help with storyline fills

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Post Wed May 07, 2014 1:07 pm

help with storyline fills

I think this is the right spot, but I'm not certain. So, so, sorry if it isn't...

In this story (which I will call Seeds for clarification here) earth has kidnapped eight people from various countries all over the world, loaded them into cyrochambers on a space ship, plotted a course for a distant habitable planet and launched the rocket. Four people/aliens stowed away aboard the ship to escap earth and try to return to their own people who accidentaly left them behind nearly two thousand years before. En route, the ship is knocked off course by a meteor cloud. The ship is running out of fuel and oxygen fast, and they're trying to reach anyone for help. They can't return to earth or reach their orignial destination.

At the same time, one of the stowaways is trying to kill another one of the stowaways and will use anyone to accomplish her goal.

My problem is, how do I keep the story going? While I have the action scenes plotted out in my head, I need something to bridge between them! How do I make he story seem realistic in time? I know that action wouldn't happen all of the time, so I need simple things for the characters to do.

Any help on this subject is so very welcome as I'm entirely lost.

Thanks ahead of time!!!
"Lords of the Mountains, come down from your heights.
Come down to the valleys beneath diamond nights."


"Maids of the Valleys, we come from our heights
To dance in your forests beneath the sky's lights."

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Post Sat May 17, 2014 1:25 am

Re: help with storyline fills

To really be a lot of help, I'd need to know more about the story, but here are suggestions you can try to work with and don't be afraid to cherry pick the ones that seem to work for you:


Start with mapping out what you know. Any information, however trivial it might be (ie, everything from characters' favorite colors to childhood tragedies--anything you know.) Add "Spark's notes" of whatever action scenes you have in mind. Put it all in a list. It doesn't have to be neat, but just so you have the info in one place and can work with it. (I usually recommend writing it out in a notebook, or note cards, or even post-it notes; even if you're used to using a computer) You can color code this (yellow for a particular character, blue for an event, etc.) but chances are you'll change your mind about things, so only color code if it's helpful
Doing this will allow you to look at the whole thing and see it in a different light. You can find connections in the story and bridge gaps between one scene and another.

Pick the known elements--the action scenes for example--and start asking questions about them.
Usually when you're plotting, the three most productive questions to ask are "what" "how" and (even more) "why". Why is the best possible question to ask when you're plotting:
Are two characters having a fight? Why are they angry at one another--what old wounds have awoken in them to turn an argument into a brawl?
Why are the stowaways trying to get back to their original home now--so long after they left it? Even if this is their first chance to go, there still has to be some massive reasoning behind their actions. It's been a long time, they've had to make a life for themselves, going back is a huge deal. So why now? Why do they miss home the most? What was their home like when they left it and how do they think it will be when they go back?
Why did the rocket hit the meteor cloud and become damaged in the process? The people plotting the course must have had some idea it was there and taken precautions.
And for goodness' sake, why is the one stowaway trying to kill another?

You know your story better than I and may already have answers to these particular questions, but those are some examples of the kinds of questions you can ask. The more in-depth and detailed you can make both the questions and the answers, the better.

And don't kid yourself about the action.
Yes, the readers need a breather and yes detail and conversation and background are important to a story. But we don't want a dull story do we? Not with meteors, aliens, stowaways, and people trying to kill each other. ;) Do what you have to in making the story work and spread the action out, but try not to force yourself into anything until you believe it's right for the story. Whether this means removing action or adding to it, you'll be able to figure it out as you learn more about your characters and story.

Ask yourself what you're trying to prove in this story. What theme you want to come across. Is it friendship and loyalty? Is it the foolishness of revenge? Themes are hard for me, but most of the time my stories come down to friendship, loyalty, hope, and trust. These are things I care deeply about and have a desire for, so they come through in my writing whether I want them to or not. See what comes out in your own writing. Can't think of a theme? Don't sweat it. You may not figure it out until the last chapter or later.

