Would you start writing with only some of a story plotted out?

I’ve been stuck for a while on what to do about SP4 for most throughlines. I know what I want to happen at the end in OS, but I’m not sure how to get there and that’s just plot that has nothing to do with the PSR report sources of conflict (from what I can see. I get the impression that some people see those storybeats as predictive and meaningful, but they feel arbitrary to my story. Do people just get something that I don’t or is this normal?). I don’t know how to end other throughlines either-- my IC/Protag is the same character, so his function as the character who pushes the MC to grow seems to blend both, so I don’t feel that throughline very distinctly, and I’m not sure what the relationship is about other than it goes from friends to lovers and ends well.

Would it be a good idea to just start writing from the beginning, where the story is stronger and clearer and hope that somehow it works out in the end? Or is it a bad idea to start without all my storybeats written out and organized by act? I don’t want to risk writing myself into a dead end.

2 Likes

There are lots of people who pants their way from beginning to end, so looking at it from that perspective, you are waaay ahead of the game. You should start writing.

Discovering who your characters are is the best way to sort out story beats you don’t know. You should start writing.

Some playwrights purposefully write themselves into a corner because that means nobody knows how to get out of whatever dilemma! It’s a great way to make sure the story is surprising. You should start writing.

I always assume my first draft is going to be crap anyway, so now you have an excuse as to why. You should start writing.

5 Likes

Definitely start writing now. I’ve found from experience that the position you’re in now is the absolute best position to be in (at least for me):

So you know what you’re aiming for but not the exact path. That’s perfect. It’s like you’re going on a hike to a mountain pass – you can see the pass from far away, you might even have a map (your storyform and the illustrations you’ve got). But you don’t know exactly how many steps it will be, what the sky will look like as you approach the pass, how many times you’ll stop for water, etc. That stuff has to come as part of the journey, or there’s no point going at all.

I’ve found this to be true too – like if I’m starting a story and know the storyform, the Act 1 beats make a lot of sense, but Act 2,3,4 are progressively less clear. Until I get there in the draft, and then they make perfect sense (though often only in hindsight, after I come up with a good idea and then realize afterwards how well it matches the storybeat).

4 Likes

I would guess that your storyform still needs some adoptions to the story you really want to tell. It’s always a surprise when I open the PSR the first time once I have completed a storyform. Usually when I get stuck working the details out it’s because my storyform needs still some changes.

You could start writing and see where it takes you. You will learn new thinks about your story which will help you to get closer to the storyform of your story. But I would not expect that your current storyform will be the last one. I personally don’t start writing the actually story but use whatever storyform I have to start writing synopsis after synopsis.

How to keep the Throughlines seperate and make them also distinctive is for me also often the trickiest part. I posted my approach here:

2 Likes

To make the PSR more „visible“ and keep the four Throughlines separate I am using a Word file like…

This table is build from the PSR report. I print it out and focus on one column at the time. When done I also use it to write scenes.

The good thing here is, you always see/read what’s going on in the three other Throughlines while focusing on one.

2 Likes

Always remember Mitchell writing Gone With the Wind, and finally surrendering (within herself) to the fact that Scarlett was her main character heroine, not Melanie.

1 Like

I’m very interested in experimenting with your approach at some point @Gernot.

So for my recently completed draft, I penciled in only the signposts all the way through, and even that I kept really loose. Then I outlined just a few scenes ahead of where I was writing, using the PSR and Subtext’s instant scenes mainly to brainstorm or enrich the plot. I found this hybrid approach to be really useful because I always had some idea where I was going, but never felt like I was getting boxed in. Even so, I had to make tons of notes changing things about the first part of the story as I figured things out as I went. What I have now is a very messy first draft – but I finally understand the story and the characters (so I’m excited about the second pass).

FWIW I’m not even looking at Dramatica or Subtext for the second pass (yet–maybe I will at some point) because I can feel the story now, and I want to focus on fluid storytelling rather than trying to make sure every single beat conforms to the storyform.

I do think this gets better with practice, but that might be easier with practice stories rather than your actual work in progress. Doing @jhull’s playground exercises a bunch of times – even though they never yielded stories I actually was going to write – was invaluable to start to get the feel for it. Also Armando’s examples in Dramatica for Screenwriters.

But for your current project, @SharkCat I agree with @mlucas and @MWollaeger that you should just start writing.

2 Likes