I can write scenes, but not long stories. What do I do?
By - givcon14
Commenting because I have the same problem
If you can write a scene, then all you need to learn is how to write a story.
Keep asking yourself what you need to make the story work.
"I wanna tell a war story. What do I need?"
Well, first the obvious - a war. So which war? A real war or a fantasy war? Do I need to do some research?
"World War 2. What else do I need?"
A character. While you're coming up with a character, ask what makes the character interesting, and what their flaw is that should be addressed throughout the story.
"My character is a British spy who has gotten merely steps away from Hitler himself. But he's gay and in love with one of his advisors, and having second thoughts about his mission. Now what?"
I tend to start with the end. How's the story gonna end, and how does this ending teach the character their lesson?
With the end, where should I begin? What kinds of scenes can I write that will give the character instant appeal to the audience while exposing or at least hinting at his homosexuality? Should I start "in situ" or maybe with a flashback first?
With the beginning, what happens when the story takes its biggest turn? You will probably build toward a conflict here, and through a victory or defeat the rules might change, the stakes might ratchet up, etc.
Do you see what I'm doing here?
Figure out what you want to say, how you want to characterize it, and how the story is set. Then I almost literally just start dividing the story over and over. Whats the beginning and the end? What's in the middle? Whats between the beginning and the middle? ...the middle and the end? What's between that bit between the beginning and middle, and the beginning...
...and just keep going until you feel you have a story that makes enough sense. I say "enough" because it doesn't need to be perfect to start grabbing you and inspiring you.
After that, you're going to have to go back and ruthlessly cut out whatever doesn't strictly need to be said to tell the story.
I want to read that story! Very well explained, thank you for sharing
I spent no time considering the example. I spent about 30 seconds conceiving the character. I have no idea where it would end, thus no idea where it would begin, to say nothing of everything that lies between. But if the inspiration grabs me, I'll see where it goes.
Thank you very much for writing this. Something clicked in my head.
I agree with this!
I have been told when I write my chapters could be short stories themselves. They would stand alone or be part of a bigger story. I am also more of a pantser rather than a plotter. I am saying all this to let you know you are ok. It could be that you just need a general outline to get you started.
It might be a good exercise to take something you have already written and try to outline the story either before or after and write more about it.
My novel started as a short story about a meet-cute in a coffee shop and it expanded into a 400 page novel just by asking why? Example: Why was she in the coffee shop? Why did she go to Korea? Why was she arguing with her mother on the phone?
It helped me outline and "pants" the first draft.
Look at some of the outline techniques like "Save the Cat". I bet you could fit a lot of those whys into it and you would be on your way to a much better/longer story.
I don't like to think too hard about structure until late in the process, but at that point it's a good idea to pull out the BS2 or something else equivalent to that and start asking if you can see those structure beats.
Someone else said they could write stories, but they weren't interesting. That's where I'd bring out something like STC to get inspiration. But you need a cohesive enough story before you can start messing around with it.
I like to try to just think through the story itself without being held to any formal percentages or acts. I feel like trying to fit into a more formal structure holds my creativity back a little. Outlines work better once I have a rough draft down, then I can see where my story "fits". I guess I am more of a "planster".
It can be useful to ask yourself something like "what would I do to this story if I wanted to add Dark Night of the Soul beat?" I don't look at those beats as a requirement but you can be inspired to bring out new pieces of story just by doing hypotheticals like that.
I have my beginning and my end, but no idea how to get from point A to Z in an entertaining way...
I’d say that’s my biggest issue. I can write singular scenes, but they don’t have enough connective tissue. And when I try to connect them, the connecting scenes are *boring as fuck!*
I also have a bunch of well-thought out characters. I know how they’d act in any given situation. But that doesn’t help when their god (me) only knows how to throw them into boring situations
I have a family embroiled in a Stone Age tribal war, the mother is sick with a tumor in her stomach, so the father thinks she cheated on him, so he’s angry af, the son (the mc) is trying to go behind enemy lines to get to the enemy tribe’s renowned healer.
I have the scene where he ultimately is unable to save his mother, and his grief triggers his magic powers (how he got the ability to have powers is an entirely different issue).
The use of this magic ultimately leads to the destruction of all mankind, and at the very end of the apocalypse, the mc necromantically revives 10 dead children, and they all become known to humanity as the gods (and demons) of the next era.
So I have major plot points. But I don’t know how to connect them in a non-boring way
You have to connect them in *some* way before you can make it entertaining.
So just make shitty connector scenes and hope that I come up with better ideas as I edit?
Do the best you can with every scene but do it with the understanding that you might have to cut it - even if it's your best work - if it doesn't work in the end. Breaking the story and writing a first draft is only the beginning of the process.
This is great and I know you didn’t mean it this way. but as a fully paid up homosexual, please don’t call it a character flaw!
The flaw is that his feelings are threatening his mission.
I only decided on the sexuality because I didn't imagine that many women in the Nazi command.
I only gave this 30 seconds of thought or so, but I certainly did not conceive of the flaw as being his sexuality.
Ahh I see, I misread it. Ignore me!
me too, after a while i just run out of battery lol
I've considered writing a long-form story with a 3 layer structure. Each chapter has a problem to solve, each set of chapters (7?) is an arc with a problem to solve and the entire story has one problem to solve.
Also, you don't have to show characters traveling. Introduce locations and next chapter can have them there without explanation.
