Anyone have any pointers on planning out an episodic story arc like in a TV show?
I’ve always been fascinated with how a show’s story arcs progress and the whole process of coming up with the ideas. Especially with the number of writers, producers and creative minds are involved with plotting/developing a show. I watched all of SG-1 with the commentaries on (for every episodes they are available) and ate up all the little tidbits about the behind the scenes writing and producing.
Anyway… my NaNo endeavor this year (I refuse to call it a novel or a story because it’s not really either) is going to be plotted out like a TV show. It will be made up of shorter stories linked together. I’ll probably refer to them as “episodes” from time to time because that’s how I view them in my head but I’m not writing it script style. They’ll be full stories just not 50k words each (I hope). We’ll see how the “pilot” story goes before I decide on a word count per story. I’m hoping to keep them kind of even with the first story being twice as long as the others (a double episode!). There will probably only be a few episodes included in my NaNo but this is all for me. It’s just one of those projects I’ve always wanted to do and NaNo is the perfect time to try it out.
Anyway, plot is kind of an issue. Mostly in that many of my stories have none. At least not when I start writing. I might have an idea of what’s supposed to happen but I don’t really think about it. I just start writing and it usually works itself out. If it doesn’t than the story doesn’t get done and no one ever sees it (and I slowly go mad with my growing pile of “in progress” works that scream to be finished).
As with my character post I want to be a little more prepared this year. Especially since I’m writing original fic. I’ve learned through some fictionland challenges this year that I can play around with my own created universes and write stories for them as if I’m writing fanfic. Only difference is I’m the only fan and the only one that knows what’s going on, lol.
So, in my head I see me kind of planning out a TV show. What *I* would like to see happen in each episode and then writing it fanfic style. I’ll be my biggest fan. I hope. I’d hate to write something I dislike. Hmmm.
Yeah, so I want to write something epic. Which takes planning as I discovered last year because my “epic” SG-1 novel is still unfinished (*cries and stomps feet*).
So this is my plot planning post (who’s the queen of alliteration?)
My main story arc is that Logan (our intrepid hero) is thrown into the future while on a mission to the moon (which takes place in our future to begin with…timeline isn’t set yet). The time flux that caused his own temporal leap begins showing up all over the galaxy. If they don’t figure out where it came from or a way to stop it the flux will tear the entire universe apart.
Yeah, generic (it’s much better in my head, I swear).
That would be the main story arc for a “season” of stories/episodes. The overlying motive of Logan but probably won’t become glaringly obvious until several stories in.
Another story arc will be his animosity for the “leaders” of the ship he’s on for their support of the cultural slave society. He doesn’t understand the workings of the world they live in or how slaves fit in but because in his time enslaving someone is morally wrong he fights against it. He has to learn his own place in their world. So’Fey and Del help him come to terms with that. But, because of his own ethics he can’t ever stop fighting for the inherent freedom he believes all people should have even if he has to accept that he probably won’t see any change in his lifetime.
But that leads to him having to make alliances with the “leaders” that he despises so, having them come to some kind of understanding (mostly with him and the chief and Captain Bay). When Bay is gone and the chief seems to slip over to Logan’s side the antagonist will switch to the new captain (Mr. No Name).
My big problem is deciding on more short term arcs. The ones for individual stories. The pilot is pretty easy as it’s taken up mostly with setup stuff–introducing characters and setting up the story arcs themselves. Pilot episodes are usually too rushed or seem overly “talkative” as characters flat out explain everything that’s going on. Like the horrible opening of Angel where Doyle gives a rundown of Angel’s history from start until the end of Buffy season 3. Lame and hard to watch if you were a fan of Buffy first and already knew the story. And just plain lame if you have no clue what’s going on because it sounds completely forced and stupid because Angel already knows his own history. Joss does much better in Firefly… sort of, it’s hard to tell with FOX fucking with the schedule so badly. I liked his slow introduction of characters… except for the part that he never really gets around to showing their background because the show was canceled so quickly.
I’m aiming for somewhere in between. With some stuff quickly put out there but the background stuff being reveled more slowly (like Del’s history of being a princess sold into slavery by her own father and her being a “prisoner” of the ship after Bay dies).
