1. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    A to b

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by sprirj, Mar 24, 2015.

    I have a clear idea of scenes and where I want my book to go. I have a beginning and an end. Where I'm struggling is the middle. The ending is epic, the beginning is fast paced and mysterious, but the middle needs to hold answers and back story, and I think I keep slipping into telling not showing. It's almost as if I'm avoiding writing anything that progresses the story in a major way. Does anyone else have this issue, and how did you solve it?
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Re telling not showing, you can manage that with editing. Write the story out, then go back and replace the passive phrases. The more you do it, the better you get at it.

    If you have a beginning and an ending, that suggests you lack a plot arc. I'm not big on these formulas, but this should at least give you an idea:
    Eight-point Plot Arc
    I see no reason for 'stasis', but I don't know exactly what it means.
     
  3. bluehouse
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    bluehouse Member

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    Edit. See below.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2015
  4. bluehouse
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    bluehouse Member

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    I've found it's a much easier load to bear if you have a specific idea about how a certain, single scene will go within an act. This helps me avoid incongruities with the MC's character, decisions, reactions, etc. I like this because it keeps me asking questions. How did this specific person get to this specific location/situation. Why are they carrying (literally or otherwise) this specific thing with them? How specifically would this kind of person exit this location/situation? Where specifically would this person go after here? Questions like these can only yield very tangible, brief, concrete answers that produce a fluid sequence of events that, all together, drive the story forward.

    In short, treat this abstractly like being a detective at a crime scene. Assess the details that lay before you and draw a (somewhat) natural and (kinda) logical conclusion.

    "Stasis" means something like a vague suspension of action or progress. Probably etymologically related to "static". Given this is the first step, I imagine this is the formula creator's term for exposition or other phase of a plot where the details about the people and place and time are being revealed. If this is the case, then dump it. I find it very dull that a story gives me all of these tools to use at the very beginning so that I may read its prose with full and utter clarity. Haze is mystery, and mystery keeps a reader reading.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2015
  5. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    Yeah, I've got a structure and outline plot. But I'm struggling with the journey the character takes. An example:

    Man must defeat monster. Monster puts man in his place. Man goes away to plan and overcome monster. Man defeats monster.

    I know the steps involved, but it's the how and why I'm stuck on.

    Why must man defeat monster? Why and how does monster put man in place? Why must man plan? How does man overcome? How does man defeat monster?

    My project is scifi so the above doesn't really apply, but that's the puzzle I have in my head - unanswered questions, and missing scenes.

    Anyone have any problem solving ideas?
     
  6. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    Ps thanks for the response.

    Also I think I've made it harder for myself as my mc has no knowledge of who he is.
     
  7. bluehouse
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    bluehouse Member

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    I presume "doesn't know who he is" means something like "doesn't know where he comes from" or "doesn't know his capabilities". At least some sense of self is necessary to develop goals and desires, which in turn develops the opposition/conflict.

    Unsure as to why it doesn't apply (without offense, of course). Even if it's by laws, physical or otherwise, that you made up for this story, every action and reaction has to naturally hang together to prevent the reader from asking "Ok, how in the world could that happen?" At this point, the suspension of disbelief is lifted and now any further reading becomes a chore.

    As for your specific Qs, I have these initial reactions:

    Why must man defeat monster? "Monster" is a term I associate creatively with "destruction", "animal"/"non-human", "grotesque", "purely instinctual/driven by the Id" etc. Without other detail, I presume Man must defeat Monster because Man, inherent to supposed Darwinian traits, must survive. Therefore, the Monster is a threat to the Man's survival. The "threat" can be natural or provoked, and the "survival" can be physical or spiritual.

    Why/How does Monster put Man in place? A natural stemming from the previous Q, the Why can be as simple as instincts. With regards to the question "Why do bears/wolves/lions/tigers/etc. attack humans", the two questions can easily share the same answer. As for the How, I can think of no clearer answer than "Man was not well-enough prepared". If Man must defeat Monster, then it is the only thing that can stand in Man's way (other than cruel, unforeseen twists of fate). Man must go on a journey, of sorts, to be fully prepared to defeat Monster. Therein lies a frame of the plot: the steps taken and smaller challenges faced to succeed at the biggest challenge. This could apply to "Why must man plan?", as well. Man bettering oneself while also dissecting weaknesses of the Monster.

