1. Tella
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    Tella Member

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    50 Pages = 2 Plot Days?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Tella, Nov 23, 2015.

    I always had this dillema regarding pacing.

    The plot as a whole is the collaboration of two character to undertake a whimsical project. That is the backbone. Naturally, things happen here and there to deepen the characters as well as present their worlds and surroundings. My current manuscript is at page 55. My doubt starts with chapter 2 and runs to chapter 3.

    Chapter 1 consists of a slight exposition (intentionally slight) and a little boost to the plot.
    Chapter 2 jumpstarts the plot with a meeting.
    Chapter 3 completes the meeting as well as the conciliation of the characters, they WANT to collaborate.

    Now, the plot encompasses a time period of 2 months at least. The faster parts come straight after chapter 3 and slow down toward the climax. My problem is the fact the first 50 pages encompass a time period of two days. Sure, I deem the detail of those two days essential, they present the two characters on their basic level, they prompt the actual plot, they portray the visual setting, they even bring one character to some sort of a closure required for them to carry on. Many things that are a one-time presentation are in the first 50 pages, but again - two days. It feels odd. I feel better with chapter three because it still multi-variate in terms of actual happenings. The second chapter is literally just a small mishap followed by a meeting, which by itself is fine, but I wonder about it when it takes 26 pages to convey. Why 26? Mainly due to the tone. I really don't support the type of narrative that passively advances the plot: "X" he said, "Y" she answered. They did Z and when H was B that and that happened. I prefer a more involved narrative or to be more specific a narrator. I intentionally write with a talkative narrative. Not every sentence advances the plot. It is essential the massage of the story to have a preachy narrator (not overdoing it hopefully). It is essential to the tone of the story. I cannot see myself writing this particular story any other way. So I wonder, is it okay to ramble if it is concrete and not too much tell, not show? I need feedback.

    Here is an example, this is the first page of the second chapter:

    Whether naturally or for ironic purposes, tomorrow always comes, and daylight a woodpecker at the window; someone had forgotten yet again to close the curtains and shoo away the day. So the kindly burglar sun slipped its hand into the living room, where he was sleeping on a couch, and all about it spread. There was a room under a fine filter of dawn. Its inhabitant? Typically would not get so much as a grunt or a bed-turn from him, except, today unlike any other day, it was the heavy hand of symbolism itself who came intruding to greet awake a dormant boy and one horrible sleeping habit.

    The light figured an angle on his living corpse. He turned to face the other way. There as well shone bright the light of day no less unnervingly. He turned the other way - not only one but many other ways because their presence, he had found, was every which way. Now and then turning away, here again light finds a way; and never giving up - as if "Wake up!" the boy was called. And so it played awhile.

    Surrounding the nuisance was a living room - his chamber, the items he had brought along almost ever not of use; his phone at all time waiting on the cupboard, there to gather dust – much like him, for he has nothing to account which worth a moment of your time to tell.

    Light is a most elusive thing, its benignity beyond appreciation. Brave hearts through the dark it may beacon, an incurable sickness it may heal; it can even save you from oversleeping that very important meeting, or prevent never making it to the one you would not have anticipated coming. And did you know that light, when is faced towards upon in a perfect certain angle, may call up a sneeze?

    "A…a..."

    To fall off the couch with a racket and a thud was no easy business.

    "Ouch…"
     
  2. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm going to apologize in advance for how this sounds. I've written it and rewritten it a million times, and it never sounds any nicer. This isn't quite my style of reading, so if my opinion sounds harsh, just keep that in mind. Sorry. :(

    This excerpt is 300 words of nothing. The boy wakes up, tries to fight off the sun shining in his eyes, sneezes (I think? I didn't really catch that until the third read-through), and falls off the couch. Why did you decide to drag it out so long? I know you said the tone is very important to your story and that you dislike passive narrative, but do you really need three hundred words for such a small (seemingly pretty insignificant) event?

