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28

Everything has been done before. Seriously. I've taken two Ancient Literature courses and it's amazing how many plots are basically recycled versions of older plots. Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Twilight, Harry Potter - their plots all model older books and plays from hundreds of years ago. Even parts of the Bible are found in manuscripts that predate ...


23

It's definitely possible to do this without losing the reader. The New Testament is a story where the "protagonist" dies towards the end. I'm sure plenty of readers are quite satisfied with that. Much like the Gospels, killing the protagonist is advisable only if it really means something. Emphasis on the really. Even if you make your character a martyr ...


19

If it's original to you, it's original enough. Even if someone else coincidentally made something similar, you will still have your own twist on it enough that it will be yours entirely. This is different from inventions, where the first person to conceive it is the person who gets credit for it. In writing, so long as you're not out-and-out copying from ...


19

Give him his own story so he's not stealing scenes in someone else's. If he's that awesome, he should be starring in his own book rather than sucking all the oxygen out of this one.


17

If you want examples of successful diplomacy, try CJ Cherryh's Foreigner series, which I think is up to 15 books so far. The main character, Bren, is a diplomat between humans and the non-human species who are native to the planet where the humans crash-landed. Positively fascinating. Hard going at times, but I was never bored. And diplomacy is not ...


16

A few strategies: Until you have a great plot, try writing "good-enough" plots. Better to be writing something with a cliche plot, than not to be writing at all. (Edited to add: Also, sometimes once you've got an initial "good-enough" plot in place and fleshed out, that gives you enough substance to twist and warp into something new and exciting.) Plot is ...


16

Two things: I prefer to read stories where there are no overt themes being highlighted by the author (or else they're so subtle I can't tell, or not noticeable because the characters and what's going on are too interesting). Choosing themes first then constructing a story to illustrate them will probably end up sounding contrived. I find when I focus on ...


15

There are two main ways to structure a series: each book is essentially a stand-alone with a continuing story as part of the plot (Harry Potter), or each book is a critical part of the whole and they are difficult to read out of sequence or without the other books (Lord of the Rings). Either is fine; they just accomplish different things. Stand-alone books ...


15

We have to distinguish two different layers of coincidences: Coincidence in the beginning of the story vs. coincidence at the end of the story (Deus ex machina problem) Conflict decreasing coincidence vs. conflict increasing coincidence The reader forgives (and sometimes want) coincidences that happen at the beginning of the story and conflict increasing ...


15

What has worked for me in the past is to simply concentrate on telling the story. I'm assuming you are on your first draft and have yet to complete even that. In that case, you need to spend less time analyzing and more time telling your story. If you spend too much time reviewing as you write, you'll end up with a case of paralysis by analysis. Sometimes ...


14

If the scene is boring, it’s not necessary. Think about what you actually need to convey to the reader to move the plot forward, write something interesting that delivers that necessary information, and skip everything else. This may be a good time to break the “show, don’t tell” rule. “Eight hours and two liters of vodka later, Ambassador Königsberg ...


13

If the beginning is blocking you, start writing something else. You have an outline, right? You know roughly what's going to happen when. So pick some point which is easier, and start there. My suggestion is to start near the beginning (If your intro is I. in your outline, start with II., for example), but start with whatever part makes you excited to be ...


13

Unless your hero's enemies are all intensely stupid, he and his companions will be totally unarmed, and will have been carefully searched for anything valuable. Really, unless your goblins are nobler than those in most stories, readers will expect goblins to take everything from their captives. Your hero can't pull a lockpick or a poisoned pin from the ...


13

I'm not an accomplished writer (heck, I'm not even an unaccomplished writer), but here are some techniques used by actual real-life authors: Charlotte's Web: The eponymous character (the spider) dies near the end, but the author deals with this by having two main characters; the spider and the pig. When the spider dies, the attention is drawn to the pig, ...


12

It isn't just you. Storytelling is an old art. (Anyone with a need to look that up could let us know just how old.) When you worry that your newest mind-blowing twist has been seen before, it's probably not for nothing. The same goes for themes and character traits. Even Grendel's mother can't be credited as the first character ever to lose her life in ...