On the other hand, give your characters a theme.
A passion. A reason for being them. What do they want most? Pull some character questionnaires off the Internet (they're easy enough to find, or I can pull out some I have and send them to you.) Take time to answer the questions for each character, using a different set of questions each time if you want/need. These are your characters and you care about them. Figure out why you care about them and--perhaps more importantly--why your readers should care about them. Learn everything about them. For some of your characters, the perfect answer can pop into your head as soon as you read the question. For others, it will be like dragging yourself along by your fingernails and teeth. Hang in there. Answer the questions and don't give one character the short end of the stick.

Trust me when I say that the more deeply developed your characters are, the more story you will have to deal with. You might even end up with too much for the space you have. If your characters are developed, you need never ask "where's my story?"

You can also try writing from different POVs. Write about things that maybe don't happen in the story, but are connected. Background. Write about how and why the aliens got stranded. Or why earth decided to send kidnapped people into outer space. Etc. This will make your story world seem bigger and brighter and give you more to work with.

Two more suggestion before I stop this long-winded post: (You can always ask for more ideas if you want)

Find the Point of No Return
In every story there is a point of no return. A doorway through which the characters step that forever changes their world so that it will not be the same again. It forces them to act, to move on ahead, and to not look back. Without this point, or door, the character is free to roam about the story unhindered. For your story it could be the moment the characters are kidnapped, or it might be something that happened earlier which set them down on that path. For the aliens, maybe something happens that means they can stay on the earth no longer even if they wanted to. Or maybe their point of no return happens on the spacecraft, some event in their interaction with the other people that sets something into motion. (Really though, the spacecraft itself is a sort of point of no return.)

Build a bridge.
This is possibly one of the best and simplest story plotting illustrations I know. Imagine that your story is a bridge. A bridge like the Golden Gate is the best to think of. Imagine two high points at either end, with the cables bowing in-between.
The first high arc is your point of no return. It's the event that sets everything else in motion. The something that forces the characters to be or do or act. It can happen in the first sentence, or the first five pages. Usually, it should happen somewhere in the first chapter or possibly the second, unless the story is a calm sort--which I get the impression that "Seeds" is not. ;)
The middle portion--the bowing cable--is where things can slow down a bit. There's still action, still conflict, but you can breathe. You can dig into your story and get to its soil and roots. Show off your characters. Snap pictures of your world. You can allow yourself to come down from the excitement or drama of that opening point. But then you build up to the second.
Probably, the characters haven't really figured out who or what they are in the story just yet. They're beginning to in this section. Things are coming together. They're working toward a goal. Your characters should be figuring things out, getting a feel. They have a plan. They know what they're doing. If there's a villain to face then by this point they generally know who/what it is and are preparing to do battle.
Your final point in the bridge is your end climax. This happens at the end of the book, somewhere in the last five chapters or so. It's the battle against the villain. It's the discovery. The rescue. The hurricane. The final battle. Everything you've said in the story so far comes to a head right here.
And then you have your space for tying up the story nice and pretty.

I learned both of these last two from James Scot Bell's book Conflict and Suspense (I highly recommend this, and others in his how-to series of writing books).

I hope this helps. Again, since I don't know your story, I'm giving pretty generic tips. If you want me to clarify or explain anything, just ask. If your looking for more/other ideas, ask that too.

~Caeli
"Some are important documents, others maybe doodles I never framed. I can't tell the difference." ~Mr. Magorium

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Post Sat May 17, 2014 11:17 am

Re: help with storyline fills

Mapping out what I know. Good adivice. Thanks! And now I have an excuse to write down allof those pesky scenes I have in my head but haven't reached in the story yet.

