Plot and Structure and... oh my gosh, help

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Henckel
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Plot and Structure and... oh my gosh, help

Postby Henckel » Sat Apr 02, 2016 1:26 am

Hi Everyone, I’m seeking some advice regarding plot lines and story structures.

I’ve finished my first draft and as a matter of revision, I’m trying to ensure I’ve hit all the right beats for my plot. The problem is that I’ve studied the Three Act Structure, Narrative Arc structure, A Disturbance and Two Doorways Structure, A Hero’s Journey, and the Seven point Plot Outline; but my story doesn’t fit any of these.
Should I take this an indication that my plotting sucks? Or is it possible that I’m using a lesser known plot and structure that may not be entirely incorrect?

I will admit, I’m working with 2 peculiar elements. The first is that my story has 2 protagonists. Everything I’ve read on plotting and structures is based on 1 protagonist. Should I, therefore, have 2 plot lines running in parallel? Otherwise, should I use structure to merge these into a single plot?

The other odd element is that I’m writing a villain’s story. Again, nearly all advice I’ve read on plot and structure is based on a protagonist succeeding and over coming. My characters are going to fail miserably. To date, I’ve tried to base my structure on the classic Greek Tragedy in this respect. Any advice on plotting and/or structuring in respect to a villain’s journey?

Any comments would be greatly appreciated.

amoskalik
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Re: Plot and Structure and... oh my gosh, help

Postby amoskalik » Sat Apr 02, 2016 5:44 am

Your main character(s) (usually your POV characters) are your protagonists. So are you saying your protagonists are villains, or that your antagonist wins?

Both are acceptable, but handled somewhat differently. Regardless though, you still need a story arc that sweeps your reader along whether you model it on a three act or four act structure or whatever. I find that these different models describe the same structure in different ways, but aren't actually different structures.

You want character growth for your main character(s) even if they fail, die or whatever. Nothing is more frustrating to a reader than following a character that doesn't learn anything or change in some way.

You want rising tension toward a climax followed by a denouement to provide closure. All this implies a central conflict. In a tragedy the protagonist engages in increasingly bad acts to get what they want, their life unravels until the disastrous climax where they learn the folly of what they've done. In a four act structure this would be:
Act I: They become increasingly dissatisfied with their lot in life and reach a point a no return (the first plot point)
Act II: Now that they've been set in motion they blunder about trying to fulfill their need
Act III: Starts with the mid point. They learn something or hit upon a plan. They go on the attack, shedding more and more of what they once were on the way.
Act IV: Starts with the second plot point. What they want is at hand. Maybe they succeed, maybe they fail to get it. But either way afterward they realize what they sacrificed to get it wasn't worth it.
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Ishmael
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Re: Plot and Structure and... oh my gosh, help

Postby Ishmael » Sat Apr 02, 2016 6:20 am

Henckel wrote:The problem is that I’ve studied the Three Act Structure, Narrative Arc structure, A Disturbance and Two Doorways Structure, A Hero’s Journey, and the Seven point Plot Outline; but my story doesn’t fit any of these.
Should I take this an indication that my plotting sucks? Or is it possible that I’m using a lesser known plot and structure that may not be entirely incorrect?


A commercial plot is often built around an archetype that has succeeded before. Experts often teach you to emulate what has succeeded before, on the not unreasonable premise that it is more likely to achieve success again than is something that is revolutionary and new.

On the other hand thousands of people are attempting to succeed by this method. They will not all succeed. Hence this is not a sufficient condition of success. Moreover, like the Mannerist painters who followed the High Renaissance masters, you are likely to discover that no-one is quite as good at painting like Michelangelo as was Michelangelo.

If you strike out on your own and write what feels right to you, you may get it wrong, in fact you probably will. You might however discover that you are the new Rembrandt and that in future everyone will try to copy your method of achieving success. That can't happen if you're still trying to be Michelangelo, but it probably will not happen at all anyway.

The point I'm trying to make is that your writing needs to be YOUR writing if it is to be satisfying, but it needs to be commercial if it is going to sell. We must remember that Van Gogh only ever sold one painting and the whole business drove him mad.

I set out doing what I thought was right, found out no-one else liked it and that some suggestions might actually be sensible, eventually arriving at what I hope is a reasonably satisfactory compromise.

But I've still only made 2.1 sales at professional rates!