12

I'm a visual person. I have a large whiteboard which I used to draw graphs, flowcharts, etc... If you're limited on room, like I am, take a picture of your drawing before you erase it and keep it as a digital file. You could also try the technique displayed in a lot of police investigation shows: note cards and/or pictures taped to a wall with colored ...


12

There are some different diagnoses that might be appropriate here. The Xander You've clearly established how the character came to be involved, but now that he is, he doesn't seem to actually be very helpful. He's kinda there all the time, and occasionally he just happens to have precisely the right skill for saving the day - but most of the time, he's ...


12

The Tennessee Screenwriting association lists all 20 plots. That's all there are. If you find a story, it will use one (or several of them) but for many centuries, this list hasn't changed. For example, the nanobot story mentioned by Claudiu has the same basic plot as Golem (16th century) or Frankenstein's monster (1818) or Icarus (ancient greeks). There ...


12

A story without an "antagonistic theme" is a story with "no conflict." Conflict drives plot. Without plot, you have a character study. Without conflict, the character has no reason to change, grow, or develop, so there's not much to study. What in heaven's name (pun intended) could you write about without any conflict occurring?


11

Rather than focusing on a single point as if you are writing an essay, you may want to focus on an ethos you want to create. View your story as world-building (this is something you will find Orson Scott Card, author of Ender's Game reference frequently). The world you are building will reward certain behaviors by your characters and punish others. The ...


11

Finish them anyway. You get good by writing; plotting alone isn't enough. And yeah, your first novel or two will probably be unpublishable. That's fine - those will be your practice novels. If you never write anything because they'll be less than perfect, I'm afraid you're likely not to write anything at all. Not only will finishing your imperfectly-plotted ...


11

Every part of your work needs to have its own logical arc and structure. In a novel, this can be a chapter or a scene and in a trilogy or series this a book. Each piece should have a beginning, middle, and end. The parts don't live in isolation, though, and each one should leave give the reader enough to enjoy what they are reading but hold back enough to ...


11

I say set it aside and forget about it. I wouldn't recommend throwing it out, but definitely set it aside. Move on to something else and let yourself get focused on something new. Somewhere down the road you may decide that you've found the missing piece and decide to go back to it. Even if you don't, you might find some elements that you can reuse later in ...


11

If the goal of the scene is to show why a person decides what he or she decides, then you only give the detail necessary to demonstrate that. If part of what changes Adam's mind afterwards is the way she looks, you need to focus on her appearance and not the act. ("He watched her face change as he slid into her" or "his eyes roamed hungrily over her ...


10

Here are some pointers from what I have learned from experience and from what more experienced writers have told me: If you're a beginner, it is better to stick with linear time. Attempt flashbacks, parallel story arcs and such once you get a good handle of story telling. In your case, consider starting just before the very first life changing / ...


10

I think I see why you’re stuck. Potentially so many ways to escape exist it feels paralyzing, but each idea feels weak. That is, if you think of this problem purely as a plot exorcise. I find that when plot traps me, story and character often show the way. Because this escape is the climax, you’re aware of the need for a quality escape. Perhaps it would ...


10

If everything you write is sounding like overused tropes and clichés, it may be that you're simply showing your influences. And when you see your writing, all you're seeing are those influences. Hence, it feels less substantial to you. What, exactly is "bland, generic fantasy" to you? I suggest you define what it is you're trying to avoid. Make a list if ...


9

Quit bean-counting. Finish the novel and then go back and worry about whether the first act works. Methods for structuring a story are guides, not laws. The novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is 850 pages. I remember vividly that the first six hundred were a complete slog, and then suddenly something happened and the last 200-odd pages went like a ...


9

You're looking for balance, so the answer is double edged: Stay compelling by avoiding drifting off on tangents; don't explain about your world where it isn't relevant to the story at hand and to the readers' interest. Convey your world by choosing a structure and a plot where the elements you want to convey feature heavily. If your setting elements are ...


9

Technically you cannot copyright a plot. However, you can copyright a particular instance of that plot as long as it is not based on an older work in the public domain. In your Harry Potter example if every chapter had exactly the same incidents and more or less the same dialogue with slightly altered character names you would probably lose in court trying ...



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