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sunandshadow

Plot diagram, please evaluate

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sunandshadow    7426
Dunno if anyone remembers that I have been off-and-on working on a how-to-write book, but this diagram is for the book, I would love some feedback about whether anything in it seems confusing, wrong, or missing. [smile]

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Elhrrah    148
Bystander's goals.

Primary Protagonist's secondary goals.

Primary Antagonist's primary/secondary goals.

Fear/Threat/Desire for protag/antag bystanders.

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sunandshadow    7426
Quote:
Original post by Elhrrah
Bystander's goals.

Primary Protagonist's secondary goals.

Primary Antagonist's primary/secondary goals.

Fear/Threat/Desire for protag/antag bystanders.


Thanks for responding. :) Hmm, interesting. For Bystanders in general, I would say that although they do have goals, fears, threats, and desires, these should be created a step later in the main plot because they exist to support the main plot or provide humor. Probably the same applies to secondary goals of any character.

But the Antagonist's goal, that's a thornier issue. What the antagonist's goal is varies a lot - he may want the protagonist dead, he may want power or wealth or his love interest which may or may not be the protagonist's love interest or the protagonist, he may want the end of the world, or what if the antagonist is a mountain or weather, do those really have goals? o.O Sometimes the protagonist's and antagonist's goals are directly opposed but sometimes they are only tangentially so. Makes it quite confusing how to visually represent it. But great point, I'll have to ponder over it more, and you gave me the idea for making layered diagrams showing different steps in the development process.

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popsoftheyear    2194
Why are avoidance and denial/resolve to change different? Maybe it's just me but on an already somewhat crammed graph (from the opinion of someone who doesn't do much writing or graph-making), avoidance seems like it would just be a special case of denial/resolve to change desire.

Cheers
-Scott

[edit] Sorry. And what is "tester"?

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sunandshadow    7426
Quote:
Original post by popsoftheyear
Why are avoidance and denial/resolve to change different? Maybe it's just me but on an already somewhat crammed graph (from the opinion of someone who doesn't do much writing or graph-making), avoidance seems like it would just be a special case of denial/resolve to change desire.

Thanks for responding! [smile] I pondered that one a bit while making the diagram, but I intended avoidance to mean a roundabout way of trying to get to the goal but avoiding all conflict; so avoidance would the the protag somewhat closer to the goal but probably trapped or stuck, while denial would take the character toward a false goal and farther away from the true goal.

Quote:
And what is "tester"?


A Tester is like a threshold guardian, a mentor, a fairy godmother, any character who is capable of both punishing and rewarding the protagonist depending on whether the protag demonstrates a good character trait, usually by passing a test, or demonstrates a character flaw/fails a test. Also a tester can bee a minor villain who joins the protag's side after being defeated, or who gives up a useful treasure to the protag after being defeated.

This info would be included in the chapter that the diagram (soon to become a series of diagrams) will go with. [smile]

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Trapper Zoid    1370
It looks too confusing to me: an explosion of colour, arrows and labels. You've used the same font (both typeface and size) for all the labels, so it's hard to see what label goes where.

I'd keep the same typeface for each label, but play around with the font size, bolding and italics and positioning of the labels to make it clearer. Maybe also using boxes or lines, or incorporating the labels into the arrows.

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sunandshadow    7426
Quote:
Original post by Shadowwoelf
Its kinda confusing. I don't even know where to start with the diagram or where it even ends. Also the the bystanders arrows aren't that clear.


What do you mean starts or ends? It doesn't start or end. It's a vector map, not a flowchart. Each arrow represents movement from the beginning of the story toward its ending, the preferred ending being the pink X marked goal. Assorted factors are pushing the protagonist both toward it and away from it. You look at the diagram by picking as a focus whatever you are most interested in at the moment - your protagonist and his motivations? Your story's goal and the requirements guarding it? What factors you might use to move your protagonist toward or away from a false goal?

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sunandshadow    7426
Quote:
Original post by Trapper Zoid
It looks too confusing to me: an explosion of colour, arrows and labels. You've used the same font (both typeface and size) for all the labels, so it's hard to see what label goes where.

I'd keep the same typeface for each label, but play around with the font size, bolding and italics and positioning of the labels to make it clearer. Maybe also using boxes or lines, or incorporating the labels into the arrows.


Yeah, more formatting may help clarity.

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popsoftheyear    2194
Did you add more arrows to the bystanders while I was gone? Another thought... this kind of reminds me of the flow of code in a 20 yr old code base I have to work with daily. When it gets this interdependant (code flow), as I'm sure you're probably aware of, perhaps rethinking the whole design is in order (but it can still have the same beginning and end results in mind).

