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Having a plot that flows


I've noticed this problem for a while, and I've tried to put off fixing it purely because it requires a lot more thinking and planning. Basically, I've come to the realisation that in my fantasy there is just too much moving about. The main character leaves his home at the beginning of the story, goes to a different city, goes to another city, leaves that city and then goes to another city, then he realises he must travel on a journey to find an artifact, he finds it, then he must return home to save his family, then he goes somewhere else, and somewhere else- you get the picture. It's becoming a bit of a "go here, do that, move on" sort of plot, which is what I am completely trying to avoid. I'm trying to combat how to make the story have more of a... stationary feel. I want it to have a small amount of time between 'quests' and travelling. My first thought was having the MC stay in one place for a short while before continuing on his journey, that's the most obvious idea, but I'm wondering what other things I could do to slow the story down slightly, because at the moment it just seems to be all action and nothing else. Any suggestions?
Well, with me, it's mostly stay in one place for 100 pages, go to another place for 100 pages and stay in another place for 200 pages. I long for a problem like yours.

I am going to hate myself for this... but how about introducing a love life for him? That is bound to slow any fantasy story down, I assure you.

But first, a warning. If you're going to have these pauses between his quests, make sure they have some meaning. They should not bore the reader or make them feel like they're reading them for nothing.

One prominent (but not the best or even reliable) example of travel, travel, travel, that comes to mind is Eragon. And Pokemon (but that has no place here and now it just seems eurgh). He spent a lot of time out of the house and traveling and it didn't seem to stop (I think, it's been a long time). Remember his term in Teirm (I couldn't resist); That was a purely informational and introductional section in the story and really slowed the story down (Once again, I think, it's been a long time).
So I guess another way to slow it down would be to have some informational stops in one place, but also to have some action in between.

Hey, now that I think of it, my story was actually travel,travel,travel too with seemingly no stops in between (when it was designed to be a one-off), but when I started to write it, the plot expanded and the tiny number of places he stopped began to have a greater meaning and significance in the plot, so much that it introduced subplots in between and what was originally the one-thirdth of the book became the book.
So, another way to stop the action (maybe) could be to make more action in a still environment that corresponds to the MC's emotional growth and impulses as well.

Action really isn't that bad a thing, and with the modern readers' tastes, it seems to be all they want. Throw in a good dash of emotion too, and add to the balance.

A flowing plot is a combination of several factors and I don't think having action with no stops can be detrimental to that, as long as we get to know the characters (This is my blatant opinion and don't pay attention to it.).

Think it through and decide what's appropriate, what suits your writing, and ultimately, it's going to be your ideas that matter.
It sounds like what you're missing is character building. To a degree, this can be accomplished through action (slay the guards, distract them, or bribe them with stolen goods, and you'll say three very different things.) However, there's no harm in having your protagonist spend some time chatting with other characters, or having him get involved in a few scenes that build character while only slightly advancing the plot. (Maybe he gets an idea of what to do next while deciding what gift to buy for a friend, or makes a new acquaintance while working at a temp job.)
This can be a bias in fantasy-- it fits with the medieval idea that people in small towns have already explored and talked out everything with everyone there (at least, anything that could still happen at dramatic speed), so the way to grow up fast is to defy your elders by exploring new places. Hence the Hero's Journey, and the plot that's defined by "the next person/ talisman/ clue-- down that road."

It seems like what you're looking for is more plot complications that can allow the pieces of your story to be separated from each other by something besides distance. Like Advait and Feo say, romance or other characterization is one way; you could think of that as all the reasons for someone to love/ sign up with/ distrust/ betray/ realize he's the father of someone else, and then those reasons take their time coming to light (or being processed, or for accidents or character interactions to set something off --eg vendettas). Mysteries are one way to form these, or complex questions of how to win a vast battle, dam a volcano, or any other challenge. Or a character could be training, struggling to control what's changed about himself, or taking tests someone else has set up.

Another side of this is, get out of towns and hermitages and use cities. Find the places where a lot actually can go on nearby and not everyone's met everyone yet.

(Or, let the plot stay spread out over the map but make your MC the one who can use at least a few Gates between towns, or zips around on dragonback. It completely changes the way he deals with the world and vice versa, but it does reduce the time you spend on travelogues.)
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I may have misunderstood the problem you're experiencing, but it occurred to me that you may want to look at each of your MC's journeys and ask what story purpose each one is serving. Can the same story purpose be achieved in the city your character is currently in?

At the most superficial level, if your character travels from City X to City Y to win the magic macguffin, why not just move the magic macguffin to City X so travel is unnecessary? As the author you control the story, so the magic macguffin can be wherever you want it.

At a more substantial level, if your character travels from City X to City Y because you need him to experience the loss of a friend on the journey, or realize something important about himself, or meet a love interest on the way, etc. you can shift that experience to City X instead with a few changes of detail and scenery.

It could be I've misinterpreted the problem...


My first impression on reading the OP is that you're lacking story structure. The most basic, and common, form is the three act structure. In terms of character actions, it'd break down something like this:

ACT 1 - Reaction (Things are happening to the characters which force them into action or movement)
ACT 2 - Action (After a turning point, characters become proactive instead of reactive)...they usually have little choice. They must act.
ACT 3 - Resolution & Climax (Everything is pulled together)

So, in using a basic story structure, your characters move or act at first because they are being forced. In time, something happens where they realize they have to take action against whatever has been forcing them along. Eventually this brings them into a final conflict.

There are more story structures than this fundamental one of course. My advice to you is to research some of the structures that are routinely used (because they're effective), see which your story fits best, and try to adapt your story to that framework.

For most of my stories, characters move only when they absolutely must. The reason that compels them into action is conflict. Conflict has to be strong and unavoidable.


Article Team
I seem to do this a lot, but I'll second T.A.S. on this. To me it sounds like a structure problem too. Structure directs the flow of the story, telling you what kind of stuff belongs where, and it can tell you if you have too much of the same stuff.

Here's a link to thread on plot problems. In it I get a bit into act structure and what kind of things should happen in each act using Star Wars as an example.


toujours gai, archie
More echoing, both T.A.S and Nebuchadnezzar. If the reason Hero has to go to twelve different places is because you have stashed twelve tasks in twelve different places, it's time to re-think the structure.

What you want is something like
Hero thinks he want X which is in TownA, so he goes there but finds out it's not so great or that X isn't what he really wants, or there's so much more than X, or that some great bloody fool has moved it.

You can get away with one or two "damn it's not here" scenes, but mostly you want each journey and each place to force Hero into a crisis. Tension builds at each point.

Another way to look at this is to ask yourself what is the final stage. Hero finally gets X? What's wrong with that requiring only one step instead of ten? Or have him go and then return, which at least saves you from having to describe a whole new town. In short, each of those trips and each of those towns need to be absolutely indispensable. If you *can* throw it out, you *should* throw it out. ... and be prepared have your editor tell you that you have to throw out two more!