I reccomend looking into heroes journey and its derivatives. They can be applied to a single chapter, arc, and the entire story.
So first piece of advice would be try an outline and see if it works for you.
Second piece would be checking out Brandon Sanderson’s BYU writing lecture on plot.
He talks a little bit about this idea for non-plotters that I found interesting, and still helped with plotting my story.
Basically you find a goal for your protagonist, like let’s say he wants a cup of milk. If he gets a cup of milk, maybe he finds out he’s lactose intolerant, thus leading to a new goal.
Or maybe there isn’t any milk in the fridge, so he has to go to the store. Thus expanding the original goal of getting a cup of milk.
I think he calls it “yes, but” and “no, and” so if they achieve something there’s a catch, if they don’t the problem escalates.
I hope this makes sense (and helps!)
I came here to suggest exactly this Sanderson advice on pantsing.
This is a really good trick for moving the story forward when you get stuck. I just wanted to add a more specific application based on OP's example, where it can sort of be applied retrospectively.
Basically, the trick is to ask yourself what can go wrong now.
"Quirky super heroes fightbad guy and wins" great good for them! But then what goes wrong? Do they learn that the villan was just a henchman? Did they find outhe was only fighting them as a diversion, so they couldn't stop the explosion across town in time. Did he know something about them that required a leak? Both you and your characters can get to revel in the victory for a moment, but if you don't want the story to end there, add some new conflict or problem. With a bit of luck (or foresight where you choose the most thematic option of what goes wrong) they end up being tied together so closely that they don't just become a string of unfortunate events but actually an overarching plot.
"Character talks about their backstory for a bit". That's always really enjoyable to read about, but then ask yourself why they are telling the other character this. What do they hope to gain? Respect, understanding, getting closer to the other character? And why don't they get it? Is it a misunderstanding? Does the other person not understand that it's important to them? Does it turn out the other character disagrees? Do they get interrupted - either by something unrelated or because somebody wants to stop the two characters getting closer to understand each other?
Interruptions can be good because you can see how it would work out if only they had the time to do it. A lot of Spiderman's conflict is that his normal life could work out like he wants it too if only he didn't get interrupted by his responsibility as a super hero all the time, but the reason we think he deserves to have things work out in the end is precisely because he prioritizes his responsibility.
This also plays into u/Bento-Kazui 's comment on more circular narrative. If you have a theme or a part of a character's personality you want to explore you can focus on that rather than a large overarching plot and continue to put them in new yet similar situations to explore if they hold on to their principles/how far they need to be pushed before they bend - or what it costs them if they don't bend.
I'm on the other side, with the opposite perspective. I can come up with stories that tie together with multiple underlying themes and concepts and make it as big or little as I want.
I feel that my scenes are bland and boring, I like crafting complicated stories and outlining them, planning the framework everything is written around. Outlining is my favorite part of writing and my prose suffers because of it. I even set rules that characters have to fallow the actual writing of the scenes takes a lot out of me. I'm a big picture type person.
I write ideas down whenever they find me. I start combining them when I feel that I can fit them together and usually a narrative comes out of it. I determine the beginning and the end, find a theme that works with the story, like wishes do come true or something, when you do something like that you can have as many scenes as you want. I find that knowing how the story ends gives me clear direction, even if it completely changes by the time the first draft is done. And usually it does, when I bring all the little subplots together and conclude all the stories the ending usually does change.
Do you think that your scenes suffer from blandness because you have restricted what can happen within the scene too much? Or because you don't require yourself to write stellar standalone scenes and instead allow the overall plot to shine. I hope that makes sense?
I get excited about plot ideas and I enjoy exploring them, that's the fun part. Writing the the scene is the exhausting part. I think they suffer because I get overly excited about writing what comes next so I'm not in the moment where I should be. I think if I focused on the now of my stories it would be better. I also feel like putting too much attention into the scene can distract from. The overall story, I need balance.
You could do the nonlinear narrative or writing the story in a nonlinear way.
To better explain what nonlinear narrative is, I'll have to go through its counterpart, linear narrative. Linear narrative is basically a story being told in a chronological order.
Therefore, nonlinear narrative is simply a story being told in a disorderly manner. But if you want to have a linear narrative you can always write it in a nonlinear fashion.
For example, just what you said in your post where, "a quirky hero fights bad guys and win," and "a character tells a bit of his back story," you could combine those two to make a longer scene or narrative. Like, after the hero beats the bad guy, the hero is being interviewed for his reasons of becoming a hero.
Watch some Quentin Tarantino movies for inspiration on this. Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs.
Akira Kurosawa lifted from pulp hardboiled detective and westerns.
Shakespeare lifted from other culture's stories most of his contemporary audience knew.
Everybody is lifting from Aristotle.
This kind of finger pointing bullshit isn't helping anyone.
The question is never: is this story 100% original?
The question is: what is it about this story that makes it different?
Funny enough Aristotle came after Plato whose name supposedly goes to how big his shoulders were and being a wrestler. So Ari lifted from Plato who mostly lifted So Crate. And IIRC Confucius is a hundred years before Mr. Crate.
Did I need to put a /s in my comment above? I thought the Arnold lifted line worked. But, yeah, I think the whole borrowing, lifting, stealing thing can get kind of silly.
or in other words: yes you are correct.
Short line after a long line at the end of a post, often a weakness in my vision.
Kong may have been earlier than the Greeks but that fact highlights the fact that storytelling isn't something necessarily borrowed. We've (as in, our species) all been telling the same few dozen stories with different names, settings, and characters longer than any of us has been alive and that will continue.