So back to how-to-writing-world...

Now I'm not saying the ideas behind it all is bad, but maybe just some simplifications like splitting this off into a couple graphs. I know you spoke of layered graphs, but I mean more along the lines of purpose. For instance, maybe have one chart to show which characters can affect which other characters, and in what way they affect them (which you have obviously done). But then in a separate graph, each characters choices might be illustrated, or perhaps the different paths that lead to a goal, whether it be the good goal or an "off" goal.

To one that might buy a book on "how to write" (ie, someone who can't write very well), it just seems confusing, almost obfuscated. Anyway good luck it looks quite interesting thus far!

Cheers
-Scott

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stimarco    1071

If I saw a "How-To" book with a diagram like that in it, I'd put it right back on the shelf and run screaming from the bookstore and into the nearest optician.

First of all, you need to separate Inputs, Outputs and Processes as you have all three jumbled together in a nasty tangle. You don't have to cram everything into one diagram, so don't. Flowchart-style diagrams work well for Process-centric illustrations, so create one if necessary. (The "Tester" would be a flowchart decision diamond, for example.)

From a graphic design perspective: The human silhouettes are utterly unnecessary and take up far too much space without conveying any useful information in and of themselves. Use simple blocks and shapes, not complex silhouettes -- perhaps just use text and arrows alone.

You have five active elements: the Protagonist, the Antagonist, the two Bystanders and the Tester. (The Goal and False Goal elements are passive.) One of these elements, the Protagonist, lends itself to being at the core of the diagram, so I would therefore place the Protagonist in the centre, with the other active elements at each of the four sides.


The two sets of Bystanders project the exact same interface -- "Info (True, False... etc.)" -- to other elements, yet only one of the arrows projecting from each of the Bystander elements has the label. Other elements expose multiple interfaces, with each arrow labelled. You also have two arrows -- "Epiphany" and "Desire" -- coming in from nowhere. Where do these come from?

I suggest a rethink about exactly what you want the diagram to convey, and also whether it would be better to split the information over multiple diagrams.

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ruby-lang    232
Can't the two bystander groups be collapsed into one group? They seem to serve the same purpose. Or better yet, receive their own diagram.

I think Sean covered most of the important points (I think the silhouettes look good, though, just make antagonist and protagonist be the same size to give the diagram a bit more symmetry) but I'd like to add that you should try to align all figures in an imaginary grid and keep as many arrows as possible straight vertical or horizontal. It will look much neater that way.

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sunandshadow    7426
Quote:
Original post by ruby-lang
Can't the two bystander groups be collapsed into one group? They seem to serve the same purpose. Or better yet, receive their own diagram.


Receive their own diagram, yes; be collapsed into one group, I pondered over this but it won't work. Actually I was thinking of changing the term 'bystanders' to 'faction members' because that explains better what they are and the range of things they do. Think of Romeo and Juliet - these are the Montagues and the Capulets. Or if anyone's not familiar with Romeo and Juliet, these are like the pirates vs. the goblins' steamwheedle cartel in WoW. the Yes the two groups are fundamentally the same kind of thing, but the conflict between the two is important and can't be seen if they are combined.

The degree at which the arrows are angled is actually meaningful in relation to the two goals, but I agree that the arrows need cleaned up somehow.

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sunandshadow    7426
Quote:
Original post by stimarco

If I saw a "How-To" book with a diagram like that in it, I'd put it right back on the shelf and run screaming from the bookstore and into the nearest optician.

First of all, you need to separate Inputs, Outputs and Processes as you have all three jumbled together in a nasty tangle. You don't have to cram everything into one diagram, so don't. Flowchart-style diagrams work well for Process-centric illustrations, so create one if necessary. (The "Tester" would be a flowchart decision diamond, for example.)

From a graphic design perspective: The human silhouettes are utterly unnecessary and take up far too much space without conveying any useful information in and of themselves. Use simple blocks and shapes, not complex silhouettes -- perhaps just use text and arrows alone.

You have five active elements: the Protagonist, the Antagonist, the two Bystanders and the Tester. (The Goal and False Goal elements are passive.) One of these elements, the Protagonist, lends itself to being at the core of the diagram, so I would therefore place the Protagonist in the centre, with the other active elements at each of the four sides.


The two sets of Bystanders project the exact same interface -- "Info (True, False... etc.)" -- to other elements, yet only one of the arrows projecting from each of the Bystander elements has the label. Other elements expose multiple interfaces, with each arrow labelled. You also have two arrows -- "Epiphany" and "Desire" -- coming in from nowhere. Where do these come from?

I suggest a rethink about exactly what you want the diagram to convey, and also whether it would be better to split the information over multiple diagrams.


