The Plot Thickens

Results 1 to 9 of 9

Thread: The Plot Thickens

  1. #1
    Java Girl Barb's Avatar Retired Staff
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Gender
    Female
    Location
    The Peach State
    Posts
    6,414
    Blog Entries
    32

    Default The Plot Thickens

    Dialogue and narrative will carry a story only so far. Many fanfictions on the 'net are merely a slice in the life of a particular character. Plotting helps keep the writer motivated during the actual writing process. Here's how plotting helps a story:

    1. It ensures that the story/fanfiction/novel has balance. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end. Have you ever read a story that seemed to stop abruptly, as though the author ran out of things to say? A guideline for plotting is that the beginning should encompass 25% of the story, the middle 50% and the end 25%.

    2. Plotting helps to avoid the "what happens now?" scenario, when the author realizes (as above) that he or she has run out of things to say.

    3. Plotting keeps transitions smooth. This mainly applies to novel-length fiction with main storyline, subplots, and multiple POV characters.

    4. Plotting helps keep the pace of the story consistent.

    You can plot your story any way you like: index cards, spreadsheet programs, Word documents, etc. You may wish to subcategorize your plot and subplot and changes in POV. It's also helpful to have a timeline. If your story takes place over many years or seasons, get out a calendar and plot out the storyline.

    Character sheets (or style sheets) help the writer to remember key details about a character. You don't want to write about a black-haired hero in the beginning and 50 pages later give him brown hair.

    Here's an example of a character sheet:

    Ash Ketchum
    • about 5'5' tall
    • jet-black hair and dark eyes
    • grew up in Pallet Town
    • won the Orange Islands Championship
    • started his journey with a Pikachu


    Think of plotting as a rehearsal. You get an overview of your story so that you can weed out any obstacles or take control of subplots that dominate chapters. You can understand your character's motivations better as well.

    [EDIT: Feel free to discuss. This is one of a few writing essays I'll be posting in the coming weeks.]

  2. #2
    A black and white world Blackjack Gabbiani's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Nowhere special
    Posts
    17,517
    Blog Entries
    273

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb
    Character sheets (or style sheets) help the writer to remember key details about a character. You don't want to write about a black-haired hero in the beginning and 50 pages later give him brown hair.
    What if the hair color seems to change? For instance...in early episodes, Giovanni has black hair. It's switched to brown and back several times.
    I would imagine here we should pick one and stick with it, but...

    Or...say you're writing about Kimiko from Xaolin Showdown, whose hair changes color scene to scene. What then?

  3. #3
    Java Girl Barb's Avatar Retired Staff
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Gender
    Female
    Location
    The Peach State
    Posts
    6,414
    Blog Entries
    32

    Default

    If it changes, then let it change but be sure that it's appropriate for the scene. If a character dyes his (or her) hair, fine, but then let the readers know that; otherwise, it looks like a boo-boo by the author.

    You know, I don't seem to recall Gio's hair being brown. Maybe because he's always seen in near-darkness, his hair looks black but is really brown.

  4. #4
    Feeling Brock Empathy Ember Blaze's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Pallet-esque town Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    8

    Default

    There is such a thing as too much plotting though. If an author plots too much then it starts to take on an artificial tone. Some basic plotting perhaps is a good idea, but too much can turn into a hinderance.

    If a writer plans the story/plot too much, then they can get stuck in an intellectual quagmire. If a story is planned too carefully the creative influences can become squelched and new insights that happen as the characters and story become more developed in the writing process can sometimes lead to feelings of guilt about leaving the original plan.

    Also if characters are reduced to their basic parts (not physical, I wholeheartedly agree on physical character sheets and even sketches) then they tend to become two dimensional if the author sticks to what they've already written.

    Instead I personally try to keep plot planning as basic as possible. I pick an overall theme or themes, I pick a starting point, I pick an end point, I pick point of view, and I very roughly draft out my characters' overriding personalities (temperamental, quiet, organized etc.) and physical traits (often through sketching) and then I just sit down and write.

    My goal becomes getting characters from point A to point B. Anything can happen in between and that's the story. Then, once that's completed, I go over and edit. Things can always be added and taken out and I think that editing is really more important than planning.

    Of course, in the world of fanfiction, if you're posting chapter by chapter as you go, that doesn't really work too well, but the method can be used per chapter. Figure out what the chapter needs to do, apply the basic plan, write the first paragraph, write the last paragraph, and then figure out how to fill in the middle.

    I think the most important thing when writing, or planning to write, is to start with the ending. I've found this the best prevention for writer's block. Then you have a destination. A point to get to. That's the motivation. The middle, the story itself, is where all the delicious artistic nuances go and if you know where those are headed it's easier to make those creative decisions.

    Of course, this is just the planning method I use. It works well for me. It may not work well for others, and some people really do have to have structured plans. Other people don't. Everything depends on what works best with the author's style of thinking.
    Brock oh Brock
    James oh James
    A one man fangirl's what I want to be,
    but there's two gorgeous boys for me!

  5. #5
    Local Philo-Semite Shiksa ♥'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    on a search for nothing
    Posts
    585

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Ember Blaze
    There is such a thing as too much plotting though. If an author plots too much then it starts to take on an artificial tone. Some basic plotting perhaps is a good idea, but too much can turn into a hinderance.

    If a writer plans the story/plot too much, then they can get stuck in an intellectual quagmire. If a story is planned too carefully the creative influences can become squelched and new insights that happen as the characters and story become more developed in the writing process can sometimes lead to feelings of guilt about leaving the original plan.
    Very well put. I find this is the problem a lot of the time. I usually plan in my head, sometimes with an ending and sometimes not, writing out whole scenes. I just can't get out the details in between. For my character profiles, I usually create something similar to a role-playing game form, which includes personality, background, etc. in addition to appearance.

