Rowen

How do you plan/organize your story?

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As the title says, what are your story planning routines? Do you create a full outline? Start writing and take the story in which ever direction your imagination may lead?

What about character creation? Full bio's? Make it up as you go?

I understand some of this would pertain to only Original fiction or even original character introduced into a specific fandom. But I'm curious to see how some of you juggle these. I'm not new to writing but I am new at writing more than one chapter, putting it all together if you will.

With my current story I feel I am having trouble with the flow. Creating believable dialog with the characters or even describing the scene in general. I can picture most of it in my head but transferring it into readable form is my main down fall.

I look forward to hearing what everyone does.

Thanks in advance,

John (aka Rowen/Lotharen)

Edited by Rowen

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Everyone plans differently - or doesn't plan at all - but personally, I really need the completely story, from start to end, mapped out clearly in my mind before I put metaphorical pen to metaphorical paper. Some prefer to just dive in and see what happens, but I find that utterly impossible for me. It's probably because I'm a very organised, structured type of person, but I really need to know exactly what's going to happen first. It often happens, though, that once I've got stuck into it, another idea will spring to mind, causing either rewrites or a change in plan for the direction of the story, but that's fine; in fact, it's a good thing. The downside to my approach, though, is that I often find it tortuous to come up with the entire story, complete, in advance. It can be very frustrating indeed. On saying that, though, the "dive in and see what happens" approach has its serious pitfalls as well, since you can get halfway into a story just to find it grind to a screeching halt because you've discovered a giant plot roadblock that's impossible to move, or that the story really isn't as interesting as you'd hoped it would be.

Which approach you take is entire up to what you feel comfortable with. I would strongly encourage research first before you start, though, although that will depend on just what your story is about. If it's set any time in the past then research is vital. I've come across a story in the past that was set in the early 1970's, and people were walking around with mobile phones (cell phones, in the US). They weren't around then! And besides, the first ones were big things attached to briefcase sized contraptions. (I remember them well!). Mistakes like that can make a story loose credibility, and make the author look a tad silly.

I don't write bio's for my character before I start. I know that seems to be a growing trend, but it's only because more and more people are playing rpg's (role playing games) where bio creation is imperative, and they take that over into their standalone stories. But I think they're of very limited value in proper stories. They can cause the author to feel they MUST go in a certain direction, because that's what their bio says. And if they have to constantly keep changing the bio as the story goes along then what's the point of the bio in the first place? You should definitely have a good idea of what the character is going to be like in advance - naturally - but mapping out a full biography just isn't necessary, especially in a short story. You can make notes about the salient points, but that really only becomes important if you're going to be writing a full-length novel. I'm a believer of the story dictating, to some degree, how the character turns out, rather than the other way around.

Believable, convincing dialogue is something that most inexperienced writers have serious trouble with. There's a few recommendations I could make. Firstly, find a book that teaches authors how to write dialogue (I have "Dialogue: Techniques and exercises for crafting effective dialogue" by Gloria Kempton. But there are many others as well). Another thing you can do is really pay attention to how people talk when they're with friends or family. Concentrate on what they say and how they say it. They might think you're a bit odd, but never mind. :) Finally, find a good novel, by a quality author, that has plenty of good dialogue in it and see how they do it. That's how I learnt virtually all of my writing, from watching how other authors did it.

Describing the scenes is more tricky, and something I know I still don't always get right. Which approach do you take? Some authors like to be tremendously expressive and use all sorts of flowery, colourful words and phrases that no-one, besides an English professor, has ever heard of. I personally think that usually comes across as pretentious bullshit, designed to make the author sound smart. You REALLY have to be good at it to pull it off to any degree, otherwise it'll fail horribly. But another mistake some inexperienced writers make is to create a sort of check-list: "There was a table, two chairs, a cupboard and a rug." That can be a tad boring. You don't have to describe everything in the room immediately upon the character entering it. Perhaps the first thing he notices is the candle on the table; he then sits on one of the chairs. Later he picks up some keys on the cupboard to examine them. As he leaves the room, he trips on something and looks down to see it's a rug that's been bunched up. Describing people can be the same way. Don't feel you have to describe every feature of the person from the first moment the character meets them. After all, when we meet a new person for the first time, do we really notice very single thing about them, right from the start? I know I don't. I used to chat with a lady in a store regularly, for maybe a year or two, and had never noticed anything about her face other than it being quite attractive, until she pointed out a scar on her chin. I'd never noticed it before! To her, though, it was horribly noticeable. (I can relate to that).

The best thing you can do is simply to practice. Keep reading good books, keep writing, keep practising different thing, and get advice from a trusted friend who knows what they're talking about, if possible. The absolute most important thing, though, is to have fun and enjoy it!

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My fanfic isn't terribly complicated plot-wise, so I mostly plan things out in my head (the best place to think is in the shower). For my original stories, I like to have at least a basic outline, and I have fairly lengthy profiles for all my characters. I also have lots written about the worlds themselves, almost like an RPG sourcebook. It's all malleable, but it's very nice to have something to fall back on when I wonder "how does [character X] react to this?"

The more you write for a character, especially an original character, the more familiar you will become with him/her. After a time, you don't need notes any more, because the character has taken on a life of his/her own inside your mind. I've written entire conversations between some of my OCs without any prior planning. I just start with a situation and they talk amongst themselves, so to speak.

If you're writing a story with a long and complex plot, outlining is pretty much a necessity. You need to know what's going to happen and in what order, and writing it down is infinitely easier than trying to juggle it all in your head. That way you can refer to your outline for the basic happenings of a scene when you sit down to write. Then it's like a director shooting a scene; he already knows what's supposed to happen, so now he just has to figure out how it's going to happen.

For something complex, like a fight scene, you might want to block out the entire fight in detail before you sit down to write. Once you've got the mechanics of the fight (who does what to whom and when) established, you can concentrate on making it sound cool.

These are just generalities. Every author has a different system and writing process. Just go with whatever results in the best material. :)

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I, personally, usually start a story based around one scene. I think about the characters for a while, flesh the scene out in my head and then write it down. From there, I start thinking about how these people got to this moment in their lives, what were the events leading up to it, what will happen after? I wish I was organized enough to actually plot out a story, but in reality I'm usually just swinging by the seat of my pants with only a vague idea of what's going to happen with a few key scenes.

As far as dialogue goes, along with Melrick's suggestions, I would also add reading your dialogue out loud (to yourself or, if you feel comfortable enough, with someone else). You'll notice things that sound funny right away. One thing I've noticed that some writers don't get with dialogue are contractions. Most people use contractions in their speech constantly, unless trying to make a point. Speech patterns are one of the more tricky things to deal with when writing that some people, aggravatingly enough, have a knack for. The rest of us spend hours reading out loud or listening carefully to how other people talk.

Scene descriptions always throw me into fits. Should I go down a list? Blah, too boring. Should I use lots of metaphors and analogies? Nah, too wordy. There is a fine balance between under- and over- describing. I tend to try to keep the descriptions limited to what the person would naturally see when walking into the room (if a television is on, the eye would probably be drawn toward that first, then the people, then maybe the furniture). This is another one of those things that you can try for yourself - go into a room that you aren't familiar with (or maybe one you are familiar with that has recently been cleaned/messed up or rearrange) and then walk out and write down what you can remember. It will give you a realistic idea of what a person really sees when they enter a room (the longer they spend there, the more they will notice, obviously). When getting around to the descriptive side of things, sometimes it's also helpful to get a little farther into your character's head - if they are particularly literary or artsy, then they might actually think in metaphors and analogies. This is another one of those things that some people just have a knack for. But the more books/stories you read with authors who are exceptional at this sort of thing, the more you'll learn about how to do it.

Hope that helped a little! :)

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My planning isn't as complex because I only write smutty one-shots, but usually what happens is I'll get an idea in my head along the lines of "Character A and Character B doing [sex act]". Then I'll consider the personalities of Character A and Character B and their canonical relationship, and figure out under what circumstances they'd be performing [sex act]. This will also tell me if I need to write a preamble to the act itself to explain how and why they're together. For instance, in "Stud" I could jump straight into the action because Megatron is the kind of character who would force himself on his partner and no further explanation is needed. In "Help Me, Bumblebee", I needed more exposition because there were differences in rank between the characters and other obstacles to be negotiated before they could get together.

This is where it sometimes falls apart, because if I can't get A and B together in a believeable way, I don't see the point in continuing - sure it's smut, but that doesn't mean it can't be in-character, canon-friendly smut. If I can get them together in a way that makes sense, I start considering how A and B would feel, what they'd be thinking, what dialogue is necessary etc. Then I start writing from the beginning. If I get stuck I jump forward and write the next bit, and come back to the part I skipped. Sometimes I need to rewrite things, sometimes I need to lose an unnecessary plot point, and sometimes I have to abandon the story and try something else.

When it's all done I read it over again, checking that the dialogue sounds all right and seeing if it's as hot when it's written down as it was in my head. Sometimes I need to add little finishing touches, or scrap some lines that don't flow. When everything's good to go, I publish.

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I find something that inspires me unintentionally, then I spend every shower for a week mulling over the details before finally sitting down and typing.

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I find something that inspires me unintentionally, then I spend every shower for a week mulling over the details before finally sitting down and typing.