Questions about know elements In answer to why the colonists want to go back home, they were put in to cyrostasis-hibernation-and frozen, so for them, they just left. Also-because I fail miserably at writing anything set in reality-because they were awoken prematurely, they have no memory of earth at all. That's rather contradictory, isn't it... Well, one of my characters (Song) was able to give them back their memories as it dealt with their own identities, so they know who they are and where they came from and they know they want to go back, but nothing else.
The people did plot the course out and around any obstacles, but it's a classic example of 'we know not what a day may bring forth'. In other words, after nearly sixty years, there was a new meteor cloud.
Lorry is the character trying to kill Song. (These are not their real names...Well, they sort of are, but their names keep changing, so I use the meanings) They are from two different races-Lorry is based off of banshees and Sirens, and Song is based off of elves and vampires-that have been at odds since they were born. Lorry is more fanatic and much more vengeful. She's the one trying to kill the other, as revenge for all of the lives the other race has taken. Song is trying to defend both herself and the rest of the passengers. Lorry is incredibly hard to kill because she can essentially phase out from this reality so nothing can harm her. Lorry ends up controlling one of the characters-Andrew-and uses him to try to get revenge and dispose of the other passengers as they get in the way.

What is my theme? I have no clue. Good question! I've recently added this story to a series and it's near the end, but I should probably answer that question... Well, this could be about trust as the passengers have to trust each other and this strange woman. It could also be about friendship for two of the characters. It's also about loyalty and love, and it's also about revenge and mercy. I really have no idea...

Character Themes I would love some character questions. I do use a Character Sketch, it helps me describe their appearance, personality, style of clothes, hobbies, etc. But more detailed questions would be appreciated!

Point of No ReturnThis will probably be when they band together against Lorry. Or maybe not as that almost to the end of the book...

A Bridge No, Seeds isn't boring...


Thaks this helped tons!!!

I do have a question, but I don't know where to put it... As I said before, this is now part of a series. I would like tips on how to get a series together, but I don't know where to put it...

And I'll probably think of more questions later...But thanks again! This will help a lot!
"Lords of the Mountains, come down from your heights.
Come down to the valleys beneath diamond nights."


"Maids of the Valleys, we come from our heights
To dance in your forests beneath the sky's lights."
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Post Sun May 18, 2014 8:48 am

Re: help with storyline fills

Action scenes are at their very best when there is a deep emotional interplay, and that's what the rest of the book is for – making connections and trust and distrust and friendships and annoyances between the characters.

However I do get that interactions aren't often happening much while a bunch of people just sit around doing nothing. :D

If what you need are some ideas about what things would be necessary for them to be doing while on the ship, try going at it from a purely practical perspective. If you were in that position, what would you be doing? What ideas would you have for attempting to establish contact with someone somewhere who could help the ship, and how could they go wrong, and how could you try and make them work anyway, and so on? What things could there be to do in an attempt to conserve power and air? And how much of the daily life is automated, and how much do they have to do themselves – things like preparing food, serving it, cleaning things, and monitoring motion and the ship's systems?

Is that helpful at all? * hopes *

Ask yourself what you're trying to prove in this story. What theme you want to come across. Is it friendship and loyalty? Is it the foolishness of revenge? Themes are hard for me, but most of the time my stories come down to friendship, loyalty, hope, and trust. These are things I care deeply about and have a desire for, so they come through in my writing whether I want them to or not. See what comes out in your own writing. Can't think of a theme? Don't sweat it. You may not figure it out until the last chapter or later.
This could be really helpful. It's a bit counterintuitive, I guess, but often when you restrict the things you want your scenes to touch on and be about, you get more ideas than ever about what could happen. Narrowing the focus is great for creativity. :D

Charlotte Jane wrote:I do have a question, but I don't know where to put it... As I said before, this is now part of a series. I would like tips on how to get a series together, but I don't know where to put it...
Story Development, the same place you put this thread, should work I think.

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Post Mon May 19, 2014 1:26 am

Re: help with storyline fills

I'm glad it was helpful for you, Charlotte! (And I'm in agreement with the further points Rwebhu made.)

I might also recommend just reading/watching stories that occur in a similar setting. Especially stories that are isolated. People stranded on an island, or other odysseys that occur in a spaceship or other craft. This will help you see how characters can interact and develop in such a closed-off world, and what emotions and tensions arise. You can also research real things about clausterphobia and living with people for long periods of time in an enclosed place. I'm sure there are some fascinating articles out there one it that would be helpful.