    Take for example, the following:
    That's 107 words that essentially says one thing: the sun is shining in a sleeping boy's face. I feel like there are many ways you can keep your tone without needing to use so many words. One of the biggest suggestions I've received as a member of this forum is to keep the wordiness down. If you can cut words, do it. For example, instead of saying, "She formed her hand into a fist and swung, hitting him hard in the mouth," it's just as easy, if not more effective, to say, "She punched him in the mouth." What happened is clear, in both instances, but the second is more direct. It's easier for the mind to process, instead of having to filter through all the unimportant words to figure out exactly what's happening.

    First, why so fancy in the first sentence? "The light shone on his body" may not have a very special tone for your preference, but it's so much easier to understand. Second, I bolded every instance where you said way (or away). There were six, in 80 words. On top of that, you used day two times and played once. So that's nine words with the same sound is a very short paragraph. I don't know if you intended to do that or not, but I just wanted to point it out. It's a little jarring.

    This is another, if not small, example of the wordiness you should avoid. Plus, I can't tell if you're trying to say the items are always used or never used. Simply saying "always" or "never" instead of "ever not of" is so much clearer.

    The last part is better. I understand it more at least. But the excerpt in general is full of over-telling and confusing phrases that could be fixed just by simplifying. There are ways to make a tone interesting without excessive wordiness. And sometimes, the simplest ways of saying things can be the best way.

    Also, not to be a drag, but the tone doesn't fit the time period of the story for me. I expected it to be a period piece, but he has a cell phone. So it must be modern day.. And unfortunately, people don't really talk like that in this day and age. So having such a formal tone in such a modern period is very confusing and hard to grasp.

    Overall, a lot of things need to change in my opinion. The tone should match the period, and the wordiness should be trimmed. As for having fifty pages for two days, I don't think it's an issue if everything in those fifty pages is important. And if this excerpt is any indication of the first fifty pages, I can't help but believe there is a lot you can cut and simplify to bring the count down. In my experience, wordiness is a huge turn off for people. A whole chapter dedicated to describing a flower is overkill. While yours isn't nearly as severe, it's close. Simplicity can often be your friend.


    Hope this helps a little. :meh: Good luck.

    Edited to add: Alright, just realized you only said "phone" not "cell phone." So I guess it may not be modern day... If not, disregard what I said about it. :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2015
  3. Tella
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    Tella Member

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    First of all thank you for the reply :) Now let's see... I must argue in favor of my writing in order to stay true to myself. It does not mean I will overlook advice, but until I get convinced I must apologize and attempt to justify my writing. Okay then...

    1. Technically, in terms of advancement, nothing does happen except waking up. However, don't we learn some things? Take it as a reformulation of exposition. Instead of speaking from the boy's mind, I decide to have the narrator's tone and (supposed) playfulness present his mindset, a little fact about his social life. I could as well have written "The boy's social life was as dusty as his phone, which stayed mostly in his roomed untouched." and "The boy was a heavy sleeper\was not exactly keen on waking up on any other day, except..." or "He did not like the sunlight, but he is in denial." Instead I let the narrator, which is an instrument both of advancement and of tone do the job.
    I could merely state facts, but HOW I state them is what matters. The essential part is not only that he has sun in his eyes, it's also that he usually blocks it. The essential part is not that he tries to look away from the sun, it's also that the light is persistent with him, it's personified. I could state "The light shone on his body" but the importance is in the nuance "living corpse". I guess you must read the rest to grasp why it's a part of the plot. And no, it's not supernatural.

    Also on the narrative, regarding modern tone, again, I agree with you, it doesn't fit. If I were to write a scifi maybe or a fantasy I wouldn't be so preachy, the differene here is that it is intentional, there's a catch regarding being modern in the story. It does take place in 2015, but you hardly feel like it form the story. I want a psuedo-fairy tale kind of narrative with a sense of irony. It does persist latter - that narrative, but in a far more subtle way. I'd say that this page plus maybe two others have such a narrative prominence.

