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Plot: Where is it going?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by RedRidingHood, Sep 18, 2011.

  1. RedRidingHood

    RedRidingHood Dreamer

    How do people deal with plot? Is it a big concern, or do you feel that readers will forgive some minor inconsistencies or loose ends?
  2. Very few stories are perfect and cover every loose end perfectly or meet everything a reader might think it should have. No excuse not to try and make it perfect...just don't get too upset if you miss a thing or two sometimes. So, to be able to have less holes in your plot and less loose ends, you need to properly structure your story so you know where it is going, what will happen, and where all those stray sub plots are and where you clear them up.

    Check out the Outlining thread, it covers a bit of what you are asking, and adds some light to the horror of outlines.
  3. Whitefur

    Whitefur Dreamer

    I don't really understand your question because are two ways of interpreting it: Dealing with the plot before you begin your work, or after you finish it?

    If it's option one you're speaking about, then the only options I know of are planning or jumping right into the action and start to write and let the plot unfold as you go. I personally prefer the second one since I get a boost of ideas and writing mood when I'm creating something new. Then, after you finish, you can take a big look at your work and see if you are satisfied with what you did. If not, edit away as you see fit. First drafts will never ever be as good as you think they will be when you tackle your project.

    Same applies to inconsistencies or loose ends. Why leave rotten fruits in the basket when you can throw them away?
  4. pskelding

    pskelding Troubadour

    Loose ends should be minor plot threads that are not resolved and it should be obvious to the reader that they will be resolved in later stories or novels. Many novels that are part of a series have them including Harry Potter... hello Voldemort major loose end in every book! They are ok if they are handled correctly.

    If you are a beginning writer or have series questions or problems with your plot I suggest this video and PPT from horror writer Dan Well's who does the Writing Excuses podcast with fantasy great Brandon Sanderson here.
  5. Ophiucha

    Ophiucha Auror

    Well, half of what I write is borderline literary fiction, so the odds of me having a plot at all are only about 50-50. But when I do, and when I am reading as well, I'm not one quick to forgive loose ends. Unless there are more books in the series (in which case the story isn't really over, by all rights), I think everything should be resolved in some way, even if it's just a temporary solution to a permanent problem, or a rather bittersweet resolution. It does depend, of course, on how important the plot is, overall. Some stories are very character or theme-centric, and the plot is basically just there to keep the character development on schedule. Other times, it is the point of the entire book.
  6. CicadaGrrl

    CicadaGrrl Troubadour

    If you stick a gun above the fireplace in the first act, better have someone fire it by the third, right?

    I have moved from charging right into books to being a methodical planner. Everything I say had better be going somewhere. That doesn't mean it is all classic "plot". Some of it is very important character arc. When I groom it, I can go through and further add or subtract as needed. As my obsessive planning, I don't have quite so much to do as when I charged through on inspiration and the seat of my pants, the process was essentially the same. Go through your manuscript with a fine tipped comb and most likely cut mercilessly and add when needed. In order to make sure you are tracing all your lines and arcs, you can always make a really big graph. Colored pencils or markers are encouraged.
    UnionJane likes this.
  7. Vandroiy

    Vandroiy Dreamer

    To answer this question, you must know your target audience. There are different readers, so it depends on whom you want to satisfy. Also, you asked two entirely different questions: one about loose ends, one about inconsistencies. I think the latter is much more critical, because some readers do not forgive inconsistencies.

    There are two ways to read a story. One is watching it unfold, thinking on the past and present inside the story. This is a very common way, and might be a little troubled with too many loose ends, wondering what one thing or the other was about.

    But there is another way to think when reading, and some people -- I know a few and am one of them myself -- use this a lot. A reader can enter the world of the story and try to find possible future events. He can decide in place of the characters, building an opinion on them based on how they differ from his own thinking. Loose ends are not a problem to such thinking unless they affect the immediately relevant future.

    However, mind the following. A reader who is thinking in the second way will be faced with an unfair divine power smashing his mind every time there is an inconsistency! It is like playing a game with someone who changes the rules after you made your move. The reader feels wrong and stupid every time his predictions are off, and at some point decides that the stupid one is the author.

    Most people do not read stories that way, as is easily proven by Harry Potter's success. I know they are really well-written, and surely there was a lot of skill involved, but I just cannot read Harry Potter books anymore, not without forcing myself. I can't connect to the world because I feel it's not there. It's like a dream, vanishing the moment you take just half a step back, only accessible while the mind is asleep. I must force myself to stop thinking ahead when reading, and I can't handle that.

    Realistically, you can just ignore my complaints unless this kind of reader is in your target audience. For most readers, focus on the plot and any loose ends, and you'll be fine. But if you want the "hardcore" audience, go the other way around, never allowing your story to break your world's rules.

    I don't think there's a good middle way to this. If you want the second type of audience, you must go all the way and rid your story of any inconsistencies.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2011
  8. mythique890

    mythique890 Sage

    As a reader, I can forgive minor loose ends, but I can't stand inconsistencies. I hate them. As a result, I tend to agonize over my own plots and squash any plot holes pretty ruthlessly. Granted, I don't have much experience with this, having only plotted and written one book-length story, but that's my general approach. If a hole in one of my stories can't be mended, the story is no good.

    An example I love to hate is from a YA paranormal romance called Torment. In this, the MC has a certain group of angels trying to kill her. IMPORTANT: this particular kind of angel is blind, and 'sees' by sensing your soul. In the story, the MC starts at a new school where she just happens to befriend a girl who looks a lot like her (long dark hair, same build, etc). Around this time, the MC also goes through a YA-romance snit in which her boyfriend is not paying enough attention to her (even though he told her he'd be out of touch for a month... love YA). In a fit of angst, she chops off her hair and bleaches it blonde. Shortly after, the (blind) angels who are chasing her try to kill the girl who looks like the MC... even though they can't see her. Yeah. Awesome. And this book is published and pretty popular among the YA paranormal romance set.
  9. EParadise

    EParadise Scribe

    I feel that I have to build the "main" plot before I even start my writing. It usually takes me a week or two because I make new discoveries as I go and have to rework it. I hate outlining and that is not really what this is. I free write out what I want to happen. For a novel it usually takes 15 ish pages to get from beginning to end...and if it isnt....then I havent planned enough and keep at it.
    This way you know where you are going in a basic sense before you start so you dont have to worry about leaving loose ends.
  10. Johnny Cosmo

    Johnny Cosmo Inkling

    Me too, but it's taking me a lot longer than a weak at the moment. I quite enjoy outlining though, even though I find it hard.
  11. UnionJane

    UnionJane Scribe

    How to approach plot seems to usually be a matter of taste--it comes down to determining whether you want your work to be plot- or character-driven, at the most basic level. Even if the plot matches up perfectly with the main character's growth, consider how stories move. Does it seem to be the events surrounding the character that move the story forward, or the actions of the character? It's a question of how much agency (power) a character has over the story. Writers and readers of all stripes approach the question differently.

    Concerning inconsistencies or plot holes, however, is something that seems to have to be approached at an individual level. A good rule of thumb is to take the time to plan ahead to avoid those blunders, when at all possible. Readers (and writers) aren't very forgiving, but you're a fallible human, not an automaton.

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