View Full Version : The art of crafting a story...

04-30-2008, 06:58 AM
Sorry, my post is a bit long:

I have a frustrating problem and I'm sure I'm not the only one. The thing is, very often I come up with a great idea around which I can base a story, I sit down, come up with a lot of juicy characters and a pretty cool way to begin the tale as well as lots of in-between details I want to work into the story... then it ends there. I simply can't figure out how an event leads up to the next bit and the next and so on; I simply fail to craft a story and the few times I do work out a story from beginning to end, it's usually mediocre because I 'forced' things to happen a certain way so that another bit I thought up can come into the foray. Now in my case, the bigger picture comes pretty easily-- I have lots of *bigger pictures*, but I can't put together the little pieces which add life to the greater idea and make it into a story. Please help me with tips on how I can actually craft a story or map it out, if you have any techniques which work for you which you'd like to share. Thank you. :)

04-30-2008, 07:05 AM
For crafting a story, I suggest tacky glue and popsicle sticks..... oh, wait.


Seriously, though. My best technique for connecting the dots is "What if?"

Example: In my current WIP, one of my protags was hit from behind and knocked unconscious. When the event occurred, I had no idea who hit him or why. So I started asking myself "What if...it was___?" "What if it was___ because of ___?" I finally hit upon a "what if" that worked, and I went with it.

How did I know it worked? Because as I pondered it, I came up with meat for the new scene. Bits of dialogue, a reason behind this person's motivation for knocking my protag in the melon, and it became a turning point in the plot.

04-30-2008, 07:07 AM
Cool! Thanks!

04-30-2008, 07:07 AM
Yep, have this problem almost all the time. I notice if I try and hurry something, it doesn't work.

Only my issue is I get the beginning and end done, then can't figure out what the hell to put in the middle, or I have a bunch of disconnected middle pieces.

I've always had this problem, but I usually tame it by outlining. Outlining has solved most of my problems and if you can't get from point A to B to C in a story, then I strongly recommend it. My favorite outlining-method is the essay one because it's straightforward and easy.

As you practice more and more, however, you'll notice you don't need the outline as much. Finishing stories partially comes from practice. So even if you have dozens of half-finished stories in your drawer, know that at least you're practicing and for every tale you finish, you're coming that much closer to your goal of finishing. (If it encourages you any, it took me about eight years before I learned how to finish something effectively. If you work smart, it'll probably take you about half that, or even less.)

Anyway, the essay method. This is how I do it:

I. Main Idea.
1. Supporting Idea for MI
A. Supporting supporting Idea for SI
a. Tiny details.

From a previous novel:

I. Nathan and Ivan Arunuki help a man on the wrong end of an altercation.
1. Nathan and Ivan are raving. They head to Mid Quarter in Giddion. It's late at night.
A. They hear an altercation between two men and got to investigate.

When you start writing stuff down, more ideas come to you. Don't let the essay method trap you. I deviated a lot from my original outline. But pay attention when you deviate because you get off track from your original vision.

Anyway, your post isn't long. This post is long. It's epic. Feel free to reply if I'm not clear on anything or haven't helped enough.

04-30-2008, 07:18 AM
Oh, thank you so much, Riley. This is great! I think it'll help me a lot. Thank you!!:)

04-30-2008, 05:51 PM
Be patient. Jot down raw ideas in a notebook, all tumbled together. The tumbling is important, as you want them to cross-fertilize each other. Why? Very often two or three separate ideas can come together in one great story.

Every now and then, visit your idea notebook and read through it. If one idea sets you thinking and you come up with new developments or insights related to that idea, write them down. This is why it's a good idea to name each idea. Then when you write more about that idea pages away from the first entry, you can mark the new entry "Garbage Cans in Space #2" or the like and keep things fairly organized. If you see ideas starting to mate, note that down, as is an entry, "Garbage Cans in Space meets Killer Dust Bunnies," followed by how this could be a cool story marriage.

As the ideas swell and mingle, start using them to write out quick experimental drafts of stories, allowing yourself to follow whatever tangents arise. Make note of the new ideas you get this way. Eventually one of these experimental drafts is going to sprout and grow into a damned good, all-natural story.

Patience. Forced stories will always feel...forced.

Oh, and try research. You get an idea about a story set on Mars, but it's pretty thin. Start reading about Mars, and the new things you learn will almost certainly "stick" to your idea and flesh it out.

kct webber
04-30-2008, 06:01 PM
I have a whole staff of people who fill out my stories for me. My characters. I know where they are starting and basically where they have to go, but they usually decide how they are going to get there.

I've tried outlining. Can't do it. I write and outline and my characters say, "Screw you! I ain't doing that!" Finally I just let them do wha tthey want and they get to the end pretty well. In my case, as long as I have well developed characters, they'll tend to do what people do in a given situation. It's not always what you expect. But it usually works.

Michael Davis
04-30-2008, 06:19 PM
I layout a diagram that longs like an upside down tree. At each branch I visualize what could happen at that junction, given all that has happened up to that point from all predecessor branches. I then go back and select the branches that provide the most enveloping and suspenseful story with neat twists and turns. I then write the story around the branches of the tree I've selected. Hope that makes scene. May sound strange, but it works for me. You'd be surprise how may times I'll be on one branch and same, "Hey, if XYZ happens over there on that branch, then now I can made this happen which will link everything together into a entwined web of mystery at the end". Hope that helps.

04-30-2008, 06:39 PM
Oh hellyeah can I relate...
I get wunnerful ideas then they fizzle out and I want to strangle fold spindle and mutilate my muse--but she scares me. So the 'What if' game is great, also just tossing in the most absurd/crazy/unlikely dreck into your brainstorm drain. Take a step back and okay, not so much sturm und drang but the idea's good. :}

04-30-2008, 07:38 PM
I take my story and walk through it in my mind as the different characters. How do they feel about each event? How would they react? How would the other characters then react to what they do?

Each character has his/her own agenda, needs, drives, reactions. Think these through and you'll have so many ideas you'll have trouble choosing. And your characters will be believable individuals too, instead of robots who perform only to move an artificial plot along. (Not saying that they necessarily would be, to forestall all those people who create great characters without using this method.)