Question of the Day #38: How much has your plot changed?

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Jedi Knight Muse

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Question of the Day #38: How much has your plot changed?
« on: July 05, 2018, 02:04:41 PM »
How much has your plot changed since you started working on your current project(s)?
I'm adding a twist to this question - tell us a how much it's changed, but then ask a question about the plot of the person who responded above you.

As always, you are welcome to suggest a discussion topic by replying to this post.
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Manu

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Re: Question of the Day #38: How much has your plot changed?
« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2018, 09:12:05 AM »
Since I am a planner and plot-driven writer and I outline heavily before the actual drafting stage, my plot usually doesn't change once I started writing. It evolves a lot during the planning and outlining stage, though, as I rearrange stuff, add more detail and work out the logic stuff.

The story does change - in my first project, I decided to add a POV, and merge what was originally supposed to be part one and two and make it a single book. It's still the same plot and the same characters.
In my other WIP, I decided to merge two secondary characters and add another one. This didn't change the plot, though, actually I adjusted the cast in order to make the plot work the way I had planned it.

So I'm supposed to ask a question now? @Jedi Knight Muse Since I know a lot of details about your Alana project, but very little about the actual story - can you sum up its plot in one sentence?
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Penguinball

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Re: Question of the Day #38: How much has your plot changed?
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2018, 12:31:16 PM »
*eyes gigantic pile of rejected story outlines*

....

I don't know what you are talking about.

....

Okay so my story started out small, everyone stayed on one island, the mother died at the end, it was good, but not enough story for an entire novel. So I expanded it and had them travel through a desert, through some mountains, to get to a forest and that version was like...boring fantasy travelogue. So I changed things, now the mother lives, so the MCs run from her and are tasked by a goddess to inflitrate the evil cult the mother belongs to. More exciting, but now I've pulled pretty far from the original ideas in the story, it barely resembles itself. So NOW I want to just burn all the notes, go back to what drew me about the story and the characters, and make a new outline from THAT. TBD for Nano 2018 possibly.

@Manu - HOW.

...

As in, like, what is your outlining process and how do you keep yourself from diverging?

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mathgnome

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Re: Question of the Day #38: How much has your plot changed?
« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2018, 02:26:33 PM »
My story plot has changed so much. I've added POVs, deleted POVs, added more POVs, added a chaotic evil body-hopping entity and a lot more backstabbing, added murders, added attempted murders, added murder witnesses, deleted murders, changed murderers, changed the story trajectory for.... *considers* all but one character, I think. Yeah. Chaos. And then I try to put my chaos in an outline, write following the outline, change the outline again, rewrite.... I've written 3 drafts of this story and only one has been finished. well, sort of finished, because I didn't finish writing the POVs I had already decided to cut in the next draft.

@Penguinball what did originally draw you to the story and characters?
For glory lit and life alive,
For goals unreached and dreams to strive:
All men must try, the wind did see,
It is the test, it is the dream.

-Wit, from Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

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Penguinball

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Re: Question of the Day #38: How much has your plot changed?
« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2018, 10:49:10 PM »
@Penguinball what did originally draw you to the story and characters?

It was the conflict in the MC that drew me, having to chose between the familiar and between what was right. And for the antagonist it was her desperate drive to build a place for herself in the world, so desperate that she had blinded herself to her daughter and no longer knew what was right or wrong.

For the story itself I loved the climax of the daughter facing off against her mother to save a dragon, and I liked the idea of the Star Mirror, and having to recover it to bring back a missing goddess. Those things got lost in subsequent drafts.

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Manu

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Re: Question of the Day #38: How much has your plot changed?
« Reply #5 on: July 08, 2018, 07:44:29 AM »
@Manu - HOW.

...

As in, like, what is your outlining process and how do you keep yourself from diverging?

I think it's probably because I'm a plot-driven and not a character-driven writer? Like I said, my story does change as I work on it, but the plot stays constant, it's other things that change for me.
My outlining process has changed over time as I got more experience - I used the 3-act structure and the snowflake method for my first project, but didn't do the last snowflake step, I started drafting when I was done with the list of scenes. I later learned about the 7-points structure (hook, 1st plot point, 1st pinch, midpoint, 2nd pinch, 2nd plot point, resolution) and I have been working with it ever since. Here's what I do in the planning stage:
  • write a one-sentence-summary
  • decide the theme and tone
  • make a bullet list with the seven points to get a very condensed version of the main plot
  • identify external and internal conflict for each important character
  • adjust the main plot if necessary, and outline the arcs for the main character(s) with the 7-point structure as well
  • go back and forth between the above steps and adjust them until it feels complete
  • at this point, I sometimes take a break and work on something else and come back to it later - then I start outlining in detail, I continued using the snowflake method for a while (which is really just a couple of hours of work for steps 1-7 if I have planned out everything already), which mainly serves me to doublecheck if everything is working and makes sense at this point. I recently experimented with skipping the snowflake steps 1-7 and making a scenes list (which is step 8.) directly from the planning document, and I also experimented with only outlining the next scene in detail, writing it, outlining the next one, and so on.

I guess what keeps me from diverging is really just that planning and outlining is the creative part for me, that's where my brain goes crazy with ideas. Once my outline is done and I start drafting, it's just work I need to get done, my brain is pretty silent with new ideas at that point. Or it spits out ideas for new, shiny stories (which I write down and occasionally even plot them out, so my brain will leave me alone).

@mathgnome How do you decide which POV you need and which to leave out?
« Last Edit: July 08, 2018, 07:46:30 AM by Manu »
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Elena

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Re: Question of the Day #38: How much has your plot changed?
« Reply #6 on: July 11, 2018, 01:37:21 PM »
I agree with @Manu , I am a planner, and the plot doesn't change much, usually. Just that I don't outline with snowflakes and 3-acts, because I never think like this. My outline is usually different:

- the idea of the story I want to tell (using the example of 2 published novels and the one I am working on this Camp NaNo): a girl who loves an officer from the shadows, without ever telling him, and disguises herself to be able to follow him as a young soldier in his troops ("Lives in turmoil" - and the basic inspiration was, as Manu might have heard, "Das Madchen Christine", 1949 movie set during the war of 30 years), a tomboy girl who moves to USA, to a frontier town, and manages to make peace among teen street gangs descended from an athmosphere a bit like "West Side Story" ("Rightness' Friends"), two girls and a boy born on sea, who have to return to sea after they are separated and taken prisoners, then seek revenge ("The Charm of the Seas"), then trying to detail it as much as my initial ideas allow.

- deciding when and where it happens (with the appropriate research for time and place and a timeline of historical events to navigate among). The concrete historical events give me further plot ideas as my characters have to navigate those.

- identifying and fleshing out the characters who are best to make the story happen: what nationality, age, education, worldview, personality, skills, history and family relations should they have? Draw up a short bio for each of them, then various group lists for easy finding (e.g. for "Lives in turmoil" the list of army people she is with and their ranks, the list of people she crosses the Atlantic with - name, profession, age, brief characteristics, the list of peoples in the immigrant convoy crossing the US to settle the town of Venice, Illinois, then which children were born to whom and who marries whom. For "Rightness' Friends", the lists of gangs with their leaders, for the mariachis who plays what in the main team, in the second team and in the junior team, who's whose brother, for "The Charm of the Sea" the list of people in the harem, who's friend and who's enemy and where were they from, the list of the rebel team and their leaders, the list of the crew and their roles, the list of the tribesmen with details.)

- further details fleshing. When I don't know what to write (or how to make an outcome happen) I leave a blank place which I revisit after some more research or brainstorming. (And it works!)

Once settled this way, the plot usually doesn't change. It gets fleshed with more details, some characters might change their names if I notice a problem with their names later, but usually it doesn't change much, except minor details. I told in another thread that for me, the successive drafts mean polishing and correcting, not extensive rewriting. E.g. the characters will still have to escape the palace, just the way they actually escape might be refined if the initial one wasn't making much sense or wasn't described properly. If there wasn't shown enough the motivation for choosing a certain path, it will be added.

The exception for "the plot doesn't change" is... the sequels. Sometimes, while the initial plot doesn't change, it is not the whole plot. When getting to its completion, I realize the initially envisaged end was the end of a chapter, but there is more to the story. Therefore, the initial first 12 chapters of "Lives in turmoil", covering roughly the years 1794 - 1802, got expanded to 3 volumes (whit the third ongoing, not yet published), getting up to 1849. And the "Charm of the Seas" also had more to tell after the three siblings met again their uncles and went to sea. (cue, a trip to Africa and the return...)

@Manu , how can you recognize in your writing the... moments provided for in the 3 acts or 7 points structures?

I can't... I have read about them extensively. I just don't understand how they apply to my writing. OK, when reading its description, it makes sense for a good story. Then, let's apply it... I can't!
« Last Edit: July 11, 2018, 01:41:08 PM by Elena »




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mathgnome

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Re: Question of the Day #38: How much has your plot changed?
« Reply #7 on: July 11, 2018, 02:23:07 PM »
@mathgnome How do you decide which POV you need and which to leave out?

Sometimes I decide to leave out a POV because its just not working for me. My character Tes is an example of this; I just wasn't connecting with her struggles (and honestly she didn't have enough of them) and I dreaded writing her sections. So I decided to move to a character who was more active and interesting.

Sometimes it's a question of condensing the plot. Another character I cut had a storyline largely separate from the other characters that only intersected at the very end. It wasn't practical and another character could cover the important things that were happening there.

In terms of deciding which ones I need, I think about who's doing what when and where, and how that's important to the plot. If two characters are doing Very Important Things in separate locations and are largely ignorant of the other's activities, they each get their own POV. (Sometimes one will get cut later if the plot gets changed or condensed.) Any character doing significant amounts of personal growth also needs their own POV to showcase that. If a character knows important information that no one else knows, they may get a POV (but only if they have another purpose besides information.)

If characters have very similar conflicts, I usually only give one of them a POV. Example, Shae and Maia in my WIP both do important things. However, their conflicts would be very similar and so only Shae gets a POV.

Sometimes I leave out a POV for the sake of mystery or tension. If Maia had a POV in my story, certain things would be revealed too early, causing plot conflicts to unfold too quickly to balance with what other characters are doing.

Several of my POV changes came as outgrowths of thinking about a sequel and several non-POV characters demanding sections. That forced me to reevaluate plot and who was getting screen time.

On that note, @Elena how much do you think about plans for sequels while you are planning/writing your books?
For glory lit and life alive,
For goals unreached and dreams to strive:
All men must try, the wind did see,
It is the test, it is the dream.

-Wit, from Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

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Elena

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Re: Question of the Day #38: How much has your plot changed?
« Reply #8 on: July 11, 2018, 03:36:54 PM »
@mathgnome  , I can't reply to your question for what I have written up to now, because the situation was different.

When I first wrote "Lives in turmoil", I mean those first 12 chapters, I thought that was it. But it happened in 1984, and I was 16.  Fast forward a few decades, we were in 2007 and I had re-read all the things written during highschool, deciding which was salvageable to be corrected and transcribed on PC and which wasn't. (Actually I think I have done it a bit sooner, in 2004 or so, but then I had the pile of notebooks to transcribe and work upon and its turn had come in 2007, others being before. Mind you I had a high importance work - EU Affairs, preparing the accession - and a family and a household, so I couldn't write too quickly). I transcribed it, correcting mistakes of expression, mistakes of logic (don't ask about a 16 year's logic, it doesn't go as straight as a 30 something's), I applied what I had learnt in the meanwhile about creative writing, I researched more extensively because now I had the internet (and then only libraries), I checked all facts...

Then I arrived at the end of the 12 chapters and I said "first, I change the end, because such a sudden happy ending doesn't make sense... it's a case of Deus ex machina. And cheesy has limits. They can't have a happily ever after... but a twist, they might have had it if he wasn't already married by then..." And if she was alone again, and freed of his memory... then what if she'd meet the other man before he left for Egypt, and they emigrated together to the US instead? So the sequel was born.

And with that sequel, when I got to publish the novel, the publisher recommended me to take back the last 3 chapters, and to expand them into another sequel, because they were too rushed (on purpose, they had a sort of an epilogue value, as I thought in 2007 - now it was 2017 and I had whom to advise me). Therefore, "Other turmoils of life", in process of being finished... the 3 chapters being 21 or so, now, and extending to 1849.

The same for "The Charm of the Sea", that happy end with the family reunion had been written when I was 15, in 1983. And at that time, also the length of the notebook I had dictated when to end a story ;) . I mean, I had sewn a few more pages to certain notebooks, but not many. Fast forward to 2005 or so, after re-reading and considering it worth, I transcribed it on the computer, with the due corrections and scene expansions. (This round, as I am polishing it, I still do some scene cutting and scene expansions, and I divide some chapters in two.) Then I read the ending, and I asked myself: "OK, then what? It wants more. Definitely that can't be the end of the story. And wait a minute, I have another seafaring story written in 1982, from which I can save only the expedition to Africa... because the start/ premise sucks too much logically." I made the changes to that expedition to Africa, with proper research, in order to bring it to the timeline of the other story (difference of about 50-70 years), I created the premise for the expedition in continuing my novel... and there it was. Again, with more research. And now, as I am revising it, there will be even further research to that aspect as well...

However I have written (not finished though) a pirate novel for NaNoWriMo 2016, and I realized before finishing it that I have the materials and ideas for a series of 3 volumes. So it is thought from the start to be divided in 3 volumes. If I get more ideas while writing those, there might be a 4th or a 5th in the series  (titled The price of Freedom, which was initially the title of the novel... no, it's the series)
« Last Edit: July 21, 2018, 07:06:34 AM by Elena »




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Manu

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Re: Question of the Day #38: How much has your plot changed?
« Reply #9 on: July 21, 2018, 07:03:56 AM »
Late answer is late...

@Manu , how can you recognize in your writing the... moments provided for in the 3 acts or 7 points structures?

I can't... I have read about them extensively. I just don't understand how they apply to my writing. OK, when reading its description, it makes sense for a good story. Then, let's apply it... I can't!

For my own writing, it's easy - I don't search for them in the story, I design the story according to common story structure arcs that work. Sounds stale, but it's the way that woks for me - I am quite insecure when it comes to writing, and I need to know that the story I'm spending so much time on writing will at least work in terms of story structure, otherwise I get writer's block.
I start with a vague story idea. Then I use the seven point structure (or 3-act structure, or hero's journey, or whatever) to direct my plot brainstorming. It actually makes brainstorming easier for me, because story structure provides a rough framework and is a guide for me.

About identifying them later... I actually have no idea. When I learned that kind of stuff at school, I never got it, and in tests I just repeated the stuff we had talked about in previous lessons without understanding it. It was simply a concept my brain couldn't apply to the literature we read.
When I got into creative writing and started to read on story structure out of my own motivation, I got very confused at first - there were so many different ones, and they obviously had a lot in common, but I couldn't wrap my head around it. So I took a piece of paper and made a huge spreadsheet to compare them, and to identify e.g. which steps in the Hero's Journey are which act in the 3-act structure, and which plot points equal which steps in the Hero's Journey, and stuff like that. At some point it just clicked for me, and all the pieces suddenly made sense and fit together.

What I do when I try to identify plot points in a story: I start with the beginning and ending - what is the hook, what is the resolution? What is the main arc? That's usually pretty straight forward. Then I try to find the midpoint, which is often when the protagonist moves from reaction to action and starts to take stuff in their own hands - they commit to doing whatever happens in the resolution. The plot points are major turning points in the story, the first one is the turning point that throws the protagonist into the adventure (point of no return), the second one is the turn that is the final piece that makes the resolution possible - in the midpoint the protagonist commits to doing something, in the second plot point they get the final piece they need to do it. The pinches are the last points I look for - they're often not easy to identify, but one thing that helped me a lot with understanding pinches was a youtube video by an editor who said the pinches mainly have the function to remind the reader of what is at stake for the protagonist - often by raising the stakes.

Ok, I'm aware that was very technical and probably just repeated what you have read about story structure before - I really have no idea how to explain it better :-| I'm sure you have an intuitive understanding of it, though, otherwise you probably wouldn't know that easily where to end one book and where to start the sequel.

@Elena How do you outline if you don't use story sturcture? Is the whole story in your head already and you just write it down? Or is your story still changing before the outline is finished?
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Elena

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Re: Question of the Day #38: How much has your plot changed?
« Reply #10 on: July 21, 2018, 07:23:52 AM »
@Manu , in my first post above, dated July 11, 2018,  I really told you how I outline, with examples:
-the general idea of the story I am inspired to tell
-when and where it happens
- which kind of characters can make it happen best (and creating those characters)
- fleshing up the further details of the story.

All in between them, lots of research is crammed, and sometimes this research gives me further inspiration to continue the story, to create subplots or mend the gaps inside (how do they arrive to do this?).  And yes, I didn't understand more from your telling than from what I had read so many times. In some cases I'd say those structures don't apply as such because most of my stories happen over a longer period of time than other people's books (years, decades). Or maybe I am simply... unable to understand how they can be identified (and even more actually built a story upon them). I can recite definitions of "inciting incident", "climax", "denouement"... but ... I can't see where they are fitting in my stories, where (how I simply see them) something happens, then something else... then so on :P (of course, minding consequences, tying up subplots, etc.)
« Last Edit: July 21, 2018, 07:34:10 AM by Elena »