Keeping Momentum

So, not sure if this is best place to post this- but it seems closest to the best.

I write a lot.

I play scenes in my head with characters, and new worlds, and races, and languages fairly constantly.

I keep several stories going at ones, short stories, longer novellas, little snippets- but I find that I can't... finish them.

I lose momentum, or perhaps I never had it. Maybe it's just that I get these little voyeuristic scenes of dialogue or action, and that's all I get.

I can create characters, unique, flawed, interesting characters- I can create their family history, dating back hundreds of years, I can sketch them, and their houses- I can pinpoint what classes they'd have taken in high school. Favorite band of cigarettes, the type of milk they prefer, and why. It's ridiculous how thoroughly I make them, and in the end, I know them better than myself.

But I can't making a fucking plot. (pardon the french)

I can't seem to make the scenes a story. Maybe it's because I don't like conflict, and I can't think of how to write it because it doesn't interest me. Or maybe it's that I "write what I know" and frankly, I don't fight dragons daily, or work of the FBI, or do much of anything right now but read, watch documentaries on ancient Egypt, and bake.

But what ever the reason, it's really annoying.

Am I alone in this problem? Or do others share it? I know there are a lot of writers here, how do you do it?

Pikachu42's picture

Embodiment

I can't write a plot to save my life. I can write dialogue, and on the occasion I can write a bit of a plot, the character's personality really shines through. I was told to write what you know and dare to suck(awesome advice Mei), but I suck at sucking and I don't know much other than the real world. Neither of those sounds really appealing when I do try to write out anything. I also suffer from impatience. I can't seem to draw things out enough for an actual story. I wanna just get to the friggin' point. >_

Mith's picture

Supplicant

I tend to think it's because I like my characters too much too make anything bad happen to them- i.e. conflict- i.e. the whole point of the damned thing.

I don't mind writing short stories, but... I'd like to finish one of them :/

Pikachu42's picture

Embodiment

case of one of my characters it's because I don't think what she has to say would be interesting. I mean, it is to me, but that's because I know her so well. As far as the other characters go it's because I'm trying to write out of my genre. I want to write a fantasy novel, but I rarely read them so I'm having trouble getting it on paper.

Mith's picture

Supplicant

I love fantasy. I read a lot of it. But I'm a terrible perfectionist. So if I write (finish) a (my current) fantasy (/sci fi) novel (ella) I'll end up having a heaving silmarillion to go with it. Complete with genealogy reports, a deep and extensive report on the "magic", the economic statistics of each country, the evolution of each race- along with the evolution of their political, cultural, and religious beliefs.

(P.S. most fantasy sucks, well, your loli of mediocrity, if not something hairier, smellier, and far more masculine. Find someone who has similar taste in things as you, and reads a lot of fantasy, and ask for suggestions. It's not worth wading through the crap.)

Pikachu42's picture

Embodiment

who reads fantasy novels and I can't really talk to him. A. He tends to drone. On and On. I poke him to get him back on track. B. He's notoriously antisocial. I have to call him to remind him to email me back. Sad but true.
As far as fantasy/sci fi novels go I've only read a few. When I saw a few I really mean a few. I've read The Hobbit; The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe; Ender's Game and The Fellowship of the Rings. Though I have read the entire Wizard of Oz series but that was AGES ago. Back when I was just a little Chu.

Mith's picture

Supplicant

Okay- I have a suggestion. Kage Baker. She has several series..es. Both Sci-fi and Fantasy. I like the fantasy better.

Tolkien is hard to get through, but good.

Um, everyone likes Robert Jordan,l I don't. Man needs to get an editor. Also others like Tim Butcher, David Eddings, who I can take or leave. They write stupid girls.

Try Robin McKinely, Hero and the Crown and the Blue Sword, or Sunshine, which is modern, and has vampires- my secret weakness.

Patricia McKillip can be fun, but is a little... weird. I sometimes feel like I read her novels in a dream, just because of how they are. Her Riddle Master of Hed series is her most famous, I think, but not necessarily my favorite. The first book is hard to get through.

Um...

Oh! Neil Fucking Gaiman!

Yah, that's a good list. Lous McMaster Bujold rights cute books too. And... Patricia Briggs is cute. She writes mystery/romance/modern fantasy. Her main heroine in one series is a machanic Smile

And there's a big ol' post for ya.

Pikachu42's picture

Embodiment

that's caught my attention. It's Earth by David Brin. The whole premise just made me stop and try to track it down. I may have to buy it before reading it. It's just that serious for me. A lot of historians seem to flip their wigs for Neil Gaiman. I myself and curious about The Graveyard Book, and I'd really like to read Coraline especially because I loved the movie so much!