    Here. a dialogue example from later:

    "Step two! It is time. You must wonder what we're doing here."

    He didn't.

    "It is a long established thought of mine that when light and dark converge is the hour of decisions. Choose where exactly in this world you stand, and what you stand for. We must do it now, while the sun has yet to set. Viva la romance!"


    "Just a second, romance?" said Alphonse, "You mean like kisses and cooing and stuff? Something you wanna tell me?"

    Therefrom the conversation adopted a rapid pace.

    "What! That is not romance! Hear hear, I Gonga Bonga. I see mountain in horizon, I go sit on mountain. Why? Cause screw you, I need no reason! That's romance."

    "Lily, wow…"

    "Roof in sight? Fiddle at hand? Fiddler on the roof it is. Get it?
    And you! You find yourself atop a tower of time, in the last moment of the day. Are you just planning to waste it? I can't have it in my crew. Go ahead: cry it out."


    This one was on her: "Um…what?" (an inner joke, in case you don't understand)

    "This is a clock tower, here is a sunset, and here is Alphonse. Come on, shout, and share."

    Alphonse back off, "No no, I'm not yelling." He attempted a receipt into the chamber, but she was there to block his way.

    "Why not?"

    "I'm not a… an expressive person."

    "No kidding. But hey, I saw you there in the forest." At that mentioning he turned his back.

    "About that…" he began, but what about that, exactly?

    "And then you smiled!"

    2. Bear in mind that this is exposition. Meaning, such long blabber regarding the room or the process of waking up will never come up again. It is a one-time thing to emphasize the character. Again, later everything is short. Example:

    In the same ease the boy made his way through town, not speeding, not slacking, and not looking back. It was only after a while that he cast a deniable glance toward the small port of light many feet away which was the merry fete. Almost everyone was there so, along the streets no people filled the gaps but him.

    In the outskirts of town the civic pavements gave way to earth and rock uphill, and civilization to the backwoods. Bordering the edge of a hill, a shack outlooked the town.

    When he arrived at its door he stopped and looked at that which was around him, felt the chilling breeze that passed him by, and he recalled a forgotten memory of the same place on the same hour that bore the same cold:

    A boy half a year younger than him found lying on the muddy earth. A man lifts him on his back, his face and its hardened expressions, always the same as he had learned to know him. The man carries him towards the hut.

    "You doing stuff like that is stupid and uncalled for."

    And the boy on his shoulders was not like him; his expression was empty and dull.

    "You can't help me. Don't try." he said, and although the man could not have seen it, the boy smiled. But his smile was that of bitter teasing.

    The recall of such events when you are a different man bears an interesting aspect to it.

    3. Regarding the word "way\away", yes, it was intentional. I suppose I wanted to irritate the reader as much as the character, and I succeded. Wonder what others think of it... I need more feedback on that.

    4. Regarding "ever not of use", okay, gotcha, will change.

    And the final point is that overall I must wait for other opinions. I guess the rest is a matter of taste. I for example like wordiness - if it is with substance, if it has something to tell. So I appreciate your opinion, and would love for you to share it again after this comment.

    Edit: Just saw your comment on the phone. I do need to change it to cell phone :) funny... thanks.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2015
  4. Midge23
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    Midge23 Member

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    I think you need to meet the posting criteria and get this in the Workshop to get the feedback you want.

    People can then give you a detailed critique.
     
  5. Tella
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    You mean to post the whole chapter under 'Novels"? Uh... I never wanted to post a whole thing but... guess I'll have to. Well, thank you :) Will do.
     
  6. Gisella_M
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    Gisella_M Member

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    To answer your question: is it ok to cover 2 days in 50 pages? Yes. Time elapsed does not matter, you could cover millennia in one paragraph or spent 50 pages at not move forward in time at all.

    What does matter though is that every word you right should do something. It should move the plot forward or give a sense of place, character or tone. Good writers can go all of these with one sentence.