Human figures are a lot more memorable than boxes, but perhaps they are too big. The protagonist definitely doesn't belong in the middle though. The icon of the protagonist represents this character at the beginning of the story, while the goal and primary antagonist belong at the end of the story, or possibly the antagonist could go off to one side to show that he can appear at multiple points throughout the story and that the goal isn't in his area of influence. I oriented them left to right to be consistent with Freytag's Pyramid and similar diagrams which have set the standard for plot structure diagrams, although it would be equally valid if the progress through the plot was oriented top to bottom or bottom to top.

Yes, definitely going to split this up into multiple diagrams so it is not all crammed together. The arrows from the bystanders all do the same things, just toward different recipients: the protag, the antag, and the other group of bystanders. But I agree this is inconsistent and I should rethink it. Also the tester is technically a bystander, but doesn't seem like one at all from the current version of the diagram.

I wondered if anyone was going to notice Epiphany and Desire. [grin] These two things basically originate from authorial fiat, although they tend to be identified with he protag's heart/soul or with an external spiritual force. Both epiphany and desire would belong to a category of event called inspiration. An inspiration is basically a character suddenly getting an idea or changing an opinion, ostensibly because they experienced or witnessed something, but really it's purely authorial fiat that whatever they experienced or witnessed caused that particular new idea or changed opinion. Possibly the antagonist should have one too, that goes along with the question of whether the antagonist should have his own goal.

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sunandshadow    7426
Quote:
Original post by popsoftheyear
Did you add more arrows to the bystanders while I was gone? Another thought... this kind of reminds me of the flow of code in a 20 yr old code base I have to work with daily. When it gets this interdependent (code flow), as I'm sure you're probably aware of, perhaps rethinking the whole design is in order (but it can still have the same beginning and end results in mind).

So back to how-to-writing-world...

Now I'm not saying the ideas behind it all is bad, but maybe just some simplifications like splitting this off into a couple graphs. I know you spoke of layered graphs, but I mean more along the lines of purpose. For instance, maybe have one chart to show which characters can affect which other characters, and in what way they affect them (which you have obviously done). But then in a separate graph, each characters choices might be illustrated, or perhaps the different paths that lead to a goal, whether it be the good goal or an "off" goal.

To one that might buy a book on "how to write" (ie, someone who can't write very well), it just seems confusing, almost obfuscated. Anyway good luck it looks quite interesting thus far!

Cheers
-Scott


Yes, I added some bystander arrows about 5-10 min after I first made the thread. This book is not intended for beginners, it will be an intermediate or advanced book which requires the reader to already be familiar with some of the basics of writing theory such as Freytag's Pyramid and the Hero's Journey model (although they will be briefly recapped); but, it's always good to aim for simplicity and clarity. Purpose seems like a good principle to use to decide what should go in which layer as I break the diagram up. (My main organizing principle is going to be chronology of design, but that tends to be based on purpose anyway.

I had a good chuckle at the idea of reworking the design to make it less interdependent. The thing is, it's not my design, I'm only trying to describe the anatomy and internal processes of stories in general. Like a diagram of the water cycle or a food web or a human's internal organs. I would even say that interdependence is considered a virtue in stories, it goes along with phrases like 'tightly plotted', 'systematic worldbuilding', 'consistent characters', and 'Aristotelian unity' or 'thematic unity'. Non-interdependent stories are 'episodic', 'unplotted', 'inconsistent', 'random', laden with 'coincidence', and probably 'shallow', which are generally considered negative traits, at least by modern critics. But yeah, I do understand that interdependence inherently makes a structure harder to understand and is a bad thing in code.

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popsoftheyear    2194
Quote:
Original post by sunandshadow
I had a good chuckle at the idea of reworking the design to make it less interdependent. The thing is, it's not my design, I'm only trying to describe the anatomy and internal processes of stories in general. Like a diagram of the water cycle or a food web or a human's internal organs. I would even say that interdependence is considered a virtue in stories, it goes along with phrases like 'tightly plotted', 'systematic worldbuilding', 'consistent characters', and 'Aristotelian unity' or 'thematic unity'. Non-interdependent stories are 'episodic', 'unplotted', 'inconsistent', 'random', laden with 'coincidence', and probably 'shallow', which are generally considered negative traits, at least by modern critics. But yeah, I do understand that interdependence inherently makes a structure harder to understand and is a bad thing in code.

