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The plot thinnens May 4, 2009

Posted by thejinx in writing.
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I’ve not done much writing since I lost my job.  I got to spend some time writing at the temp job I got immediately following, since it was a reception position that wasn’t very busy, but since that job ended, I’ve had something of a dry spell.  It’s not a writer’s block, I just haven’t gotten around to writing, and since I got the notice that I got a table at Anime North, I’ve been focusing on art.

But writing is something that I want and like to do, so last week I decided to set myself a deadline of writing for one hour a day.  Of course, I promptly got another temp job, which then promptly ended about two weeks before I was expecting it to.  The curse of efficiency.  I still managed to do some writing last week – nothing serious, the second chapter of FFVI: Remix was done last week, as well as some unrelated work – and the important part is that it’s on my mind.

Unfortunately, that has brought to the forefront a recurring issue I have with writing: plot.

I have a lot of ideas.  I have a text file of ideas for writing that keep updated, which is now several pages long.  I have a lot of characters, a lot of backstories for those characters, backstories for worlds, setting ideas, narrative ideas, etc.

The problem is that few of these ideas form what to me is one of the most essential parts of a story – the plot.  I don’t know what the goal, the resolution of these stories are.  I have rich worlds developed and intriguing characters to populate those worlds, but all the information I have on them does not culminate in a cohesive beginning, exposition, and most importantly, ending.  Yes, I can write out these ideas, but where are they going?

I haven’t done much with The Fire Within since the temp job I had a month or so ago.  I keep coming up with small ideas, small solutions to small problems, but it still doesn’t make me feel excited about the story, about getting to the ending and seeing what happens.  The whole story gives the feel more of backstory than a compelling novel in its own right.  And I’m starting to think that I really need to figure out something else to do with it to resolve these recurring issues, perhaps make some major changes to the story.

This is, in fact, a problem even plaguing Eyes of a DragonEyes itself is fairly safe; it has a definitive and urgent goal to work towards, and a resolution to follow.  However, the ultimate story is much larger than Eyes, which is left open at the end of the book, and which needs to be resolved itself, eventually.  But I don’t know precisely where or how it’s going to be resolved, and I don’t really want to do much with the novel until I at least have that figured out.  I need to finish writing Eyes first and do more worldbuilding, anyway, but it’s a concern at the back of my mind.

Part of this whole issue, I suppose, is my perfectionism.  I could easily just introduce a villain that the heroes have to defeat and voila! plot.  But I’m not a black and white type of person; I don’t like to have a villain just for the sake of providing conflict or a character who is evil just for the sake of being evil.  Even my cliched villain in Aurius had his reasons.  More importantly, I don’t want to simplify the conflict of a complex world down to ‘heroes must stop the bad guy before he does something bad.’  Maybe there might be a villain, but they might be only part of the ultimate conflict of the story, and in some of the ideas I have logged, having a villain like that would demean the whole point of the story.

And therein lies the problem.  If the conflict is not an evil person posing a threat to the world/city/etc. but a political struggle with repercussions both good and bad on both/all sides involved, then where is the resolution?  If the conflict is a character forced to be separated from his family to start a new career, where is the beginning and what is the ending?  If all I have is an idea for setting, what can provide an actual story there?

It’s a problem I’ve always had with my writing.  I guess I’ve just never been fond of simplifying my conflicts, and naturally, it’s resulted in complicating my own conflict with trying to make an interesting story.  I suppose the answer is in learning to simplify things.  After all, only one thing is needed to create a goal, and from there, build tension and lead up to an ultimate conflict: a threat.

Is plot an easy thing for you to come up with?  Or is there some other aspect of writing that often eludes you?

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