Tag Archives: story

Authors Answer 140 – Developing Plot

You need characters and setting for a story, but what would it be without a plot? Not much of anything. The plot may be one of the most complex parts of writing. A good plot isn’t predictable and straightforward. There may be multiple story lines running through the plot, but they all lead to one conclusion. So, how do we develop our plots?

Question 140 – How do you develop the plot of your stories?

Eric Wood

To develop a plot I sketch it out much like an artist would. An artist might draw out the art piece in pencil with very light strokes that are easily covered. I sketch out the plot of my stories with short words, a few descriptions, and random ideas to that come to me. It’s when I sit down to write the story in full that I then fill in details and move the story along from beginning to middle to end.

H. Anthe Davis

Plot? What plot? Okay, so I do have plot, even though at base it’s ‘a couple people plunge into adventures to stop a threat against everything’ — standard fantasy schtick. However, I think of ‘saving the world’ as more the end-goal, and all the plot movement is about what the individual characters want, how those wants impact other characters’ needs and ambitions, and how these conflicts turn and twist the story as the characters fight their way toward their end goal. All of my characters have their own little arc — not always very large — which is both based on and also gives them their personality. It may have nothing to do with the main plot but it’s something that drives them, and because of that it influences and potentially bends the main plot in unpredictable ways. I always want to make sure that as the writer, I’m not railroading the characters into certain actions — but it’s okay if the characters themselves are acting on each other to force actions because of their personal motivations. Obviously my stuff is very character-driven.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

I’m honestly not quite sure how to answer this question, because actively “developing” a plot isn’t really my style, to be blunt. For better or worse, my writing method has most been, “picture cool scene in head –> write scene –> try to come up with logical reason for that scene to exist”. It’s probably not the most professional approach to writing, but so far it’s been what works for me, and amazingly my plots have manage to work themselves out into coherent stories that my readers seem to be enjoying!

Jean Davis

I usually start writing with an opening scene in mind and just see what happens. Occasionally I’ll know where I want the story to end, most of the time I don’t. Most of my first drafts move along like: if this happens, they need to B to get to C and hmm, to get to D they need to do this thing, etc. So I guess I’d say it’s an organic plot process. There’s a good deal of me looking off into space throughout the day while I run through the next step of the plot in my head before I sit down to write the next scene.

Beth Aman

HAHAHA, what’s a plot? Am I supposed to have one of those? Usually I just start writing and let the plot unfold as I write. (This is called being a “pantser” – ie you ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ as you write.) I really flesh out my plot and have it all start to make sense when I do draft #2, and each successive draft makes more and more sense plot-wise, with adding in smaller plot arcs, micro-tensions, and foreshadowing. It’s like the first draft is me going around making a bunch of dots on the page, and the second draft is connecting the dots to make a picture. For actually coming up with the plot, I take my ideas and then ask ‘what could go wrong here?’ or ‘what’s the worst thing that could happen?’ or sometimes, ‘what’s unexpected?’ Then I let my imagination go wild, and try to make it all make sense at the end. (I wish I was a plotter. I really do. It would make life so much simpler.)

C E Aylett

No set formula. Sometimes, especially if I’ve researched a character particularly well, I’ll just write what comes to me and often it works out roughly to be right — the plot stems from the character. Sometimes, and this happens with the stories that come from dreams or something I heard on the news, I have a major twist or an ending in mind, something that the story pivots on. I then write out a first draft, see where I’m at by the end and how the story arc runs. If needs be, the beginning will be rewritten to accommodate a strong arc.

Paul B. Spence

I decide where to begin. I think of something interesting in the future of the characters to write toward. I fill the space with character development and side-stories.

D. T. Nova

Same as with characters, elements of the plot can be inspired by anything, and once the idea is there it’s mostly down to seeing how it fits together. I go through so many ideas and don’t think its entirely conscious how I decide which ones belong in the same story.

Linda G. Hill

“What if …?” It’s a question I’m always asking in my head, and it often ends up being a story.

Cyrus Keith

Plots come from everything from dreams to sudden revelations, to lessons learned, to random over-hearing “what if…” from across the room. Sometimes, the plot comes after the title. I love plays on words, and sometimes I get a great title idea. For instance, a thriller with a title like “Hush Little Baby” generates so many delicious ideas. That’s my current WIP.

Gregory S. Close

My plotting goes something like this: Come up with the basic story elements, flesh out the world-building and character-building as necessary to begin writing, maybe do a story outline, then start writing. Plot has to be consistent and fun and maybe a little bit complicated here and there, but it should move forward through the eyes/experience of the characters and in context of the world. It has to make sense. The bad guy is taking over the world!! Why? The magic sword has been discovered! Where was it? Why? Who put it there? I adjust plot just like I adjust character and world-building – if the driving story element turns out to be stupid, inconsistent, or otherwise doesn’t work – I change it. My last step in plotting is, after the final draft, go back and add the moments, clues, snippets of dialogue and foreshadowing etc that will glue it all together into a seamless story.

