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FFC #61 - Finally, something positive

Posted November 20th, 2020 at 02:46 PM by The Grim Reaper's Friend
TGRF's Fan Fiction Chronicles - Entry #61

Since being forced some five-odd months ago to pause my writing and take a much needed long look at certain things, I've gone what feels like lightyears forwards in my understanding of writing. I've outlined much of what I've learned already, so I won't go back over it here.

In my last FFC, I was coming to realize that despite everything I had learned (and perhaps partially because of it), my writing was suffering. As far back as Ragnak, my inability to craft the middle of a story had surfaced, and it has stuck with me ever since, surfacing in basically everything I've written.

That's always been a problem. It's been THE problem in fact, the single largest problem, the biggest cause of failed drafts and scrapped stories. Nothing has destroyed as many stories as that problem has.

So you can imagine my elation when I finally figured out what's causing it, and better yet, how I can start to fix it.

I PMed my theories to TAF, who's been lending his writing expertise and opinions (many, many thanks), and he agreed I was on the right track. So I wanted to share what's changed here, what I'm doing, and how it will affect my writing. Because it could change my style significantly.

I believe the problem was that when I centered a story on a character changing, I assumed that I could create a plot based purely on that character change, or arc. That is not how character arcs work. They provide a framework for your plot, but they do not provide the plot itself. This meant that while the beginning and end were fleshed out, the middle was a blank, because it came down to: 'the character changes'.

I think this assumption stemmed from the fact that I learned how to write backwards (which I've detailed elsewhere). I didn't know the basics of creating character arcs or creating plots, so I went along trying to get plots from the characters themselves.

The crazy thing is that before I started focusing on character change, I wrote Dilmir, and Dilmir had a plot. Meandering and boring in places, yes, but it had a plot. So it's not like I don't know how to create one. I just came to assume that I didn't need to; that characters and arcs would give me everything I needed.

Now that I have realized what was going wrong, I know (more or less) how to handle it. I knew I could make a plot, so I wanted to test my theory by trying to create a purely plot-based fan fiction. No character arcs whatsoever. Purely a goal, obstacle, and journey to achieve that goal. So I set off trying to create that.

The problem was instantly fixed. There were no holes where I didn't know what happened; every event flowed into the next one.

Additionally, working with pure plot allowed me to work on something I had been wanting to include for awhile: twists. I tried to create twists with A Chance of Success, and wound up making complications, not true twists. I was able to make several true twists in this plot, so I know that works now.

Now, the plot is... not devoid of issues. While the creation of the basic plot was easier than it has ever been, I am beginning to see the need for character arcs. Especially towards the end, where I know the inclusion of arcs would lend some greatly-needed weight and meaning to the whole story. I've tried adding in some side character arcs on top of the plot, but they aren't feeling right. While the story is technically there and technically works, I feel like it's a bit too bland for me to publish it.

Fortunately I think I know exactly what I need to do. I need to create a story from a character arc like I've been doing, and get the beginning, end, and midpoint from the arc. Then I just need to create a plot within those major points. That way there is an underlying character arc, lending the plot sufficient weight. In short, I need to finally combine character and plot like they're meant to be.

So that's my next plan: I'm shelving this story (because the plot is created specifically without an arc, so including one now would just mean I need to redo the whole plot anyway), and will cast about within my mind for a character arc I can work with. Then the outlining will begin once again.

Meanwhile, I mentioned that my writing style might change significantly, and here's how: One thing I've always admired, and always been relatively unable to do, is make a plot with twists and turns which keeps the reader turning the pages as tension mounts. It's pretty obvious now why: I wasn't creating plots.

I still remember Bro-Man's Bloodlines as one of the most engaging fan fictions I have ever read. Grammar mistakes and all, he had that element of suspense I just could never quite seem to duplicate.

Remember the plot I just said I'm shelving? That has it. Finally. I think if I just let myself create a plot, adding in twists, tension, and keeping the reader in the dark comes fairly naturely.

That's what's going to change. I'm aiming for a more 'plotty' style, where the character arc stays more in the background, and the reader is caught up in the suspense and tension of the story unfolding. It might take a few fictions to perfect it, but I think I'll get there eventually.

I'll keep you updated on where my writing is. If I don't get a good character arc idea soon, I might open it up for suggestions in the forum. We'll see.

Until then, keep reading and writing.


P.S. I've run out of clean fantasy fiction to read, and am wondering how well-written the works of Brandon Sanderson are. I have not been able to get my hands on any of his books yet to find out. Anyone know?
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William099's Avatar
I have! His works are phenomenal. I own like 75 percent of his existing works and continue to grow my collection every chance I get. Definitely read anything from his cosmere collection. The man has created an entire galaxy to write in with multiple stories on multiple planets that are all interconnected. Its so well done!
Posted November 24th, 2020 at 12:37 AM by William099 William099 is offline
The Grim Reaper's Friend's Avatar
Thanks, I'll check it out.

Posted November 24th, 2020 at 11:21 AM by The Grim Reaper's Friend The Grim Reaper's Friend is offline
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