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Writers - How Do You Plan Out Stories?

Discussion in 'Art, Music and Writing' started by Dibella, Sep 4, 2013.

  1. Dibella

    Dibella New Member

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    I've been trying to plan out this story idea for a while and I can't seem to bring the meat of the story into play, you know? I have the beginning worked out, I have the end worked out, I just can't seem to figure out what to put in between. So tell me, how do you plan out stories? Do you start writing and accept whatever comes from your fingertips? Do you set up a template? Write in chunks? I would love to get some feedback. I can also post specifics of my story idea if you personally wanted to help me bounce ideas around.

    I didn't know if this thread really fit in the literary arts sub-board, so I put it in the general board. Mods, feel free to move it if it's in the wrong place.
     
  2. tdatapina

    tdatapina Hero of Time

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    I usually come up with a beginning, then I just write from there. Usually works for me
     
  3. NachyoChez

    NachyoChez Active Member

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    Has anyone here every heard of NaNoWriMo? (http:NaNoWriMo.com) The forums are filled with FANTASTIC advice.
    Some of my favorites:

    Go for a walk, and while you're walking just think about the characters in a myriad of situations. Keep the ones that work.
    Sit down and 'interview' the characters. Ask questions to them, and feel how they'd respond. (works amazing for a character driven story)

    One of the best is to 'not fight it'. The story goes that when Tolkien was writing LotR, he kept having this random show up in the story. A human who spent most of his time alone in the woods, keeping to himself. Multiple times he wrote this guy back out of the story, or erased the sections that he'd showed up into. Yet he always returned. Eventually, he caved and let the guy stay, even giving him a name. 'Strider', he was called.

    At first I was dubious of the story. Then, while writing my first novel, I ran into an issue. I had this amazing plot outline, but I was 75% through the outline in only 25% of the book. So I decided to just let a tangent happen; my characters went on a side trip that I thought was pure filler and would detract from the overall experience. The few people I let read the story were unanimous, despite never talking to one another: That was by far the deepest, darkest, and best part of my novel. They loved the experiences they'd found in what I thought was pointless filler; just as 'Strider' had been more than an annoyance he couldn't shake.
     
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  4. tdatapina

    tdatapina Hero of Time

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    I love the first two ideas you gave. I think I'm going to try that tomorrow morning. Maybe I'll get some kind of amazing inspiration. Thanks for the info
     
  5. shadowkitty

    shadowkitty Mistress of Shadows

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    Hubby and I are both writers but we are very different in our approach.
    ME: I tend to just start writing. Once I have an idea in my head it just flows and I keep going until the flow stops. Then leave it for a while and come back to it. I do a rough plan of each chapter though. Just notes on what you want to happen in that chapter.
    Hubby: he is a planner, and spends more time planning than writing. He researches, and writes tonnes of notes. About places, characters, events etc...
    I'm more of a "just get it down!" kind of person...lol. Which is probably why I tend to write more short stories than novels. I am trying to write something longer though.
     
  6. Dibella

    Dibella New Member

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    Thanks for the helpful info, everyone! I did NaNoWriMo once in high school but I never finished it. It was just too much stress to get so many words in such a short time.

    I seem to have no trouble with short stories, but anything longer than that just becomes an absolute chore for me.
     
  7. Khasrin

    Khasrin Fusozayiit

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    I like to start with a bare-bones outline - where the story starts, where I want it to end up, and any major plot points I know I want to include along the way. That's about it. I also decide who I want the major characters to be and consider their basic personalities, just enough for me to be able to predict how they might react in a given situation. Then I sit down and write a good beginning, even if it's brief.

    Once I've got the story established, from that point on I just write...I decide where my characters need to end up next, but I let them drive the story. I get them from A to B based on what they're likely to do, given their personalities, history, interactions with each other, etc. Since I don't plan out all the details ahead of time, it keeps me from writing myself into a corner and allows room for changes and spontaneous writing. :) But always keeping the next plot point in my head keeps me from going off in some random direction that serves no purpose in the story.

    One of my favorite quotes about writing: "Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." - E. L. Doctorow

    (By the way, a fantastic writer's guide for building a great beginning - "Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One and Never Lets Them Go" by Les Edgerton. And a great book for helping to develop characters is "What Would Your Character Do? Personality Quizzes For Analyzing Your Characters" by Eric & Ann Maisel. It sounded a little dippy to me at first, but I've used the hell out of that book since I bought it :D If you have any interest in writers' reference books, I've got a whole library I could recommend :p)

    I do the research as I go, in bits and pieces. I'm a bit OCD about my research and making things as accurate as possible (for my current Skyrim fanfic I walked from Riften to Winterhold in sneak mode, noting the in-game time at various landmarks to see how long it would take my characters to do it...lol) But I guess that's not a bad thing.
     
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  8. tdatapina

    tdatapina Hero of Time

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    I just heard a really good idea. Take an event from your life, write it out, then at one point change one of your actions to something you wish you had done
     
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  9. Matt

    Matt The Last Pen Fighter

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    Perhaps a reason for the "empty space" in your story is because you don't know your characters as well as you could. When you truly know and understand your character(s) then it becomes a matter of "watching" them and recording the events that follow. In order for your audience to care about your character they have to get to know him or her and you can't create that intimate connection between a character and prospective reader unless you have the connection first. Once you've got it, you won't be able to stop dreaming up stories about that person.
     