Jay Dee Archer

I start off with the idea, then develop a general direction I want the story to go in. I know how I want to finish the story, and work toward that goal. I start off quite general. I’ll write out the major plot points, then flesh them out. I plan out what I want to do for each chapter, outlining them. I pay attention to what each major character should be doing at the time, even if they aren’t in a chapter or scene. I need to know how each story line is going, and where they intersect. Once I’ve figured out the plot, I start writing. But the plotting isn’t finished. While I write, new ideas pop in my head, and sometimes it takes a new direction. When I finish writing my first draft, I go back to make sure I’ve got all the plot points in that I wanted, and make sure they work. I check that there are no loose ends. And of course, I make sure there’s a bit of foreshadowing in there. I also refer back to all of my character and setting notes to make sure everything is consistent. In the end, I should have a nice, cohesive story.

How about you?

If you’re an author, how do you develop your plot? Let us know in the comments section below.

Help Me Write a Story

I had an idea a couple days ago, and I thought I’d let you help me write a story! Here’s how it’s going to happen. I give you a list of word types, and you respond in the comments with all of those words. I’m not giving you much time to do this, as I’ll be writing these stories in a couple days. However, I’m going to try to do it in a way so that I can’t see what’s been written. It’ll be a mystery to me until I read it.

That’s right, I’m doing a mad lib story! I’ve already written the short story, but now it’s time for you to give me the words. So, in the comments section, please enter the words. Keep it PG? Actually, write whatever you want. Let’s see how silly or crazy this can get. Here are the categories:

  1. name (famous person)
  2. noun
  3. feeling
  4. noun
  5. adjective
  6. verb
  7. adjective
  8. adjective
  9. adjective
  10. adjective
  11. plural noun
  12. verb past tense
  13. verb past tense
  14. noun

I will be doing this all on video, by the way. You’ll see my reaction to the stories as I read them. I’m going to see if I can get someone to just copy and paste them into the story so I have no idea what they are until I read them.

So, let the insanity begin!

Intriguing Villain Adventure

Just a few minutes ago, I was asked an interesting question on my 200 Subscriber Q & A video:

If you had to pick 2 bookish villains to go on a road trip together, who would you pick and what would the title of their adventures be?

My answer, copied directly from the comments section is this:

Interesting question. I think I’d like Darken Rahl from Wizard’s First Rule and Saruman from Lord of the Rings to go on a road trip together. They’re both completely merciless and without any moral compass. So, their adventure would be called “Path to Conquest Without a Compass.”

Best I could do in 2 minutes 🙂

Maybe not the best answer, but I really only did think about it for a couple minutes. So, I’d like you to answer the same question in the comments section below. Let’s see who has the most interesting idea.

When Reading Pushes Me to Write

There are times when a book makes me want to write. Other times, reading gives me little or no inspiration. I’m in the former state at the moment.

For some reason, The Wheel of Time inspires me. The colourful and well-developed characters, the wonderful worldbuilding, and the entertaining story help put me in a creative mood.

On the other hand, The Iliad did the opposite. The characters were like caricatures, very unrealistic, and incredibly melodramatic. The narration (although it was a poem) was adjective-heavy, incredibly repetitive, and the dialogue was completely unnatural. It was difficult to read, and it dulled my creativity. My coming review of the book will say something similar, but I did like it.

Even though I’ve said I wouldn’t be doing much in the way of writing for Ariadne until after we’ve moved to Canada, I have a very strong itch to write. Maybe I can use this opportunity to do some critiquing. Or maybe do some outlining. Or maybe do some more worldbuilding. Maybe all of them. We’ll see.

Do some books inspire you to write, while others do the opposite? Let me know in the comments below.

Life Is a Story

After reading so much or watching so many movies or TV series, real life often seems ordinary and routine. But if you think about it, isn’t life like a story?

When I read, I’m always anticipating what’s going to happen next. I want to keep turning the pages and see what awaits me. I find it’s similar with world events. I’m waiting to see how things unfold, if they’ll get better or worse. Each of these is a story that gets intertwined with other stories making history just one giant story with an immense amount of subplots and story threads that look like an impossible tangle. It’s incredibly complex.

But what about our own personal lives? Everyone has their own stories, and while they usually don’t have an overall plot, there are hundreds or thousands of subplots. Everyone has multiple story arcs.

Do you ever think that way about the world or your own life?

Authors Answer 14 – Genesis of a Story

Welcome to February! We have a bit of a change of pace this month.  During this month and March, our questions come from our contributors.  This week’s question comes from Jean Davis.

How does an story begin?  We all start from some idea. Everyone starts from something different.  So let’s find out what our authors do when they begin a story.

character_plotQuestion 14: When coming up with a new story, what comes first, the character or the plot?

H. Anthe Davis

Since I’m working on a (hopefully) long-running series, the characters come first, and the plots are often created by complications from what they’ve done before.  Even in the beginning of this series though, it was rather firmly wrapped around a few well-defined characters, whom I’d been playing for a while either in online roleplaying chat or in MMORPGs.  I always found playing the characters to be insanely useful, especially since other players will interact with your character in ways you might not have been able to imagine yourself.