Sorry I didn't mean to imply that it should be less interdependant (chuckle understood), but that there were better methods in conveying the interdependance that would sort of break it up into more edible chunks. I think there was enough further discussion about this from other posters that I need not try to go there at this point though. Anyway I look forward to an updated version :)

Cheers
-Scott

[edit] On another level I would think that the diagram is really too simple and that there would be many more variables. One that comes to mind is environment. Assuming it is not the primary antagonist (or I suppose protagonist in some rare stories), it may have a major affect on the decisions, actions, and even goals of both parties as well as bystanders. Maybe I'm way off... just a thought...

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stimarco    1071
Quote:
Original post by sunandshadow
Quote:
Original post by stimarco
...snipped. See original post above...


Human figures are a lot more memorable than boxes, but perhaps they are too big.


Why do you care if they're memorable? This is an explanatory diagram, not a work of art. You're not trying to communicate the protagonist's ennui through the medium of coloured arrows: you're trying to convey information. Focus on the function, not the form.

At the moment, you're trying to cross something like this with something like this.

The first is a page showing interfaces -- connections, if you prefer. The second link is to a flowchart diagram which illustrates a sequential process. The latter has a time element, while the former does not. These two kinds of diagram are incompatible and attempts at combining the two are more likely to confuse than illuminate.


Quote:

The protagonist definitely doesn't belong in the middle though. The icon of the protagonist represents this character at the beginning of the story, while the goal and primary antagonist belong at the end of the story, or possibly the antagonist could go off to one side to show that he can appear at multiple points throughout the story and that the goal isn't in his area of influence. I oriented them left to right to be consistent with Freytag's Pyramid and similar diagrams which have set the standard for plot structure diagrams, although it would be equally valid if the progress through the plot was oriented top to bottom or bottom to top.


That suggests you're trying to illustrate a process. I'd go for something similar to a flowchart. You can show how the various elements interact and affect the sequence.

E.g. the diagram would explain processes like this:

Quote:
"Protag meets Tester. IF Protag HAS LEARNED x THEN Tester SHOWS Goal TO Protag ELSE Tester DIVERTS Protag TO False Goal".


(See my earlier flowchart link, above, for an example of how this kind of information could be conveyed in a more visual format.)


And now I'll remove my graphic designer hat...

Quote:

I wondered if anyone was going to notice Epiphany and Desire. [grin] These two things basically originate from authorial fiat, although they tend to be identified with he protag's heart/soul or with an external spiritual force. Both epiphany and desire would belong to a category of event called inspiration. An inspiration is basically a character suddenly getting an idea or changing an opinion, ostensibly because they experienced or witnessed something, but really it's purely authorial fiat that whatever they experienced or witnessed caused that particular new idea or changed opinion. Possibly the antagonist should have one too, that goes along with the question of whether the antagonist should have his own goal.


I'm not entirely convinced by the authorial fiat argument:

An epiphany should stem from a character's knowledge and experiences. It's that penny-dropping, light-bulb moment, when a bunch of puzzle pieces suddenly click together in your brain. These don't come from nowhere. The external input is the environment -- which could be the setting itself, or perhaps something said by another character. The internal input is the character's knowledge and experiences. The process that causes an epiphany to happen requires both inputs.

Desire is essentially characterisation. It's what drives the character throughout the story. You could argue that this is therefore an authorial input, but for the reader to keep on reading, those desires must fit into the context of the character. When you create your character, you have to give it a history, a background of experiences and knowledge that define its behaviour and provide its energy and drive. The character's desires and aspirations have to make sense and fit with what we know about the character.

When that moment of epiphany comes, causing the protagonist to switch to the One True Goal, the reason for his change of desire must also make sense. If it feels too forced or contrived, the reader will spot this and their suspension of disbelief will falter. That epiphany must not only come from the characterisation, but it must also be seen to do so.


Epiphany is a process; Desire is an input. A diagram illustrating the various elements needed to build a believable character might be a better place for Desire.

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Cpt Mothballs    100
I can't really say much without knowing the context of the diagram hey.

Besides, you can't do a 'how-to-write' book without doing a blanket term thing and story writing is 90% opinion and conjecture anyways.

So, to be honest, for you to create a definitive diagram, you would need to include all aspects including impact on the world (butterfly effect) and the effects of the actions and imbalances on the flow of the world, on top of how they affect the character's actions and choices, plus the fact that each individual 'bystander' would have their own wants and desires which can sometimes become more than just sub-plots.

Story writing is serious biznazz.

Yeah.

I don't know.

Disregard this if it's actually off-topic.

Oh and just as a hindsight side note, perhaps you should rework placement of the little peoples to convey an image of a central character (or characters).
And the lines are confusing and stuff.
Maybe if you're going to do it, make it bigger and give each coloured line a kind of key with a legend in the corner.

You know, outer forces and such could be one colour and decisions and stuff another.
Just doing this as I go along, haha.

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