    I am afraid I have to agree with Lea on your sample paragraphs. I understand what you are trying to do, it is fine for nothing much to happen, but I feel you have overdone the verbosity here. Actually I didn't get either of the points you said you were trying to get across until I read your explanation. They were lost in some very complex sentences. If you stripped all this back it would be far easier on the reader, and they would be able to absorb more information.

    I would disagree about the tone though, just because it is set in the present does not mean the tone needs to be plain everyday 2015 speak.

    Sorry if this sounds harsh but one thing I have learnt as a writer is that it is as much about what you leave out as what you put in.

    (As a side note, it makes more sense to talk about word count than number of pages. Pages can alter dramatically depending on font size and margins. Word count gives you a better idea of where you are at.)
     
  7. Tella
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    Tella Member

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    Thanks Gissella for the feedback :)

    Um... did you also adress what you said to the latter paragraphs? Because as I said, they still contain the tone, but in a more subtle way. Also what do you say to my point regarding it being a one-time exposition? What do you think?
     
  8. Gisella_M
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    Gisella_M Member

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    Yes, the later paragraphs still take a long time to say anything. To be honest I think you are trying to hard. Paring the story right back will let any clever lines you include to shine. As it is, it is very hard to read, I feel like I need to dissect the writing to get down to the meaning, and that makes it very hard to read.

    It makes no difference if it is one-time exposition or not I am afraid. If you say to your self 'the next page or so is going to set the tone' then effectively what you are doing is stopping the story for a page or so. When you do this the reader will very quickly get bored. Set the tone/characters/etc as you go.

    Oh and never, ever try and irritate the reader. They will just stop reading.
     
  9. Tella
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    I see. Okay then, can you show me how you'd have written some of it? Feel free to shape the paragraphs in any way you want.
     
  10. Gisella_M
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    Gisella_M Member

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    Not really, I don't know what you were trying to achieve in those sections. If you post some of the story in the workshop though I'll be happy to go through it.
     
  11. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I'm probably the opposite to you. I try and use as few words as possible to say what I want to say, and I include hardly any description. I've tried to rewrite your paragraphs in my style for comparison but, to be honest, I don't understand what you were trying in several places. I also can't work out who he was in the "forgotten memory" (contradiction in terms) and how he witnessed it.

    I'm not saying my style is better, just providing it since you asked.

    The boy strolled through deserted streets, glancing [I have no idea what a "deniable glance" is] at the distant lights of the fete. The pavement gave way to a dirt track through the backwoods and to the edge of a small hill, where a shack overlooked the town.

    A chilling breeze whipped past him as he stood at the door, remembering the scene he had witnessed [I have absolutely no idea what "the same hour that bore the same cold" is trying to say, but I assume something like...] last winter: a boy, half a year younger than him, lying on muddy earth. A man lifted him onto his back [I can't rewrite the rest of this sentence - I have no idea who "his face" refers to - the man, the younger boy, or the protagonist? I have no idea what "the same as he had learned to know him" means.] and carried him towards the hut.

    "You doing stuff like that is stupid and uncalled for."

    The boy over the man's shoulders was not like him [who's him?]. His expression was empty and dull.

    "You can't help me. Don't try." The boy gave a bitter, teasing smile behind the man's back.

    Memories take on a different aspect as you grow older.
     
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  12. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Anyway, to answer the main question of this thread... I don't think there's any problem with 50 pages for 2 days, providing it's interesting. Dan Brown's books (or at least some?) are written minute-by-minute, where an entire book covers maybe 1-2 days. Whilst he's not generally regarded as a great writer, he doesn't lack readers, right? At the other end of the spectrum is Ken Follett's cathedral building books, which span about 50 years per book. Bestsellers and hugely popular, just like Dan Brown. Any time period can be done if it's done right.
     
