NaNoWriMo

Sep. 21st, 2005 12:43 am
chipb0i: black background, blurry lights, text saying "go then, there are other worlds than these" from Stephen King's Dark Tower (Default)
[personal profile] chipb0i
For those of you who write, or for those of you who don't and are going to attempt NaNoWriMo, how do you come up with a plot for a story? I'm trying to think of one myself, but whenever I do, the ideas that pop up in my mind are basically from books that I have already read - and I don't want to "write" a story that already exists. Anyone have any advice? All is appreciated.

X-posted - [livejournal.com profile] thequestionclub

Date: 2005-09-21 05:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mortaine.livejournal.com
I don't see a problem stealing plots, characters, and ideas from other stories. After all, if I write a novel about a smart-mouthed middle-aged war hero taking twenty years and a lot of side-trips to get home from the war, it's going to be a completely different story from The Odyssey. A more modern example is if I wrote a novel about a white-haired king with a soul-devouring sword, it would bear little resemblence to Michael Moorcock's books.

There are a few basic storytelling plots anyway, and if you hang different characters or setting onto the same plotline as someone else, nobody will know, or at least no one will care. Shakespeare did it to great success. So did James Joyce. Steal freely. It's NaNoWriMo, after all-- do you really care if what you write is original?

But I do concede that plot is hard-- it's the thing I struggle with most in storytelling. As an undergrad, my lit theory course focused on structuralism, which is one way of saying "how are all the plots of all literature the same." I think the reason I play D&D is that the other players will help me develop the plot as we go.

One way to work around it *is* to steal an established plot. I read 20 Master Plots last year, when I knew I wanted to write about a particular concept, but didn't know what to do with it, what action should happen. The book lists 20 different basic plot structures and suggests ways to address them.

In some fiction, the plot is built-in. For instance, you can't get any more formulaic than a legal drama. No matter what you hang onto it, if you base it at all on US law, you will have an accusation, opening arguments, evidence from the prosecution, evidence from the defense, all the cross-examination, closing argument, verdict-- and the verdict is a built-in ready-made story climax. In my legal drama, I hung plot twists onto it: the event took place in the future, the accused was an alien, and the evidence hangar exploded halfway through the trial.

At its core, plot is the series of interrelated events that occur in your story. The key with NaNoWriMo is that the events have to be related in order to be plot, and in NaNo, sometimes keeping things related to each other is not easy. It helps if you have a few core events outlined, events that *must* happen at some point, and then just build each of the story twists and side-arcs into the build-up to those events, have the event happen, and have people's responses and reactions to the event serve as momentum to the build-up for the next event.

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