This is VERY BAD ADVICE.
This advice is like telling someone they have trouble writing dialogue to try writing characters who speak sign language.
**Non-linear plots are by necessity far more intricate and difficult to pull off!! They are NOT a shortcut to avoid the difficulties of plotting in general!**
Quentin Tarantino writes non-linear plots because he’s a *master* — not because he’s a novice!!!
I think there's a misunderstanding here or how I explained my reply to OP.
I'm not telling OP to write a nonlinear plot, I was telling him/her to use nonlinear narrative as a tool to build his/her story, like a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces are scenes that he/she can put together to make a full fledge story.
All I'm saying is, OP doesn't need to start writing at the beggining of the story. He/she can write a scene in the middle or at the end, not a conveluted plot.
Sorry for the misunderstanding.
This is just a suggestion, and I'm not even sure if it's a good one, but you said that you have trouble with writing "episodic" stories, so maybe this can help with that, which in turn can help the overall problem.
As i started reading, the first idea that came to mind to give you advice was: figure out a simple big plot or arc (for example: hero defeats villain) and fill it with smaller arcs in between (for example: one smaller arc inside the hero vs. villain one could be about the hero's backstory). Then you would work on each one and try to tie them up along the way until you have something cohesive. Although, to be honest, I'm not sure how well that would work out.
But then you said you already have trouble doing that, so a second idea popped up in my head (that, again, I'm not sure about the effectiveness of it). You could gather a bunch of scenes/snippets that you already have and try to figure out how to piece then together into a bigger story. That way, at least tou don't have to write all of it from scratch, but rather rework things you already have. And even if all those parts have different characters/settings, pick a few that you like the most and put then in all those different parts, then you'll have multiple scenes with the same characters, and that could lead to a bigger story.
I don't know, I'm might just be suggesting something stupid or pointless, and it even might be to difficult and not worth the hassle. It's just an idea. Kind of like putting a puzzle together, but all the pieces have a different pattern/color/image on them because they belong to other puzzles, so you have to paint them over in order to make up the same picture.
I don't even know if that's comprehensible. Sorry if I confused you or just wasted your time. I really hope that you figure it out and that at least someone else cab provide better advice. Best of luck to you!
Second act slump.
Gotta push and push and keep writing. Don't think about how bad it is. At times you have to force yourself to write. It's okay. Writing is fun but it is also work. The important thing is to get a story down in the page.
Then ya leave it. Let it sit in your computer or in a drawer for a couple months. Then read it.
When we watch shit movies or read shit stories we think about how bad it is and how we would have done it better.
Now you can do that. Except you can fix it, because the shitty story you're fixing is yours. You can make your changes and make that crappy story better.
It's easier to make a crappy story better than it is to nail a perfect story on the first draft.
>I don't know... Am I just giving up on my stories too quickly?
This may be the case. My suggestion is to just write utter crap. It's common advice, I know, but "don't get it right, get it written" is also insanely helpful advice.
I'm not saying *publish* utter crap, or have it be your final product or whatever. But you can always edit a story that's utter crap. You can't edit a story that doesn't exist.
So don't give up on your story because it isn't turning out so well, that's a mistake I've made a couple times.
Also, I recommend The Anatomy of Story. And there are some great MasterClasses in storytelling.
Why not stick with “gag-a-day” comics? But use the same character, eventually you’ll have many scenes from a character’s life. Calvin & Hobbes didn’t have a distinct story, it was just a boy and his tiger.
I struggle with writing longer stories, too, but my current one I will probably finish (my first one :D) so yeah. Here's what I've found works as a fellow pantser and I hope it helps!
1) Writing a very small plot. Just notes in a tab you always have up to jot down ideas or lore or character arcs/growth in so you don't forget. Also include the start and end point of your story in general. I did it like this: "well, the start point is X becomes a gladiator who has very few morals and hates his family. the end point is X develops to have a conscience, wants to save people (kinda) and loves his brother, literally going to the end of the galaxy to bring him back from the dead". Then I picked out three story arcs. 1st one: "X alone on a foreign planet at start, escaping planet and getting to home planet with previously-thought-dead brother at end". 2nd: "defending home in a siege, learns compassion and love for family, his father and brother die at end and he saves some of his people when the planet is destroyed". 3rd: "he's completely broken, runs to brothers friends for help, end with getting brother back by sacrificing his mum's ghost and defeating the Big Bad". And then from there I start writing at the start of the first arc. Just barely a paragraph on each chapter with all the important events you want in it, then stop. Write it. Once you've done that on to plotting the next chapter!
2) A Trello board! I am shocked more people don't use these for writing. It's the most satisfying thing ever to move a chapter along from "not started" to "plotting" to "writing" and so on. Really helps keep me motivated and it's also a good place to put things like chapter names so you don't forget.
3) I don't really start out my plots as complex. At all. I'm just writing when my brain goes "ya know what, this character's dead mum randomly popping out of nowhere would be very cool and have good dialogue" and then I write it. And then I have to find a way of bullshitting my way out of it so it actually makes sense (otherwise known as: write yourself out of that corner!) lol that's how I make my lore and magic systems! Just as long as you don't drop a plotline, you should be good. Which is why you make little notes of all the active plotlines and which ones have been resolved.