    I find it most efficient to go with a concept then a conflict. Through this explaination, I'll allude to Chobits. For a concept, you need something unique and original. Chobit's concept is that in the future, computers are in the form of beautiful girls that act almost human, but aren't, and these computers are called persocoms. The problem is basically Chi, who is a legendary Persocom that is basically human with her artificial intelligence. The problem is there compounded by the fact that Chi wants to find someone who will love her, and her "other side" is calling her to another world. (I don't really know, I've only read the first two volumes). Do you see where I'm coming from? Concept, problem, and go with a plot from there.

    I thouroughly believe that writing a plot outline is good, but don't do it in one sitting and don't be afraid to edit it. If you limit yourself, you can't get that inspiration when you "get out." Sometimes good stories are just write-as-you-go. What I believe is my best story I wrote in 40 minutes with very minimal planning. It depends on the person, kind of story, etc.

    For deciding what POV to use, I would look at the message you're trying to send. If you really want to dive into the characters emotions, first person is the way to go. I only recommend omniscent (sp) third if you have a grand concept and problem, as in Harry Potter (which unforetunately isn't completely omniscent in the later books). If you need to write with seeing the POV of multiple characters, or want to be omniscent but describe the details the character won't necessarily see/experience, regular third person is the choice for you. ^_^

    Okay, that may be off topic, but just my two cents.

    It was Columbus instead.

  6. #6
    Java Girl Barb's Avatar Retired Staff
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Gender
    Female
    Location
    The Peach State
    Posts
    6,414
    Blog Entries
    32

    Default

    Sometimes I just let the story carry me along. And I absolutely agree: there can be too much plotting in a fic.

    I've never tried writing the ending first, Ember Blaze. I think I'll try that suggestion when inspiration next strikes.

  7. #7
    Kaz
    Kaz is offline
    Registered User Kaz's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Gender
    Female
    Location
    The Special Zone!
    Posts
    860

    Default

    I like writing the short "slice-of-life" fanfics, though! I'd rather read something small, snappy, but still an all-round good fic like Anysia's "Insomnia" than something that's plotted too much, or is too heavy going to concentrate on reading in one go [read: Pokémon Master, most of Ben's old fics [no offence!]].

    Writing the ending makes it difficult [for me] to finish the whole fic. I have the beginning, I have the end. Now how the hell do I make them get there? I tend to write in bites - I think of a scene, then another, then another, then I connect them all up with a plot/more explored plot. ^^;

    However, in all my wisdom/knowledge/googling, I did come across this...

    As for hair changes, Ash has been black, brown, navy, dark green...
    I love bacon more than I love your mom.

  8. #8
    Cheers to the Freeze Luna Tiger's Avatar Bulbapedia Staff
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Gender
    Female
    Location
    Black City
    Posts
    8,588
    Blog Entries
    422

    Follow Luna Tiger on Tumblr

    Default

    Plotting is actually quite tricky. Having a straight-foward plot can be boring to an audience, because it's probably the same type of plot they read two stories ago. Having a complex plot with three or more things happening at the same time gets confusing, if you don't have the right skills or style to handle it. Also, plots on the fly normally don't go very far except through domestic life!fics. Originality also gets in the way, because more times than not, ten people before you did they same thing with slightly different plot twists, but still had the same mass-produced feel. It all depends on the author's abilities, whether a plot is good or not...because an author can come up with a great idea, and yet not have the skills, vocabulary, etc to make it as great as it should be.

    Then again, as you get better/older/wiser, so does your writing. I've been writing the same stories for... six years or so. *label: procrastinator* The plots have basically stayed the same, and the characters come from the same backgrounds, but they've also drastically improved to the point where they aren't the same.

    And while people can dream up the ending, they still suffer from writer's block. Events in the middle take more planning to get towards the end, and the beginning is always a hassle, because you don't /want/ to be at the beginning. You want to be in the midst of the juicey middle, where all the 'action' is.

    As for character sheets, I use them sparingly. Height, eye/hair color, immediate family tree and that's roughly it. Personality and past, if an OC, is best left to how the story adapts. You could want them a certain way at first, then find that they're better off another way, something accidentally unearthed. And if a CC....if you know the fandom well enough, it's not necessary. A CC with a fanon past, those can be spur-of-the-moment decisions. Just don't forget them. ^_~

    *muse* But plotting, whatever works best for whatever author. I prefer writing slightly-deeper-than-basic plots with prayers of pulling them off without confusion, because if there's more than one character, I can assure you they all have their own agendas and problems while trapising through the story. *likes addressing them* But if you like hearing from your reviewers what they'd like to see and getting ideas that way, 'tis fine. Basic fluff plots all dreamed out, fine too. Dramatic plots with more than a couple of grand schemes going on with enough force to make even the author dizzy, you just better be good, 'cause if yah ain't, there won't be much to get credit for.
    Avatar artwork by アカネ
    PRIA is my haunt, 45500 is my identity,
    the black stronghold is my fortress.

  9. #9
    o_O Iveechan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Posts
    33

    Default

    I tried plotting (or outlining as I call it) before. It so didn't work... by the time I gave up, the paper was cluttered with arrows and side notes and scribbles from where my indecisive mind constantly changes. Which I guess is where index cards come in, but even when I used that for school papers it didn't work well.

    What I do is walk and think. I love going for long walks and I come up with some great story scenes when moving. And thinking at night. Anyway, when I start writing a story, I just write it as I go with the plot in my mind, then make changes as I go along. Not the best technique but it's what I'm used to.
    Who's always giving Katelyn a hand?

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •