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FFC #86 - Lo, the plot cometh...

Posted February 26th, 2022 at 03:12 PM by The Grim Reaper's Friend
TGRF's Fan Fiction Chronicles - Entry #86

There's a truth about my writing I've been aware of for many years, and haven't really known what to do with. That truth is this: despite gaining lots of knowledge about writing, and learning what does and doesn't work, and everything else I've learned, writing has gotten progressively harder for me, and the quality of my writing has generally gone down from what it used to be.

Like I said, I've known this for several years, but I haven't really known what to do about it. I couldn't say why this was the case, and without knowing that, all I could do was stumble around in the dark, hoping to find the problem by chance.

After a recent conversation with TAF, who has once again lent his invaluable services as a writing critic/breaker down of problems/general sounding board for my crazy ideas, I think I know what's been going on.

Back in the early days of writing, I obviously didn't know anything about structure or development or any of the stuff I do now. I had a general sense of what did and did not work and how a story should go, simply because I grew up on stories, but that was it.

However, with that limited base, I was able to just let my imagination run wild, and come up with plots. I'd start with a basic idea, maybe a premise or maybe just a scene, and build out from there, adding cool sequences, stuff I wanted to include, and ideas as they came. Once I added in some necessary transition chapters I was good to go.

This is how I wrote The Quest, LBV, and basically everything up to Dilmir. Dilmir was written mostly the same way, but by that time I was starting to get into character and stakes development. But the general plot formation stayed the same: start with a core, work outwards including what you want, then thread it all together. The sequels followed the same general format.

Red was like this too. I started with an ending, worked backwards, dove into the lore and pulled out bits I wanted to include, developed characters and stakes and conflict way more than I had before, connected it all up, and wrote it.

But ever since then, my writing has gone generally downhill, both in ease of creation, and general quality.

I think the reason for this is that I'm no longer creating plots like I used to. As I learned more and more about writing and development, I began to rely on it to define my stories. Everything I learned was centered on characters, stakes, and conflict, and very little on the actual plot. So plot creation in general got dropped bit by bit, and slowly replaced with other things. With the exception of HiS, you can see my stories since Red got a lot shorter due to this.

I was just operating off of the bare bones of story. By the time I got to HiS, any process of actual plot creation was entirely gone. It was all about changing characters and developing conflict.

And then I found out about character arcs and the 3 act structure, and started using them. But those devices assume you have a plot in mind. If you try and use them to actually create the plot, not only do you come up with generic plots which all seem similar, but you come up with very short stories. Starting with Utgar, I found that my stories averaged 8-10 chapters every time.

So I talked this over with TAF and we deduced that I had managed to leave plot creation out of my writing process. Which, even now, just seems like... how do you even do that?

So what does this mean? It means I'm going back to those old stories, mostly around the Red era, and trying to rediscover how I came up with plots. With any luck, I should be able to reignite that part of my creativity.

If I can do that, it should fix the recent shortness of my stories, and the absent middles which still plague me (I've developed some patches for that issue, but it's still there). And that will be another piece in place, another step towards novels.

So what does this mean for Dilmir? For once, Dilmir is still coming. I have a good outline with some great twists, a setting I'm excited about exploring, and good potential for sequels. It's looking promising. But I want to put Dilmir on pause while I figure out how to generate a plot again. Then, once I can do that, I'll go back to Dilmir. With any luck, Dilmir should be a return to my earlier writing days. My old plot creation will finally meet my new development, and you should get the best of both worlds.

Until then, keep reading, and prepare for vampires and magic!

~TGRF.
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