4) Or, you could do a gag-a-day comic with a story! I read one once and I can't remember the name, but it was just four panels a day about this dude (Ed, I think?) who was dead and his GF turned out to be a witch and it was really cool. Each little episode was just a joke, some of them only visual, but the story was actually gripping.
Yeah I hope this helps lol I know the pain of not being to plot when you're a pantser! For long stories I've found a mix of the two really helps :)
I have this problem to an extent, but I learned early on how to deal with it.
Write your story one scene at a time.
Not even chronologically. Come up with a cool scene concept, then write. Then come up with another one. Then write that one. Eventually, you'll have a comprehensive compendium of all the scenes you really, really want to have in your story, and all you'll need to do is connect this.
Now, I should say that this method has some adverse results. Sometimes, if your enthusiasm for these select scenes is much higher than that of the connective tissue that links them, people will begin to notice. Your story will be marked by lots of pandering, which is interrupted by brief points of high-energy. No matter how good those high points are, it'll be more than jarring to switch between the two. That's why it's important to flesh out more of your story than you think you have to, to make sure that it all feels consistent
This is part of what I do. I think the missing part of the process (that leads to weak connections) is to take that compendium of scenes and spend the time & energy to really customize the structure so that the events, the arc, the style, and the transitions all become cohesive.
Arrange the scenes in a pattern that is elegant and compelling. That makes the "connective tissue" flow better, and have a sense of inevitability and structural integrity.
My advice would to devour story theory books. When you are starting to write in a serious way you should understand the form intimately. Books like *Anatomy of Story* (John Truby) and *Into The Woods* (John Yorke) have been the two that have helped me the most, but I recommend reading as many of these kind of books as you can. Look at the suggestions, take what clicks with you, experiment with the techniques. The goal isn't to "know" these things intellectually, it's to internalise them and understand why things work or don't. Read in a different way than before. Try and notice what the author is doing, and if they are doing it well or not.
You don't need to follow a paint-by-numbers formula, but the long arcs and journeys are planned step by step and systematically built upon. Use an outline and know where you are going. Pantsers ignore, but that ain't me and I think you're doing your story's ending a disservice if you're just making up as you go along.
The first story you write is most likely going to be boring and uneventful. You have to iterate on it many times for it to grow.
Once you get those ideas on paper you'll see that your brain starts to focus on improving the stories.
It sounds like you’re struggling with one of the hardest parts about writing. This isn’t a sign you’re doing something wrong. It’s a sign you’re doing it right.
Practically speaking, you might find it helpful to be more diligent about outlining all the scenes of your stories before you start writing them / as you start writing them. That way you know they have somewhere to go and the overall structure works.
I have been writing for a scripted comedy series for three years now, so I've got a little practical advice.
Think of it like this: you're good at writing scenes, right? Well, every story is essentially one big acene made up of smaller scenes, each with their own premise, setup, build, climax, and resolution. If you figure those out in broad terms, you can then work your way down to the details.
I'll give you a breakdown of how I have learned to work through it.
Start with an outline. This shouldn't be more than a page or so of bullet points. Just a sequence of events that happen in the story, a single scene summarizing the main events. It doesn't need details. That's gonna help you visualize how your narrative would flow. Think about the setup, build, climax, and resolution, of the story as a whole. Explore character motivations, but not character interactions in specific terms. *Who was involved, where were they, what happened, why did it happen, how did it happen/resolve*
Then expand the outline. Every bullet point you made is its own story, with its own setup, build, climax, and resolution - it's own arc. Detail these smaller arcs like before, in bullets beneath the main points they relate to. Explore character interactions in broad terms *He went there to do this to achieve that*. Don't worry about specific behaviors or quirks at this point. *Who did what, where did they do it, how was it done, what was the point of it being done, why does it matter*
At this point, you'll basically have a tiered breakdown of your story listing the discrete scenes. Now you can start grabbing those bullet points one at a time and dig into the "How does this go down?" part. Here you can stop bulleting and start writing. Keep it simple at first if you need to, no actual scene writing but rather a simple sequence of events. *Her went there to talk to her. She didn't want to hear it. He persisted. She got upset. He left in disappointment. Later, she finds proof that he's right, changes her mind, and goes to help him*
By this point your one page or so bulleted list will probably have expanded to five or more, just exploring the broad strokes of the story. You have a solid understanding of how the narrative all fits together. You have a decent understanding of how each scene matters to the broader story. You have a fair understanding of characters and motivations.
Now pick a scene that inspires you and write. It doesn't have to be in order. When you finish that scene, pick another, then another, and keep going until you finish the list.
Now you have a collection of discrete scenes, each with their own arc, which together form a long story.
This is very much like the Snowflake method I mentioned downthread. Works great for all kinds of stories.
As silly as it sounds I think you need to read long stories and dissect them to discover how other authors construct their stories. I’ve found myself doing this a lot with my reading lately and it has helped.
Write flash fiction
Write a one scene short story
Write scenes. Share online. People love bite sized content!
One thing I’d like to say is that the longer a narrative, seemingly, the more (meaningful) obstacles. Take the hobbit for example, it’s the only Tolkien I’ve read so far.
Bilbo was a homebody before Gandalf and the Dwarves. But as Bilbo was hired to be a burglar they actually had to travel to the place where we was hired to burgle. Now Tolkien set a LOT of obstacles in his way, and in doing so, he emboldened Bilbo along the way to actually facing his dragon(fears), and lets not forget one of my favorite scenes, the riddle contest between him and Gollum.
