometimes hard to do even for published and proven authors. (Not that I'm either. -Smiles-)

Something I do when I'm having plot difficulties is free associate. I get a pen (or pencil) and paper, write my character name, story title, plot problem (or what not) in the middle of the page, and circle it. I proceed to write everything that comes to mind branching off from them, not pausing to decide what has merit and what doesn't, for ten or fifteen minutes. Then I look at what I've produced and see if I've come up with anything that might help push me through my problem.

It's a technique I picked up from Dave Trottier's Screenwriter's Bible Edition Three. It was written to aid screenwriters but I find that many of the elements found in the book can be applied to help the novel writer as well.

Dean Koontz recommends writing down a few sentences, whatever words happen to come into your mind. Do this a few times on a peice of paper and look back to see if any of your paragraphs catch your interest and offer something you can expound upon.

Some advice I'll give you is that it doesn't have to be perfect. If you can just keep writing, even if it isn't that great, go for it. Maybe you'll trash it all. Or maybe somewhere in there you'll find that thought you need to help you out. Or that perfectly worded sentence to that gives you an idea. Or maybe it'll even turn out better than you hoped.

That said, our Guest is right as well. It's important that characters grow throughout the novel. That they change in some way. Especially your lead. Where a movie's strengths in form lie with visuality, a novel's lie with internal elements-a character's psyche, emotional state, internal conflicts, formative influences, phobias, flaws, strengths, history, etc. It's important that readers can understand the people whose lives they're watching. And it's equally important (when it comes to your protagonist) that they can on some level understand where those people are coming from. Identifiabile characters are key.

Personally, I prefer that my villains have identifiability as well. I think even bad guys should be relatable where possible. We should be able to understand them, if not like them. Maybe even feel for them. Because people don't usually do evil and think "Hey, I like hurting people. I'm evil and it's fun for me." Generally, they think they're doing the right thing. They have reasons that they see as justifiable for their actions.

I don't even always know the end myself, Knikkki. Sometimes I'll have a concept, basic idea of where it's going to end up, and the first few scenes and start writing. No reason to not make progress simply because I don't have it all plotted yet.

One of the things I usually do spend a crazy amount of time on is my characters. Their background, flaws, likes, phobias, etc, etc. I flesh them out to a significant depth. Still, they have lives of their own, and when I write I'm often surprised to discover new things about them. My roommate always gets a kick out of it because I'll write a few pages and say to him "Apparently..." and reveal a plot development for one of my characters. And he always asks me how I can not know. It's my book, isn't it? And yes to that. But my characters and my worlds have always had a certain life of their own.

I'm of the point of view that by the time you consciously acknowledge the story you want to tell, it already exists in full. You just have to do the work of mining out that diamond and polishing it into its intended form. Which sometimes means the story tells you as much as you tell it. Like the short story I started to write which became a novel which is currently at page fifty.

Anyway, I'm babbling, so I'll go for now.

Cheers,
Ryan
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Post Sun Jun 26, 2005 4:31 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website AIM Address Yahoo Messenger MSN Messenger
Pilgrim



Joined: 07 Jun 2005
Posts: 13
Location: making progress
plot  Reply with quote  

I really like a book called "Plot" put out by the Writers Digest folks. It's widely available. Check it out at a big bookstore.

FattyFattyPorkFace wrote:
I definitely have a story to tell...but there are certain parts that I am having difficulty piecing together to make them readble and flow properly.


Why? What goes wrong? Gaps in the cause and effect chain? Characters having to do things that are, well, out of character? If you identify the problem, you have a shot at finding a solution.

Quote:
At the end of the day, I could tell my story the way a five year old or a drunk down the bar would, "And then we had ice cream and it was good and we ate chocolate and then we went to sleep and then we had a dream. My Dad say, "Stop shouting" and I did" but that doesn't necessarily make it a good read.


Why does each of these things happen?

Post Mon Jun 27, 2005 8:22 am   View user's profile Send private message
lescaster



Joined: 22 Nov 2004
Posts: 34
Location: Minnesota
 Reply with quote  

Find a copy of Steven King's book "On Writing" If you want, I'll lend you mine. And then read "The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon"

And then just put one word after the next.

And try stay away from the net.

Post Tue Jun 28, 2005 10:18 pm   View user's profile Send private message
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