For short stories though, I often get plot ideas well before I define a character.  But I’m not terribly good at short stories, so those might never see the light of day.

S. R. Carrillo

It varies. Sometimes characters, sometimes plot, sometimes setting, sometimes backstory, sometimes just a single scene or thought or gesture…

Tracey Lynn Tobin

That’s an interesting question, and to be honest, I’ve never really thought about it. The process by which I come up with a new idea goes roughly like this: “Hey, that would be an awesome scene. I should come up with a story so I can write that.”

So you see, I don’t really come up with the character or the plot first. But if you really want to be technical about it, I usually get an idea of the type of character I want first, then I come up with the basic plot, and then I figure out the details of both as I’m writing (a planner, I ain’t).

Paul B. Spence

I think first of the setting, the environment, and then I think of someone existing within that place. Once I have that, plot guides itself, since all I have to do is watch what happens.

Jean Davis

New stories most often come to me as a character and then a situation which leads to the plot. Often it’s just a name and maybe something distinctive or interesting about the character. That detail then leads me to what could go on around them to play up that particular thing and then we’re off into the plot. Or staring at a blank screen.  But generally the words start spilling out from there.

Amy Morris-Jones

For me, it’s all about the characters. I usually get an image in my head of a specific scene and then work to flesh out the character from there. Once I have a sense of the character, I start thinking about where the character is headed and what challenges I want to set before him/her. I tend to “pants” the first 12-15K words, and then I sit down and outline the plot a bit more specifically. The more I try to impose my thoughts on plot on my characters, the harder time I have, so I’ve learned to let the characters lead the way as much as possible.

D. T. Nova

The characters. I haven’t tried plot-first in a long time, and when I did, I failed to actually have any characters that stood out.

Caren Rich

The plot, or at least the idea comes first.  Usually, with that I know a little about the protagonist or antagonist.  By the time I sketch out a flow chart of major events, I have a good idea of the major characters and the basic plot. I’m a total plotter.  People and events may change as I write, but I have the basics before I write the first word.

Linda G. Hill

Tough question. Being one who focuses greatly on human behaviour, which absolutely fascinates me, I want to say my characters come first, but that’s not exactly true. I need a situation to put them in first. So for instance, I come up with a dilemma and then stick someone in it who might have a hard time solving it. Using this method I’m able to come up with countless scenarios for stories – the less the character fits into the situation, the longer the story is bound to be. Complicated, for me, equals novel.

Elizabeth Rhodes

Sitting out this week, as she’s been rather busy recently.

Jay Dee Archer

It really depends for me.  My most recent idea was a character, a singer.  I haven’t even thought of the plot yet, as it’s just an idea for a book far in the future.  My entire premise for Ariadne started out as a setting, actually.  Then I created a group of characters to form a plot around.  I became quite fluid after that, constantly changing as I refined the idea.  My current fantasy idea started out with the world and a basic plot.  So you see, it happens both ways, and other ways, too.

How about you?

When you start a story, do you think of the plot or character first?  Or maybe something else?  What does your story grow from?  Leave your answers in the comments below.

Is it Halloween Yet? Crazy Halloween Stories

A couple days ago, I’d just left work when I noticed something odd, Halloween decorations.  I immediately started taking a video.  This is something that’s interesting about Japan.  Businesses often start decorating for western holidays and events that Japan has adopted up to two months early.  So that means Halloween decorations in early September.  They’re also very punctual about taking down the decorations.  They come down October 31st when closing the business for the night.  Then on November 1st, they open up with Christmas decorations.  Too early, isn’t it?

Well, I’d like you to watch this video.  While it starts off with me talking about this topic, it takes a bit of a twist toward the end.  Please watch it all the way through.

Now that you’ve watched it, you have to admit that was pretty strange.  If you haven’t watched it, why not?  Watch it now!

Back when I was in high school, I had another interesting Halloween story.  I must have been about 16 years old at the time.  My sister and I decided to go out in the evening to scare some older kids.  The younger kids had already come and gone, but all that was left were some junior high and high school kids.  My sister put on a black hooded robe, kind of like what you’d imagine the Grim Reaper wears.  We didn’t have a scythe, but we did have a big plastic axe.

I walked down one side of the street while my sister walked down the other side.  I was out there to watch what happened.  She passed a teenaged girl about a block from our house, and turned around to follow a few metres behind her.  The girl noticed my sister following her and started walking faster.  She walked straight toward a house that had its front light on (this means there’s still candy) and rang the doorbell.  Once the door was opened, my sister walked right past her and into the house with me behind her.  My sister said “Hi” to my mom and the girl was very relieved.  She was actually quite scared.  What we couldn’t believe is that she went straight to our house.  Of all the houses to choose from, it was ours.

So, do you have a funny or strange Halloween story? Please share in the comments.