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Brandon Sanderson Lecture 2: What makes a good plot (1/5)

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Brandon discusses the essential elements of good plots and engaging stories. Next up: Plots by outlining at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arhb_G3A5X0. See the entire class in one place with notes at http://www.writeaboutdragons.com/home/brandon_w2012/ Help us caption & translate this video! http://amara.org/v/CVfb/
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Text Comments (108)
MountainRain (5 months ago)
Skin = cleared Depression = cured Hat = bowler
Smokey Moment (7 months ago)
This man is brilliant
Frank Batty (3 months ago)
Smokey Moment not only is he awesome at what he does, he is making this public knowledge where most other writers do not
timevampire83 (7 months ago)
Pimp hat!
Dark Truth (1 year ago)
This guy must consume 3,000 calories ever lecture. It’s ridiculous.
Mattofcolumbia1783 (1 year ago)
So is he somewhat advising us to make protagonists ambitious in the "reaction" part?
Codey Pendent (1 year ago)
Glad ya ditched the hat, Brandon.
dutz10 (1 year ago)
His hat is beautiful and we love his butt. Shut up you h8ers!
Jon Harbour (1 year ago)
He is an extraordinary genius of storytelling.
corm1000 (1 year ago)
I absolutely agree, with what he said about history. I think there are a lot of stories in history many of them obscure and little known that would translate very well into a fantasy novel.
Ron Sparks (1 year ago)
The phone going and Brandon smiling due to the timing. Some things you can't write. For everything else, there's MasterCard
Mark JN (1 year ago)
Summary: Make your protagonist active. Protagonists should have passions, goals, related to setting, to other characters. Active protagonists are extremely compelling to us. Brainstorm setting: where is this taking place? Place characters at the intersection of conflict points. Put characters in conflict , for example, with a major religion or conflict with someone else. Perhaps read history for examples of interesting situations. Hannibal marching elephants over the alps. George R. R. Martin / War of the Roses into Game of Thrones.
Saurabh Kokane (1 year ago)
thank you, sir.
Faris Azri Aswandi (1 year ago)
Really loving the series so far.
Carlos Emanuel Martins (2 years ago)
9:25 - just admired the way the solved the situation , realy calm , not ruching making a plan , its impresive .
Ghty Fthy (2 years ago)
Well thanks for the spoiler, Brandon fucking Sanders. The dark lord won. great no need to buy the other 2 books.
VintageColaPC1 (2 years ago)
No...the entire first book revolves around the secondary main character (Kelsier) fighting back against the Lord Ruler's 1,000 year empire of oppression. The Lord Ruler already won initially.
janelf5 (2 years ago)
Except, the dark lord has won before the story ever starts--that is the premise from the start. No spoilers in that.
Kaka KarrotCake (2 years ago)
What happens after ai figures out how to write books?
Devin Reese (4 months ago)
+JustCoNa Wouldnt AI write "books" though that are fit for other computers??? Not people?
Stephen Clarke (5 months ago)
Read Roald Dahl’s “The Great Automatic Grammatizator “ an 11 page short story (from the Someone Like You collection) and find out What Happens. Peace, x.
MountainRain (5 months ago)
Ai doesn’t work that way, but fun thought :P
JustCoNa (1 year ago)
What I think he meant was, what will happen to human authors if publishers can just click a button and an AI just generates a new novel, no need to pay royalties, books generated instantly..... It's actually a very legitimate question
Lego Brickology (2 years ago)
What do you mean, what happens? You then publish them, and write more.
whakabuti (2 years ago)
If you want to skip the whole class interruption scene from after he mentions the assassination of Becket click to 10:14 .
David Brockmeier (4 months ago)
But that was the conflict of the scene.
MinnesotaLG (3 years ago)
What's the difference from acquiring ideas from others and plagiarism ?
MountainRain (5 months ago)
Well one, you can’t copyright ideas unless they are written. If they are written, they are automatically copyright and belong to their writer. Copyright isn’t too difficult to learn about, but this particular class is about writing. I’d try booktubers who speak on copyright q&as. Learn about ‘poor man’s copyright’ and the laws of your country.
ForeverMasterless (7 months ago)
The difference is others, plural. Not other. If you rewrite harry potter with different character names, you're plagiarising Rowling. If you take some ideas from harry potter, and some ideas from hunger games, some ideas from narnia, etc. then you are acquiring ideas.
