Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Elaborating On Story & Plot

What Do You Know About Story?

Aside from the fact that maybe you want to write them? 

Hey, I just got down from a three day kick-back and I'm feeling kind of mellow, so I don't want to write about anything to technical or complicated so I thought I'd give some time to the general idea of writing stories. An extension of what I posted last week about Plot.

Now here's the thing.  People  have been telling stories for thousands of year. Realistically, it's the same story over and over.  People, events and locations will change, but stories basically remain the same. They're based on fear, anger, love and hate. What motivates us humans; kindness, envy greed, ambition, power and lust, will always provide the writer with the fuel needed to hold a mirror up that human condition and create even more variations on stories that have been told many times over.

So, to manipulate all that information you need to have a plan.

Even a simple plan.

As the writer the setting and background needs to be plain in your own mind. You need to think of things like how the weather might affect your story ("It was a dark and stormy night"). Does the story cover some territory or is it set entirely inside an old mansion? Have you decided on a particular genre? Horror? Sci/Fi? Fantasy? Western? Mystery? Romance?

This all goes back to the planning. Some writers plan out every detail of every nuance in the story, some just go ahead with a minimal outline and fill in the meat at they go. Plainly, no matter the amount of planning characters will not always do what they're supposed to, action will change and locations will be adjusted to fit the evolving tale, BUT some preparation is necessary and many authors don't take the time to accomplish that step. This can lead to characters wandering aimlessly, a story that is disorganized and uninteresting and a possessing a number of other ailments.

For myself the best approach has proved to be having a structure - an organization of events I plan to have take place that lead in a path from beginning to end.  One problem solved from the get-go.  Many writers never finish the story they begin telling. It's good to have a horizon line in view - a destination. Of course a horizon is pretty much a moving thing so the writer has to keep tabs on what's happening and keep the horizon evolving. That's where destination comes in handy. You have a goal to reach, but much can change between here and there.

Part of the trick is to begin the story as far in as you can manage. Don't feel you have to pave a road to lead your reader down. He or she will be delighted to jump right in there with you. Readers are always ready to suspend their disbelief and real knowledge of the world, but the skilled writer gives them a reason to read. A hook to get started and a great tale to keep them going.

To accomplish that again, we go back to planning. If you as the writer know where you're going the reader will follow along. If you're rambling and your characters seem to have no purpose you're going to lose them.

So know where you're going, give your hero lots of obstacles to overcome and complications to deal with. Give him dead ends and frustrations, times he has to double-back, but always keep your end in sight and you're going to find no matter how complicated you've made it, no matter how many twists in your story, your hero will find a way forward to a satisfying end.

And now I'm sharpening my own focus, returning to the 'grind' so to speak and I have some great ideas as to where I'm going.


  1. Hope you had a great break!

    I once read that in order to tell a great tale you should throw a fistful of trouble at your main character, then heap more on top. Guess that's about right! Nice post!

  2. Yep, that's about right. Thanks for the post.


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