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FinnMacCool
April 13th, 2007, 09:15 PM
I'm in an irritating position right now. I find myself coming up with lots of concepts for a fantasy novels: character ideas, worldbuilding plans, and the like. Unfortunately, while the concepts keep on coming, none of them are really plot concepts.

Anyone else ever been in this situation? Is it better to just focus on coming up with a plot and let the concepts sit in a "maybe someday" pile, or should I try to figure out a plot that would accomodate these various concepts?

JJohns
April 13th, 2007, 09:50 PM
I think I've been there. What might help you is to flesh out those concepts a little more and try connecting them somehow. That might help you generate some plot ideas.

World Builder
April 13th, 2007, 10:16 PM
In both my SF and my Fantasy settings, I have a surplus of characters and concepts, but I've never considered it a problem. I don't try to come up with a plot that will encompass all the various threads. Instead I keep them around until and idea for a story strikes me, then I look back and pull the appropriate material from my surplus.

For example, I've had an island on my fantasy map that just sat there for quite a while. I knew a little about it from my worldbuilding. It once had an ancient civilization there, once, which was destroyed in some cataclysm, or not. Time and space are very loosely defined near its shores. Those who sail close enough to see it never report seeing the same thing and often see the island change before their eyes. Here a sea-side city in ruins, here an unending jungle, here stately towers of glass and steel. All who come ashore never return.

Finally got around to writing a story set on the island not long ago.

My advice: let the concepts ferment. Don't try to force a story out of them, or even force them all into the same story. Just go with the flow. The stories will come when they're ready. That said, don't stop trying for lack of a story. Keep writing, and the stories will come to you. They need to know they'll be appreciated and well cared for before they'll show up. Dont' rely entirely on inspiration.

WB

wwfward
April 13th, 2007, 10:27 PM
I agree. Just jot all these ideas down in a notebook and let it sit there. In a few days/weeks, you can look at it again and maybe a plot idea will come up.

Also, maybe there is a way to make all your ideas/characters/worldbuilding fit into one story/project.

James Carmack
April 14th, 2007, 01:25 AM
I also keep a running log of all my random ideas and inspirations, but I don't go into pre-production until I've got enough material to really warrant the effort. Just having all that stuff at the ready comes in handy, just like with WB.

As a matter of fact, I've started pre-production on this novella series and scads of those random ideas are nicely fitting together to form the various "episodes" of the story.

In other words, I second WB's suggestion. Hold onto that stuff, but don't try to force a plot out of it. If it's meant to be, the pieces will come together. Unless you're working under a deadline, you've got no reason to rush.

World Builder
April 14th, 2007, 01:43 AM
We all have deadlines, some are just more terminal than others. Don't rush, but hopefully don't let your son do all the writing after finding a shoebox full of unwritten ideas.

Also keep in mind that a good source of inspiration is random combination of otherwise unrelated ideas.

For example, I once had a map of ancient earth, Pangaea era, with the continents arranged in C and the islands of Cimmeria, Iran, Tibet, Malaysia, and North and South China completing the circle. I found it very evocative, and lifted it for a setting full of Nature's Fantasy Creatures of the past. But unfortunately I didn't have any people to populated it, and without people, I had no characters, and hence no plot.

One day, while shuffling through my random assortment of stuff, I filed that map next to notes I had for a Gnostic fantasy that lacked a setting. And Boom! It all came together and then some. Throw in a little inspiration from Ted Chiang's version of the Tower of Babel and things moved along swift. Of course, there's still quite a few details to work out on that story before I sit down and start writing it, but the foundation is set and I'm quite happy with it.

WB

Nightblade
April 14th, 2007, 03:38 AM
I'm in the same boat. Concepts, characters, names, worlds, maps, weapons and a myriad of other ideas come natural to me. Writing, even with all that to refer to, is difficult stuff, which is often why I tend to leave projects for a long time, or just plain forget about them. I think I just seem to take the easy way out and ignore the hard work. However, with the things I'm working on at the moment if I keep battling on, something will eventually happen. I hope so anyway. Commitment and I just don't seem to want to work together sometimes. :P

DaveD
April 14th, 2007, 04:17 AM
Hi Finn! Are you seeing a theme here? :)

I just retired from the Air Force, and I'm "decluttering" my house in preparation for moving. One thing I have always kept - and will always keep - is boxes of notebooks and typed notes. These things have followed me around for almost thirty years, and I have plucked things from twenty-year-old notes and made stories from them.

There's no such thing as wasted time when writing. If you don't see any immediate connections, that's okay. Your unconscious is building them. When they're ready to link together and become something, they'll let you know. It's all very organic. Which is cool, because nothing is wasted.

SeanL
April 14th, 2007, 08:54 AM
I'm in an irritating position right now. I find myself coming up with lots of concepts for a fantasy novels: character ideas, worldbuilding plans, and the like. Unfortunately, while the concepts keep on coming, none of them are really plot concepts.

Anyone else ever been in this situation? Is it better to just focus on coming up with a plot and let the concepts sit in a "maybe someday" pile, or should I try to figure out a plot that would accomodate these various concepts?

Did you create a historical timeline for your setting?

choppy
April 14th, 2007, 11:45 AM
Something you may want to consider is how static the ideas are. Sure the concepts, world, characters etc. are interesting, but story and plot will come from the dynamic interplay of these ideas. How do things change? When they change, who will they most affect? Who has something to gain? Who has something to lose? The best plots will develop out of the conflicts arising from changing paradigms from one idea to the next.

Look, for example, at GRR Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series. He has a few interesting speculative ideas, a vivid setting, and a cast of strong characters. In the first book, "A Game of Thrones," he focuses on a particular family for whom life is pretty good in the beginning. Then as the story progresses, their situation changes as he takes certain key elements away - removing them from their home, separating them, killing off main characters, etc. He presents the story then from the viewpoints of characters who either have a lot to gain from the changes as they come, or who have a lot to lose. As a result, you end up with a gripping plot as you read about the reactions and adaptations of each character to his or her own circumstances as each strives towards personal goals.