Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Plot vs. Characters

I'm having serious trouble with a story idea of mine. I've got these two characters. I've figured them out pretty well, and I really like them. The thing is, I don't know what to DO with them. But I might be over thinking things. Allow me to elaborate. Here's a brief descrip of the two characters.

Olive is twenty-two, wears Buddy Holly glasses, has a lack of social skills that she just can't seem to fix. She's an outcast and weird, but also very caring and sweet. She becomes obsessed with....

Charles, who is thirty-two and just became a superhero. (Don't know what his supower(s) are or how he got them yet-- maybe that's part of the problem?) His entire life has been planned out and he's always been okay with that. Now he's got these very un-cool superpowers (like super-breath or being able to turn himself yellow, not sure really but it won't be your typical stuff) and he's stuck with Olive following him around and telling him he looks like Superman.

That's a very brief sketch of them. I can't figure out, though, what their story is. If I were to try to write this right now (and I have written one scene with them) it would have no plot. I'd just have to follow them around and see what they do. I've never had this problem before and it weirds me out. Usually I have some cutesy plot twist to rely on. Something to move the story forward. But what's moving this story forward? I don't know. And I don't know how to write a story that doesn't have an end-goal in mind.

What do you guys think? Should I try to write it anyway, even if it seems to have no plot? Should I give it some time and see if a nice plot twist comes to mind? Do any of YOU have any plot ideas? Help would be so appreciated. Thank you!


Athena said...

That's tough. I'm not sure what to suggest, because other than the last couple things I've written, I did everything by developing characters and following them around. Now I do a ten page story outline, which seems to work a little better, but not much.

One thing my Writer's Craft teacher in high school taught me (and it's probably the most useful thing any teacher has ever taught me) is to write backwards. If you're stuck, write a scene (or start with the one you've written) and ask yourself questions about how your characters got there, why they're doing/saying what they're doing/saying. IE: how does Olive find out about Charles? Why does she become obsessed? Is she usually an obsessive person? that type of thing.

My suggestion would be to write what you want, make notes, etc., but don't feel like you have to force yourself to write it... just put down everything you can think of, and if nothing else comes to you, shelve it for a while.

Hope this helps.

Rhiannon said...

Urgh...I hate getting stuck like that. Almost all of my stories are 'make them up as I go' stories with little to no planning. I find if I try to outline them, I feel like I've already written them, and I have the damndest time rewriting something I've already written...

The writing backwards trick is definitely a useful one, though. Worth a try, if you haven't already. There are some stories I have where I've carried huge chunks of text forward trying to make it fit in somewhere...

So...some mostly-rhetoical questions that may or may not help...(hopefully they'll help;) :

What were Charles' orginal life plans? Were they his parents' plans, or his own? I know you said he was happy with the way his life was going...is his discovery sudden, or slow and gradual? How soon after he discovers his powers does he meet Olive? Also, obsession can be an indication of one attempting to escape reality...is Olive avoiding something in her life, something that could help her move forward/grow as a person by fixating on Charles? Why fixate on Charles, for that matter?

And, even if Charles does have superpowers, why does he need become a 'superhero'? Civic duty? Need to help people? Superheroes = cool = chicks? Are the other people with powers, or just him?

I hope those help...I certainly hope that, even if they don't help, they don't hinder your creative processes.

Also, there's a link in the Link's list to bubbl.us, which is probably the best free brainstorming site I've ever seen (I've admittedly seen very few, but it's awesome nonetheless)...why not give that a try, if you haven't already?

E said...

I'd start writing, but than that's me, who has at least twenty character-driven one-scene stories stored either in notebooks or on a computer.
Since I'm good at rewriting, I usually start with the characters adn then the plot builds up as I go along, or I come back and redo the whole thing to accomodate a plot. Since you said you weren't one to rewrite, I suggest starting out and seeing where they go, and maybe the plot will realise it's time to show up somewhere during the story.