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Your plot is boring.

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 11:45 PM
After the last one, it's only fair I rag on plot oriented people, right?

No. The question isn't fairness, it's making you think about your writing. If you're trying to improve, you should be constantly reevaluating anyway, but sometimes people don't know where to start. The point of having a community is to talk about it, so let's do that. Cool. 'K.



I realized it's hard to draw out some aspect of a plot that doesn't intertwine with characters. Us plotheads (plotstarters, really, if you do it properly and end your story by finding a balance) get a little fucked over that way, because it's hard to get advice that explicitly calls out too much time on moving things forward. But there is one thing people who get too wrapped up in plot do horrendously: VOICE.

Okay so I have this awesome story and this guy goes on a journey and like the journey takes him to a wizard but the wizard is actually evil and like HERE'S A TWIST they team up because the guy realises evil is better and then MORE TWIST they meet this ogre girl who wants to eat everyone AND THE LEAST CLICHE PART is they take over the whole world and if you wanna find out who dies you have to read it. INtrigued, right??!

Okay, so when you're querying agents your opener is supposed to be a one-liner that sells them on reading your book. (The rest of the letter helps, but first impressions, dude.) When I see something where the author has just textwalled me with random pieces of plot, all I can think is 'where is your perspective?'

Have you taken the time to step back from your story and, instead of thinking it as a series of things happening, thought about why someone else should read it when there are a trillion other fancy non-cliche plots out there?

Do you respect your writing enough to want to sell it to your audience ('sell' doesn't have to mean omgpublishing)?



I read something where you're pouring it onto me as if I spent as many hours on your work as you did (FYI, I have not) and wonder why, if I'm supposed to be doing you a favor by reading your story instead of a million other stories, you're not trying harder.


Readers are not invested in your writing until you persuade them otherwise.


That's what finally brings me to the point of this: y'all gotta have a VOICE.

Do you know how many unpublished and published writers are out there? A lot. Go to a used bookstore and try not to cringe at the stacks of brand-new looking paperbacks that probably never got a second printing. And try to imagine how many more of those there are. Or, if you couldn't be fucked about publishing, just try to get through all 300 kajillion pages of poetry here. (Finding the best unnoticed stuff is hard. Please suggest DDs.)

So what will make me stay for your writing?

The 'Percy Jackson' series had a mediocre plot that was made a thousand times worse for me because I studied classics and was constantly like THAT IS NOT HOW DEMIGODS WORK. (I can't play 'God of War' either.) Oh, and I wasn't a huge fan of the characters or the teenage love story, which is an audience conflict.



But I read all five and happily admit to liking the first three.

Why?

VOICE.


Riordan is, like, awesome at it. The amount of personality in the books got me hooked and kept me going even though I wasn't even the target audience for it. Pretty badass, right?

Voice is awesome. Voice is probably the reason writing ends up being so subjective. I like my books to be flavored with dark humor; others prefer something more sensitive or upbeat or whatever. This is why knowing your audience matters, but more on that later.

Do NOT try to sell your whole story on your plot. You might have spent hours agonizing over what to do next and how to make sure the reader didn't guess it on page three, but do your readers see that? (-50 points if you equate author commentary with subtext contained in the actual work.)



Homework: figure out wtf 'voice' is in the comments. It's boring when you all agree with me (but I loooove you anyway), and I think it might scare off people who don't, so I'm trying something new. It took me this long, yes.

You can't carry a story on plot alone! Or, MAKE YOUR READERS CARE.

'You' is pretty much always a generic 'you'. Blame English for not having better plural forms. Stop the GIFs with 'Esc.' Pass GO and collect $200.

Dear person behind truebloodgifs.tumblr.com, I salute you. Never get a life.
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:iconselimeia:
Selimeia Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Interesting article.

I totally agree though: The combination of characters and style can make sooo many stories work out that have a horrible plot. I personally am a great fan of the novel "The Wall" by Marlen Haushofer where practically nothing happens, but it's still soooo strong - and truly amazing.
If anyone wants to know what a 'voice' is he should read this book, there it can be seen at its purest. :)
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you!