Really, the key to a longer narrative, is showing the characters facing meaningful obstacles that further their character, development, and disassembling the “lie the characters believe.” More on that by K.M. Weiland.
You can do it the pulp-fiction way, as described by pulp writer Lester Dent in 1939: [https://www.paper-dragon.com/1939/dent.html](https://www.paper-dragon.com/1939/dent.html)
Good old Lester never lets me down. I use it all the time.
Long stories are just multiple scenes that come one after the other. Just ask yourself what happens next after the scene you’ve written, write that scene, and then ask the same question.
It’s not that complicated.
All you need to do is stitch them together.
Could you try writing an ending first? For some writers it’s compulsory, it allows them to know where they need to get, and how to get there.
What about research? How exhaustive?
How many short stories have you completed?
Short story. Period. They are just as worth making.
“Sometimes those replanned scenes are lacking as well.” “Causing the plot to meander”
Is it possible you’re being too hard on yourself? Anyone can write a story, anyone can construct words and call it a book. What matters is if you connect to your readers. It doesn’t have to be well written. Text books are well written, but they bore most people. Meanwhile half assed books with grammer and plot issues get popular because they connect to people. Just read, watch movies, study the plots, then do what you can.
I think /u/Extreme_Example5144 has the right idea. Listen to the Writers on Writing podcast and you'll find that some of these writers with MFAs or whose books win awards took years -- 5-10 or more, to develop a character and take that character through some conflict or to reach some desire. I'm not saying you need to go at it for a decade, but you sound like somebody who isn't going to publish 4, 5, 10 books a year on Kindle. Take your time, use some of the very good ideas others have on this thread about how to work a character through a plot.
One I'll add is to combine ideas. I used to act like I had to keep each what-if idea or interesting character hermetically sealed off because each was going to be its own story. Once I started combining them plotting was a lot easier and I had more interesting characters.
I have this problem...so I turned my novel composed of short stories connected to the same lathe scale universe. I have so many characters and so many multiple plots that needs addressing, and so I done this.
Just printout the 12 stages of the heroes journey.
Do what you normally do to start it off. Then move it along the path. It’s worked a billion times before. It will work again.
You’re not being an idiot, you’re being a journeyman. You know enough about the whole shebang to be intimidated by it.
Stop focusing on what you can or cannot do and start focusing on what you do or do not want to do. Then spend some time figuring out why you want to do it.
If you have somebody else’s idea of success in your head, that’s not a good enough reason to learn how to overcome your weaknesses. Almost any reason that comes from inside you is acceptable. (I’m not here to tell anyone it’s a bad idea to try and make money, or become famous, or any of the goals other “artistes” would consider shallow. Just make sure it’s *your* goal.)
If you find that you still want to do something that requires you to git gud, I recommend picking something and *finishing it*. All the way. Embrace the suck, let it be bad. Then sit on your bad work for a bit before coming back to analyze what went wrong.
Don’t get in the doom loop of editing one scene that you don’t like over and over. In long form stories, a well-written scene can still be bad because something that came before set it up poorly, or because it leads somewhere you don’t want it to go. These things only become clear in a finished work.
I am baffled that no one is recommending an in depth outline.
Yes, I read it and saw that you said you are better at pantsing that plotting, there was a time I said the same thing, but at that time, I only got a few thousand words in before running out of steam with your exact problems.
You might feel like you're bad at outlining, so you should just pants your way through, but outlining is just writing but quicker. You'll need practice and you'll probably have half a dozen outlines before you think its any good, but it will solve problems of pacing and plot uncertainty.
Keep writing, and regardless of whether you take this advice, I hope your writing goes well
Cartooning is by nature small snippits. If you *want* to write a novella/novel, practice with more long form scenes and story, even if it;s only a little longer than your usual to get used to stretching out what you gravitate toward.
How much do you read? (Novels, not comics or graphic novels) The more you read these the more naturally plot points and storylines will come to you.
Have you started a story start to finish, you do you jump around with each shiny new idea? Whether it's plotting or pantsing, write a short story from start to finish and don't worry about the choppiness at this point. First drafts are always a mess. Then get to revising and editing. Maybe you'll be better and more focused in the revision stage?
If it's unrelated to those, maybe your strengths lie in flash fiction or cartooning. Nothing wrong with that.
Read a simplified version of your story to a six year old. Note all the hundred questions from the child. Try to write your story again with the questions enriching your plot. Repeat.
Long stories are made out of scenes. Each scene is its own story. Story arcs merely string scenes together.
Take a larger arc, like for example a coward learning to be brave. Then break it down into steps:
1. Establish character: guy runs away from a fight.
2. Argument: Guy is called out, defends his position.
3. Failure: Thing guy cares about is in danger, guy runs anyway, loses thing
4. Reflection: Guy talks about how much he hates being a coward. At the end, he decides to face his fears and reclaim the thing he lost.
5. Confrontation: Guy overcomes his fears and wins.
Each of these is a story, and they can each be a scene. So basically, all you need to do is come up with an overarching goal and then break it down into manageable steps.
(It's all in the Save the Cat Books. Take a look at those.)
Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. -E.L. Doctorow
You're more of a gardener than an architect, and that's fine.
Write short stories, try to allow their stories to be in the same universe and slowly put them into a book of short novels. The background of each story will push one from the past forward and the scenes would have a Quentin Terentino kind of feel that I see a lot of third person writing has feels like to me?
