Is it boring or is it just me?

pbwpbw
edited November 2011 in - Writing Problems
Here's pbw's latest life crisis (sigh).

Since you can't comment on my blog, and since it's a fair bet that many writers on this forum go through a similar stage, I thought you could read the post from here, but put your comments and suggestions in this thread and we can all benefit. Thank you.

Also, if any of you award badges, and you think I deserve one (ahem), perhaps you could post the link here, since again, you won't be able to award it through the comment function. Thank you again.

http://fiona-maddock.blogspot.com/2011/11/is-this-boring-or-is-it-just-me.html

Comments

  • Having read your blog post, PBW, the only thing I can think that makes me bored with a story (and I suppose this can be used in terms of short stories as well as novels, can it?) is that I am numb to the character's experience.

    Yes I have loads of ideas but unless I can truly feel something of what the character is going through, then yes I am turned off from writing about that character, and go do summat else. It doesn't have to be that the complete story of the character is mine (after all, some of those MIlls and Boonsey characters in the racier stories, phewey!), but I do need to extract something of that which I know how it feels, to put it into a story, for the story to be worth my time writing.
  • pbwpbw
    edited November 2011
    I reviewed the plot dora, with your comments in mind. It pointed the way to adding emotional colour through the characters, according to the circumstances of that scene (my tutor has asked me to bullet point the plot; it's a good discipline).

    Whilst I was doing that, I had an idea for a sub plot which has added an extra dimension because it affects the physical environment in a big way.

    I guess, like composing a painting, you have to keep adding, subtracting and shaping components, and trying different configurations to build something that works.

    It's an improvement on what I had this morning but I still have a few more days to work on it and I'm sure work will be needed on it after critique.
  • edited November 2011
    Is plotting boring, do you mean?

    Like you, I am starting my second novel. The characters in my first novel had been living rent-free in my imagination for six years so I'd been studying them for some time before I finally insisted they earn their keep and comitted them to paper. Originally, they had existed in shorty-story form. I was half in love with my hero and, as with many debut novels, the heroine was based loosely on myself. I planned the whole thing meticulously and enjoyed writing every single scene.

    Plotting was not boring, exactly, but a necessary evil. I don't think I'd have seen the project through without a detailed plan to follow.

    Conversely, the two best short stories I have ever written were seat-of-the-pants stuff.

    As for novel number two, I started writing it but have shelved it. Why? Because although the characters are very real to me - and yes, I've fallen head-over-heels for my hero - I haven't planned it in its entirity. I know what's going to happen. I've planned a third of it in detail, but I can't see beyond that in terms of scenes.

    I need the discipline of a detailed plan to work to. Is it boring? I'm not sure. There are eureka moments along the way, when you realise that the way your characters react to a situation opens up a wonderful new dilemma or changes the dynamics of their relationship.

    It's a personal thing and I don't think it even equates to how spontaneous one is in 'real life'.

    I think a novel tells you when the write time to start writing it in proper, is. Perhaps, like me, you're wanting to jump the gun and those characters need to go a little longer without paying rent?
  • pbwpbw
    edited November 2011
    [quote=Anna]The characters in my first novel had been living rent-free in my imagination[/quote]
    love that

    Actually, I didn't specifically mean "plotting is boring". Rather I was more concerned that the story I had come up with was somewhat lack lustre, but since you mention it, and I prefer to dive in free-style, than do all this grown up plotting stuff...

    However, you can't throw out a whole stream of shimmery sparkly jumping off the page prose without a structure for it to stick to and I'm only concerned that I can't see the difference between the 'plain' structure and the potential of the story. I wondered if it was a general problem, or only mine.

    It goes against the grain for me, but I think I'll be glad later, when I need to avoid falling into a 'saggy middle'.

    [quote=Anna]Conversely, the two best short stories I have ever written were seat-of-the-pants stuff.
    [/quote]
    Exactly.

    [quote=Anna]
    I think a novel tells you when the write time to start writing it in proper, is. Perhaps, like me, you're wanting to jump the gun and those characters need to go a little longer without paying rent? [/quote]

    Yes, that could just be the right thing to do.
  • I tried to comment - You haven't mentioned the characters - maybe that's the problem? You know what happens, but you don't yet really know the characters, so don't care much about them? As you write and get to know them and watch them react to the plot, I imagine you'll get interested again.

    Have you considered taking off the comment moderation to see if that makes it easier for people to leave comments?
  • I left a comment without a problem. I think it's to do with cookies - Carol posted about it. Once I changed my settings, no Blog was safe!
  • Have a Blue Peter Badge, PBW! (Awarded for "Construction Against Adversity"!) ;)

    I've got five plots all fighting each other in my imagination - I'd better get them sorted soon, before the onset of Alzheimers or summink...
  • Bare bones. That's what we always start with. Don't over complicate your 'plotting' because your plot WILL change over the course of the novel. Plot as a guideline, then just get on with the writing. Plot too much and you end up with something forced and contrived because it won't allow your imagination or creativity to blossom.