Huh, sounds interesting. What's its premise?
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:iconselimeia:
Selimeia Featured By Owner Dec 9, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
(I just hope I'm answering this correctly, as neither the dictionary nor my own mind could tell me definitely what a 'premise' is - would you mind explaining in the next answer? I mean, my English is pretty good, but not perfect...:blush: )

It's about a woman who finds herself in the mountains, surrounded by an invisible, undestroyable wall. Everything on the other side seems to be dead. She is the only human left.
3 years later, I believe, she starts to write down what happened since then, views on her past, trails of thought, ... Really fascinating.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 9, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
You got it totally right! It sounds fantastic.

I think of a premise as kind of the one line description that sets up the story, so yours is spot on. For Harry Potter it could be something like a kid has to take on the evil that killed his parents while coming to terms with being a wizard. Not.too in depth, but offers some idea of what to expect.
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:iconselimeia:
Selimeia Featured By Owner Dec 9, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Aaaaah, okay - *adding to vocab memory* - thanks :)

It's really worth a read, though at first, it might seem a little... weird.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 10, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Sounds cool :D
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:iconselimeia:
Selimeia Featured By Owner Dec 10, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
It is :D

If you get a chance to read it, please tell me what you thought :)
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:iconxlntwtch:
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2012   Writer
All I know, learned from years as a journalist for a few newspapers, and years spent writing short fiction for magazines that were all put in print 'back in the day' [meaning when there were more newspapers and lit magazines] = You must begin your work with a good hook. If a writer doesn't know what a "good hook" is, I suggest that writer read more books, short fiction and non-fiction. One can also join an in-person writers' group, a group that has members read their "wip" work aloud. [I held a writers' group like that twice a month for two years. Most had at least one piece published during or soon after it ended.] Back on topic -- then they'll learn that if the first sentence grabs a readers' or listeners' full attention, that's a good hook. A good hook establishes voice immediately and engages readers so they complete the work done, whether it's a classic, new book or article, short story, et. al. That goes for work on dA, too. The "voice" is followed with interest if it's maintained throughout a piece. And yes, I'll suggest more DDs. ;)
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Awesome, thanks for hte insight.

We were even taught to use a good hook for writing essays.
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:iconxlntwtch:
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Dec 8, 2012   Writer
You're welcome (:

Yep, a good hook is needed for essays, too.
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:iconphoenixleo:
phoenixleo Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012
Harry Potter series while I love it, it was after I read book 6 that I realized it was based on south asian folktales. But otherwise all the intricacies and characters are awesome enough to ignore I have seen the get the other life stored in another thing and KEEL IT WITH FIRE scenario when I was 7 years old.
I wouldn't say I like if the author forces me to like something, and I am not sure how it would be? (what porn as plot point? :lol: ) But subtlety is nice \o\
And while not writing related, it's the same for tv shows as well I suppose. BBC's Sherlock compared to the States' Elementary. The latter has 'meh' to 'ok, go on' sort of plot and it's most of the time obvious who the culprit is or what will happen next if thought carefully. But the character interactions and developement is what's interesting in that one. Forget any symbolisms which I am trying hard to find there.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Which ones? I don't think it's intentionally based on anything in particular, but she did draw off a lot of mythology. Or do you just mean the horcrux part?

