1. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    A Life Within a Novella

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Steerpike, May 16, 2015.

    I'm working on a project that I anticipate will be 25-30K when complete. The story spans the life of the protagonist, from birth until death. There are three events that are most significant: 1) the death of someone close to her when she is young; 2) how she deals with the death, and the consequences of the mistakes she makes in doing so, which hurt those around her and cast a shadow over her adult life; and 3) her finally being able to come to terms with the death right around the time of her own passing.

    Those three events I can dramatize fairly well. Part I is done and I'm happy with how it turned out. There is, however, a span of time covered in each of the parts, as well as between the three parts of the story. The question is this: for time periods that span the course of her life between the events I want to dramatize, would you, as a reader, prefer some sort of narrative summary to transition from one period to the next, or would you simply end one scene where it ends and then start the next one without much transition, no matter how much time has passed?

    With short stories, I generally do the latter. But in this case, with a longer work, I have the luxury of spending more time in a narrative summary of certain years if it makes sense to do so.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2015
  2. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Is it supposed to be "within" or "writing"? I can edit it.
     
  3. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'd say you answered your own question with "if it makes sense to do so" :) Basically, do the transition thing if there's actually something to say, something that enriches the character and/or story and gives it depth beyond the bare bones. Otherwise, scene breaks are perfectly fine, in my opinion, as long as you make it clear very quickly that there's been a time lapse and preferably some indication of roughly how much time's elapsed.
     
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  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    It was supposed to be "within." :)

    I could write it where it makes sense either way. I was just curious if there was a general preference for a longer piece like this, where a reader might want that intervening time accounted for. I suppose it will vary from person to person. I do make very clear, almost immediately, how much time has passed.

    Thanks for your thoughts.
     
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  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Fixed. ;)
     
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  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Thank you, sir!
     
  7. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    As long as the time elapsed is addressed very early in the next section, I don't mind jumps without more detailed transitions.
     
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  8. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's going to be a tone/style thing. If you wanted to go bare bones, I'd say just show us the pertinent scenes. Without knowing the style you're going for, but knowing your basic concept, which by why the I like, I'd say the pros to doing it this way would be primarily added levity to those scenes that we do see. We are only present for the times that matter. I think if you're trying to show that she has lived a shadow of a life, because of this other death, and it only gets resolved doing her own death, it would make sense to ONLY show us the pertinent scenes. Let us wonder where all the rest of her years went. Personally, I think this will make your story sadder.

    If you're like me, and you believe even in the pleasantness of your own body odor, you're going to take every possible opportunity to talk- no nook and cranny of this girl's life will go unexplored. I think the main pro of giving us narrative summaries is that it gives a greater sense of control for the reader. We're less mired in the MC's despair. We see everything that has transpired, not just those events directly related to the story. It provides a more objective view, and distances us from the POV's blindness. The other main pro is that you could use those summaries to mind**** the reader. Let us think things are getting better/worse than they really are in the summaries. You also get to use those summaries to provide other insights that might not be directly related to the main plot of the story.
     
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  9. GingerCoffee
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    I think the summaries could be annoyingly boring while the time jumps might be more easily managed.
     
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  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    If you make an abrupt time-jump, definitely do something to re-orient the reader. If the reader begins reading the second section, thinking the events in it come directly after the first, then there will be a lot of confusion.

    If the time splits are clear, you can break the book into three parts, with a new heading for each part. That might be the best way to go. Then you won't need to do a lot of reorienting inside the narrative.
     
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  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Thanks, guys!

    @TWErvin2 - as I have it now, the time jumps are addressed in the first sentence or two of each new time period. I think that works fairly well. I agree that it needs to be addressed quickly so the reader has the time period clearly established in her mind.

    @123456789 - thanks for the detailed comment. That's an interesting idea, that showing the pertinent scenes sets up a contrast to the rest of her life as not being worthy of comment. A life lost, which in many ways it is. I think I'll go that direction. I like it. Thank you.

    @GingerCoffee - that was my concern. I think I could write them in such as way as to keep them from being too dull, but the more I think about it (and read the responses here) I'm not sure the benefit to the story is worth it.

    @jannert - yeah, I will orient the reader early. I do have the novella split into parts I, II, and III. Right now, my only heading for the parts are the Roman numerals I, II, and III :) Those three parts of her life really are the defining moments of her existence. The gap between parts II and III is particularly wide, so I'm hoping it will work as I've planned it.
     
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  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I should add that I'd be done with this thing already if it wasn't for the middle. I've written Act I, and most of Act III, and I think they work very well as they are. I've scrapped what I've had of Act II in its entirety. Twice.
     
  13. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Ah, that difficult middle child....
     
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  14. Rafiki
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    I've yet to complete a project of that length, but I can speak with authority when it comes to my personal taste. Pacing is not something you want to fuck with. You either keep a good clip or you start cutting, 'cause the second you bore me with needless narration is the same second I put the book down.

    Before writing any scene I ask myself the same three questions:

    1: What is happening?
    2: How does the protagonist respond?
    3: And what results of the protagonist's response?

    By ensuring every scene can answer those three question, I keep the story moving. There ain't nuttin worse than an author that believes their audience cares about their character's brunch.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2015
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  15. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I can agree with you to a certain extent—what is happening, how do the characters respond, what is the result of the response. But this sort of thing often unfolds gradually, and at a reflective, rather than a fast pace.

    Do keep in mind that what 'bores' one reader will not necessarily bore another. You need look no further than the threads on this forum that discuss 'favourite' books, and books people hate. There is a lot of divergence.

    If a writer wants to keep a galloping pace going, they will attract readers who like to gallop through a book. Nothing wrong with that. However, that's not the way I personally like to read. I prefer a long, leisurely journey that keeps my interest, but doesn't gallop except when the plot requires it to gallop. As long as the brunch is interesting and serves the plot in some way, I'm perfectly happy to read through it and find out what (and how) they are eating, and what goes on during the meal. Pacing is more than just galloping along. Pacing means slowing down occasionally, maybe letting the reader reflect on what has just happened before, or maybe to let the reader get better acquainted with the characters' world. I dislike reading stories that try to keep an adrenaline high going throughout the book. I find them exhausting to read.

    I think the thing to remember is to be AWARE of the pace you're setting. Don't slow down in the middle of a tense argument scene to reflect on the colour of the flowers in the vase in the corner of the room (unless it's vital to the plot.) Don't stop a swordfight to tell us about the hair and eye colour of the combatants and where they went to school and what their girlfriend looks like. That's the mark of an author who is unaware of pace. Be aware of pace. But do set whatever pace you want to set. Your choice will never please everybody.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2015
  16. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Thanks for the further comments. I agree that it depends on personal taste. I like classics, like those by Conrad, which bore the pants off of other people. This novella is not fast-paced or action packed to begin with. I write stories that are, but this isn't one of them, so I'm going for an audience that likes a slower, more descriptive sort of work as opposed to an action story.
     

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