I have a few more “concrete” (and, yeah, I’m use quotes all over the place in this post… imagine me giving this post orally with lots of air-quotes all over the place because I really have no clue what I’m talking about, lol) scenes in my head for the pilot story. As in I can picture Logan and his team on the moon and losing contact with Earth. Then they finally get a view and the planet shifts from a lush green and blue ball below (or above or from the side… 3 dimensional space confuses me) them to a debris field. That’s immediately followed by mass confusion by the astronauts and then things get really weird as the world (or moon as it is) around them begins to flux, fading in and out–the gray dirt and rocks of the Moon suddenly replaced by polished stone and windows and many people wandering around.
Then I have a vague idea of how Logan will meet So’Fey in lock up after he’s dragged away from what’s left of his landing pod and crew (who die because they happen to be standing right where there’s a wall when the future shifts into their reality–or they shift into the future to be more accurate). He’s confused, scared and more than a little upset, yelling for someone to tell him what’s going on. They think he’s crazy and stolen a costume from the museum (the space suit) so they strip him and lock him up. So’Fey then helps calm him down and figures out what happened to him.
I also have a sort of vague idea of how he’ll meet Del but I’m not sure I want to use it. I’m not really sure how I want to revel her character. One idea is to have him literally run into her as So’Fey is leading him to her quarters or where ever it is she sleeps so she can get him some clothes and keep him calm. But it would be really short as he just bumps into her and she glares and walks off. It could be he’s really taken by her (love at first site kind of set up without the love… just interest) or he doesn’t notice her at all because he’s so confused.
Or I could wait until later in the episode when he’s introduced to Captain Bay since she’s like his 2nd in command without the command part (getting things done in the background without any of the recognition or perks). Where, once again he can either notice her or completely miss her because she is so common. Either way her history will be reveled later on and slowly. First the realization that she’s Bay’s slave. Then later still that she doesn’t mind being a slave really and then the story of her entry into slavery (her father selling her) and finally what happened to her as a slave (mainly the brothel stuff because that’s the most serious stuff in Logan’s mind… it will sort of taint his image of her).
Other than that happening in the first story I’m not sure what else I plan. I had thought of killing Bay off before Logan meets him but then decided I wanted him to actually know the captain so he can see the contrast between Bay (who he thinks is a monster for allowing the slave trading) and No Name who really is a monster. There’s also going to be another time flux while Logan’s on the ship (which would probably be mid-story so right around the end of hour 1 in a 2 hour pilot episode, leading into the bigger problem at hand).
But I really don’t know how I want to work it. I think I’m going to get my notebook and just write down a bunch of permutations to see which ones I like the best.
I do have some broader story arcs in my head like the time flux keeps disrupting areas of the galaxy like the Moon. Sometimes the ship will jump times and other times other ships will or whole plants. I envision one story where the ship stops at a known trading planet (as part of the pilgrimage or to refuel or whatever it is the ship does to keep ferrying people to religious sites) only to find the entire planet is out of sync chronologically (real nice timey-wimey stuff). The people and the technology on the planet are from several hundred years in the past are just as confused as Logan was. But it takes awhile for the pilgrims to realize it causing all sorts of issues on the planet and for the ship.
Another will have the entire ship transported in time only to be taken back to their original time (or close to it). Eventually all this time hopping begins to takes its toll on the ship and people. Some of them start looking for a scapegoat and realize all their problems begin when Logan, a strange stranger, first appears on the ship. He has to convince him that he didn’t cause the flux and will probably be aided by So’Fey. Who devoutly believes Logan is some kind of god-incarnate.
For other episode-stories I’m just going to raid tvtropes sci-fi tropes list, lol. All my favorites will get an episode. I just have to write them all down and decide which order to do them. If I was really daring I’d put them in a hat and draw them at random. But I think I want the storyline to make more sense than that. We’ll see.
I’ll use non-sci-fi tropes, too, of course. I’m sure the characters will easily snap into a trope because they’re meant to. I’m not going for overly complicated here. Maybe in later stories if I ever feel like continuing the series. There’s always room for character development, right?
There is so much planning to do and, as usual, I left it to the last minute. There’s, what? 21 days until NaNo starts to plan this stuff out.
So, yeah, this post isn’t all that helpful. Well, maybe slightly in it got some ideas on paper and sorted out. Any trope requests out there? Favorites you want me to fit in somehow? Ideas for story arcs/plot twists. TV shows are written by multiple writers so all suggestions are welcome.