:P

Huh, haven't seen the latter and I didn't enjoy the BBC series that much. But I've never liked Sherlock Holmes.
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:iconphoenixleo:
phoenixleo Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012
And there was another where the uhh...eating raw food is same scenario as Gollum's nomming food <_<
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Don't remember this :O
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:iconphoenixleo:
phoenixleo Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2012
'tis alright.
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:iconphoenixleo:
phoenixleo Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012
Yea the horcrux part. That part is crucial to everything that happens so to speak.
Did you read Thakurmar Jhuli or something along that name? They had one story about rakkhosh (rakhshas?) and the whole fleet massacring village after village and in one of them one old female rakkhosh (let's say monster here ) felt sorry for eating a baby girl (after nomming the entire village and her family of course) and took her as her daughter in the monster land. The other monsters were ordered hands off. Everytime they left for food, she would use a gold (or silver) branch/stick to make her go to sleep and when the come back, use the silver (or gold, the opposite one that is) to wake her up. Once they were away and the girl was asleep, this prince came to the land secretly to kill them all for all the troubles in the land (and blah blah). He saw the girl sleeping, awakened her with the whatever that gold or silver stick it was and tried to rescue her. But she was like "oh noes don't they will find you " (the usual fall in love thing). And the prince was like "fine i will leave you here for now but find out how to kill those monsters" and he left after putting her to sleep. The monsters came back, and the old female monster felt a bit weird with the new smell but her 'daughter' was then fixing her hair and she asked how is it they never die and stuff. And the monster told her that their life is stored in the deepest part under the lake in a parrot (I think?) in a cage with a lot of defenses and what not. One has to dive down in one breath and get it and kill it otherwise the monsters would know (and hell hath no fury like a monster's birdy plucked..) and kill him and whatever else is there. So it went and they went to nom food and the prince came, and the girl told him how to do it. He went and dove in one breath, and was almost about to release his breath but managed it enough to catch the bird. The monsters sensed while flying but it was too late and they all died. They lived happily ever after though the girl always felt sorry her 'mother' had to die.

That one. Though I am sure, other stories have it a bit by bit. I am still surprised now how gory stuff I used to read as a kid then in those folktales but panicked seeing monster movies in tv... D: I remember my dad was quite amused when he took me to watch Jurassic Park. Because I was staring at the projector behind more than the screen (and consumed a lot of chips and realized midway through I had watched the movie a few months ago when my uncle showed it to us at home ) >_>


That's understandable. :lol:
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Ooh haven't heard that story, interesting one! I wonder if she used it on purpose, there's a number of myths that involve storing the life outside the body, though.

Haha, wow. Yeah, I got scared of Jurassic Park but I grew up on all kinds of scary things :O
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:iconphoenixleo:
phoenixleo Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2012
Yep, there are several like that.

Anaconda was scary as well D:
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I never saw it :nuu:
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:iconphoenixleo:
phoenixleo Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2012
It's a bit cheesy but snakes were #1 on my freaking out list from then on :C
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Oh no!
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(1 Reply)
:iconburlew:
Burlew Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Ow, ow, ow, headache... too many moving pictures...
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Did you try hitting Esc?
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:iconburlew:
Burlew Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
It didn't do anything as far as I could see.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Ah, I hear it doesn't work in Chrome. [link] - gifless! not as excitingly formatted, either, but eh.
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:iconburlew:
Burlew Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Much better, thank you :-)
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
No problem!
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:iconeuxiom:
Euxiom Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012
Yeah, I recognized the trueblood stuff even though I've never seen the series. :lol: Oh you and your tumblr gifs.

Um.

Don't know what else I can say other than I'm interested to hear why you dislike Riordan's messups in the Jackson series as opposed to the proper mythos? :eager: I have not read the series and don't plan to but...yeah. :shifty:

commenting on everything but the main point of the journal go me
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Aren't they gorgeous?!

Well the issue is that he's all DEMIGODS GET SPECIAL POWERS when in Homer, Hesiod, and every other source, THEY TOTALLY DON'T. That is not how they're supposed to work. But, well, it does totally kill the plot.

:giggle:
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:iconeuxiom:
Euxiom Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012
They are. Gifs rockkkk.

Oh, okay. :bucktooth: Are you studying Classics in a university setting? why I don't just watch and stalk you is beyond me i could have this answered already
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
:dummy:

I minored in it when I was at university.

BECAUSE YOU DON'T SPARKLE ENOUGH TO MAKE IT OKAY.
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:iconeuxiom:
Euxiom Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012
...