    And if the motivation to write doesn't come, or the story is lacklustre, then invariably it's because the fabric of the story isn't quite right. A writer instinctively knows when the characters are 'right' or the plot or theme is 'right' etc, and we know when it isn't right.

    I don't think boredom is the problem - it's the fact that some elements are missing or have not quite clicked into place, as others have touched upon. Once thing I do say to writers is this: You have the bare bones of your novel in place, but CAN you write it?
  • Your comment got through, PM, but it's taken 12 hours.
  • I think the 'bare bones' are the problem, Red.

    I've followed all the rules and done the outline and I'm thinking, 'Is that it? Is that as good as it gets?' I think the problem is that it's too easy to infer from all the 'how-to's' on plotting that you'll be in a more inspired and excited state than you are. After all, it's a technical process; it's not the roller-coaster of the free writing in first draft.

    I have some further research to do to explore my core premise. If the potential is there, the ideas will come, and I'll know at that point whether I can write it.

    Watch this space.
  • [quote=Anna] Because although the characters are very real to me - and yes, I've fallen head-over-heels for my hero - I haven't planned it in its entirity. [/quote]

    Never write a character you're not willing to kill off if necessary. Also if a plot feels boring then it probably is. Ideas are easy so why settle for the first one that comes along? Even if you have a high concept idea where plot is necessary to reach the point you still have all the space in between to knock your characters about. The best story idea in the world will still need the reader to care about the character and to do that you need to make us like them then screw about with them.

    So as others have suggested the plot may not be the problem, or the only problem. How do your characters survive the plot, change through the plot, react against the plot etc? Because good characters aren't drawn out on character charts or descriptive passages. The best characters evolve due to the way they handle everything you throw at them.
  • pbwpbw
    edited November 2011
    Yes, I think I am fleshing them out now, ST. I worked through it again this morning and found a couple of inconsistencies in the story logic, revealed by examining a scene and asking myself 'Hang on, would this character react like that to this problem?'

    In one or two instances I had it wrong, I now I have corrected the action/reaction logic, the plot is tighter and the characters truer to themselves.

    It seems to be coming together now, but I'm not ready to start writing yet. I want to 'compost' it for a little longer.

    Two people have died in this one, incidentally...it could have been any of them.

    [quote=SilentTony]and to do that you need to make us like them then screw about with them.[/quote]
    You're right - ultimately it always comes down to this. All the books say it.
  • Hi pbw

    Coming to this one late but was wondering how it was going? Have a suggestion for you that was given to me by a script writer but I use it sometimes if I'm plotting or stuck.

    Try putting your main plot points (or main incidents) on separate index cards. Then, keep re-arranging them until you come up with a structure that you think will work from the perspective of not confusing your audience but also builds in steps/plot points to a crescendo or to crescendo and denouement. He used to map this out on a graph, which I've also toyed with, and if you're a visual creature, these techniques can give you a clearer idea of where each character needs to get to, or where you need to/can introduce another Significant Incident if you need to. It also helps to get you to think about your storytelling in a different way, so you spot holes and see things as you may not have thought of before. I find that sometimes I go through this process, then go back to how it was originally but with character or plot development that was much-needed, due to looking at things a different way or realising *why* they need to be in the order I had them.

    Hope it's going well - I'm new to this site but a lot of the comments on here are really helpful and motivating!
  • pbwpbw
    edited January 2012
    Good to meet you SundayGirl!
    How kind of you to give this thread CPR. I thought it had died of boredom.
    This second plot is still composting because I haven't had the tutor feedback yet, but it is imminent.
    It is no bad thing that I've had to wait because I have on-going research that is helping the ideas for this one.
    I have tried the index card thingy to plot out scenes, in the past, and I tend to lose the will to live because I am so impatient, I hate writing in long hand. I prefer to type. However, you suggest jotting down only the main incidents, and I think I could endure the slow pace of that.
    Since posting on this thread, I had reworked the plot somewhat and I have teased out little points of sparkle.
    I'm immersed in finalising the debut novel at the mo, so I am happy to leave this plot a little longer but I shall no doubt post/moan/whinge about it in due course. (On here, they all know what I'm like by now...)
  • I'm a great believer in the 'composting' method, PBW, it usually works. :)
  • I love the verb "composting". It is an appropriate term for the process! It's great to hear people genuinely interested in writing - I've been corporate writing for such a long time my creative work has suffered and I'm desperately trying to inspire myself to death in the hope it'll shake the sterility of my prose! It's so encouraging to hear (read) of people re-writing, thinking and working through the processes that inevitably go along with writing longer work - looking forward to hearing how the feedback goes!
  • PBW, you can get software (designed for storyboarding, business planning etc) that will do the same as notecards, spider graphs and more.

    I find stewing on it, and returning to it once I have disassociated with the characters ( you do tend to get inside their heads, or vice versa) and plot allows me to see the flaws for what they are.
  • edited January 2012
    Hi SilverLingings - do have a recommendation (name) for that software? I'd love to get rid of the small Staples franchise in my desk drawers...!
  • Sounds very uncomfortable, SG, staples in yer drawers. Must be painful to sit down...
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