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Thread: Writing Stories

  1. #11

    Default Throughlines, beats-scenes-sequences-acts, supblots, etc.

    So I've been reading up on through lines, and although I know many different accounts of what makes up a through lines, I am not really sure what is is.

    Sometime the talk about 2 through lines, sometimes 4. The superset (all 4) are:

    1) "Big Picture" through line
    2) The main charachter through line
    3) The "impact character" through line
    4) The throughline of the relationship between the main and impact characters

    Any thoughts on through-lines? Can you site any examples?

    Robert McKee builds his stories supposedly by linking beats to make scenes, scenes to make sequeances, sequences to make acts, and acts to make a story.

    Any thoughts or familiarity with this beat-scence-sequence-act-story construction? It apeals to me, but I know nothing about it.

    Linda Serger suggests composing your story of A stories, B stories, and sub-plots in making a screen play?

    Any thoughts on the use of sub-plots?

    cross-posted here:
    Absolute Write Water Cooler - View Single Post - Introduction and Questions

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

  2. #12
    Senior Member Kyrielle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    Any thoughts on the use of sub-plots?
    First, I think you're overthinking this. Just grab a pen and write something, and write it for yourself. Especially if you intend for your stories to be therapeutic. I've known people who wait until a character shows up in their heads and starts doing something and use that as a starting point. I tend to start with a concept and spring off from there once the characters have started to form.

    As for that question, sub-plots need to be smaller than the plot, and they need to be resolved by the end of the story. They need to not take over the main plot, and often are as insignificant as a character having a cold and getting better by the end of the story or their neighbour asking for help doing something that has nothing to do with the main plot. They are just like your side-quests in games like Zelda and Final Fantasy, and the point of them is to give a story extra dimension as needed (though they are not at all neccessary and shouldn't be overused).
    "I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference."

    Robert Frost

  3. #13
    Senior Member Accept's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kyrielle View Post
    First, I think you're overthinking this.
    I've encountered 2 other writers who do this. An ENTJ and an INTJ, but the E finally started to put words on paper (computer) and although he ended up switching to non-fiction, he intends to return to the fiction. The INTJ remains overly concerned with details that probably won't matter once the story begins, but it seems unlikely it ever will.

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    Any thoughts on through-lines? Can you site any examples?

    Any thoughts or familiarity with this beat-scence-sequence-act-story construction? It apeals to me, but I know nothing about it.

    Linda Serger suggests composing your story of A stories, B stories, and sub-plots in making a screen play?

    Any thoughts on the use of sub-plots?
    No idea what through-lines are, but I suspect they might be another set of rules creative writing teachers can use to round out the course. It could also be the result of a successful writer answering the typical question that is difficult to answer: what's the secret of your writing?
    Many authors will admit they sometimes feel they're getting away with something, but sometimes they create catch phrases to explain their secret (Jack Nicholson's character explaining how he writes about women is a good example.)

    Returning to John Gardner, in one of his instructional books (he wrote two), he explains the beat-scence-sequence (if I understand your meaning), even demonstrating some of his work and how it was constructed. Trouble is, he was a serious novelist, and while their books are often kept alive in a classroom setting, their appeal is usually limited.

    As for Linda Serger, who I assume must be Linda Seger, I won't question her talents, but have checked to see that she has a few movie credits, but nothing to suggest producers are seeking her out to help. I haven't read her books, but would think a halfway decent script adviser would be in demand.
    As your characters come to life (for you) it is likely any necessary sub-plots will develop from their actions and needs. If they don't, then they aren't important to the overall tale, and if they do, you should consider whether they will be too distracting, or if it's possible the developing sub-plot should actually be the main one (it happens.) As Gardner wrote about, many writers end their stories at the very point they should be starting it.

    The only question I ask myself when writing is would I want to be, or at least know the protagonist, and to share in the events of that person's life. At some level the characters take over the story so that I become the passive observer trying to report the key points of their lives. When I get it wrong, or force them to act, it usually requires going back to find the moment of the mistake, deleting everything after that point. So why not begin a story, and see if your characters take over for you - for some writers it works, for others it doesn't.

