November 16, 2019, 02:37:36 AM

Author Topic: How to start creating a good plot?  (Read 3671 times)

Offline Eli_Freysson

Re: How to start creating a good plot?
« Reply #15 on: August 09, 2017, 08:12:33 PM »

Unfortunately I don't remember the source that I found, but when I was looking into advice on character motivation I came upon the idea that stories are not really about conflict. Stories are about protagonists having a goal and other characters or circumstances getting into the way, and as such causing a conflict. This conflict is what leads to the sequence of events that make up the plot, but it's not what the story is really about. A story is about the goal.

I think you are on the right track. I read your original post, and scrolled down to tell you that I felt you were doing things in the wrong direction, at least as I understand writing. I start with only a vague idea of a setting, then focus on a protagonist. The setting gets created around the protagonist, based on what I need for what I have in mind for them.

Starting big before moving on to details is a mistake, in my opinion. I have come to strongly believe that there really is no such thing as a bad setup; just bad execution. I think that my stories all share the feature that, described in a couple of sentences, they sound very boilerplate and unremarkable. My reviewers generally don't comment much on the setting; they talk about the characters, and the conflicts.
I'll notify your next of kin... that you sucked!

Offline Stew Hotston

Re: How to start creating a good plot?
« Reply #16 on: August 11, 2017, 12:28:10 PM »
I always start with the hook.

The high concept pitch in my own head - you know the absolute classic: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny Devito are twins.

Then I wonder about the end - where's the story going,can it sustain a climactic ending.

From there i wonder about how to bring that to life. What's the world they inhabit, what's the twist.

After that I think about their arcs and their baggage.

Finally I think about how to start it.

You've built your world but it doesn't seem like you have anything about the story itself. If it were an open world game then I'd be sold but as a reader I want to know about the journey we're going on together.

Offline Yora

Re: How to start creating a good plot?
« Reply #17 on: August 11, 2017, 08:17:36 PM »
The hook really was my big problem.
We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on a big tower of other dwarves.

Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor

Offline Yora

Re: How to start creating a good plot?
« Reply #18 on: October 15, 2017, 07:38:50 PM »
I've come across this interesting article.

The most interesting part to me is at the end: To create a plot, you basically need to decide on four things: What your character wants, how your character starts out, how your character ends up, and what makes your character go from the starting state to the ending state.

For the character I want to write about, the goal is always "gain enlightenment through learning about the nature of gods". For the first story, I want to start slow and simple with "the hero thinks meeting a god in person is the perfect solution" and end with "the hero does not take the opportunity to meet a god up close". This means the final element has to be "what experiences make her change her mind?". Bam! There's the plot!
We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on a big tower of other dwarves.

Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor

Offline RobertS

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Re: How to start creating a good plot?
« Reply #19 on: October 26, 2017, 05:07:59 PM »
I think it has to be based on your weaknesses as an artist and not your strengths.

After the concept comes to you, Blurb, Elevator pitch, synopsis, character Outline, plot, setting, theme, mood, resolution and ending are all important. Personally, when I come up with a concept I first try to make a rough elevator pitch and bounce it off of a few people I trust to shoot me down. I may love it, but if other people think "Meh," I drop the idea. The setting, for me is almost always part of the concept.

Then I need to have an idea of how it resolves and what the ending will be. After I have a concept, blurb, synopsis, and ending, the plot and outline become easy. The other way around is nearly impossible for me. I hate writing elevator pitches and synopses from a complete story.
I would rather look stupid today than be stupid tomorrow.

Offline Skip

Re: How to start creating a good plot?
« Reply #20 on: October 26, 2017, 06:30:23 PM »
Hey, Yora, how is the book going? Do you have your plot? Your characters? Goals? Would love to hear an update.
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Offline Yora

Re: How to start creating a good plot?
« Reply #21 on: October 26, 2017, 06:45:42 PM »
I have one rough and one very rough idea for two stories, But nothing anywhere close to looking like an outline.

I am still drawing complete blanks on external goals and conflicts. By ruling out "saving the world" and "getting filthy rich", I seem to have massively restricted myself with what I could write about.
We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on a big tower of other dwarves.

Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor

Offline Skip

Re: How to start creating a good plot?
« Reply #22 on: October 27, 2017, 06:15:56 PM »
I'm a fan of smaller goals. Not save the world, but save a friend. Not get rich but get enough to pay off the mortgage. And, for me anyway, the question running through such stories is: at what price? When the stakes are smaller, then almost anything might happen. The MC might save one friend but suffer the death of another. The house might be saved but the marriage breaks apart. Or it can all turn out well. By changing the scope, one can change expectations, which raises the possibility of surprising the reader.