Maerahn (2 years ago)
It's what you do with those ideas after you've acquired them. Star Wars is basically Lord of the Rings In Space, and Harry Potter is Star Wars/Lord of the Rings at Boarding School (seriously, there are entire websites devoted to pointing out the similarities between their respective plots.) Another example: Data's character arc (from Star Trek: TNG) is essentially Pinocchio in Space. But you'd never think that about any of them (and the writers in question certainly didn't do it deliberately) because they put their own personal spin on the basic ingredients they all shared to come up with something entirely new. And it goes beyond just changing the names and the location; J.K Rowling didn't call her villain Darth Voldemort and Luke Skywalker didn't blow up the Death Eye of Doom. THAT would make it plagiarism, because you're only doing the equivalent of changing the hair, clothes and make-up on the same person each time. The Lord of the Rings/Star Wars/Harry Potter triad is the best example of how combining THE SAME particular ingredients(ideas) increases your chances of making a killer story, but using them in a NEW WAY turns them into something completely different.
Trisjack20 (2 years ago)
Almost everything we know is taken from our experiences. Trying to avoid that in order to write something perfectly original is (IMO) a needless waste of energy and time. Plagiarism is when you lift ideas wholesale from another speaker or writer and try to pass their idea/concept/character off as your own. For an example if I create a young surgeon who wants to be a warrior then have him become a slave and survive to become a magical hero through bonding with a sentient animated concept- I am plagiarizing Way of Kings. If I have a young boy who grows up through conflict to become a hero I am simply using a powerful story technique. My characters motivations, skills, background and journey will be what I invent them to be. This is not plagiarizing Way of Kings or Star Wars or any other story which uses that arc. No one invented that arc... life invented that arc. My advice is read widely and when you find ideas and characters that interest you think how can I make characters like that... not how can I use that character and just change the name. If you do you will usually be safe. We spend far more time throwing around criticism for people copying one idea or another. Instead we should just be realistic and realise that all people have some similarities, all lives have some as well but each is in its own way entirely unique. Write the story you are inspired to write and usually you will be okay.
Lego Brickology (2 years ago)
Well, taking something somebody has done and making it your own, that being, adding a new twist to something old (already done), that is the former. The latter would be closer to what Lewis did to Tolkien, hahah. (Note that, even if this were not the latter, I would not sleep at night having done it, although, these two worlds really were the first big high fantasy worlds, so we can give him a break.) Having a dwarf race in your world (which is nothing like Tolkien's) = acquiring ideas/being inspired. Having a dwarf race which is Very close to that of Tolkien's = plagiarism, or close enough to it that readers won't stop thinking about it, and thus it will ruin you. Remember, Tolkien did not create the concept of the dwarf, he does not have the rights to it, you Are allowed to use them, just don't use them how he did. Do not try and create an original idea and don't sit there thinking 'how can I do what X did', instead, think 'how can I create something new (new twist rather than new in terms of original (meaning it has never been done before, this is rather impossible)). So, try to put a new twist; your own twist, on something old. I hope this helps. :)
Zironeful (3 years ago)
Wait, mistborn? Oh my god, I'm unknowingly getting advice of the author of one of my favorite books! ... Guess I should look sometimes at the name of the author?
sai shiva (8 months ago)
Denna (1 year ago)
Tyler Staley (1 year ago)
Denna excuse me with that name
Denna (2 years ago)
Have you read more of his books? If not I advise you to read Way of kings ;)
BalmoraBlade (3 years ago)
oh god, I misheard that you can invent character who wants to be best swordsman, and then put him in a world where everyone is closed in a (suit)case O.o well, for a second it all escalated into this epic fantasy Kafka in my head wtf
Kami (3 years ago)
I have a real good plot, my main characters are there, but my world is pretty boring. Help!
Trisjack20 (2 years ago)
Can i suggest one of Brandon's big rules go deeper not wider. Rather than add more stuff to the world, find a concept from your world and think what's the effect. So if you have a kingdom what happened when they had a bad ruler? Is your world medieval in its approach? If so what are the rules for women? What is the place of children or other races? How does this affect their cultures and opinions of diversity? Look at it physically - so geology, astronomy geography etc. Whe you decide something think about how that affects things. Does anyone live in the desert ... if so how? Are their multiple moons? Does this affect the way they see time or the way the tides work? If so how hard is it to be a sailor? What are the high paid professions? If you have a high blood or caste system how do people break into it? (Marriage, success, money, chance) Some things are vital to consider because they affect so many... food, aging, beliefs(Or lack thereof), death, shelter and clothes. Try and get some of your interesting twists in these areas rather than simply adding a new cool thing. If you have come up with a cool character consider where they get their food from and their beliefs then go into what kind of world would create that individual? Just some thoughts.