    There's no right or wrong way to write fiction, and any flaws can be fixed later. Maybe try a short story to get the feel for the energy necessary to write a good one while gaining experience in the longer stories where character development becomes crucial? At least then we have something other than rules to critique.

  4. #14

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    Sub-plots, are what I expected.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyrielle View Post
    First, I think you're overthinking this. Just grab a pen and write something, and write it for yourself. Especially if you intend for your stories to be therapeutic. I've known people who wait until a character shows up in their heads and starts doing something and use that as a starting point. I tend to start with a concept and spring off from there once the characters have started to form
    I need to nip this assumption in the bud.

    I already AM writing.

    I think writers block is only something that Js experience?...at least i could never think that I could find myself in a position where I couldn't crank out a story. I can lucid dream on command, and write that down. The quality of the story, is a different matter.

    Just because someone is anlalyzing, doesn't mean he isn't doing. If you want a couple of samples where I just wrote down dreams, there is one in my blog, and one in my personal thread.

    An unexamined life is not worth living. I am always looking to improve what I do. Therapeutic reasons were to experience a richer array of feelings, and trying to challenge myself to write something an audience wants to read is part of that experience.

    Quote Originally Posted by Accept View Post
    No idea what through-lines are, but I suspect they might be another set of rules creative writing teachers can use to round out the course. It could also be the result of a successful writer answering the typical question that is difficult to answer: what's the secret of your writing?
    Many authors will admit they sometimes feel they're getting away with something, but sometimes they create catch phrases to explain their secret (Jack Nicholson's character explaining how he writes about women is a good example.)

    Returning to John Gardner, in one of his instructional books (he wrote two), he explains the beat-scence-sequence (if I understand your meaning), even demonstrating some of his work and how it was constructed. Trouble is, he was a serious novelist, and while their books are often kept alive in a classroom setting, their appeal is usually limited.

    As for Linda Serger, who I assume must be Linda Seger, I won't question her talents, but have checked to see that she has a few movie credits, but nothing to suggest producers are seeking her out to help. I haven't read her books, but would think a halfway decent script adviser would be in demand.
    As your characters come to life (for you) it is likely any necessary sub-plots will develop from their actions and needs. If they don't, then they aren't important to the overall tale, and if they do, you should consider whether they will be too distracting, or if it's possible the developing sub-plot should actually be the main one (it happens.) As Gardner wrote about, many writers end their stories at the very point they should be starting it.

    The only question I ask myself when writing is would I want to be, or at least know the protagonist, and to share in the events of that person's life. At some level the characters take over the story so that I become the passive observer trying to report the key points of their lives. When I get it wrong, or force them to act, it usually requires going back to find the moment of the mistake, deleting everything after that point. So why not begin a story, and see if your characters take over for you - for some writers it works, for others it doesn't.

    There's no right or wrong way to write fiction, and any flaws can be fixed later. Maybe try a short story to get the feel for the energy necessary to write a good one while gaining experience in the longer stories where character development becomes crucial? At least then we have something other than rules to critique.
    I may look up Gardener to see what he is known for and what he recommends, since you've referenced him twice.

    I am fascinated by the idea of through lines.

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

  5. #15
    Don't Judge Me! Haphazard's Avatar
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    Hmm. I guess I have 2 lines of thought when I write.

    1) Big picture thoughtline
    2) Small picture thoughtline (actual prose, character tics, actual dialogue)

    I've always done this even before I learned about MBTI, but I guess they can roughly be divided into N (#1) and S (#2). #1 is pretty easy to make coherent but #2 is much more difficult... but it's also where all the unpredictable developments and all of the fun revelations happen. It's also where I usually get stuck. #1 is easy, #2 is intensive. #1 usually has to bend to the will of #2, even though #1 is the guide.

    I don't usually plan much. What happens is I start with a tiny bit of #2, I find my #1, and then I have to continue on with #2 until the story is finished. The problem is though that they've both got to work to keep me writing -- if I like something conceptually but I can't get the prose to work, I'll have to quit (I've done this a lot) and the same happens if I like the prose but I don't like the concept (this hasn't happened as much, but it has happened).

