So now what do I do?

So apparently I have a reader!  (I know, nobody’s more shocked than me.)  After pitching a pretty kickass idea they say:

And really, that’s about all I got. All I have so far is the setting and not really an idea for what to do with it in terms of plot/character arcs for my three main protagonists.

Whoa, asking me for help?  Well if I was pretend to be a writer…

So first question you always have to ask yourself is: what medium do I want this to go on?  Long or short form?  Long form would be like an ongoing TV series or comic book or short story series or 12+ novels.  You don’t need to have a plot or character arc ready, just start writing situations out and let the world breathe and have fun.  “I want to ask Suzie to the dance but she might learn my secret!”  “Hey let’s try out that new coffee shop that just opened!”  Monsters of the week!  Don’t be afraid to invent a situation and run with it no matter how silly or mundane it might be, the key is to try and tell the story in a way that it can ONLY happen in your world, not any other (even if they’re very similar).  After a few runs you should hopefully have figured enough out about the world and your characters that a proper plot & character arc will jump out and be so obvious you’ll wonder how you didn’t see it before.

But maybe you’re aiming more for a short form like a limited run TV or comic book series, a single novel or trilogy.  What then?  You can’t just mess around on meaningless stuff!  (Well don’t be afraid to run a short story or two – who knows if you get popular enough you might be able to release them as tie-in material in the future.)  Well forget the whole “3 types of stories [man vs ___]” deal, ultimately every story (setting aside experimental bullshit) revolves around 1 factor: Change.  You have a setting and all that, great!  That’s how the story world is today.  What could be different about it tomorrow?  It doesn’t mean it will be different, just what could be.  It’s the same with characters.  You know who they are today, who could they be tomorrow?  I think once you start asking yourself that question, the rest of it starts falling into place:

  • This change, would it be for the better or worse?
  • Would the antagonist(s) want to bring about or prevent this change?
  • Would the protagonist(s) want to bring about or prevent this change?
  • How are outside groups (if any) involved?
  • Does the change happen or not?
  • Any particular reason the change (or attempt) happened now and not before?  Later?
  • Why this protagonist or this antagonist?

The other key to remember is to always answer the questions within the logic of the story itself – don’t let your meta knowledge as author/creator infect it.  “It just can/can’t” should almost never be answer given to questions.  Sure, you the author may know that you can’t cross the streams, but how or why would the characters know?  Can they try it out?  Maybe that’s where you get your antagonist, somebody that just wants to see what happens if you do something and the protagonists have to prevent a total protonic reversal.

Hopefully these question will get you over that writer’s block and entice the muses to visit your dreams.


18 thoughts on “So now what do I do?

  1. Great post! 🙂

    The other key to remember is to always answer the questions within the logic of the story itself –don’t let your meta knowledge as author/creator infect it.

    I agree and disagree with this at the same time. When I’m writing and I can’t think of an explanation for something, I tend to just omit it. People do ask questions and usually I tell them to just imagine what happened for themselves. On one hand I do get frustrated when I read a story where things aren’t answered but at the same time, it beats a half-assed insertion into the narrative just for the sake of it.

    • At the very least in the first draft, over explain because then it’s easier to go back and cut things out/tweak them IMHO. 😉

      Or do what I often do and write it out, then if it later hits me where it would fit better into the story, I just cut and paste the explanation to where it should now belong.

      • How many drafts do you normally do? (I still plan on reading your big bang btw, I just haven’t started on any of them yet because of my growing addiction to reality TV!) I’m not really someone who does drafts so I write everything in the order I want it and how I want it and when I’m at the end all I do is check it for typos.

        With longer stories I move things around and c/p but usually only because I don’t write in chronological order. I think the ending and beginning of a story should be worked out first, so usually I just shift around the middle and modify the ending accordingly 🙂

    • There’s a quote from CS Lewis I can’t quite remember right now, but this one is quite apt as well:

      “The world does not need more Christian literature. What it needs is more Christians writing good literature.”

      Worry first about being the best Christian you can be. Worry second about writing the best possible story. When you do that, the former will tend to bleed into the latter before you realize it. 😉

      • Oh! lol sorry.

        Well if you’ve signed up, go to and sign on. Should be a bar on the top with several settings. You want to click “My Sites”. After that you should see your site listed. You’ll probably want to click “dashboard” under it and play around in there a little.

    • (sorry for delay, been sick)
      So you’re asking why don’t the big group just bail the heroes out every time?

      If you can’t think of a good answer, may have to adjust the premise. Possibilities:

      1) The others are just a-holes.
      2) Some kind of treaty situation with the opposing force.
      2a) Maybe also see about making the trio some kind of “black slate” where they can pick which side they’ll join with both wanting them.
      3) Even the worst problem the trio face, could there still be yet larger problems that the main group are having to focus on? (i.e. World War vs Galactic War?)
      4) Are the trio putting some efforts into actually hiding? The main group can’t help if they don’t know the protagonists are in trouble.

      Sometimes (yes, even me) we authors have to be careful about making premises that are “too air tight” to the point that no real drama could be squeezed out of them (example: Roddenberry with Star Trek). If you find yourself facing that, go in and “maim” it a little. Mess the world up so it’s just a little less perfect. If it’s a mostly good world, you may have to add more teeth to the villains, create a way the heroes could fail. If it’s a mostly bad world (yes, even something like Lovecraft can fall under this) then invent some way that the heroes could win.

      Like a symphony, sometimes you have add a minor or dissonant cord to bring it all together…

      • On second though, while I’ll hold onto the concept and try to develop it more, I think Godscape is a little too big an idea for me to tackle right now, especially considering how vague it all is to me right now.

        Instead, I’ll work with a smaller idea that I have a bit more of a tight focus on right now. Would you care to here that one instead and, now that I think about it, could you delete my attempt at explaining Godscape back where I first mentioned it?

        I really do think we should have discussed this in private. 😛

      • Alright, I’ve gone back and redacted all your earlier comments. (I think I got them all, go double check) Not a problem and sorry for the delay.

        Yeah playing with smaller ideas helps (or even short stories in that ‘verse).

        If you want to see things that are similar to your set up just to see how other authors did it, I VERY MUCH recommend the Orphans of Chaos trilogy by John C Wright (hell, in general) and Godstorm comics from Zenescape (unless you’re bothered by cheesecake)

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