So why should you listen to me?
1 x SF, 2 x SHM, 11 x HM, WotF batting average .583
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amoskalik
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Re: Plot and Structure and... oh my gosh, help

Postby amoskalik » Sat Apr 02, 2016 7:07 am

All true. I certainly don't want to discourage anyone from experimenting or being creative with any aspect of their writing.

On the one hand, creativity is often enhanced by constraints, rather than diminished. so picking a particular format of expression that is tried and true, and breathing your own life into it is a highly recommended exercise.

On the other hand, if you have a particular project that just won't fit any known format, then the project itself is providing the constraints, so coming up with your own format may be just what is required.
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kentagions
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Re: Plot and Structure and... oh my gosh, help

Postby kentagions » Sat Apr 02, 2016 9:02 am

Straightforward four act plot: Intro, disaster, worse disaster, final disaster.

Good luck
Kent
Last edited by kentagions on Sat Apr 02, 2016 10:59 am, edited 1 time in total.

Henckel
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Re: Plot and Structure and... oh my gosh, help

Postby Henckel » Sat Apr 02, 2016 10:35 am

amoskalik wrote:Your main character(s) (usually your POV characters) are your protagonists. So are you saying your protagonists are villains, or that your antagonist wins?


Thanks amoskalik - My main characters (protagonists) are average guys who will go bad. So rather than transitioning to become a hero, they will ultimately fail. In saying that, they will suceed in every try/fail cycle, but when the climax comes, they will fail in a big way..... oh no... more to come.. got to go.. kids awayke

Henckel
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand

Re: Plot and Structure and... oh my gosh, help

Postby Henckel » Sat Apr 02, 2016 2:15 pm

(apologies for the randomness of this post. My kids have interrupted me at least 30 times while writing it!)

Wow! Thanks to all of you for your exceptionally helpful comments. (also Kent, thanks for your offer to PM. I'll do that as I feel my plotting issue with this particular story is holding me back. Also it's a very interesting study).

As a generally response to all comments, I've not specifically attempted fancy/new plotting, Its just kind of happened, and I'm worried that what I come out with has been created out of my own inexperience.

Perhaps a large portion of my problem is tat I'm blrring the lines between try/fail cycles and plot twists (aka turning points) mostly because I'm treating them as one in the same.

[[[[Text Removed]]]]]

I welcome any and all comments, feedback, recommendations, and suggestions. (I'll PM you Kent... I can't tell you how happy I am at the offer of bouncking the issue back and forth).

...time to tend to the kids....
Last edited by Henckel on Sat Apr 02, 2016 7:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

kentagions
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Re: Plot and Structure and... oh my gosh, help

Postby kentagions » Sat Apr 02, 2016 6:08 pm

I would advise you to edit out the details in your above message. They might be too specific for anonymity. This is an open forum, and I have read that the judges will occasionally read here. That's why I asked for the PM. Which is still open, of course.

Kent

Henckel
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Re: Plot and Structure and... oh my gosh, help

Postby Henckel » Sat Apr 02, 2016 7:03 pm

Thanks Kent!

cmmg
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Re: Plot and Structure and... oh my gosh, help

Postby cmmg » Mon Sep 11, 2017 7:27 am

I think in general, the thing about three act structure or any plot archetype is that they exist for a reason, because they work for a reason, not because they are this magical things everyone has to or should follow. It has nothing really to do with being "commercial" but often has to the do with how cultural concepts combine to construct a smooth way to describe key story elements. For instance, some cultures focus on "conflict" while others focus on "change."

Any plot structure might have a lot of fundamental underlining concepts that are crucial and other underlying concepts that are easier to change. For instance, the idea of a point of no return basically meaning that a character has a stake in the conflict, that they can't walk away. In some sense, a character might be able to literally walk away and return to their home, BUT if they really have a stake in the conflict, this costs them in some way, such that they cannot return to the person they were before. Almost any plot structure point works on a similar premise. So being aware of what the structure is trying to say, rather taking it too much at face value, might help. After all, your story might have all the key story elements in a plot structure but not used in such a way that it is immediately obvious.

Also, a lot of people use these structures more as a diagnostic tool when something isn't working, by comparing elements of to their story to these structures so see if there is an obvious element missing, rather than trying to stringently match these categories. If no one is telling you you have a plot problem, or that they are dissatisfied with the conflict, it might not be cause to worry. If people are telling you there's an issue, then trying to match your story to a plot structure who's reasoning you understand the best might help?


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