I know exactly what you mean about the shower thing. For some reason, inspiration always delivers it's best lightning bolts to me in the shower as well. I even bought soap crayons so that I could write down dialogue because sometimes I lose the thread before I can dry off and find pen and paper. :D

As far as planning my stories, it depends. A lot of my stories begin as scenes that simply beg to be written and have grown into full blown, complete stories after some plotting and writing. I rarely sit down with a fully formed plot line in my head but I have a loose idea of where I'm going. Characters development is not something that I plot out on paper. I do give it a lot of thought because I want my characters to be both real and consistent throughout the story. And finally dialogue is something that seems to write itself with me. It flows freely once I have a good handle on my characters. :P

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Thanks for all the great replies everyone! Ill be heading out of town tomorrow (perfect time to hit up a book store) any good book recommendations would be appreciated. I have a few I have heard about and those are:

On Writing - Stephen King

The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing - Evan Marshall

Plot and Structure - James Scott Bell

Of course the one that Melrick mentioned is worth checking out. I really want to get better and am excited about writing. I just can't seem to get that flow down, there is really no way to describe it.

I'm reading one fic here and that person does just what Im talking about. Here is the link: http://naruto.adult-fanfiction.org/story.php?no=600092816

How the Author gets into the character head, you know what Sakura is thinking. Just read the first chapter, heck only the a quarter of the page and you will see just what I've been trying to describe. That is my goal, to make my stories that interesting to read.

I might just rewrite the 3 I have up now, and attempt to do that, I can see already that I switched POV to much or didn't even have a clear POV, maybe thats why its not so clear cut and static. <Shruggs>

Thanks again for all your replies, you've given me a lot to think about. :P

Rowen

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I even bought soap crayons so that I could write down dialogue because sometimes I lose the thread before I can dry off and find pen and paper. :D

Oh, that is such a great idea. :P

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Oh, that is such a great idea. :P

I can't claim credit for the idea. A friend of mine who has kids mentioned it after hearing me complaining about making these mad dashes out of the shower, dripping wet and naked, begging for something to write on! :D

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I do my best thinking in the car. I go through dialogue in my head while I drive. It kind of drones out the sound of screaming children...

As far as planning..if it's a fanfic, those are just for fun, so I don't really plan. I just write as the mood strikes me. Sometimes I end up writing myself in a corner, but a few quick character deaths can take care of that. :P

For my more serious, original fics I usually figure out where to start and where to end, then I wrote quick overviews of what happens. I currently have 30 pages of notes for the first section of one fic.

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I did manage to get a few books to help me out. There were pretty slim pickens at the books store even though I considered it rather large. But I think I got a few good books, and they are:

1. The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing - Ive almost finished this book, its very good for the beginner and pointed out several beginner mistakes which, you guessed, I was making.

2. Plot and Structure

3. Revision and Self-Editing

The other two I have only skimmed through, however they were recommended on another authors website. Right now Im wondering if I should continue my posted story (which in only to chapter 3) or rewrite and start over. I did not have a plan when I started and I'm at a loss. Ahhh, Ill figure it out.

Thanks again for the great posts everyone. Been a really big help.

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I tend to write the whole thing down in very basic terms with deliberately no dialogue. I separate scenes as paragraphs this way. The reason for the lack of dialogue at this stage is so that I can only write what's actually happening - the drama of the story. I will write something along the lines of, "A comes out to B, B is understanding and offers support in coming out to C." as that, to me, counts as part of plot. But I'll listen to, and note, the actual words that come out of the characters' mouths later, once planning is out of the way.

I separate it into paragraphs so that I can see, at a glance, whether I'm giving one character too much coverage in one go, and to show me more clearly where I can get more cliffhangers in.

Also, it helps to make sure I put edge-of-the-seat parts in where necessary. For example, I'm planning a story right now in which a vastly unpopular character realises how much damage she's done to her relationships and is trying to make amends. She is an OC, and even though my reviews so far have found her a very engaging character, I don't want to drown my audience with her - that would be overkill. But the process of her untangling this web of grudges and apologies and emotions is the central point to the story. So the planning tecnique I've described above has shown me where I can write in sub-plots to regain a balance.

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Guest Zanthious

I play alot of Roleplaying games, and I get alot of ideas for characters from that. Then, over the next few days I just let it grow in my mind. I bought one of those little voice memo recorder things, and I carry it around. When I get a good idea, I just record it, and write down when I get the chance.

As to the actual putting the story to words, I wait till it's rich in my mind, write simple bio's on the characters, and start writing. I pretty much just let the words flow, and see it in my mind like a movie playing. That might sound weird, but it works for me :lol: . Then I just write till I start getting bogged down, I never rush it.

If I get stuck, I start watching shows and or movies that are along the same lines as some of the things I'm writing about, and hope to get inspired. Hope it helps!

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I usually "dive in and see what happens". I write it as I go. I have a great imagination so maybe that helps a bit. Sometimes I just get motivated off something I see, and can just see the whole story before me.