You’ve done the first and one of the hardest part of writing. You’ve just defined the limits of your natural talent. You’ve identifies your strengths and where you need to work. Believe it or not, that’s awesome. The next thing is start dissecting your favorite cartoons. So go scene by scene identifying what each character wants, what they do to get it, how it effects the overall story. Another fun exercise to try to grab a few of the different scenes that you wrote that have nothing to do with each other and try to connect them. Maybe that means inventing a character or a device.
The other thing is not wanting to write short stories because you enjoy characters too much to have them not have an arc. Short simple stories are how you build to longer ones. I don’t know what genre of cartooning you’re looking at but every major loony toon or Disney character started off in short pieces that defines their POV. Even a lot of super hero’s that became leads started off as bit players in a different story. The longer you spend with them the more depth can come and depth makes for good arcs.
Hope that helps. Good luck.
There's a really good indie movie from 2007 called After Sex where it's just, like, a bunch of couples having conversations after they've just finished having sex. You could always write something like that.
I have the same issue with not being able to write anything other than scenes -or getting bogged down in detail. One thing that helped a little bit was to treat it more as script writing: get the dialogue and rough outline of action down, fill it in later.
I can reassure you that "gag a day" strips with recurring characters can show development over time. While you don't necessarily need a concrete timeline, you can have recurring themes that characters are addressing, so you have a continuing topic and room for character development within that. Maybe you can get through certain topics by utilizing different styles of humour and comedy as suited/needed.
You're well within your rights to stick to gag-a-day — that's a skill set not everyone has, just like plotting longer stories. But I think it's worth at least trying to push yourself to do more, so here's my advice:
There's an old saying about movies, that they're three good scenes and no bad ones. And that's not a bad way to think about writing. I usually don't start writing a story until I have a few setpieces in mind — and those don't have to be action setpieces, they can be key emotional beats in the story, or scenes that effectively establish who the characters are and what their lives are about. The big party at Gatsby's. Atticus Finch facing down the mob. The book hangs on these key moments.
So once you have a few of those key moments in mind, it's just a matter of connecting them. You know you want Hamlet to see the ghost of his father, you know you want him to contemplate suicide and make a big speech about it, and you know you want there to be a big swordfight at the end where everyone dies. So how do you connect those things? Work backwards. Not everyone is going to be swinging a sword in that final scene. So maybe you introduce poison too. In fact, maybe Hamlet's father died of poison, then it feels like things come full circle.
And why is Claudius willing to poison his nephew and heir? And why is Hamlet only now willing to stab Claudius? Hamlet learns Claudius murdered his father and immediately vows revenge? Doesn't work, the play would be over in act I. What if Hamlet isn't sure? What if he spends time accusing Claudius, needling him, until Claudius gets so paranoid he decides he needs to get rid of Hamlet? Now we've got something. And how do we get to that suicide scene? Maybe strip away everyone Hamlet cares about — his father's a ghost he isn't sure is even real or trustworthy; his mother marries his father's murderer; he pushes his girlfriend away... and on top of that he thinks he might be going insane because he's seeing ghosts. Okay, *now* he's at the point where he's ready to contemplate whether to be or not to be.
And now you've gone from three setpieces to a story. I'm not saying it's simple or anyone can do it, but it's not some mysterious talent you either have or don't, it's a process you work at until you get good at it.
I once heard very simple advice that came down to conflict. There is always some form of conflict going on so the scene goes: set the conflict - look at ways to resolve it - resolve it but... - by resolving it you create another conflict. This way the story keeps being engaging and the ‘but...’ always brings something new that has to be resolved so the story keeps evolving.
I had the same problem until someone mentioned Jim Butcher s journal of writing advice. What I learned:
You should focus on sequences between scenes. That's what's missing. After a scene: emotional response - logical analysis - anticipation - choice. In that order. You can play with it of course, but the order is important. Then you start a new scene.
And obviously put everything in an act structure
This is where I think something like a mcguffin is useful. You can write different scenes around the mcguffin, and figure out how to connect them later.
I guess that you could atrend to classes that teach you how to do so. If not, try to read as much as you can of the genre you write, and while you read analyze the different ways others do what you cant.
I don't know if this would help, but if you can write a scene, why did you do it? What's the point of it? What is it connected to? Where does it have its elements from?
Like someone else mentioned, what you need is a story. Writing scenes is a good skill to have, so, if you want to try longer stories, try tying short ones together in theme and having them interconnected. Once you get the feel of it, try your hand at a solid structure with planned out points and milestones.
Are you JJ Abrams?
write short stories instead of novel
I would write short stories that have some type of connection. Set them in the same town or something and allow yourself to add to the overall narrative while exploring smaller stories.
You need an outline.
Invent characters. Make them want something. Make what they want conflict with each other to a greater or lesser degree.
Place obstacles between them and what they want.
Watch them struggle to attain what they want <—the story.
Find your unique perspective, because that’s the story only you can tell.
Have you ever looked into the Snowflake Method? It might be a good fit for you.
It helps you build out your story in a non-linear way. Instead of having a starting point and going forward, you start with a premise for the whole story, and then zoom in closer and closer to see the structure in detail (like the crystal structure of a snowflake).
I'm a big fan because I love structure but think non-linearly when I'm creating.
The how-to is here: [https://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/articles/snowflake-method/](https://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/articles/snowflake-method/)
If writing vignettes are what you’re good at, then do what you’re good at.