MeiLin's picture

Most High

Oh, it's so so good. It's what sucked No2 Daughter into Gaiman fandom with me, but we did the unabridged audiobook with Mr Gaiman reading it to us.

MeiLin's picture

Most High

Listen to your characters. What are they doing? Where are they going? What do they want? Who do they love? Who do they hate? They will tell you, if you listen. Listen to your daydreams--and I mean your literal daydreams. This story started as a daydream.

Mith's picture

Supplicant

I do, but my characters all want to just cuddle their loved one, read, and maybe adopt a kitten. It's very... slice of life, but the life of kind of boring, if sometimes jaded, intelligentsia, in various stages of life.

And that's not too interesting Blum 3

Zandu Ink's picture

Embodiment

First off, fuck is not French, but you can French while fucking. Go figure.

That said, you are among fellows. I have written at least three serials that have not gotten very far. One is a parody of modern superhero stories and I managed to kill everyone before I gave up. One is the story of Onash and Urame that I posted the opening to here. The third is my fantasy novel parody that began as a NaNo project and lasted three days...

I don't have a problem gettin from Point A to Point B. It's the rest of the alphabet that gives me fits. I think my problem is that, while I write for me, I write for others, too. Perhaps more than I should. And if I don't get a lot of feedback, or even acknowledgement, I tend to give up. (That said, click the link in my sig and read the story plz. /shameless plug) If anyone has any ideas, I'm open to suggestions.

Mith's picture

Supplicant

It was probably Scandinavian, although some believe German. Apparently, it's too old (and vulgar) to be easily traced.

I think writing for others is one of the... traps for writers. If you don't at all, well then, it's mental masturbation. If you write only for others, you lose yourself. I too, like hearing others suggestions. My favorite thing to do is have a conversation with someone else, and throw up suggestions, because I end up verbally vomiting useful things sometimes. (and a secondary input is lovely.) My brother is my favorite to do this with, because he ruthless picks apart every thing I talk about, so I have to make my story tighter.

(P.S. I will totally read your story.)

Blue Coyote's picture

Devotee

Wow, I have much of the same problem, I just had to nearly choke back coke I was drinking because I draw out my characters, their houses (if they have one) all the clothes they own and what their color choices mean for their personality... What I've been doing is trying to tie together a sort of gradoise meta-plot out of a series of characters lives and how they'll slowly come to be intertwined.
I've gone the slice-of-life sort of thing (or at least having each chapter be a day and traveling among three perspectives throughout) but set in a fantasy-alternate-history earth. This is so I can avail myself of the convience of history I already know rewritten to be pleasing to me, but also I figure it'll make even ordinary things seem interesting. Going to school is great if you can study magic, going to the store is interesting if you have to haggle with dwarves and watch out for dinosaur-poop.
http://bluewingedcoyote.deviantart.com/art/Snakeskin-Chapter-One-part1-1...
http://bluewingedcoyote.deviantart.com/art/snakeskin-chap-two-part1-1362...
I don't know how far I'll get, but I've gotten more done on this than any other world or comic or anything. I just write notes to myself often, and try and think of consequences to characters action (especially unintended ones!) that will lead to "interesting times" for everyone. Not everything has to be bad to be interesting. Just think of a creative hook to draw your various characters together, and weave the diseperate bits into a whole. At least that's what I'm trying for...

Mith's picture

Supplicant

I make them all in sims... and then I make their families, and build their houses... it's too fun.

Gudy's picture

Embodiment

Blue Coyote wrote:
Wow, I have much of the same problem, I just had to nearly choke back coke I was drinking because I draw out my characters, their houses (if they have one) all the clothes they own and what their color choices mean for their personality...

... description of color and clothing in your writing for my taste. Like, way too much. It was so distracting that it was one of the major reasons why I gave up on reading your story. (The other was the frustration of the second chapter not getting back to the guy from chapter one, but instead introducing a bunch of new characters.)

Capriox's picture

Embodiment

I loooooove character development, too. I'm not surprised so many of us here enjoy that part of writing because, hey, we're all fans of MeiLin's work, which is very character-growth and thorough-world-development type of story, whaddya know Wink I can even do plotting. It's harder, but certainly in a fantasy setting where one is less constrained by reality (of our world, not of human nature in general), I have developed some semi-decent story arcs.

Translating everything that's in my head into something that's enjoyable to read, however, instead of terribly clunky and stilted...

Don't you wish sometimes that there was a way to directly feed your ideas directly on top a computer screen, without the whole clumsy and intimidating having to write everything out one word at a time? I certainly do.

Pikachu42's picture

Embodiment

to create something like that I would love you forever, that and pay you a million dollars. Better yet a million double dollars.

Capriox's picture

Embodiment

Better still if you hadn't replied to my post yet, so I could go back and edit it still. Oy, normally I'm not that wretched on the fly...

But yeah, if I ever figure out a brain-word processor direct upload link, I'll let you know Wink

Mith's picture

Supplicant

YES I DO WISH I HAD THAT.

Sometimes I wish I had a tape recorder so I could just start spewing out story, because when I try to remember and write it, it's wrong.

Pikachu42's picture

Embodiment

I've found out that right before I fall asleep, I can come up with the most eloquent and beautiful poetry, and I can come up with the perfect scene for my novel. It'll wrench me out of my writers block, it'll be exactly what I need to move the plot along. Then I mumble to myself that I'll remember it when I wake up, fall asleep get up and go FUCK! I even told myself once to grab my tape recorder, but I was too sleepy to get up. Then I dreamed I did...and well I'll shut up now.

Han-pan's picture

Postulant

but I can't give them issues. I think because I've lived through my own pains and problems and I feel that I don't want them to have to live through things like that. So none of my characters get to be developed enough to achieve flaws or have issues. I can write a story though, and I can give them conflict...I just don't want them to have differences and shortcomings that would make getting through the conflict interesting. XD

Capriox's picture

Embodiment

One of the problems I have writing anything outside fantasy (or at least far-future scifi) is that I always feel terribly insecure in my understanding of other people and institutions. Like that one short story I wrote about being afraid of dark windows: I was able to write it because its solely within one moment of one person's head and that person is essentially a dramatized take on one part of myself.

A perfect example of this problem is that I have one story idea set in the modern day where a young man ends up discovering that not only does magic really exist, but it's making a comeback and he's going to be part of that. I'm haven't bothered with it much, though, because how do I write about the real world's reaction to magic (especially institutions like colleges, military, business, all the flavors of government, etc.) when I feel like my perspective isn't in alignment with anything resembling the mainstream? I feel very discouraged and uncomfortable because I don't think I'm "writing what I know".

Any thoughts on how to write an unfamiliar perspective, without resorting to stereotype?

Han-pan's picture

Postulant

To learn about what you don't know, you need to talk to people. I find that the best novels I've read tend to have a lengthy acknowledgments section in which they share the many people and situations they went through to learn about new perspectives and information.

Mith's picture

Supplicant

Which means you probably will have to research, a lot.

But if it's just... a guy. Doin' shtuff, well, that's a little easier. I sometimes think about people I know, or characters from novels who I particularly liked and thought were well fleshed out, and imagined them in these situations. At first it's a little stiff, but then they take on life.

I also ask my friends, especially for writing the opposite sex, or a character completely different in thought process to me.

Also, just write yourself a bunch- but with one change. Like, what if it's you but... you in Africa. Or with three arms. Or, if you're a person who bottles emotions, what if you spewed them out? Or vice-a-versa, a person who is totally open with their emotion, what if they weren't? How do they change? How do the perceptions of those around them change?

Pedes's picture

Postulant

be alighting to the mainstream.

I think you should ask a lot of people, read a lot of things; not only books, but news, political analysis, psychological works. Remember that even the most complicated feelings spring from very simple emotions: fear, greed, hate, curiosity, love, hope. You have to be able to become a people who are different from you and recreate their thinking. You don't have to know everything, nobody does. Just learn as much as you can and then add something from yourself.

Capriox's picture

Embodiment

Haha, I think I've got the reading research part covered. I was a communication major in college (lots of applied psych & sociology there, and I still love reading any new psych/soc research that comes out), and I regularly read both the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal online. Right now I'm trying to motivate myself to read through the text and in-depth analysis of Sen. Baucus' proposed health care legislation. ZOMGimportantbutblargablargh!

That is one thing I enjoy/admire about reading anything written by David Weber. He does not-so-evil antagonism really well: there are few true bad guys main characters in his epic casts, mostly just "differently-motivated" people.

Older writers have an advantage over all of us young whippersnappers, of course Blum 3 They've experienced a lot more change in their lives and encountered a lot more variety of humanity and life. Even in the three years since I've graduated from college I've still experienced and know a LOT more than I did as a student.

Pedes's picture

Postulant

not to little knowledge, but too much. At some point in education you get over "I know everything" stage and just gradually realize how ignorant you still are Biggrin You should not let yourself be discouraged by that though!

Pedes's picture

Postulant

I can't get character development without plot and vice versa. Actually the relations between the two is what creates my stories. And the fact that I am a sadomasochist and love to torture my characters, but on the other hand I like to let them show their virtues and/or save them in different ways.
That, and I just ask the questions that fuel the story development. Who? What? Where? How? Why? What was the effect? How did they reach this point? What was their reaction?
I mean, if you have the characters then you should need to have just one spark and everything should go naturally, almost without your help. Well developed characters make the plot, hell, they sometimes even do things you don't want them to do!

(Now endings, I have to work on that!0

Maybe you just overdo the character development and there is no space for anything else?

Capriox's picture

Embodiment

Pedes wrote:
Maybe you just overdo the character development and there is no space for anything else?

Hm, this sparked a related thought for me. One classic element of good storytelling is that one or more characters, generally the protagonist, undergoes some sorta change over the course of the tale. Perhaps it's possible to over-develop a character - to get them exactly "just so" in their likes, wants, appearance, flaws, mannerisms, etc. that they become frozen. It's a lot harder to write an engaging tale when the plot, regardless of how dramatic, doesn't even engage the character enough to affect them.

Certainly something I'll be mulling over.

MeiLin's picture

Most High

If you have a character, settled in an everyday life, and nothing happens to challenge that character *on some level*, there is no story. Period. It doesn't have to be a zombie invasion, or time travel, or anything out of the ordinary that happens. It can be a divorce. Losing a job. Meeting a true love. *Something*. If you have a fully developed character, even one set in his ways, put him in a challenging situation and ask him what he'd do. Maybe he's witness to a bank robbery and it changes how he views his personal security. Maybe he hits a pedestrian who runs out in front of his car. Maybe he meets a woman who might be his daughter. *Something.*

Pedes's picture

Postulant

I remember hearng/reading somewhere that every story is about a conflict: it can be internal, external, but there has to be a conflict which is something challenging the status quo.

Marri's picture

Supplicant

I also remember hearing that the character doesn't HAVE to change. You can have a murderer come up against some test of faith and decide to reform- or he can decide to go on killing people. There just has to be some sort of potential for change, somewhere.

Pedes's picture

Postulant

he is living - or having a live, not to discriminate the dead and undead - a story can happen; or even when he doesn't actually have a life, but is trying to getting one or... I hope you understand what I mean XD. If you have everything in balance then you have to do something to throw the balance off; sometimes you just have to put a character on an edge and suddenly everything gets into motion.

Everything can affect the character; unless it's part of his characteristics that he is just a person who is unaffected for some strange reason. If the plot does not affect the character he is not worthy of being a main character, as engaging in the action is what defines a main character*.

(*Unless your concept is that the main character is not engaged in anything; but the concept has to be strong then).

[My brain is not working well, I hope what I wrote is understandable]

Mith's picture

Supplicant

Yes, I would agree with what everyone has been saying- you need conflict of some kind to make a story.

But I get so emotionally attached to my characters, that I don't want there to be conflict. I want them to be happy, or quietly content.

Maybe I'll start a thread with suggestions of interesting conflict- perhaps big events in our own lives.

MeiLin's picture

Most High

It's a phrase that's come to mean cutting bits of writing you particularly like but that don't serve the story--and literally murdering your darlings, your characters. You can't be afraid to take the characters where they need to go. You just have to let them go and do what they're going to do. Sometimes it's sad or unpleasant. Sometimes, not. If you just can't stand to see them unhappy, give them a happy ending. See Jane Austen's work for characters who get very, very low in the course of a story--humiliated, even--and bounce back to a happy ending.

V's picture

Embodiment

MeiLin wrote:
See Jane Austen's work for characters who get very, very low in the course of a story--humiliated, even--and bounce back to a happy ending.

Yeah. And see Joss Whedon's work for ones who don't.
Capriox's picture

Embodiment

hee! I like the new sig! (just noticed it now - sorry if you've had it for awhile)

V's picture

Embodiment

I thought I'd go back to another Dr. Horrible quote Biggrin He has some good ones.

MeiLin's picture

Most High

That's right, sofa monkeys!

V's picture

Embodiment

But that's pretty cool. Good to get some mainstream exposure Biggrin

Shade's picture

Supplicant

was amazing. And wonderful. And I freakin' love NPH.

MeiLin's picture

Most High

I don't think there's anything he can't do--sings, dances, excellent comedic timing, charming--he's got it all.

applejax's picture

Supplicant

Thanks for posting it, I would have missed it!

Pedes's picture

Postulant

you can tell how much I like a character by how much I torture him/her.

OK, maybe you can't exactly measure it like that, but you get the point Wink

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