Oh my god that joke is just. Staying saved. In my inbox forever. IS THAT CREEPY ENOUGH?
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
no. :no:
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:iconeuxiom:
Euxiom Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012
I suppose I would have to pull out many stops to get to Edward level.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Or buy a ton of glitter and some contact lenses.
Reply
(1 Reply)
:iconflyaway-555:
FlyAway-555 Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
This may sound weird, but my stories are made out of threads, a different colour for each character, each plot twist, each event, until you finish the story, and the tapestry, and both are beautiful. ^_^ the term 'lose threads' is a good description of a 'thread' that got lost, as is now sitting by itself, ruining the image.

No, I don't knit.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
It mostly sounds awesome!

Neither do I.
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:iconflyaway-555:
FlyAway-555 Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Mostly? *is curious*
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Well, it's also a suitable metaphor. :P
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:iconflyaway-555:
FlyAway-555 Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
true that. :)
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:iconsaintartaud:
saintartaud Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012  Professional General Artist
Readers are not invested in your writing until you force them to be.
"Force" is probably the wrong way to put it, and I fear it might lead beginners and amateurs to the usual problem of thinking they have to overstate or spoonfeed everything to the reader in order to get it. You don't con someone by forcing them to buy an idea, you persuade them by directing their attention to the important details, making them think they've figured something out. The best cons are when the person doesn't think they're being conned. ;)

But of course voice in fiction is an important strategy in engaging the reader and maintaining the illusion.

I also go with Schopenhauer's aphorism on fiction, that the goal is not to convey the big stuff. Anybody can do that. The goal is to make the small stuff interesting.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Arg, I almost went with trick and that's just as bad. Time to fall back on get. Or persuade? Ooooooo.

That is an excellent aphorism, thanks.
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:iconsaintartaud:
saintartaud Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012  Professional General Artist
The actual quote from Schopenhauer is:
“The business of the novelist is not to relate great events, but to make small ones interesting.”
It's from The Art of Literature, though I can't recall which essay specifically I culled it from. It's online here: [link]

Schopenhauer is generally good for aphorisms, but don't ask his opinion on women! ;)
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Oooh, thanks!

Haha, now I'm super-curious. I think there's a tradition of douchey male writers or something. Cough, V.S. Naipaul (whom I hate anyway).
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:iconsaintartaud:
saintartaud Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012  Professional General Artist
It's pretty easy to find a copy of "On Women" online, but here's a link anyway: [link]

Apparently, he recanted some of this later on, or at least qualified it by saying it was possible for some women to achieve by separating themselves from the masses. The interesting thing is that his mother was a fixture among Weimar literati, friends with Goethe, and a writer herself. Schopes was a notorious asshole, but is still pretty important as a philosopher.

Really, the guy was a pessimist, and it's not like he was much nicer to the rest of humanity either.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 8, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Was he also into phrenology? He seems like the type.

Assholery is always a sign of importance!

Still, this was all uncalled for. His mother should've spanked him more.
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:iconsaintartaud:
saintartaud Featured By Owner Dec 8, 2012  Professional General Artist
Nope. I recall that Comte and the other positivists were into phrenology (I mean, it was considered valid science at the time, haha), but I've never heard of it being big with Schopes. He did have a theory about sexual attraction and its relation to genetics that doesn't quite jibe with current science, but his ideas on this (and Will to Life) sort of presage the general idea of us being attracted to others for genetic benefit beyond our conscious effort.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 8, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I don't want to approve, but I like the attempt to dissect attraction.
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(1 Reply)
:iconjade-pandora:
jade-pandora Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012
That's so true about making small ones (events) interesting - SO true. I'm always getting comments from readers, of how I'm seen as a poet who takes the mundane in life and make them noticed with a new slant. One particular piece that comes to mind is "The Art of Washing Hands". That's such a great feeling knowing I affect readers in this way. :love:

And YOU -- quite the worthy article you've created, perfect for those who feel that they are stuck in the novice stage. :heart:
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
:la: And yeah, my favorite thing about Eastern poetry is it's so much like photography: take a single moment and make it special.

Thank you!
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