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Hello everyone. I've decided to start a blog, partly because it sounds amusing, and partly because I want to remind myself of everything I should be doing while writing. This blog will dispense whatever sage advice I happen to have to offer, along with the side tangents and other thoughts that come to mind while writing these things. I will have space at the end of each blog for a more condensed version of the advice, for the sake of clarity and really making sure I get all this stuff. I'm still working on making it look pretty, and I probably won't have it super fancy until sometime in January. Let's face it, I'm never going to get around to it.
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How to Progress Your Story

Posted February 20th, 2016 at 8:53 PM by Bardothren

Salutations peeps. Almost forgot to blog today, and tbh, my heart's not 100% into it right now, but I decided to do it anyways.

Not much has happened in my life recently, just the same old ho-hum stuff. Moving on.

How to Progress Your Story

Kind of a no-brainer after last week's topic. So, if you ever get stuck anywhere, or somehow you just can't write that one chapter you have planned, it's likely because there's a logical fallacy in the plot/characterization. If we subconsciously recognize that the story isn't working, then we might stop entirely. It hasn't happened to me too often, especially since I have a knack for finding intricate solutions to plot problems.

The key is to ensure everything has a reason behind it. This doesn't mean you should give all the reasons - and in fact, I highly recommend you keep the rationale as simple or implied as possible. Just make sure that you, the author, have a clear understanding of why everything happens the way it does. There are no accidents. Nothing is due to chance, or luck. Random obstacles are great for making the plot exciting, but make sure the randomness can be seen and felt - such as a riskier choice of a crossing, or dubious-looking food that just might be poisoned.

This seems a lot like plot-holes, and it is. This is the single-most fundamental key to making sure your story moves forward: get rid of the holes in its way. But plot holes aren't the only problem your story will face. Other moments where you might get stuck is in a scene where you break character. Just as the world doesn't act on a whim, nor should your characters. All of their actions should be driven by a consistent logical framework - I know that doesn't make sense in an emotional context, but emotions do follow a logic. Someone who's argumentative one day isn't suddenly going to be docile the next. For any and all character change, make sure it's justified. Give moments where the character feels some form of stress that induces change.

As a chemist, I like viewing stories as reactions. Heating a solution makes reactions proceed faster, or sometimes induces new reactions. Cooling down solutions allows some solutes to crash out. Adding ions change solubility and reactivity. You get the picture. You aren't going to suddenly find yourself with a bottle of ethanol out of the blue if all you had in there was acetone - the change has to occur by adding in the necessary ingredients.

In lieu of a summary, here's a list of questions you should be asking yourself as you plan out your story.

Where do I want to end up?
Backtracking from there, how do I make that happen?

Be very careful with these two questions - they're great for laying out your plot and seeing the long picture, but you can end up with plot holes if you don't think through your choices carefully. Once you have those questions, then ask yourself these questions.

What choices do my characters have in these scenarios?
Do the choices I have them make fit their character?
How would this character's personality change after making this choice?
Are there other alternatives? Think outside the box - especially if your characters will.
Does the character have to suffer and grow through my story?

And examples... hmm... take any B-list anime and you'll find they're rife with character inconsistency. Allow me to point out Dimension W and Kyoma's sudden 'robots are people too' attitude from last weekend's episode. Ugh. For good examples, Edward Elric undergoes a fair amount of growth over FMA: B. In particular, I would study moments where he experiences emotional trauma (particularly the early episodes) and observe how he reacts to them.

Breaking Bad's another excellent example for studying character growth. 'Nuff said.

And again, the most important point of character growth is making tough choices. And charting out your character growth is the most important part of getting a story anywhere. Sadly, I usually focus more on the plot and work my character development around it... a habit I'll have to change sometime.

That's that. My brain's feeling half-baked right now, so if anything needs expanding upon, I'll get back to this. Ciao.
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  1. Old Comment
    Sopheria's Avatar
    Hey Bard, this is really helpful! This is a problem I have when roleplaying--I'm never quite sure what the best way to advance the plot is while keeping my characters consistent. I'll have to start asking some of those questions while I'm writing, because I'm pretty sure I've screwed it up more often than not.
    Posted February 21st, 2016 at 7:30 AM by Sopheria Sopheria is offline