The problems you have with plots…


When it comes to plotting…well you will read a lot of great discussions, especially when it comes to fantasy, and to discuss the subject in general, will do me no credit, because it’s been discussed before and by a helluva lot better writers than me. Obviously plotting is important, but for me, it comes it instinctively, and the only point I wish to make in general—is that over-plotting can smother your characters to death.

In fantasy, the basic character arc has your characters taking a physical journey that pushes them to take a mental one, whether it’s a coming of age journey, or one of self discovery. The arc progresses as the journey rambles on down the road to an unknown, but yet usually predictable conclusion. So what happens when your heroes don’t take that journey, but remain static and waiting on the villains?

That was the major problem of my first novel: Megazaur. The idea was to create something like Star Wars, and what resulted from that, was a tropical planet where men and dinosaurs coexisted together, with a deceidly greek, roman empire thing happening. The plot was rather simple. 12 tribes of men lived in a god-commanded society that rewarded the animal like instinct—of survival of the fittest. The best men would become god-like entities who could command dinosaurs (they rode and fought on) to do their bidding through force of will. A father society that valued strength of body and mind over ‘the weak’ nurturing of intelligence that would eventually unbalance nature in favor of man over the dinosaur. The 13th nation of men were slaves that escaped the first twelve and formed a mother-like society that nourished the principle—we all must work together to survive in this world. Which violates the order of the gods, who decree the first 12 must raise an army to destroy them. The Megazaurs (dinosaur riders) have tried to obey this decree 4 times before and failed each time. But instead of drawing hope and confidence from these failings, the Thirteenth omada still has an inferiority complex that fosters an impending sense of doom. Such was the world, I built after two years of thought.

However, I was determined to write more than a epic novel of fantasy, I wanted it to answer a deeper question which only reinforced my conundrum. The question I asked and answered was: what do you do when you lose the one thing you absolutely can not lose in a war for the survival of your nation? It was a question that I felt needed answering, because Star Wars: The Revenge of the Sith, failed to answer that question satisfactory and grossly violated the character of Padimee in doing so.

My heroes were not taking any journeys, because they had already arrived. They are larger than life characters of almost pure intentions who would gladly give their lives to see their nation survive and flourish. The story is a combination of the United States and Israel’s birth and fight for freedom, and my characters represent the almost impossible god-like nobility of the forefathers of the US, though I think the leader of the 13th omada’s, Aramore, is more like Lincoln. Apatos is a combination of Achilles and Anakin Skywalker, with Anakin’s devotion to Aramore. But unlike, Anakin, Apatos could never betray his love for his nation, symbolized in his love for Aramore. Alexsey is an upcoming officer in the military with a gift of wizardry when it comes to weapons. His humor, hides the same devotion, but unlike Apatos, he knows that to serve his country best, he needs to live not die for it.

So my heroes are young, full of passion and idealism that will be tempered with brute reality. The villains, are wonderful paradox of hypocrisy. They are the ones that start a journey to unite their armies to obey the god’s decree and preserve the right to become Megazaur’s, but they believe they are doing it to for personal honors and glories, without ever realizing that that underlying truth is the invisible shackles that gods use to enslave them to their will. Their journey to unite and the lead the armies to annihilate the Thirteenth Omada, takes two thirds of the book, and since I couldn’t have the heroes sitting on their hands doing nothing, I had to come up with something, and it had to show the reader their pure intentions and passion—and hopefully endear the reader to become so emotionally involved in their struggle, they can’t stop turning the pages.

I solved the problem by sending my heroes on a false journey in the middle of the book, where they meet the Necroraptors (Think Velociraptors from Jurassic Park.) This false journey gave them a proving ground, not only to build their legends, and strengthen their love for each other, but to give them something to focus on, leaving them blithely unaware of the real danger coming. That allowed a fantastic middle point in the novel, A wedding interlaced with a council of the villains to unify as one army dedicated to destroying the unsuspecting heroes.

I’d like to think I successfully pulled this plot off, and while the writing gives me away as a beginner, Megazaur was definitely my magnus opus. I know I will never write a better book, though I will gladly keep trying, it’s just the complexity and passion I put in this makes it hard to triumphant. Laughably, I have tried new challenges, answering different questions with better written ebooks, but none hold a candle to the plot complexities of this one.



3 comments on “The problems you have with plots…

  1. It always nice to see differing opinions on topics like this. I can certainly respect people who want to write with a minimum amount of plotting, but that definitely doesn’t work for me. Also, while I cannot point out a book I’ve read where the characters were smothered by over-plotting, I can easily show you examples of books that were perhaps too loosely plotted, as the storyline lost focus (and therefore my inteerst,) wandering into places that had no significance to the story, or petering out into a very weak ending because the writer hadn’t thought that far ahead. Then again, there are genius off-the-cuff writers out there who do brilliant work organically. I think unless you know for sure what works best for you, it doesn’t hurt to give them both a shot, and you should never presume that what doesn’t work for you won’t work for someone else.

    I’ve heard writers who prefer to “pants” suggest you can’t be creative or your work will be too linear if you “over-plot”, but I’ve never had those complaints about my work and I’m a die-hard plotter. I think my characters have even more freedom to grow and find their own flaws and flavour because I need less time trying to keep my story making sense and can instead invest my creative energies in developing my characters properly.

    Your story sounds very interesting – but never assume it will be your best work. You never know what the future holds, when and how the muse will strike and what he or she will bring you. That passion lives on and might even intensify for future efforts.

  2. I agree with Chantal, Brian. You can’t assume Megazaur will be your best work even if you feel it is now. When I wrote Ancient Fragments, I remember thinking “This is it. I have no more ideas and it won’t get any better.” It DID take a few years, but now I feel like I’m just beginning.

    Just keep plotting . . . or not! 😉

  3. Don’t get me wrong. Megazaur2, has characters that just came to life and took over that novel. The writing and style came together and was twice as good as the first. Freaking Wicked took the action style from both books and perfected it.

    But when it comes to the actual story and the elements, undercurrents, and messages, Megazaur will still probably top everything. Not saying I can’t do that again, and obviously the actual writing was a bit amauterish only to mature at the ending, but as far as ecompassing everything an epic fantasy should have, I just feel it can’t be topped. My efforts are now to make my novels more commercial and entertaining to the reader—to deliver a ride that leaves them breathless, but not so much mind evoking thought.

    And to comment on something Chantal touched on, I do plot but loosely, letting my characters have some freedom to explore with out having any scenes that don’t advance the plot.

    I understand how authors can get lost, especially in the middle of the novel, but that’s never really been a problem of mine. I know where I’m going to start, and where I’m going to end and have certain scenes that I want in between. But then I don’t usually start writing when I have an idea, I let simmer in the back of my brain until it is ready to explode. I’m sometimes delightfully suprised at scenes I didn’t plan in advance, that are demanded by the story and charcters. I’m often suprised at at how my characters don’t demand frivalous scenes that will eventually have to be cut later.

    Of course, I think fantasy writers are least likely to fall victim to the middle muddle, because we have a world to build and rules to govern it by. Our worry is presentation and advoiding the dreaded info bomb on the reader.

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