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My stories usually begin with some sort of perverse jack off rape fantasy of mine then I write it out. Sometimes the initial idea is actually conducive to a plot and I write more and more. I usually have a general idea of where the plot is going but each chapter is centered more around which ever obscene acts I wish to write about so I guess sometimes the actual plot can get bogged down. And since my stories are so oriented around the depravity I wish to write about, sometimes I lose interest in the plot and don't add chapters for months at a time until I think up something disgusting enough to want to write about it.

Also, I don't really have to come up with character bios since I write mostly about pre-established characters. I simply bastardize the characters to my liking and have fun with it.

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no real planning goes into my stories at first, just write what came to mind then just let it simmer a bit. gets one idea down so more can come without them all getting intertwined and produce a total meltdown. always getting new ideas to add to stories and that is where the real planning comes in. where, where, and how to get the new piece to slide right into place.

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I would suggest googling the three act structure and the Hero's journey. They aren't the be all and end all but I've always found them a good place to start when it comes to planning a story.

In general, if you don't know where to go next, throw your character into a pit of lava. This pit of lava may be a new relationship, a drunken one night stand, a stabbing, or quite literally a pit of lava. In other words conflict.

My issue is that I can always blitz out the first 'Act'. I love throwing my characters into trouble. Solving the trouble? Not so much. The second Act hits and suddenly I'm floundering. So I use Act I to get to know my characters. When I start to drown I down keyboard, pick up pen and plan my story in a flowchart. What I want to happen. Where I want to go. Usually new ideas will leap out at me. I have a much higher ratio of finishing a story if I've gone through this step with it. The plan isn't fixed. I can add or change or take away as I wish. The point is I have something to aim for.

My best dialogue always comes to me when I'm far from computer or paper. Always write it down the moment you have a chance because no matter how often you tell yourself you'll remember, you won't. If you want to improve your dialogue evesdropping may not be moral but you'd be amazed what can come out of people's mouths.

Reading also helps. Never stop reading. Even reading crap can help because if you can pinpoint what makes it crap then you won't make those mistakes yourself.

As for describing the setting, show it as your character experiences it. Use all the senses. You don't need every detail. Readers will build a picture in their mind of a log cabin or a five star suite and they won't all be the same. It doesn't matter if your imagination put the chair Jack fell over on the right of the room and mine put it on the left. How many of us have seen films of our favourtite books and said 'That's not how I imagined it'? So rather than telling your reader what the surroundings are like, let them know through action only what is important to your character.

Edited by Gnome

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Thanks again for all the replies. There are some great ideas and I hope to remember them the next time I'm stuck. As for reading, got to get back on that track again. I used to read all the time. Mostly Fantasy and Sci Fi, could never bring myself to read anything else.

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Oooh, how do I plan it?

Well, I start by getting inspiration. It could be a long, long way from the end result, but I sit down and think, yes, that's good, or yes, that's funny. And then I walk around, doing my other stuff and surfing the net, and it comes to me how I can make it better and funnier.

What I start with is often the basic concept of the plot, not a scene by scene thing. First thing I do is think very hard about how I can start it, getting people interested in a matter of lines. Once I know that, I think about what I want the result of the story to be, and how to get there. And while I'm doing that, I often come up with scenes and lines that I really want to see in it, and try to work out how to fit them in.

Once I have the beginning, the end, and a few specific scenes and one-liners, I can then move through the story bit by bit, working out how to involve those scenes so that by doing so I'll get to that end.

As a result, while the end is generally what I wanted, the plot of the story can be a long way from what I thought it would be.

But the important thing is that it flows right.

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Guest Majjic Mouse

I'm fairly new to writing and my only technique so far is brain-dumping. I start with a basic idea for a story and then literally sit there for hours, banging out script which I constantly re-arrange and edit until it starts to fit the shape of the original idea.

It's completely haphazard and illogical, going against my normal highly-organised and logical method of doing things! But it suits me well and gives the story an opportunity to develop a life of its own. This technique has given me a few surprises recently, and has led me into areas that I'd normally consider way off-base.

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i never really sit down and plan a story. i'm usually smacked with inspiration as i'm snuggling into my bed.

so i keep several notebooks and colored pens beside my bed to jot things down at night. most of my planning comes from snatches of a scene that i see in my mind and writing around it.

although, a few of my stories i've actually created full outlines for and written out character relationships. other than that, it's not really complicated. i never do a lot of work when it comes to planning a story out.

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I only plan or organize for about three of my stories. The stories that I do plot out are multichaptered ones while the ones that I don't are the shorter one, i.e., one-shots, drabbles and the like.

There are occassions where I can just sit down and write page after page after page with no planning, those instances are few and far between but are by far the most wonderful things to experience. It's as if everything just clicks into place and just flows from my brain onto whatever medium I am using (paper or computer.)

But again, it is very rare.

It probably would be easier for me if I did organize my writing.

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