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Author Topic: Hatrack forum for "Plot-unsnagging"?
Member # 10202

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What do you think of a new Hatrack forum called, "Plot Un-snagging"? The forum would be used exclusively for authors to summarize the part of their plot surrounding where it's stuck. Other users not lost in the forest provide example solutions. They'll help loosen the poor author's mind.

I have on a number of occasions written my stories into a corner and have then spent weeks or longer figuring out a brilliant solution. How much faster would it be if the poor author were handed a number of talented possibilities?

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Grumpy old guy
Member # 9922

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I'm not so certain that such a 'forum' would work. In order to 'un-snag' a plot I'd need pages of information about motivations, character's value judgements about where they are in the narrative now, what they are seeking to achieve and the price they are willing to pay to get what they want. And that's for the two main agonists at the very least.

Then there is the question of exactly what the story is about. Have you noticed the difficulties most people have with writing a synopsis? I think this would require a synopsis of at least one order of magnitude greater in detail and clarity than we commonly see.

But, that's just me; maybe it would work.

On the other hand, what about a thread, or forum, dedicated to strategies to un-snag a plot?


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Member # 8019

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I think plot think-tank brainstorming discussions could go under Fragments for Feedback in their already existing respective forums. Post one and see how much interest there is.

For plot think-tank brainstorming, I think a best practice is to describe the sticking point, what sort of direction the plot intends to go at a future point, if known, the function of the plot's antagonsim, causation, and tension development at the sticking point, and the events that lead up to the sticking point. Plus whether the sticking point is a tension development scene, a tension relief scene, a transition scene, a minor dramatic turn, or a major dramatic turn, so that the intention is clear. I believe the overall dramatic complication of the whole should also be given; that is, the antagonizing wants and problems wanting satisfaction outcomes.

For example, a project on my drafting board for which I have the overall plot sketched out, the events, the settings, and the characters, is at this point lacking the falling action tragic crisis parameters. The tragic crisis is a major dramatic turn scene that bridges between the climax and falling action scenes, in which a reversal scene reestablishes outcome doubt after the outcome seemed assured.

For this project, the overall dramatic complication is a want for retribution justice complicated by problems with conventional justice system processes. More specifically, vigilantes take justice into their own hands. At the climax scene, they've exacted partial justice against several of a group of malefactors; one proves problematic. How that one is problematic is at present my sticking point, though I have a number of strategies to figure out what's best for the scene. The reason that's a sticking point is because the actual victim needs to come up in the following falling action scenes as appalled by the vigilantes' actions. That's where the tragic crisis scene comes into play as a revelation and reversal turn. The solution is probably earlier on and needs to be pre-positioned so that the tragic crisis reversal re-amps tension from the scene.

No innocents here, the victim of the perpetators contemplated violent acts, for which the perpetrators took matters into their own hands. The vigilantes took matters into their own hands. Circumstances get out of hand. Sort of a Hatfields and McCoys feud--the victim and the vigilantes are strangers to each other, the perpetrators and the victim know each other, the vigilantes and the perpetrators are strangers--larger than life though, epic, akin to blood feud unrest across the world spanning millenia, yet timely and relevant to mass victim violent crimes.

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Member # 2513

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So . . . for your specific example . . . bring an innocent into it, and have them get harmed by direct and intentional action of the vigilantes in their quest for violence against the perpetrators . . . with a thin rationale such as "it's a numbers thing . . . he would have hurt hundreds of others". It's cliche, but it might do the trick if framed right.

This is why guerilla warfare involves hiding in civilian population so often . . . taking direct violent action is nearly assured of causing unintended and usually innocent casualties, most often causing a significant backlash.

In addition, WELL RUN organized crime usually finds ways of contributing to the communities they operate in (as well as taking advantage of them) specifically to create an unwillingness to take them on directly.

Taking direct action against people so entrenched invariably backlashes, justified or not. Sometimes even if there IS no "collateral damage" there is still a backlash, just because such action appears "reckless".

Helpful? Maybe, maybe not?

And . . . to get back on track . . . I think a forum thread dedicated to just this sort of a discussion might be helpful. Jim Butcher also has some fun stuff around getting out of the "great swampy middle" as he calls it, which might bear posting, though his advice is far more general in nature. :-)

I think the danger you'll find is that some not very good advice-givers are going to start to feel some kind of ownership of the story, and get very irritated if their advice is not taken or modified. We'd need to have a very prominent set of rules around it.

But other than that, I think it's a good idea!

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Member # 8019

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An innocent bystander or otherwise involved though noble character is a worthy consideration. Thanks! The victim is the most innocent of the eight principal characters cast. Say, the victim threatens to disrupt the vigilantes' plans and in turn becomes a target for the vigilantes. Bringing in another character past the midway point--well, if foreshadowed or pre-positioned earlier.

A way to defuse commenters preempting ownership is to avoid negativity in responding to comments. Blunt refusal, disagreement, dissent, argument all hurt feelings. Avoid "That wouldn't work" and the like responses to response suggestions. "Thank you" is the most neutral. "I'll consider that and see how it fits" is more positive and may suffice. Of course, "Wow, I like that!" or "I'll use that. Thanks!" go farther, though they leave other suggestions behind. A little judicious, sincere equanimity goes a long way.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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What extrinsic said about using the Fragments and Feedback area for such questions. That's one reason why I picked "Fragments" -- it doesn't just refer to the 13 first lines.

Setting up something separate just doesn't seem necessary.

jerich100, if you have a plot snag you'd like help with, please feel free to start a topic in the appropriate Fragments and Feedback area.

People provide feedback on queries and synopses. I'd love it if they would also discuss (and brainstorm) such things as plot snags.

Either that, or use this topic. Topics on such things as plot snags can be as specific or as general as needed.

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