    Pretty much, if your mind works this way, keep track of #1, but also pay very close attention to #2. That's where opportunity rears its ugly head and you've got to grab it for your subplots and character development.

    Though, this probably has nothing to do with what you're taking about.

    I don't know what you're talking about Js the only ones getting writer's block. I've never had it.
    -Carefully taking sips from the Fire Hose of Knowledge

  6. #16

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    I think I get what through-lines are now.

    Have any of you used Dramatica? Apparently a lot of what I was getting is generated from the theory behind that software.

    Quote Originally Posted by Haphazard View Post
    I don't know what you're talking about Js the only ones getting writer's block. I've never had it.
    That's why I stated is a question.

    I think people who journal or blog a lot would not have any issues with 1st drafts of any form of writing.

    The quality of content, and revising, is an entirely different matter.

    In the words of Chris Alexander (or someone), "Start somewhere, anywhere, and you have started."

    I happen to start with exploring theory.

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

  7. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Haphazard View Post
    Umm, one question is why are you writing for therapeutic reasons? Writing is one of the least therapeutic things you can do... If you want something therapeutic, you might be better off biking or playing videogames or crocheting.
    Maybe for you.

    Psychiatric assistance would be considered therapeutic to many, but not for me. Even so, I would not discourage others from trying it.
    "The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things." - Rainer Maria Rilke

  8. #18
    ish red no longer *sad* nightning's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    thanks for the opnoins, advice, and resources guys.

    As for therepeutic value, it is mean to get me in touch with a rich set of feelings within myself. Right now, I am sort of "stuck" on a handful of them.
    If it's for therapeutic value... then the audience should naturally be yourself. Write something that you'll enjoy going back and re-reading.

    I'm not a story writer... I do have random scenes stuck in my mind while daydreaming... I have to agree with Hap that the story writes itself. It might be easiest to imagine yourself as the character, put yourself into that situation and write what you would do. A good way of self-introspecting.
    My stuff (design & other junk) lives here: http://nnbox.ca

  9. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by nightning View Post
    If it's for therapeutic value... then the audience should naturally be yourself. Write something that you'll enjoy going back and re-reading.
    IDK. That is not much of a challenge. I'd enjoy reading whatever I wrote for the nostalgia of it. Without challenge, there is no real therapy or growth, happening. Threapy does not mean comfortable--it is often the opposite.

    The core therapeutic issue for me is social in nature. Writing stories for audiences is part of my self-socialization (as is organizing meet-ups, and going to dance lessons, volunteer work, and perhaps toastmasters or something along those lines).

    I'm already decent and written communication of facts and theories, and even conscious emotion. The problem is, I have a hard time with bringing up emotions to the consciousness, and expressing "half-formed" concious ideas.

    Stories are powerful reflections of the sub-concious, and communicating with an audience checks how "objectively" I have presented the content.

    Quote Originally Posted by nightning View Post
    I'm not a story writer... I do have random scenes stuck in my mind while daydreaming... I have to agree with Hap that the story writes itself. It might be easiest to imagine yourself as the character, put yourself into that situation and write what you would do. A good way of self-introspecting.
    Perhaps I am still too left brained to see this, but I don't believe it just self-introspection. I think when done well, stories tap into something transcendent.

    I don't expect this process to be easy or comfortable. I suspect it will be torturous at times, but it ought to still be therapeutic.

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

  10. #20
    Senior Member LostInNerSpace's Avatar
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    Not much of a writer myself. But I've been thinking about this one for some unknown reason.

    Create plans. I'm not talking about plots. An example of a plan might be a time line of a scene. Somewhere along the time line you want to pick one or more target experiences, and you want to guide the reader towards these experiences. You can do it by manipulating peoples expectations. Be very descriptive of the environment. Use lengths, heights, colors, shapes, lighting and lots of emotion. The emotion does not have to be explicit. Colors, smell, body language, sex all have emotion attached. She came open handed--meaning she was being forthright. Spatial orientation also has a lot of psychological impact on people. And example might be, "he stood over some person". Above or to the right is a position of dominance. Standing to Below is a submissive position.

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