  13. Tella
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    Thank you for the feedback, Tenderiser :)

    Hm... I think I noticed something. While I know hardly any readers, it seems that the ones with a contemporary inclination are more keen on the modern writing rules. Checked with a few friends and book reviews, and I found that the ones who are into contemporaries are also uncomfortable with the writing of older authors. For example, Tolkien, Brahm Stoker, George Eliot, Arthur Conan Doyle, etc...

    It seems that the modern novel writing etiquette leaves no place for a reader to search beneath the surface of a page. It seems that the current writing rules aim to make a reader flip through the pages rather than linger and think. I must say that I dislike it. There is place for wordiness, I think, there is place for ideas within ideas and there is place for imperfection. Clearly I am disagreed with by the majority, or maybe I haven't seen any supporters.

    I wonder how I can manage to keep my tone while still deliver the story. Because of course, the tone, the wordiness, were from the beginning a point I doubted. Not because I disliked it, but because I thought the modern reader would not like. I could trim it all down and keep only the "necessary details" in, but I won't feel that it's what I wanted to tell.

    Regarding particulars, Tenderiser:

    Deniable glance - I myself doubted if it was clear :) guess I'll change that.
    The whole who's who thing - Whoops, didn't think about that. Thanks.

    "...of the same place on the same hour that bore the same cold" - The idea is familiarity. This feeling was very similar to that of the other day, it was as lonely as that othe day. Again, this is a vague nuance. It does not mean winter. I see that you expect a straight answer. Instead I wanted a different way of expression. I draw legitimate reasoning to use such means of expression from older books. I don't think any detail should be presented on a tray for the reader.

    Overall there where many other trims you did. Some of them I agree with and will adapt, but others are essential to me. What happens when I want to portray an image in such a specific way so to convey a feeling? I need a specific word structure. I believe there is emotion in structure. I belive there is much difference between: "He said 'no'" and "'No!' he said". In the same manner I would not change some things as "port of light" to "distant lights" because the former perfectly matches the idea I need.

    By the way, I don't mean to sound like a righteoues prick. I just try and explain my way of thinking. I'm in a plight here and I try to share my conflict. How do I keep authenticity while I also keep with the times!?
     
  14. Tom13
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    I don't think its a matter of old-fashioned verses modern. Tolkien, Brahm Stoker, George Eliot, Arthur Conan Doyle, these all wrote in the vernacular of their times. Personally I read all these and modern authors. I don't think people are suggesting you write is a very sparse style, with no detail, or feeling or depth. But there is something of a middle ground. The example you give above are very dense, I think if you rework them then you can still have depth but the top layer could be a lot more readable.
     
  15. Tella
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    Tella Member

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    I see. Working on it, would love it if you tell me what you think.
     
  16. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I love many Victorian authors with all their wordiness. I love Nabokov, one of the most purple authors I've ever read. But their language is precise and beautiful, so the detail doesn't come off as fluff or padding.

    For me (maybe others will jump in to disagree) the sentence doesn't make any sense. It doesn't convey anything because all I can do is scratch my head and wonder whether it's some sort of typo or editing mistake. I don't need to be spoon fed, but I do need language to be accurate so I can get the right impression from it.

    In general, I wonder if you're trying to emulate the style of older books rather than really finding your own voice and style.
     
  17. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    If there's anything wrong with that? No. I know about entire novels that takes place in one single day, so definitely, theres nothing wrong with it. In fact I think it happens all the time :)
     
  18. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    I think I understand what the same repetition means? It's emphasis, right? When you said emphasis, you mean emphasising the familiarity? There are other ways to do this but I like your actually. It's sounds like poetry and is also quite thought like at the same time. I do agree that first sample should be cut down a little though. Just a few of the more preachy ranty sentences about metaphor and stuff. I learnt about that in primary school, not a put-down, when I wrote a very long poetic description of getting up in the morning to, and found that my time-limited examination had almost no space or time left. There is a place for moderation, even you're being long-winded, you can't get too long-winded.
     

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