Plotting a Journey story

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  • #107922
    Hope McClellan
    @hope-mcclellan

      I am having a major struggle plotting this journey story. This is actually the second draft. I’m not even halfway through what I had planned for the first draft, but it came to my attention I was functioning off of an outline/plot structure that was doomed to fail. I love the Three Act plot structure, and I am trying to rework my second draft to fit that structure instead.

      I have a journey story, and I am struggling with how to to properly outline it. Going into this second draft, I would like to open in the characters’ home village to develop the stakes and a sense of normalcy before throwing the characters into this huge journey. However, I don’t want to spend too much time here. In my first draft, I excluded this altogether. The opening scene was day three of their travels together.

      But revealing them as the adventurers and having them set off sounds exactly like First Plot Point material. It’s a huge change. I just can’t have that be 25% into the story. The story is about the JOURNEY.

      I’m concerned that if I come up with another plot point, that it will be overshadowed by this major change of events, and it will seem like I placed my plot point too early. Does this make sense?

      Now you can see how I’m struggling. Also, I’m not sure how to craft stakes and motivation for these characters to embark upon a journey to collect something none of them care about as of yet.

      I have been wrestling with this for weeks. I sat down this afternoon to really attack it, and after an hour my brain is spinning. Any suggestions at all would be helpful.

      "Write the vision, and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it."
      Habakkuk 2:2

      #107933
      Daeus Lamb
      @daeus-lamb

      @hope-mcclellan I’ve gone through some similar struggles, so I’d be happy to help.

      I struggled a little bit to understand what you were saying here:

      However, I don’t want to spend too much time here. In my first draft, I excluded this altogether. The opening scene was day three of their travels together.

      But revealing them as the adventurers and having them set off sounds exactly like First Plot Point material. It’s a huge change. I just can’t have that be 25% into the story. The story is about the JOURNEY.

      It sounds like you want to have the characters in the village for a couple chapters before they leave, but you’re worried that their departure will have to line up with the first plot point and that would require way too much time at the village before they leave.

      The one problem with three-act structure is that you have to understand what your story is about–which sometimes you won’t fully understand until the last draft. From one point of view, the characters setting off on the adventure might be them accepting the call to adventure, but it might be them hearing the tale from the hermit in the woods of how the dark lord caused evil in ages past and them having to realize that their whole former way of life relied on the corrupt system the dark lord established and so now they’re accepting not just the call to travel-adventure, but the call to rebellion-adventure.

      To put it another way, in The Hobbit, from what I remember, Bilbo’s journey may very well begin at the 25% mark. Anyway, it feels like a very classic 3-act structure story. But in LOTR, the journey definitely begins before the 25% mark! (And, okay, LOTR may or may not follow three act structure, but it’s a good book, am I right?)

      In my own book, I outlined it with 3-act structure, but now I’ve made major revisions to it. I’ve definitely thrown the timing off, and made the story stronger in the process. But here’s the thing. I have a strong feeling it still follows three act structure. I haven’t gone in to prove it, but I bet if I re-evaluated what the story is about now that I know better, I would see that the plot points line up perfectly.

      So:

      1. Trust your gut.
      2. Try looking at your story from a different perspective? What really does the plot revolve around? Maybe your original outline had it right, but maybe you were looking at it the wrong way.

      While I totally believe in 3-act structure and find it helpful, I’ve come to rely far more on Brandon Sanderson’s method of outlining. …Not that I’ve ever actually used it to outline a novel–I discovered it while writing my WIP–but I reference it intuitively while I’m writing and I’ll probably use it to outline future stories.

      Sanderson’s outlining method follows one rule: as long as the story is always building in significant ways, the reader will stay engage. So his method focuses on progression–making sure the important elements of a story are always progressing. Here are his five elements of progression.

      Travel log (think quest fantasy like LOTR)

      We know where we want to go and so, even though the adventures in between may feel episodic, we feel that things are building because we keep getting closer to the destination.

      Big problem (think of heists, battles, political gambits, etc)

      Some big problem is presented. The characters brainstorm how to solve it, and then we feel progression as they tick off the boxes on their checklist.

      Relationships

      Pretty obvious. The people involved come closer together or move farther apart. Their relationship progresses.

      Mysteries

      With mysteries, the progression comes as we eliminate one of the suspects/theories or find a clue.

      Time bomb

      If the characters don’t do A in a specified amount of time, something awful is going to happen! We feel progression as time ticks.

      These are the five elements that keep a story running. It’s when relationships stay static, we aren’t finding new clues to the mystery, or there’s nothing dangerous to fear, that the story gets boring.

      Now you can see how I’m struggling. Also, I’m not sure how to craft stakes and motivation for these characters to embark upon a journey to collect something none of them care about as of yet.

      Well, they don’t need to care about the maguffin. I just read a story where a criminal was charged with rescuing a scientist from an enemy who was going to use the scientist to create super-warriors. I don’t think the thief cared about the scientist or the fate of the world, but he was offered a huge sum of money, and that motivated him. If the maguffin is important, they can always learn to care about it later. But fame/fortune/adventure/revenge/love/escape: these are all good enough motivators to get your adventurers out the door.

       

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      #107986
      Hope McClellan
      @hope-mcclellan

        @daeus-lamb

        Wow, I can’t even begin to attack that amazing advice. Thank you SO much!!!!

        "Write the vision, and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it."
        Habakkuk 2:2

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