    By default, answers the other two Qs work toward answering in better detail the Qs examined above and, thus, create the finer details of the plot. For these, I can only reiterate the ease I experience in starting at one specific point in the story and asking questions that address the history and future of specific items found here. For instance, why does Man use this weapon? Why does Man have this/these particular companion(s)? Or, why does Man have no companionship? Why does Man use this armor/protection? Or, why does Man have no armor/protection? Why does Man go to this/these place(s) to better oneself?

    Apologies for the verbosity if it is cumbersome, but I just like to write.
     
  8. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've had this problem myself - and while I'm still struggling - I think part of it is to stop thinking of is as a "beginning-middle-end". This assumes that "middle" is just an undefined and meaningless chunk of text between two big points, which isn't true. There are lots of little points that have to connect in a certain order for a story to work, and you have to identify those points, when you need them, and what happens there.

    I've heard various structures mentioned - Three-Act, Seven-Point, Hollywood formula - I'm sure they're all good but I'm not a huge outlining junkie (I know the plot and have it scribbled down but don't pre-outline a comprehensive scene-list). Hence, the easiest one for me to think about is your basic Three-Act structure which I originally heard described as a series of three try-fail cycles - Act One involving your inciting incident and your MC trying and failing to get over whatever hump they're facing, act two being rising action/confrontation followed by the BIG fail where everything looks totally lost by the end, then Act Three is finally the character getting up off the ground and succeeding.

    Structures like this are pliable, but they provide closer end-points to write toward. My story started making more sense in my head when I started thinking less in terms of stringing the beginning to the end, and more about reaching the end of my first try-fail cycle, then figuring out where the second one would go.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-act_structure (this has a really cool graph up front with points to identify)
     
  9. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Stasis is showing your character living a normal, uninterrupted life before the inciting incident blows it all to heck. It's Frodo in The Shire before Gandalf shows up and ruins everything. The point being to establish what your character sees as normal and (assuming stuff is about to hit the fan) what they're trying to protect (or trying to get out of if their reality sucks).

    In my case my character starts out happy and successful - if not reaching her full potential. And I start off with a stasis scene showing her bouncing around her daily life in her hometown - almost like Belle in the first scene of Beauty and the Beast (I kept hearing that darn song Belle sings when I was working on my stasis scene this week - and my story is nowhere freaking close to Disney.) Then I flush it all down the tubes with an inciting incident at the end of Chapter 1.

    I usually call this, "establishing how cute the kitten is before you threaten to throw it in a wood chipper."
     
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  10. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Maybe work on character motivation? Why does your character want to take on the chore of defeating the monster.
     
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  11. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would suggest that the MC thinks defeating the monster will help him identify himself.
     
  12. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    Thanks. Yes I know why mc must defeat the monster, but your comments made me realise that I'm hiding this motivation from the audience /reader, and I need to make his motives clear from the outset. That certainly helps my motivation to write also.
     
  13. Viridian
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    Viridian Contributing Member Supporter

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    I'm in a similar situation myself. I know the beginning, I know how it ends and I have vague ideas of what will happen in the middle. I find that taking a vague idea and just writing about it (no matter how bad the writing or the idea) almost always leads to a better idea/more detail/deeper character development and if I'm lucky more twists and turns. It feels like I've been writing my story forever but with each stroke of the pen or tap on the keyboard the plot gets deeper and stronger and way more satisfying. No way could I have sat down at the beginning and just imagined everything that would happen. The big idea, yes, but the belly of the story grows the more I write.

    I'm no expert. I'm a beginner and don't know a fraction of what some of the very helpful people on this forum know, but I guess my advice is rather than trying to brainstorm the whole thing, just write any old ideas down (good or bad) and see how they develop, its all experience at the end of the day. Hope this helps :agreed:
     
  14. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    You know what, I took my outline and fit it to the Hollywood structure, and low and behold, I had a gap in my plan of about 10k words where nothing much was happening. So I've added a new story arc, and suddenly I've become unstuck. Which has lead me to put a new thread on characters up.
    Now I'm working to an outline of something important happening every 5000 words. So I've still a few minor gaps, but I'm really please with how the story has just clicked and become much clearer.
     
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