Writing Forums

Writing Forums is a privately-owned, community managed writing environment. We provide an unlimited opportunity for writers and poets of all abilities, to share their work and communicate with other writers and creative artists. We offer an experience that is safe, welcoming and friendly, regardless of your level of participation, knowledge or skill. There are several opportunities for writers to exchange tips, engage in discussions about techniques, and grow in your craft. You can also participate in forum competitions that are exciting and helpful in building your skill level. There's so much more for you to explore!

How do you determine what your story is about? (1 Viewer)

Status
Not open for further replies.

MorganaPendragon25

Senior Member
So probably my biggest challenge in writing a story is determining what it's exactly about. What is my heroine's quest? What is her story about? I have this super cool character that I love with all my very heart but I am struggling with determining what her epic quest is about? I want to determine what her quest is about all down in one simple sentence, how can I do that? I think her whole story is a lot about inheritance since she's an only-child to her parents and she's adamant about breaking traditions in her family.

I think about Lord of the Rings in how Frodo inherited the One Ring which was a blessing and a curse to him. I don't think my heroine will inherit such a device that makes her stronger or anything like Frodo's Ring because I want her to be human and she already is very physically strong and capable in battle.

Anyways, aside from my little rant, how do YOU determine what your story/plot is about? Do you take a concept you liked from one of your favorite books you've read and do that for YOUR book? What inspires your story/plot? Do you do a lot of plotting on top of that? I think it's good to have a loose framework for what the story is actually about, but leave it open for possibilities of unforeseen events, it's good to keep your readers on-guard not knowing a character will survive. I'm not a fan of characters who are safe because they have plot armor around them. Just because my heroine might be the "last of her line" doesn't mean she's guaranteed safe and will survive her journey, I want to keep my readers on-edge...she could die, though I hope she doesn't.

I think it's very important to determine what your story is about in one simple sentence and perhaps some plotting, but I need a little help steering that towards the right direction. I have lots of loose ideas about my heroine and need help stringing them together into one simple concept.
 

JBF

Staff member
Board Moderator
Short version:

Character has a problem/want/need. Ideally, they also have some kind of skillset/ability/motivation that helps them here. They move to address the issue, but complications force them off the script. They adapt - or don't. Either they manage to get it resolved or discover newer/bigger/heavier problems. Nothing dictates the initial conflict remain the only (or even foremost) motivator.

One sentence may be cutting it fine. A short paragraph would probably serve better, but...when in doubt, use what works.
 

CyberWar

Senior Member
I generally don't do much advance planning, because in my experience, it can easily kill an otherwise good story. It's especially true in collective writing projects, where too much planning can easily result in more time spent on planning than actual writing, and the pre-determined storylines turning out weak and forced.

So I just start things up on an idea and go along with the flow to see where it takes me. It's how real-life stories form, with the future not being set, so I take the same approach to my writing.

Since I mostly write in the sci-fi genre, determining what the story will be about is fairly easy. Personally I expect plenty of dashing action featuring badass heroes, giant spaceships, soaring starfighters, blazing lasers, huge combat robots, fearsome aliens and skimpily-dressed hot chicks with ludicrously-overpowered futuristic guns (or any combination thereof) from any sci-fi story worth its salt, and I imagine most readers of the genre expect the same. Same goes for other genres I've tried my hand in, there always being certain expectations that readers hold.

I think the real trick is to balance meeting these expectations with maintaining a spark of originality and unpredictability, so that your story becomes memorable amongst many similar ones.
 

Puellamagi

Senior Member
I work around basic ethic or philosophical statement that I want to illustrate with my story. So in this way entire story becomes subjugated to one great goal.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
For me, the theme (what the story is about) relates to the arc of the main character(s). How are they changing, and what tools must they employ throughout the story?
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
Based on this and your other posts, I see that you have a very strong concept. And the fact that you think your character is "super cool" and that you love her is a really great start, because you will be spending a lot of time with her, if you are planning on writing a novel. I think that you already have an interesting plot in mind, the succession concept, and her choice to end the family-line through sterility is meaty. You'll have a lot to work with. But I think where you are struggling is with the theme. What is the topic? What do you want the reader to think about? And that's why you maybe (although may have solved by now) are having difficulty with the ending, because the conclusion must make sense to drive home your theme.

Try this. Think about what type of voice you wish to have. Ask yourself, what do you, as an author bring to the table? If two people were to write the same story, what in your mind, would make yours stand out? Are you an unconventional thinker? Are you a history buff? Do you fight for worthy causes? Do you like to educate people? Etc. What is the thing about you that you identify with the most? And then think about a story that you would like to share on an inherent level with others.

