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Author Topic: How to get every stuck plot unstuck  (Read 2653 times)

Offline Yora

How to get every stuck plot unstuck
« on: March 21, 2015, 08:30:56 PM »
The advice was meant for fast-paced action stories, but Raymond Chandler probably had the best bit of advice to get almost every possible story back on track when the writer gets stuck and doesn't really know how to continue:

Quote
"Undoubtedly the stories about them had a fantastic element. Such things happened, but not so rapidly, nor to so close-knit a group of people, nor within so narrow a frame of logic. This was inevitable because the demand was for constant action; if you stopped to think you were lost. When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand."

I think it works. And probably all the time! In a less action focused story, you might only be able to do it once or twice before it becomes cheap, but I can't think of any story where it wouldn't work. Does not have to be a man, does not have to be a gun. But when it seems you've written yourself into a corner and have no idea how to get out of it, make someone appear bringing shocking news.
Who is the man?
Why is he in such a hurry?
Why does he have a gun?
Does he want to attack? Does he fear to be attacked? Is he on the run from someone? Is he alone or is there someone else coming behind him? Is he looking for the characters in the room? Or is it just a coincidence that he happened to pick just this door? How did he knew where to find the characters? Who send him? Is he a friend of the characters, an enemy, or a stanger? What does he want? So many questions! And within a minute, you should have a couple of possible answers to some of them that would fit into what has happened so far and multiple possible new directions your story can take. Perhaps you even realize that the answers you've come up with actually work much better if this new direction for the story is not introduced by a man with a gun, but could also be phone call or noise outside on the street. But I think it's just a wonderful way to start the process of thinking about how to get the plot back going or how to bridge a lull in the narrative.

Another, similar piece of advice is about how to make an action scene more dramatic, and comes from a comic:
Quote
"When in doubt, set something on fire."
;D
Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor

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Offline Elfy

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Re: How to get every stuck plot unstuck
« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2015, 11:11:28 PM »
The advice was meant for fast-paced action stories, but Raymond Chandler probably had the best bit of advice to get almost every possible story back on track when the writer gets stuck and doesn't really know how to continue:

Quote
"Undoubtedly the stories about them had a fantastic element. Such things happened, but not so rapidly, nor to so close-knit a group of people, nor within so narrow a frame of logic. This was inevitable because the demand was for constant action; if you stopped to think you were lost. When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand."

I think it works. And probably all the time! In a less action focused story, you might only be able to do it once or twice before it becomes cheap, but I can't think of any story where it wouldn't work. Does not have to be a man, does not have to be a gun. But when it seems you've written yourself into a corner and have no idea how to get out of it, make someone appear bringing shocking news.
Who is the man?
Why is he in such a hurry?
Why does he have a gun?
Does he want to attack? Does he fear to be attacked? Is he on the run from someone? Is he alone or is there someone else coming behind him? Is he looking for the characters in the room? Or is it just a coincidence that he happened to pick just this door? How did he knew where to find the characters? Who send him? Is he a friend of the characters, an enemy, or a stanger? What does he want? So many questions! And within a minute, you should have a couple of possible answers to some of them that would fit into what has happened so far and multiple possible new directions your story can take. Perhaps you even realize that the answers you've come up with actually work much better if this new direction for the story is not introduced by a man with a gun, but could also be phone call or noise outside on the street. But I think it's just a wonderful way to start the process of thinking about how to get the plot back going or how to bridge a lull in the narrative.

Another, similar piece of advice is about how to make an action scene more dramatic, and comes from a comic:
Quote
"When in doubt, set something on fire."
;D
There's also the other timeless piece of advice about how to immediately improve any story, and that's 'just add ninjas'. Not sure who gave it first, but it's often quoted.
I will expand your TBR pile.

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Offline Nora

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Re: How to get every stuck plot unstuck
« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2015, 05:38:43 AM »
I'm writing a short featuring the character I've used in my Rogue story and I'm stuck just after he appears, pointing a gun at the main character.
This advice just fails short to help hahaha
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Offline ArcaneArtsVelho

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Re: How to get every stuck plot unstuck
« Reply #3 on: March 22, 2015, 07:45:52 AM »
I'm writing a short featuring the character I've used in my Rogue story and I'm stuck just after he appears, pointing a gun at the main character.
This advice just fails short to help hahaha
Well, you could just add some ninjas to set the place on fire. No?  ;)

But writing in a man with a gun in his hand or something else very surprising (and possibly seemingly random) is a good way to get the story going again. It gets you thinking outside the box. However, if you come up with something really strange or out of place, I think you should explain at least some of it to the reader pretty soon. It's not good to leave the reader utterly baffled for too long.
Everything I wrote above is pure conjecture. I don't know what I'm talking about.

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Offline Yora

Re: How to get every stuck plot unstuck
« Reply #4 on: March 22, 2015, 09:55:56 AM »
Oh yes, explaining it is really important. I think the advice is much more relevant as a way to get the writer back into the story than actually putting that scene into the plot.
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Offline ArcaneArtsVelho

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Re: How to get every stuck plot unstuck
« Reply #5 on: March 22, 2015, 11:03:28 AM »
Oh yes, explaining it is really important. I think the advice is much more relevant as a way to get the writer back into the story than actually putting that scene into the plot.
Yeah, you can't put just anything to the plot. I get that It's like a thinking exercise or a head clearing exercise. But it just might have the (happy?) side effect of making  you to take your story to a different direction or inspiring you to come up with another story altogether. The latter could still leave you stuck in the original, though. :)
Everything I wrote above is pure conjecture. I don't know what I'm talking about.

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Offline Justan Henner

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Re: How to get every stuck plot unstuck
« Reply #6 on: March 23, 2015, 12:20:55 AM »
I'm writing a short featuring the character I've used in my Rogue story and I'm stuck just after he appears, pointing a gun at the main character.
This advice just fails short to help hahaha

I say just keep following the advice until you've created an endless loop of gun toting newcomers.  :)

Or, you know, three gunmen caught in a revolving door.
« Last Edit: March 23, 2015, 12:22:51 AM by Justan Henner »

Offline ultamentkiller

Re: How to get every stuck plot unstuck
« Reply #7 on: March 23, 2015, 10:47:43 AM »
I feel like this advice can't really be limited to just a head exercise. I could be wrong, but I think Brent weeks does this throughout his stories, especially The Blinding Knife and The Broken Eye. Yes, everything has a purpose, but when he wants a character to get into a certain situation, and he can't figure out how the normal way, he just makes something shocking and dramatic happen.