Lego Brickology (2 years ago)
Well, I happen to be a fair worldbuilder (currently building an absurdly large high fantasy world), so, please tell me your concept, or, as you put it 'plot'. This way I can get a sense of just what the notion is and who the people are (goodies/baddies), this ought to inform the world swiftly. Note that you Need to do your world map first, before the worldbuilding - before anything else, in fact. Please message me, I can go through it all with you (that being what I have learnt and how I work, I think it will help you deeply). P.S: I also suggest you create a Wattpad, it is a great place to post your stories, etc. and a great place to talk with other writers.
Kami (3 years ago)
+TheDbzgtaf Sounds like a plan.
TheDbzgtaf (3 years ago)
+Kami You really shouldn't compare every aspect of your book to his like that. Have you read Warbreaker? It's also by Brandon. It doesn't have anything like the mist or ashfalls, yet it's amazing. You should read it..
Kami (3 years ago)
+TheDbzgtaf Well, I mean, it's not like Brandon's world in Mistborn. There isn't a mist, there are no ashfalls, there isn't these strange creatures like mistwraiths. My fantasy world is just the regular world, the fantasy part of it comes with the characters who have powers.  Really? Does it have interesting creatures? 
Mire Vale (3 years ago)
Yes silly people, focus on the two most important things in this vid: his ass and his hat.
Madcircle (5 months ago)
i see you're a woman of culture as well
Derek Walter (2 years ago)
Jake G (2 years ago)
Carol PaintedDeer (3 years ago)
So glad I found these lectures online! It's so frustrating to be in college and not have enough elective credits available to take a subject you LOVE, but isn't part of your required/supplementary coursework. (ex: clinical psych majors aren't offered creative writing...though a case could be made for it!) These are good for pre-NANOWRIMO writers, too - none of use is above getting a refresher on our skills here and there - and this is way cheaper than a writers' conference. (he's been on panels, and is well published NON academically, so we are AHEAD.) E-hug, brother of the pen :-)
MountainRain (5 months ago)
Carol PaintedDeer same here! I’m in college and taking writing classes, but they aren’t quite right. Brandon Sanderson is not only a great writer, but a great teacher of writing.
Maleficent (11 months ago)
I know the feeling. Even now that I'm out of school, I find it hard to justify taking a writing class when they cost so much even at the minimum price range but videos like this are so useful and so helpful.
Hessa T. (4 years ago)
This is Brandon Sanderson people! The Final Empire?? HELLO???
Sir Butthurt (3 years ago)
+Chris Hall It's awesome. In book 2 now.
cheese (4 years ago)
+Hessa T. IKR more people really need to read his books FREAKIN' AMAZING
Chris Hall (4 years ago)
+Hessa T. Just finished it. EPIC. WIll start Book 2 tommorow.
Cake Pop (4 years ago)
What an asshat. Get it? Get it? No? Okay.
Mionysus (4 years ago)
I love the Boy George hat.....legendary awesomeness!
12 masters (4 years ago)
The poor guy in front of the class... all the coughing must have been contagious. This teacher does know his stuff, though  He would be great to take a class from.
benjamin ross (4 years ago)
it really irritates me when I see people commenting on mr. Sandersons size or overall health. he is an absolute master story teller and writer, and I am deeply thankful to BYU and mr. sanderson for making these videos available on youtube. so to those of you that are watching to make fun of this man's weight issue's and not watching for his instruction are seriously lacking in your ability to think..only an idiot would be fixated on einstiens hair while he was explaining the universe to you..
unfit242 (1 month ago)
+Dark Truth So did George Washington, Andy Warhol, Stephen Fry, Hawking and of course Tarn Adams etc. etc. Listen more, judge less.
MountainRain (5 months ago)
benjamin ross well a hair choice and weight issues are very different, but I’m surprised ppl were commenting on it. Were they doing it out of concern?
Vancha March (10 months ago)
I only hope that he lives long enough to complete his grand vision of the Cosmere. Because he has a LOT planned and he's not even halfway through!
Maleficent (11 months ago)
I think what people fail to realize is that a lot of writers are slightly overweight and have poor eyesight because they spend the bulk of their time behind computer screens...A sedentary lifestyle will lead to excess weight, especially around the stomach area. Not saying that writers shouldn't take care of themselves but I think people are missing that very important fact here. He's clearly a very intelligent, knowledgeable guy, so I don't know why people are ripping on him. His weight didn't even come to mind when I watched this video.
Dark Truth (1 year ago)
Look, I agree. But this guy is constantly eating, drinking, nibbling, chewing during freaking lectures. It’s just odd. And unprofessional. And disgusting. He’s not exempt from criticism just because he’s a good writer. And this has nothing to do with body shaming.