But, again for me, it has to be something I care about. Maybe that's one reason why I don't go for epic scale: saving the world means nothing to me at the personal level. Saving a friend does.

Offline RobertS

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Re: How to start creating a good plot?
« Reply #23 on: October 27, 2017, 08:45:53 PM »
I'm a fan of smaller goals. Not save the world, but save a friend. Not get rich but get enough to pay off the mortgage. And, for me anyway, the question running through such stories is: at what price? When the stakes are smaller, then almost anything might happen. The MC might save one friend but suffer the death of another. The house might be saved but the marriage breaks apart. Or it can all turn out well. By changing the scope, one can change expectations, which raises the possibility of surprising the reader.

But, again for me, it has to be something I care about. Maybe that's one reason why I don't go for epic scale: saving the world means nothing to me at the personal level. Saving a friend does.

I think 'Rear Window' is a great example of how strong the smaller plot can be. Just a few characters. The question is, did the man across the way kill his wife. There is more than enough drama in this simple question. "Casablanca," was about getting a man out of town safely. Huge drama in a simple story. Honestly, if a pair of characters are desperate to cook a recipe found in their late mother's diary, just finding the ingredients could drive an amazing story. The possibilities in fantasy are endless.

"Did she really use fewmets in her omlets?"
"Did she even know what fewmets are?"
"Mother was always into her little inside jokes, we should probably ask Uncle Fin."
"Not Uncle Fin, not after what he did." "Do you want to make this recipe or not?"
I would rather look stupid today than be stupid tomorrow.

Offline Yora

Re: How to start creating a good plot?
« Reply #24 on: October 27, 2017, 09:39:13 PM »
I think a good part with my problem is having high ambitions for originality. A big reason things become established standards is because they work. While I think I have a quite original and really neat sounding idea, I can not tell for certain if it actually works. Could be that it's not simply a lack of ideas for plots, but that I build up a set of requirements that sound good on paper but are incompatible in practice.

When my main priorities are "action adventure", "supernatural creatures", "no world ending threats", and "no selfishly greedy motivations", then it might just not be possible to also force "not selflessly compasionate" into it. Two things that may be good ideas on their own might not be good as a combination. Now that I am putting it like that, trying to have both "doesn't do it for herself" and "doesn't do it for others" is looking really nonsensical.

However, since I had already planned to have a character growth from self-centered questing for personal improvement towards a more outward looking desire to help, I actually could be doing both. Just not at the same time. Having both motivations competing during the middle phase actually gives me a new surge of creativity.
We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on a big tower of other dwarves.

Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor

Offline Yora

Re: How to start creating a good plot?
« Reply #25 on: April 07, 2018, 07:35:06 PM »
Some new developments in the saga of "Why Yora can't get anything written".

A few days ago I've reached the point where I actually started to question whether a compelling narrative actually requires a strong plot. In the sense of a progression of scenes in which the character completes a series of steps to come closer to the ultimate goal.
I am not really much of a traditional novel guy, and even less so of an epic series guy. And all my favorite stories are from mostly movies and some TV shows and videogames, with my favorite works of literature all being shorter than novel length. And the great majority of them don't have much in the sense of plot. They are not sequential progressions of protagonists and antagonists making their moves and countermoves until the protagonist wins the conflict. Blade Runner could be described as a hunt for four replicants and at the end they are all accounted for, but there is absolutely no sense of the protagonist having won against the antagonists. And what is even the goal in The Empire Strikes Back? As conventional story structure goes, this movie is a complete trainwreck, but in what it does an absolute artistic masterpiece. In my opinion not in spite of lacking clear goals but because of it.

Yesterday I rediscovered the Kishotenketsu structure, that I had read about some years back but completely forgot when I put my crative efforts into different things for about a year. It's a story structure that works in a way that does not rely on a central conflict in the way that three act structure does. It does not begin with a problem and end with its solution. It's a structure that is quite happy with just stuff happening and no clear target in sight.
The idea is that you start with an conventionl introduction, followed by further development. Stuff is happening, but it doesn't really have to have any long term goal. Then in the third part some new and often dramatic element comes into the story, causing disruption and shakeing things up. Then in the fourth part, the events from the previous two parts merge together and form a resolution to both of them. The disruption ends up being vital to wrapping up the initial situation.

It seems to me like an approach that might work better for me, as it's playing more to my strengths while having the capacity to avoid my boggest weakness.
We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on a big tower of other dwarves.

Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor