Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen
mrissa

Plot: some stuff that totally might not work for you.

Over on FB, one of you--under their legal name, so I will not cross-identify--was talking about having difficulty finding plot for ideas for which they had world and character. I offered to make a helpy post about plot. And awhile ago I gave another of you--in a locked post, so again, won't say who--a series of questions to try to spark plot ideas from what that person said was world ideas. So I'm putting some of those here and also some additional ones.

Here's the thing: all happy writers plot alike, but--wait, no. Even happy writers plot differently. Some achieve plot. Some have plot thrust upon them. So if you run across things that are meant to spark plot, and you want to run screaming from those questions or ideas, that's good! It tells you something useful about yourself! It tells you: holy crap, don't do it that way. Because seriously, there is no reason you should do it that way. This is all conscious-brain trouble-shooting. This is totally not how I even do it. This is just how I attempt to help someone who says, "Hey, I am having a problem." Some brains take this approach to this kind of problem and want to curl up and gibber. I have one of those kind of brains! I keep it in the basement in the timprov. So seriously, if all of this sounds hideous to you and like the least fun and functional way of plotting ever, put your trouble-shotting plot methods in the comments, or commiserate in the comments, and maybe that'll help somebody too.

1. Even if the world is neat, someone is usually unhappy there. Who? Why? Are they convinced they would have been better off in a past era, a different country, an alternate way of doing things not yet achieved? Or are they focused on what's wrong with their milieu and not on the alternatives?

2. What has changed for the world or characters recently? What is hard about this for the people living there or living with each other?

3. What can't be sustained about the situation? What is hard about this?

4. Who is considered very odd within this setting? Who is the absolute rock of the [village, city, school of marine biologists, whatever]? How does this setting allow them to interact/prevent them from interacting, and do they balk at the usual things and make their own stuff work for themselves as individuals or is their relationship typical of their roles?

5. Of the characters you have, who thinks that what they really want is not achievable, and what are they going to settle for instead? Are they right? Are they constructive/destructive/something else?

6. What stuff is cool stuff that you like? This could be "love triangles" (oh please do not let it be love triangles, I am so very tired) or "giant squids" or "the bit where a crucial piece of a mystery becomes clear to somebody." Sometimes if you don't have a plot, seeing how you can combine the things you already have (story elements or nouns or verbs, whatever, I'm not picky) can result in one. "I like screwball comedies, I could do one of those," you might say, or else, "Well, if I don't have a mystery, I'm going to have to do some pretty crazy things to have a batty old lady who solves mysteries...hmm," or, "If there is going to be wombat research, it should probably be plot-relevant wombat research somehow or the reader will waste a lot of time trying to figure out what it has to do with anything. Unless I have made it Deeply Symbolickal, and managing that is its own special trick."

Anybody else?
Tags: full of theories, method of fun
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