My suggestion would be to first do some world-building and develop a cast of characters, and develop the lore of your stories by establishing the histories the characters have with each other.
Once you’ve developed all that, write vignettes about your characters interacting with each other. It could be very short stories that establish their history or relationships, or they could be about how characters interact with each other, or they could just be about the characters existing in the world you’ve created.
I think there could be a demand for that kind of storytelling, especially if you keep your characters and world building consistent through all the stories.
I can’t wait to read what you come up with.
not everyone is good at what they want to be good at.
not trying to be a dick, but i assume you've already exhausted the obvious methods of getting better: taking a course or a workshop, joining a group, etc. etc. if it's still not clicking...maybe you're just not cut out to be a writer?
Have you checked out the [Snowflake method](https://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/articles/snowflake-method/) for story outlines/writing? It sounds as though [you're already doing the beginning steps](https://blog.reedsy.com/snowflake-method/), at least partially. It starts with small things like scenes, characters, and ideas and then builds from there. Have a look and see if that helps.
You're already doing it! :D
Ok, so, lemme slow down a little, but you *can* write longer stories because you're already doing a great job of building the pieces. Literally every long story is just a conglomeration of smaller scenes that are used *as tools* to create the larger story.
The thing it sounds like you're missing is just **a solid through-plot** to connect said scenes.
Now, to get there, here's what you need to do:
* **Define your protagonist's "want".** The more challenging it is to get PLUS the higher the stakes (as in, the consequences of NOT getting the want) work together to define how interesting it may be. **Pro Tip:** *if* you can, find a way to boil down that "want" into something easily definable rather than leaving it as a vague concept (like, "Breaking out of prison" rather than simply "Freedom"). **The more** ***concrete*** **your want, the easier it is for your audience to latch onto.** And honestly, it doesn't have to be *that* *special* of a want right off the bat. Take *Sorry to Bother You*, for example: all Cassius wants is a job. He wants money so that, if his uncle were alive, he'd make him proud. This segues into:
* **Define your antagonist/the challenges getting in the way.** NO MATTER WHAT, every story *ever* told becomes more interesting because of the thing in the way. Telling that story to your roommate about the weirdo who bugged you at the grocery store? That was the challenge to your "want" (getting groceries). Telling the story of the puppy that fell down the stairs? That was the challenge to their want (climbing the stairs). **Every story ever told is defined by the thing in the way of the WANT.** When you're writing your larger through plot, the thing that makes it interesting is to define what gets in your character's way, forcing them to struggle and grow. If you have a sentient antagonist (the *villain!!* dum dum dummmmm!!), the thing that makes them a *good* villain is defining *their* want, with always being one that somehow intersects with the protagonists. They don't have to want the same thing to be interesting, but one person gaining their want should directly prevent the other person from getting theirs, and *THAT* makes an interesting story (How do they both keep stepping up their game to outplay each other?).
* **The plot revolves around the tango of the character trying to get the want, then failing, but growing/learning and trying again, OR, through their growth, redefining what they actually "Want".** K, here's the step that might feel like the "draw the rest of the owl" drawing tutorials, which isn't fair, but I want to keep things brief: a plot is simply when a character tries to get their want, faces the challenge, adjusts because of the challenge, faces the challenge, and on and on until they either get their Want, or fail (tragedy) and readjust to define if they truly wanted it or not. They way you can do this is to think about what funky challenges *you* would have fun reading or writing if a character was trying to get a specific want. Writing about a thief trying to steal some diamonds? Play with ideas that could get in the way, ranging from hecka dangerous (they belong to a mafia lord, who learns the thief's identity and hunts their family) to super silly (the thief forgot to pay their electric bill, and now their fancy gear isn't charged on the day of the heist). This is a spot where you can have fun simply brainstorming ideas, seeing which ones speak to you. Practice listening to your gut, too.
* **\*BONUS\*: Characterization creates interesting challenges!** You've already mentioned how you enjoy your characters. That's great! That's a challenge a lot of writers have trouble with. **Trust your characters to tell you their wants and to define their challenges.** Write your plots where the things they don't like get in the way ("*Why did it have to be snakes??!?*). Let the ideas range from banal ("Oh god, my neighbor never shuts up, and he's right in the way!") to personal phobias and fears based on their backstories ("SNAKES!??!"). A good way to tell your story after you have your character figured out is to simply ask them: What are you trying to get? What would *really suck* if it got in your way?
* **Use your talent for writing scenes as the building blocks by defining THEIR FUNCTION in the plot.** This is where your strength really comes into play. Again, every story ever is just a challenge getting in the way of a want, and every plot ever is simply the progression of scenes that show how that happened. To make your scenes build a larger plot, all you have to do is ask **WHAT/WHY/HOW:** 1) WHAT is its *function?* 2) WHY is this scene important? 3) HOW is this scene going to work to tell the larger plot? When you're writing a scene, ask yourself the reason why that scene exists--its function in telling the larger plot. This will guide your character's actions, they're going to naturally do and say what they need to work toward getting their want. As the storyteller, your role is to find the defining moments (the scenes) that tell the story of your character chasing their want in the most interesting ways. You don't need to show them taking every piss or doing their laundry--*unless* something happens in that scene that is a defining moment (a monke steals their keys, etc) that leads to further challenges.