To answer your first question, the above is what I have done. I have a great deal of experience with ethics and why people sometimes compromise them, so that will always be the underlying theme for my work. It also forms my voice -- what do I have to share? Then, I work the plot and characters around my theme.

And again, I highly recommend you read some Margaret Atwood. She has an incredibly strong voice. It has changed over the course of her career, but it is always relevant (and very lucrative).

A great article by Atwood herself on her Voice.

http://bookpuddle.blogspot.com/2005/07/atwoods-voice.html




 

bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
So probably my biggest challenge in writing a story is determining what it's exactly about. What is my heroine's quest? What is her story about? I have this super cool character that I love with all my very heart but I am struggling with determining what her epic quest is about? I want to determine what her quest is about all down in one simple sentence, how can I do that? I think her whole story is a lot about inheritance since she's an only-child to her parents and she's adamant about breaking traditions in her family.

I think about Lord of the Rings in how Frodo inherited the One Ring which was a blessing and a curse to him. I don't think my heroine will inherit such a device that makes her stronger or anything like Frodo's Ring because I want her to be human and she already is very physically strong and capable in battle.

Anyways, aside from my little rant, how do YOU determine what your story/plot is about? Do you take a concept you liked from one of your favorite books you've read and do that for YOUR book? What inspires your story/plot? Do you do a lot of plotting on top of that? I think it's good to have a loose framework for what the story is actually about, but leave it open for possibilities of unforeseen events, it's good to keep your readers on-guard not knowing a character will survive. I'm not a fan of characters who are safe because they have plot armor around them. Just because my heroine might be the "last of her line" doesn't mean she's guaranteed safe and will survive her journey, I want to keep my readers on-edge...she could die, though I hope she doesn't.

I think it's very important to determine what your story is about in one simple sentence and perhaps some plotting, but I need a little help steering that towards the right direction. I have lots of loose ideas about my heroine and need help stringing them together into one simple concept.

Ah, man. It's taken me close to seven years, lots of writerful agony and multiple rewrites to distil the essence of my main WIP into a single line. I just wrote it with nary a thought for arcs and elevator pitches and stuff. Fortunately my MC did evolve and change, so I was somewhat able to hang a tagline on that. But I nearly gave up.

My first question to you is: what problems does your character have, and do they get fixed?
 

MistWolf

Senior Member
So probably my biggest challenge in writing a story is determining what it's exactly about. What is my heroine's quest? What is her story about? I have this super cool character that I love with all my very heart but I am struggling with determining what her epic quest is about? I want to determine what her quest is about all down in one simple sentence, how can I do that? I think her whole story is a lot about inheritance since she's an only-child to her parents and she's adamant about breaking traditions in her family.
The biggest problem is that you've "plot armored" your character before you've written anything. She goes against convention, tradition and expectation and the only concern so far is how to make her happy. It's about how she shouldn't be forced against her will and how her parents are assholes for wanting her to carry on the royal line. With all the focus on giving her the moral high ground in the conflict, the fact she's been isolated from the consequences of her choices is ignored. Without facing the consequences means there's no story to tell.

Her choices hurt others. Her choices hurt her parents who must have heirs for an unbroken line of succession to provide stable governance. She hurts her people with the threat of civil war. Her choices undermine the authority of those who govern in her father's name leading to increased crime, including murder and rape.

Her parents may be assholes, but the character is a heartless, cowardly, privileged asshole who shirks her responsibilities and leaves it to others to sort through the wreckage left behind.

When the plot armor is stripped away to expose your character to the harsh realities of her choices and her flaws, you'll know where to start.
 
Last edited:

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
I'm not sure on how focused you are on "epic quest", or how epic you have in mind, but there are plenty of great stories out there which aren't epic ... simply the protagonist facing and overcoming their own problem. Anytime I see the mention of Lord of the Rings from an author who is not Tolkien, I steer clear. Why? Because it seems like EVERY fantasy author feels an irresistible urge to write their own version of Lord of the Rings. Every mystery writer feels the lure of Christie's And Then There Were None. There are three or four such ubiquitous tropes in sci-fi, and while I don't read romance, Pride and Prejudice or some other early romance probably is the thing to copy. Horror? 95% of horror is the same story, and I don't even want to try to identify the seed there.

And yes, some authors rewrite these tropes and make a success of it. I just personally had no interest in reading endless variations of Lord of the Rings.

So thinking in terms of epics can be very limiting.

However, there are myriad personal stories that are even more interesting, because while they've certainly been told before, they haven't been told as often, or at least with as much focus on them.
 
Last edited:
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top