Monday, March 18, 2013

Plot Problems and Fears

When I write, my biggest obstacle is always Plot. I think I’m pretty good at characters and characterizations. I’m rather proud of my ability to write action scenes. And I think I’m fairly decent at descriptions and setting. But all of that means nothing without a Plot. And that is where I falter.

I have a hard time figuring out what should happen to characters. What should the main thrust of the story’s narrative be? How do my characters get from Point A to Point B in a somewhat original, entertaining, and non-linear way? And don’t get me started on sub-plots. Stories within stories make my head hurt when I am trying to invent them.

This is why I tend to write short stories. I can use simple plots and sub-plots, and the outcome is pretty straight-forward. The idea of doing a book-length story of any quality kind of intimidates me.

And that’s probably why I falter. It’s like when I was a kid, I was scared to death to go off the high-dive. Then, at summer camp, I did it. It was easy because the water was so over chlorinated, you couldn’t see how deep it was. When I got home, I went to the local pool, which was crystal clear. And that 12 feet of water scared the living crap outta me! But, I jumped anyways (though I jumped sideways and tried to hit as close to the ladder as possible).

And that’s probably what I need to do for my writing. Just jump. Every piece of writing advice I have ever read tells you that your first works will suck. That’s very disheartening. My ego is fragile, so I can’t imagine enduring endless amounts of “Wow, that was lame. You should just scrap it.”

I avoided that with my first few short stories by self-publishing them. But I don’t know if that’s a viable option. Either way, it requires me to actually write the book(s). And so I am back to being scared of the whole process. Yeah, I know there’s no logic behind my fear. But that doesn’t make it any less real or less paralyzing.

So, are there any tips or tricks to developing a good plot? Or am I going to have to just muscle through it?


A said...

I mean, my opinion is probably not the most valid, but I can read stories that are nearly 100% character driven and essentially plotless and be fine.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've gotten a LOT better at plots since I started out. A lot of it came from reading books on writing, and a lot from just studying the books that worked for me when I read them. There are certain elements of high importance, like surprises and twists that are mixed into the ongoing story, and like cliffhangers.

Not to push my own stuff so much but the first and third of the Fiction Techniques series that I wrote focus on exactly this kind of thing. #1 is Creating suspense and I talk quite a bit about cliffhangers as an element of plotting. Although it does have stuff about characterization in it as well. Fiction Techniques #3 is The Twist Ending, and though it talks a lot about endings it also talks about the twists 'within' a plot.