Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Rules

Generally, I have a pile of ideas for my story, and sometimes I just don't know where to start in organizing them. Orson Scott Card, in his book How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, writes:
"That big pile of ideas is just that--a pile, shapeless, chaotic. Before you can tell a meaningful story, you have to hone and sharpen your understanding of the world, and that begins with the fundamental rules, the natural laws." (36)
There are so many things to think about in a fictional universe. If it's fantasy, how does the magic system work? How do people in this society behave? What creatures are there and how do they behave? If it's sci-fi, how does space travel work? Time travel? There are so many time travel rules possible that I don't even know if I want to ever try writing about it, as cool as time travel is. If you go back in time, can you make changes that effect the future? Or are you invisible when you go back? Or do you go back into someone else's mind? Or do you go back into your own mind?

I am starting to think I might have to join the ranks of outliners. With all these rules to think about, it makes sense to work it all out before I actually start writing.

Do you have trouble sorting out the vast number of ideas in your head? Does it overwhelm you thinking that it is your story and you can do anything with it, so you wonder where to even start? Are you an outliner? And what time travel rules have you seen work the best, with the least plot holes?

This post is part of the Insecure Writer's Support Group hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Check the link for some of the other blogs participating in this event!

37 comments:

  1. Science fiction and fantasy seems to have so many more issues - yes you're free to create the rules, but conversely, you have to create ALL the rules. I admire anyone who even starts to do that.

    For me, ideas come and I start to write, then I'll have a great idea that suddenly shifts the focus completely to the left, or onto another character, and have to rewrite. But that comes from beginning to write. If I outlined, I don't think I'd have those plot-shifting ideas and I'd end up writing a completely different story.

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    1. I also get really good ideas as I am writing. I think maybe I will be half pantser, half plotter :)

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  2. I wish I had a vast assortment of ideas!
    I've always outlined because otherwise my story would wander into the desert and never return.
    And sad to say, I still couldn't tell you how a teleporter works...

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    1. Well as long as your characters sound like they know, I think it's ok!

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  3. I've, also, become an 'outliner' and I may even become a 'note card user' :) In my view, anything that's going to make the process flow...even if it takes a few extra steps....is worth trying, at least.

    I didn't outline my NaNo story and I'm already finding that going back and filling in the gaps is going to be a real pain.

    Best of luck!

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    1. All those gaps are a pain... but for some people that is how the creative process works, so if it works for you, do it!

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  4. I've never been an outliner, either. But I have been thinking about it for the project I'm hoping to start soon. Magic is a big part of it and I want to make sure it all makes sense.

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  5. Hmmm, I used to be a pantser, now I outline. I can't begin to tell you how much it's helped. Well, I did on my post, but you know... lol!

    Anyway, I get what you're saying. But I don't like to think of them as rules so much as limitations. You can expand on limitations if you like, rules are set in stone. But outlining does help a lot and I am looking into some other ways to plot out my writing to be more efficient. I have a whole plethora of ideas as well and need them down on paper!

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  6. Yes, the ideas run rampant through my brain. I carry a small notebook with me and jot down whatever comes to mind when I'm not at home.

    As for outlining, I do a general one, so that I know where I'm going with the story, but still gives me room to panster my way through. That probably doesn't make sense, but it seems to work for me. lol

    Good luck with whatever you choose to do. Happy writing!

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    1. That makes sense! That's probably what I will end up doing.

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  7. I write fantasy but I'm not an outliner, not by a long shot. But when I write, I always start with the people and work my way out. Jury's still out on whether this is a smart way to do things but I think it works for me.

    I've never tackled time travel before but I've always liked the Back to the Future rules.

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    1. That is a good way to do it, actually. The characters are usually what matter most to me.

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  8. I haven't read enough sci-fi/fantasy to help you out with time travel tips, unfortunately. But I am an Outliner and find it can be helpful to set a framework for a story...though I'm also open to the idea that sometimes my characters may opt for "the road not outlined" and am prepared to "pants it" a bit, if necessary. :-)
    Some Dark Romantic

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    1. I think you've gotta pants it a bit as you write, or you'll let all those interesting ideas get away.

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  9. I'm not an outliner. I just go for it. Sometimes good ideas have to get cut, but I'll scribble them down here and there. I also have a good memory. I must be part elephant!

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    1. A good memory would definitely help!

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  10. Rules... I should probably pay attention to those... I'm not an outliner either. I'm definitely a pantser. It can be overwhelming. Maybe an outliner would be helpful, so you don't get confused. :)

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    1. I think it might help my confusion :)

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  11. I think I need to be an outliner! I have so many ideas it makes me dizzy sometimes! I think we need to write down the three maybe five that we can't shake and work with those! I do think outlines help...can't hurt to try!
    Keep at it~ Nice to meet you :D

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    1. Well I'm gonna try it and see if it works for me. Everyone's different. Nice to meet you too!

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  12. I outline, but only the major points. I like to be surprised by what's going to happen in the moment (and sometimes have to go back and change my outline). There are a lot of things to keep straight. That's what I need, just organized notes on keeping details consistent.

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    1. That nice surprise that happens as you write is a great experience.

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  13. I used to. Then I realized these are outlines for more books. Now I have four more novels in the pipeline and I know just what to do with them.

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  14. I have what I like to refer to as Writer's ADD. Meaning rather than writer's block, I suffer from too many ideas ALL the time. It can be very distracting.

    I don't outline often, but I have a notebook where I write all my ideas down as they come to me. It SOMETIMES helps me set them aside for later so I can finish what I'm working on.

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    1. I like to jot down ideas too... though often they just sit there unused!

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  15. Sci-fi/fantasy writers amaze me, because they have to create and establish these rules for their story world while also making them believable. The settings and their inhabitants, their behaviors, abilities, and technologies available to them have to be created in addition to the storyline. I don't think I'm that creative, but I admire those that are!

    I've tried to write without using outlines but my muddled brain won't allow it. When it's early in the process and the ideas can lead anywhereI find that outlining is the most efficient way to limit the options and eventually choose the one that best serves the story.

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    1. That is part of the fun of sci-fi and fantasy :) I think outlining would help me develop my plot arc better, with an actual beginning, crescendo and end.

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  16. I don't write anything as complex as sci-fi but I do find myself outlining and planning with each book I write.

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    1. That is smart. Is sci-fi more complex than other genres? I feel like every genre has its difficult quirks.

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  17. I outline scenes and write some information about characters, places, etc. I usually don't get too involved with the rules of the world until after I get the story down or as they come to me while writing or plotting.

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    1. That's generally what I've been doing to this point.

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  18. Sometimes. I just read Save The Cat, and I love the 'beat sheet.' Combined with scene cards, it's my new favorite plotting tool. ;)

    IWSG #179 (At least until Alex culls the list again. :P)

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    1. I am enjoying using the program Scrivener, as it has so many neat tools to organize your ideas.

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  19. If your ideas are vast and varied then I'd recommend jotting each down on an index card. Then stack them based on what they are: event, premise (problem/objective), fact (rules, history), character, setting/location, item, etc. Where appropriate, group the inseparables (character with item, etc.). Finally, begin envisioning plot by laying out the cards along a timeline or storyline, just logical order, nothing fancy. Then play "What if?" and see what happens.

    Have I ever done this? No, not like what I just recommended, but then my ideas are not as vast and varied. :) Just a thought. Perhaps you have an epic brewing?

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