  10. Cordelia

    Cordelia Global Moderator
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    I'm a planner. I didn't used to plan much at all when I was younger -- I'd get an idea in my head and away I'd go ticka-typing away . . . and then I'd wander off. I battled between wanting to be surprised by what came next, the action unveiling before my eyes as a Reader, but lacking significant goals, I'd wander aimlessly until I ran out of steam.

    Now, I plan. I listen to music to get the emotion of a scene, let each vignette play out before me, unrestricted by plot expectations or character needs, and if it has enough potential, I find a way to lace it together with other vignettes, and in this way sort of patchwork-quilt my way through the story. Along the way I set up my significant markers -- what needs to be accomplished by whom and when--, to keep me always writing toward something. I don't lose steam this way, and can work on much longer pieces.

    That said, I feel the most important element to envisioning a story is to define its message. At the core of the best stories is the kernel of something bigger, and it's around this kernel that all the characters and events revolve. For example, in my multi-pronged Skyrim fan fic (not yet writ), at the very center of everything is "love". Each character's growth revolves around a different interpretation and manifestation of love. Each is an opportunity for me to explore the concept of love in all its aspects. I have a Christmas story addressing the ways in which we defeat ourselves, and that we are the only ones who can take arms against our personal demons to improve who we are, and reclaim our happiness. My Dark Crystal tale explores the perspective of someone made to feel outcast, and their journey to owning what makes them special and different, and stepping into the strength that is recognizing "different doesn't mean wrong".

    With these principles at the heart of my stories, any time I have a question about events ("If the bre'ith fi bragh are powerful enough to maintain balance in the world, why do the scions need to be activated at all?"), or a sudden idea for a scene ("I have this scene in mind for Swift where everyone joins together to defeat the Skeksis, and <Unnamed> is on the brink of death as a result . . . !"), that seed at the very center helps me find the most appropriate answers. ("Because there's another power at play, demanding the energies of the bre'ith, leaving them none to spare for the "main conflict" of the first arc." -- "In order to illustrate Swift's evolution from outcast to well-adjusted, she must be the one to defeat the Skeksis and save herself -- anything less would undermine the entire message.")

    Meditate on what's lurking in the heart of your story, what is it pushing the characters -- and you-- toward the conclusion? When you recognize it, the rest is like filling in the words to what you already know, and finding the best way to communicate that idea so others know exactly what you mean, and enjoy their journey along the way.

    Also remember this: It's never been about telling an original or unique story -- originality is overrated, and "unique" is just a fancy way of saying "snowflake", which is pretentious and annoying. It's about telling a compelling story. Readers will forgive even the oldest, most cliched and played out story if you tell it to them in a compelling manner, in a manner which makes them enjoy that played out story all over again.

    And Khasrin: As far as distances in Skyrim go, the whole map is about 14.3 square miles, which is necessary for sheer playability. The cities are much smaller than you know a city would be, being as the population of Whiterun, for example, is smaller than even the smallest farming township would be in any real world situation. Thus, you're forced to do a little creative interpretation. I did the same thing you did with regards to traveling from Solitude to Riften, so I'd have a good, if rough, idea how long I could expect the journey to take for my fan fic, but even if I REALLY pushed it -- taking breaks to eat, sleeping appropriately (at an inn if I could manage it), and walking to conserve energy --, it still only took a few days. This, to me, defies the distance implied within the game via the behavior and conversations of other NPCs. As far as I'm concerned, if you treat Skyrim as a genuine country (even of modest size), no one is going to give you a hard time about the times you allot to travel. I feel like four days is too short a time to get from Solitude to Riften, but two weeks isn't unreasonable.

    If Skyrim is the size of the United States, and Solitude is in Washington State, with Riften down toward Florida, it would take you about six weeks (42 days) if you were a machine moving at a walk with no need for food or sleep. I'm a stickler for research and details myself, but sometimes you have to recognize when game mechanics are going to mess with the simulated reality of your story.
     
  11. Khasrin

    Khasrin Fusozayiit

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    Heh, funny you should say that...once I completed my painstakingly accurate Riften to Winterhold travel log, I read over it, looked at my roommate, and said "Why the hell did I just do this?" (He shrugged and said, "Damned if I know, but you seemed determined.") :p The trip helped me develop a detailed sense of what they might experience on such a journey, but the precise timekeeping was unnecessary. At the very least it served to illustrate your point for me. Game fan fiction n00b mistake there :rolleyes:
     
  12. ShadoBlade

    ShadoBlade New Member

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    Hi there... Just thought I'd put my two cents worth in... it depends on the story I'm writing if its planned out (detailed outline) or if its spontaneous. I've done both before and have had excellent reviews on both styles. Most of my stuff starts as a random thought or a flash of a mental picture and develops from there. Sometimes, especially in my fan fics, it's just a "what if" or I'd love to see what would happen if they did this....

    On some rare occasions I actually do know where my story is going and it gets there, with twists and turns. But most of the time, as I develop my cast of characters, they make certain things known and my original idea goes out the windows. In those instances they crew the boat and I just take the notes... yes the voices in my head drive me nuts!
     
: writing, writers

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