I'm not big sci-fi reader/writer at present, so all the ins and outs of cyrogenic sleep escape me. ;)
"Some are important documents, others maybe doodles I never framed. I can't tell the difference." ~Mr. Magorium

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Post Tue May 20, 2014 10:57 am

Re: help with storyline fills

The extent of what could go on in the ship is maybe eating food-but I have no ideas for that area. I have one character who's natural fallback for protection is to close people out and chase them away, and he ends up being controlled. Then I have two girls-one an extrovert and the other an introvert-who become friends. Another pair dislike each other for what the other represents. And the Russians love each other-which is good...

Food is probably entirely automated-but I have to think up how and why. If anything, there is no food they could prepare as the seeds are stored until they land. (A lot of the rooms holding any of the supplies are sealed until the ship lands, that much is automated.) Watching the systems is a wonderful idea, but none of them know anything about it-Besides Song. She will teach the Russians about it, mostly because the planet ends up being the main supplier of spaceships for the system they land on.

And if I were in this situation, I would be praying. Praying, panicing, calm, contradicting-actually, this works! Thanks!!

Thanks! That-claustrophobia and such-never occurred to me.

The only things I know about freezing people and such comes from a mixture of SG-1, Stargate's stasis chamber, an ancient sci-fi book that is actually rather badly written, and my imagination. Mostly my imagination.


Thank you so much you two! This actually is helping me a lot.
"Lords of the Mountains, come down from your heights.
Come down to the valleys beneath diamond nights."


"Maids of the Valleys, we come from our heights
To dance in your forests beneath the sky's lights."

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Post Sat Jun 28, 2014 7:51 pm

Re: help with storyline fills

Oops, looks like I neglected this thread a bit! Sorry. You said you would like some character questionnaires, Charlotte?

Here are some links: (I found these simply by Googling the phrase "character questionnaire"/ "quiz" / etc.)
((some questions on these quizzes, although I do my best to avoid the foul ones, might be mildly inappropriate, so if you're using them, just skip those questions. ;) ))

{this one is a list of other links} http://writeworld.tumblr.com/post/40722654734/this-is-a-towel-character-questionnaires

http://www.writingclasses.com/InformationPages/index.php/PageID/106

{this is a nice article about conflict with a few character questions that might help your plot} http://blog.nanowrimo.org/post/61764290942/nano-prep-creating-external-and-internal-conflict

Then you can also find quizzes which are actually for ordinary people, but can be very helpful if you answer the questions as your character(s)



(If you'd like, I have a few more that are just in documents of mine that I can send you--some that I made up and some that I've had for so long, I'm not sure where they originated.)
~Caeli
"Some are important documents, others maybe doodles I never framed. I can't tell the difference." ~Mr. Magorium

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Post Sun Jun 29, 2014 12:35 pm

Re: help with storyline fills

Wow. Thanks!!! This will help a lot, I'm sure of it.

I would be honored if you would send me your own quizzes, would you? Please?

By the way (on the some subject, kind of...), is there a questionairre for races/peoples?
"Lords of the Mountains, come down from your heights.
Come down to the valleys beneath diamond nights."


"Maids of the Valleys, we come from our heights
To dance in your forests beneath the sky's lights."

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Post Thu Jul 03, 2014 1:10 am

Re: help with storyline fills

Ooh, there probably is, but I don't personally know of any. I'll look around and tell you if I find any. ;)
"Some are important documents, others maybe doodles I never framed. I can't tell the difference." ~Mr. Magorium

Stop over at my blog!
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Post Thu Jul 03, 2014 11:22 am

Re: help with storyline fills

Okay, thanks again!!
"Lords of the Mountains, come down from your heights.
Come down to the valleys beneath diamond nights."


"Maids of the Valleys, we come from our heights
To dance in your forests beneath the sky's lights."

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