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Old 05-21-2015, 04:30 AM View Post #1 (Link) Who's driving the plot?
ScottyMcGee (Offline)
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I've been writing lately and I'm becoming more aware of what drives a plot.

This isn't really to be confused with a MacGuffin. Sort of. For those who aren't movie buffs, a MacGuffin was a movie term popularized by Alfred Hitchcock to name a mysterious item that is of little importance but which all the characters follow. So in a spy thriller it could be the missing tape or the microfilm with government secrets. Something like that. In such cases, the driving is fast-paced. Everyone is clearly after one thing, so the plot moves seamlessly from one scene to another, and is very tight.

So for example, in the original 1977 Star Wars, the "drivers" of the plot are the droids. Because of the Death Star blueprints they have, they are the center of attention and the reason why people move around from point A to point B.

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So are you aware of how the characters are moving along in the story? What's driving them from chapter to chapter?

The driver could be anything. A thing - much like a secret tape or a microfilm. A person - someone of great importance or interest. Or even an idea - something the character is striving for.

Sometimes it's unclear in more complex works who or what is doing the driving. For example, I had just finished reading W. Somerset Maugham's Razor's Edge. The plot had a narrator with plenty of friends meandering through their lives and their hardships. The narrator was a relatively fixed character. The novel spanned almost like half a century and most of it had the narrator transitioning with "So in like the next two years this happened while I was here and blah blah blah." Although it's not apparent that anything is pulling him to different places, the drivers are still essentially all his friends. They are the ones getting into the peculiar predicaments and thus give the narrator a purpose to narrate in the first place.

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The driver can also change. One minute it can be about a secret tape but then that's over as its purpose is revaled and the driving is handed onto a person. Or so on and so forth.

I'll use my own story that I'm writing as an example.

The working title of this fantasy adventure is called "The Sidequesters," and follows the adventures of a boy named Edward. The story is separated into 4 parts - one for each season.

I begin with summer and Edward is at home doing what he normally does in his backyard woods, when he notices these rowdy new bikers tearing up the woods.

So I've already introduced our first drivers of the plot. The bikers. I've established Edward as a stationary character doing what he usually does until something out of the ordinary makes him curious and pushes him in another direction. He chases after the bikers.

Long story short - Edward gets caught up in fantasy stuff. He's shown a secret world that he really wants to know. He meet and aides a girl who reveals herself to be the Steward of Summer - she's kind of like Mother Nature's helper. As a reward for Edward's efforts, she says he'll be visited by her other sisters who also preside over the seasons. If he helps them, they'll let him in on more secrets about the universe that humans don't know about.

So now I've got an overarching driver throughout the book - Edward's desire to know more about the magic behind his world (or also the visitation of the three sisters - either way). He stumbled into something that whetted his appetite for more.

In the autumn section, which I just recently finished as a draft, Edward is tasked with helping fight off the New Jersey Devil. The Steward of Autumn takes him to The Devil's Tree, which is a real local urban legend here in New Jersey. In this fictional universe, the Devil's Tree holds an evil consciousness, and it shows Edward where the Jersey Devil plans to return. However, the Devil's Tree also happens to afflict Edward and the Steward with a curse, one that grows worse and worse each day and will only be broken until they kill the Jersey Devil with their own hands. So now I put a really strong driver for the plot in this section - the curse. It acts as a ticking time-bomb. I figured simply having Edward's newfound interest in mythology and urban legends as the sole plot driver wasn't strong enough. It needed more force. If nothing is pushing him, he could at times simply be like, "Well, I've got to go back to doing homework or something. Ya know?" But I said, "NO. NO EDWARD. FUCK YOUR HOMEWORK. YOU ARE GOING TO DIE IF YOU DON'T DO ANYTHING ABOUT THIS CURSE. FIX IT NOW." And not only that but the curse is ruining his social life - making him an idiot in school and ruining his chances with his crush.

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As you can see, plot drivers can overlap. Edward's overarching plot driver in the book is his whetted appetite to know more about the nature of his universe. However, in each part of the story, there's also other drivers that will further force him in this direction.

At times, as I was writing this, I realized I had trouble with driving the plot. In the summer section, I often found Edward and his friends just lounging around going, "What do we do next?" If your characters do that too much, you know that your plot isn't being driven. It should be clear and logical - this happened so we react this way and will do this.

Ultimately, I believe you don't want your plot to end up feeling like everyone's stuck outside the car not knowing where to go next.

By the time the drivers of the plot crash or stop, that obviously means the story is ending. That's the climax. If you still have something that could drive the plot further, maybe you need to double-check that everything is tied up, or maybe it could lead into a sequel. It depends too on what you want your focus to be.

I also think sometimes that people mistakenly believe that the main character always has to move the plot. After what I've talked about, not really so. The objects that drive the plot are like the stags of a hunt, testing the main character's limits as they try to reach them.

SO, if you're stuck in a rut or maybe even have writer's block as to where the story could go - ask yourself who's doing the driving. It helps to identify what the characters want, or how other characters could drive by and sweep them up.
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						Last edited by ScottyMcGee; 05-21-2015 at 04:09 PM.
					
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Old 05-21-2015, 06:25 AM View Post #2 (Link)
Dabs (Offline)
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I think this might have worked better without the metaphor. It was hard to process what you were trying to say in tandem with the images and the metaphor.
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Old 05-21-2015, 11:40 AM View Post #3 (Link)
ScottyMcGee (Offline)
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Let's try it without the distracting gifs. I think I've been on tumblr for too long. . .
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