Claire Bolda (4 years ago)
Did anyone else write down notes on his lecture as if they were a part of the class?
Nat-brat (18 days ago)
Lego Brickology (2 years ago)
Well, you really are part of the class. :)
Chico Navas (4 years ago)
eveyones comments here are gooofy as heck LOL
trevork1980 (4 years ago)
For goodness sake! Suck a lozenge already!
Daniel Davis (4 years ago)
Ooooo lil sonsy
- (4 years ago)
I can't stop looking at DAT ass...awkward... 
SixthSenseSynesthete (5 years ago)
Good advice and all, but dude what were you thinking with that hat. 
MountainRain (5 months ago)
SixthSenseSynesthete He was thinking fabulous, and he damn well got it.
darkenmarr (2 years ago)
Good comment, but what were you thinking when you were being rude about someone else's personal choices?
SeleneFeuer (3 years ago)
maybe its a lucky hat XD
Darth Futuza (3 years ago)
+SixthSenseSynesthete Some people just don't care about outward appearances at all. Meh.
civoreb (5 years ago)
Being a writer doesnt mean you have a good fashion sense. 
noMixedteajp (5 years ago)
what about People reacting for illness?
D Bones (5 years ago)
Does this mean Spider-Man origin story is boring because he doesn't proact, but just react with a spider bite? Just curious. 
MountainRain (5 months ago)
D Bones the bite is the inciting action, yes, but uncle Ben dying is a very large event that triggers a new direction of the story. Harry Potter is a better example, since Harry doesn’t do anything at all at first. However, sometimes it’s case-by-case
Arkade Jones (4 years ago)
No, because Peter Parker is proactive. He uses his new-found powers to make money. Not the best use of his power, but it is proactive. And then after Uncle Ben is killed, Peter is proactive in seeking out the killer. Yes, that is also a reaction, but Peter is taking charge of the situation. He could have let the cops handle it. He could have stayed home and consoled Aunt May. But instead, he chose to take action himself.
D Bones (5 years ago)
Does he make any slides for sale?
mikaela speilburg (5 years ago)
Thank you, sir!
GoodDnDMusic (5 years ago)
You should do it. Go write a story about what you hate instead of what you love, with as few ideas as possible, an inactive protagonist, and in the passive voice.
chris (5 years ago)
that hat... im not sure.
ThisnThatPackRat (5 years ago)
Conflict between plot & setting = The Road. One could argue that the setting/environment in The Road is an actual character unto itself. Setting drives the plot and acts as much more than a simple backdrop.
TruthSurge (5 years ago)
man, hope no one caught the flu from this session.
Alex Raaymakers (5 years ago)
the hat lol
Aan Setiawan (5 years ago)
It still surprises me, just how lot of people do not know about Novelonax Academy (search on google), even though a lot of people learn how to publish their own novel easily because of this tutorial. Thanks to my friend who told me about Novelonax Academy, I can find all answers for my question about novel writing.
MountainRain (5 months ago)
Stop advertising your scam.
Maerahn (2 years ago)
It still surprises ME how anyone can AVOID knowing about Novelonax Academy, since there are so many what sound suspiciously like spam-bots posting what sound suspiciously like spamverts in YouTube writer videos. And yet they STILL forget to mention that Novelonax actually charges massive fees after luring you in with their alleged 'tutorial' (i.e. advert for their publishing services.) Just sayin'.
nikiverse (5 years ago)
Ha! I loved how he pulled that sword/caste system thing out of his ass at the end! Great video
eeMJaii (5 years ago)
You have a long way to go, I hope you're under the age of 21. If not; my hope for you is dwindling on a knifes edge.
Marks of a genius? If i could write as good as him, i'd wear those pants and sweater anytime!
Carlo Grims (6 years ago)
Thanks a lot for these videos, nothing better than learning creative writing from your favorite authors.
wonderland78 (6 years ago)
Thanks so much for posting these videos, Brandon Sanderson makes so much sense!
Pfallon94 (6 years ago)
Its a hat from WoT. He is ballin yo
Jeff Ragsdale (6 years ago)
The hat needs to go. Right. Now.
Kieron Williams (6 years ago)
I'm so happy that girl asked the plot vs. setting question omg
Esss333 (6 years ago)
I think it somebody should take all the "do not do that" advice and write a great story with using them :)
MountainRain (5 months ago)
Esss333 that would probably take like 15 years to work around them and right an okay story.
TacticusPrime (7 years ago)
Unless you are F. Scott Fitzgerald, then lay off the observer protagonist.

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