* **Give yourself permission to write basic, by-the-book plots while you're learning.** As a perfectionist myself, this one is important and I hope it really helps. Your strength, as you've said, comes from your scenes, and it's *great* that you know that. Because you know your weakness lies in creating a larger plot, give yourself permission to write a very basic plot for your characters while you're learning. Don't hold your characters as sacred, everyone has a standard "he wants to get the girl" plot at some point, and that's ok. You're learning, and the only way to get better is to practice the fundamentals until you learn how they work, then expand on them with the creativity you will naturally learn. Give yourself some credit: you're a creator. You have a creative mind and imagination. When you learn how to do the basics (like walking) you'll learn how to do wild and crazy stuff (like dancing, or powerlifting).
A story is nothing but a string of scenes arranged in an impactful and cohesive way.
Decide on which story you want to tell, then compose a list of scenes in an order that tells this story.
Check out the book: 20 Master Plots and How to Build Them by Ronald Tobias. It breaks down basic story arcs using familiar examples. It's a really good reference, especially if you just want to pick one type and just read the Chapter as a roadmap. It taught me a lot about structure so maybe itll help you?
A long story is just a large collection of scenes. Do what you do, end the scene, start the next one, repeat. Imagine it like a play where you have to drop the curtain after every scene ends.
How do you write a scene?
Ask yourself “And then what?” What happens next as a result of the scene you just wrote. Keep doing that. I’m a pantser, and hate “outlining”. At least I thought I did until I realized that my first, zeroth?, draft of my stories are just really, really detailed outlines. But, the thing that helps me keep writing is the question “And then what?”
Biggest mistake I see on this reddit is the assumption that writing long pieces isn't a collection of scenes.
I would just suggest writing flash pieces or short stories with the same characters from the same general area (even if they never meet) to learn about them and just naturally youll likely make pieces longer over time. Don't worry about writing Absalom, Absalom right now - just learn about characters and side characters and over time I feel like a greater arc will come up. I wrote like 50+ short stories with largely the same 3 characters as the protagonists, and I just naturally worked my way through a novel with one of them, and then I had a backlog of life stories for all these characters and side characters that were able to be integrated, which made a kind of fun, Faulkner-esque smattering of folks to choose from that have histories that may not even be seen in the smaller ethos of the novel I wrote or novels I plan to write, but it definitely makes it easier to know the dark secrets and kindnesses that all your characters have, and then use that created knowledge to make them more fully fleshed out in a novel.
Tl;dr: Keep writing flash fiction with the same few protagonists from a similar place and then you'll learn enough about them and the area that you'll have longer form short stories, then you'll eventually just write longer pieces when you get the vague plan for a novel (I just started with "what would happen if this character's estranged father died and he went to the funeral" and pulled/created characters as needed).
The Writers Journey is the best resource I've found on how to build a good, compelling plot.
I feel you, I can usually get around page 100-130 and I feel like I'm running out of steam. Honestly, when that happens I think of the next step in the heroes journey and try pusing through. I also frequently write myself into corners of not knowing what to do, so I remind myself that the character is there too, and they can't just quit and go to another story, so how do THEY try and solve the problem? It might not work, and that's fine, but they need to make a decision, not me, so what would it be? Most of my best writing comes from getting myself out of corners.
I’m not a proper writer, but if it helps, maybe you should start bigger/vaguer and then work inwards.
Think about what your stories message is, or what it is about, the tone, genre and theme, then everything else should revolve around that core. Write characters and scenarios that fit with the bigger picture.
For example: The Lord of the Rings is a sprawling fantasy world, and the story, an adventure to stop the dark lord Sauron seems built to fit the fantasy to me. Likewise, Jekyll and Hyde is built around themes of duality and reputation, with mystery.
Again I’m not a writer, but getting a variety of opinions (from writers and non writers) may be helpful.
Oof I have the opposite problems. I can think of a larger greater scale story and plot, but individual scenes where I need to think of how a scenario needs to play out to connect two parts of the greater plot point of the story, I blank out. I wish I had your skillset.
i have the exact same problem! i love writing interesting scenarios and watching how certain types of characters act in them and how they interact with each other... i think that is why i write in the first place, for that type of escapism and general interest in people. but an overarching plot with actual conflict? i don’t know her
for me the main issue is that my longer stories come out boring. i love my characters too much to make them face any serious trouble. any problem is resolved too soon because i simply don’t enjoy that experience.
so the solution is either to accept that my stuff would be boring for anyone else but me, or try to force myself to explore different things and improve... because after all i would like to have a few finished stories at some point
I’ve been hearing good things about Plottr. You could look into it and see if it’s something that may help you lengthen your stories.
In a story, you must pay attention to the details that are on your mind. Even if it is something ridiculous, it can be useful for the beauty of the writing. Think about the beginning, the characters and the posible ending before you start.
Try to find the best place to write. Sometimes I write on my phone because in the PC I feel, most of the time, obligated to write, feeling pressure. That happens to me, and then, I look for other options, such as a laptop, tablet, or phone.
If you're passionate about a story on your mind, treat it like that. Be friend of the story, like it were happening in real life. Remember that you're in control of everything. It is YOUR story, so that means that you can do WHATEVER you want with it.
A writer always wants more, and more. It is obsessed with perfection. A story will never convice ourselves, but sometimes we do not realize that we're doing a great job. Maybe this is your case.
Keep trying, practice. Read everyday, and write every single day of your life.
I send my regards, and I hope this helps you in some way :)
Keep writing scenes. The write the scenes that go between those. Then the ones that go between those. Before long you'll have a story.
It's a myth that writing has to be liner.