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Writer's Blotch

For all my skill at prose, I always have a problem with plot. I want something that's a bit more sophisticated than "Triangle Man hates Particle Man, they have a fight, Triangle wins!" ... but when it comes to actually think up what happens, I tend to just stare at the screen (or paper) and go "Uuuuuhh... I like pie."

This is why I like to come up with an "elevator pitch" for my stories, especially episodic things like comics-- so that if I get stuck, I have a roadmap of what's important to the story and what I should be talking about. Unfortunately, it's very often not until you've got a significant amount of stuff already written on an item that the themes really start to become visible. Alas, that's not much help when you get stuck near the beginning!

So at the beginning, or at least in the rough draft stage, it's often handy to lean on an already-established plot, or even just lift some other story whole cloth. "Um... so we've got these lions, and... uh... what do they do? We know we want to have some kind of thing with the hero and his father-- I've got it! Let's riff off Hamlet!" But I always have trouble letting go and doing that, I think at least partially because my studies in English lit have enabled me to spot it being done so often everywhere else! And my ego resists.

But y'know, it's not necessarily a bad thing to use an existing idea as a framework. I know my new comic has a kind of "Mad Max meets Alice In Wonderland" vibe going on, so why not use that to my advantage? Could my comic benefit from a Cheshire Cat analog? How about a Red Queen or a Mad Hatter? (And have you ever noticed the parallels between Alice In Wonderland and Wizard of Oz?)

These are things I think about when I'm noodling around, fishing for plot ideas. Sometimes it helps! Sometimes it just makes my ideas even murkier. But if nothing else, at least it keeps my thoughts moving and prevents my brain from going into the vapor-lock it always leans towards at this stage.

-The Gneech

Originally published at gneech.com. You can comment here or there.

Comments

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
exatron
Jan. 28th, 2013 08:07 pm (UTC)
Like the website says, Tropes are not Bad .
stilghar
Jan. 29th, 2013 12:45 pm (UTC)
*clicks link* Ohgodstherewentsixhoursofmylife :P

And they can be, if they're dreadfully overdone.

Edited at 2013-01-29 12:51 pm (UTC)
usdutchkitty
Jan. 28th, 2013 08:12 pm (UTC)
Preaching to the choir!

I've always had the same problem with fleshing out the plot of a story. I can make characters and their backgrounds all day long with no trouble but to do the same with the plot... :/

I've always wanted a bit of an urban fantasy but sometimes I feel like it has been done to death. How do I make my idea seem more interesting?

Those are my thoughts. XD
the_gneech
Jan. 29th, 2013 08:50 pm (UTC)
When you're working in a well-established genre, a lot will be forgiven if you can come up with strong and compelling characters. People don't read the Harry Dresden books looking for innovation in the field of fantasy-- they read them 'cause they like Harry!

-TG
huskyteer
Jan. 28th, 2013 09:47 pm (UTC)
Raising a paw for the 'suck at plot' club.

I can think of two stories I've written in which the plot has magically coalesced and everything has worked out and made perfect sense, and I'm still not quite sure how that happened. Pretty much everything else I've ever written, the plot part has been like herding cats.

Perhaps I will try this 'elevator pitch' method of which you speak!
the_mcp
Jan. 28th, 2013 10:17 pm (UTC)
My usual problem is, I can write the beginnings, and I know where it ends... it's all that stuff in the middle that always turns into a fifty-mile slog through quicksand to get from point A to point B. :P
stilghar
Jan. 29th, 2013 12:47 pm (UTC)
I'm kinda the opposite. I get scenes in my head that seem awesome, but for the life of me I can't come up with what leads into it - or what happens after.
hantamouse
Jan. 29th, 2013 01:39 am (UTC)
I don't understand even beginning before plot things are fully worked out first.

I do understand having a fully worked out plot suddenly left turn out from under you after starting.
kylet
Jan. 29th, 2013 03:06 pm (UTC)
Seconded oh so much.
the_gneech
Jan. 29th, 2013 08:48 pm (UTC)
It depends on the project-- a short story, I usually write a synopsis for beforehand. But something like The Suburban Jungle, if I'd plotted it all out beforehand, I would have never drawn the thing. It would just be too big!

-TG
c_eagle
Jan. 29th, 2013 10:02 am (UTC)
LOL... great example! :D
kylet
Jan. 29th, 2013 03:08 pm (UTC)
This is why I ain't writin' comics no more XD

At any rate, why not use an existing idea? For what it's worth, my comics have sort of been devised along the lines of "I like [whatever comic], but it kinda needed _____" and I springboarded off of that. If anything, identifying inspirations is a good way of recognizing when you ARE getting too close and where you should diverge.
the_gneech
Jan. 29th, 2013 08:44 pm (UTC)
Suburban Jungle was "Cheers with furries" and NeverNever leaned heavily on Calvin and Hobbes at the start, so it's not like I never use other things as a springboard. But for some reason, the last few times I've tried to do that, I've found myself resistant. I think I'm just twitchy about being thought of as "derivative."

But seriously, what creator isn't derivative? It's kind of a nonsensical fear.

-TG

PS: Synopsis posted. :)
rowyn
Jan. 29th, 2013 05:05 pm (UTC)
If you are looking to steal a plot from somewhere, Alice in Wonderland may not be the ideal starting point. I am just saying. That is not a book best known for the elegance of its plot.

I find that drawing a few tarot cards is surprisingly effective for generating a plot. Combine card meanings, think about what story makes sense for them, poof: plot.
the_gneech
Jan. 29th, 2013 08:46 pm (UTC)
Well, I rarely steal a whole plot anyway, just selected bits. :)

I've seen the tarot card method and some similar things; I've actually got quite a few "RPG adventure generators" that work along similar lines. I might pull some of them out when I get stuck. :)

-TG
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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