Stargate Monuments


Martha Wells

My Flying Lizard Circus

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Jack and Teal'c

Another Writing Question

Another question from Facebook: Susan Zahn asked: How do you come up with "original" plots? I struggle to come up with story ideas that don't already seem done to death. Where do you find your inspiration, and how do you go about developing that into a full story? Do you set up road-blocks for your characters and then try to find the solutions along with them, or do you already have it all mapped out before you start? (And yes, that's more than one questions...)

This is a tough question, too. For me, I don't tend to start with the plot, I start with the character I want to write about, the story about them I want to tell, and the world that they would need to live in to make that story possible. The plot comes out of that. You just have to tell the story that you want to tell, that's important to you, that's your own take on it and nobody else's.

When you start developing your character, you have to figure out what his or her conflict is, what problem she's facing that's at the core of her story. The place she needs to go, the place she needs to get out of, the thing she needs to get, the mystery she needs to solve.

Also, if there's a type of story you really like (whether it's epic quest fantasy, cozy mysteries, sf adventure, whatever) you can look at it and ask yourself, what elements are missing from these stories that you really want to see. (For a couple of broad examples: A cozy country house murder mystery, but instead of a high society detective, the cook and a gardener team up to solve it. Or a fantasy quest, but instead of being alone the adventurer is a single parent with kids to take care of.) Or look at the types of stories that you always liked, but that aren't being told very much anymore. Remix, combine, put your stamp on it by putting in the stuff you always wanted to see.

Still taking writing or publishing questions here.

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Those two things are exactly what I would say (should someone ask). Plot comes out of character(s), and, putting the elements you feel are missing into a much used plot trope.

That is really good advice for creating plots that make sense. I wish more writers worked that way. As David Langford said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a completely ad-hoc plot device."

How interesting that you begin with characters - your characters, even the secondary ones, have real personality. They're also so well integrated into their world, too: what they do is constrained by the world they live in. Does that make sense? Probably not.

I think I mean that though there's magic, it's not used as a deus ex machina to solve some problem by a wave of the hand and a bit of chanting. All your characters have to work for their solutions, and that gives them much more depth. I think that's why I can re-read and re-read your books and never ever find them dull!

No, that makes sense. :) And thanks!

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