1. AniGa
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    AniGa Member

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    Advice: stuck on the "exposition" part

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by AniGa, Sep 15, 2015.

    Hey, people.

    I need some advice here.

    See, I now feel confident enough about my skills to really start the actual writing on the story I wanna publish first itself, not just exercises or writing out and planning key scenes for practice.
    And I roughly work with "Freytag's Pyramid" - in case that doesn't ring a bell, it's the dramatic structure of a story; exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution.

    Thing is... the very nature of the beginning of the story leaves me stuck on the first step, "Exposition".

    Let me explain...

    It's a social drama with the protagonist being a girl who's the definition of a "loner" at the start of the story - she doesn't go out, she doesn't have friends and she doesn't really do anything aside from watching anime and YouTube and playing games.
    And that's just it - I'm stuck on it because I don't know what to tell without either a) diving into "oh-god-the-world-is-so-bad" territory (which would be completely missing the point in this case) or b) just being plain boring or c) throwing too much info at the reader right at the start, including info I'd like to hold back until later.

    So... I don't even really know what my actual question would look like...
    ... but do you have some advice on handling this? I feel I should definitely focus on the nature of her lifestyle, of her being alone, but I also don't want to spoiler or stuff too much background info into the exposition.

    Thanks in advance, people!


    Greets,
    AniGa
     
  2. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    Can't you just write and see what happens? If you don't like the result, you don't have to keep it!

    It's a bit hard to offer specific advice on where to start, because you've only mentioned the character and not the plot.
    When you say...
    ... what is the point? Surely if you have a point, then you have a direction to write towards?

    If you're just aiming to portray her as a loner, maybe just write a simple scene where she's watching anime/YouTube/playing games. Find a contrast - perhaps other people her age are making noise outside her house as they go out drinking together on a Friday night.

    For a character-driven work, I think it's quite common to start with a simple descriptive scene that introduces the character.
    You don't need to explain every little detail from the beginning - there's a whole story to follow.

    If you're worried that it would be too boring, maybe you need to incorporate the start of the plot into the scene. If you know what your plotline involves, I'm sure you can come up with something. If not, then maybe you still have some thinking to do before you start writing. But you can get ideas by just having a go anyway :)

    Good luck!
     
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  3. Greenwood
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    Greenwood Active Member

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    Wow. It's pretty cool to see someone having the exact opposite problem of mine. I always fare pretty well in starting off with these kind of scenes, and then falter and cringe when thinking about the matter that will connect that scene with the first major hooks and obstacles (i.e getting the ball rolling).

    Anyway, you already know quite well what to include in your scene. You know your character, its preoccupations (which she obviously enjoys a lot, or thinks she does) etc. Now, that may appear to be a boring lifestyle when looked at from your perspective, but for her, at least in the moment, it doesn't necessarily have to be, and therefore the scene does not have to be a boring one.

    She may know she has few friends, and hanging out with them more often may be something that she would like, but since she is not, playing that videogame or watching that youtube video is what she enjoys in that moment. Describe it. For example, tell the reader an exciting tale by describing the action in the game she is playing (which obviously is much more exciting than here real life), and then when she "dies" or "loses", offer the reader some insight into her feelings by, for example, describing how she feels a bit empty after having discarded the controller of her PS in a bout of anger for the 100th time. Combine her feelings, the action of the moment, what goes around in her house.

    Ofcourse, there are 100 setups as to how you should write this scene, but what came to mind when I read your post was that a scene describing a lifestyle that is boring when lived for 20 years does not have to make the moment of the scene boring at all.
     
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  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Doesn't do anything" isn't my definition of a loner. It can be your definition of your character, but it isn't generic loner.

    Loners tend to be loners partly because they find their personal pursuits to be more interesting than the available society. I recommend the book "Quiet" and the online essay "Why nerds are unpopular."

    My first thought is that a solitary life has its dramas, too. What's important to her? Are there conflicts in her online gaming guild? Is someone attacking her online blog? Did the sewing machine that she uses to make her costumes break? Is the uncle who owns the land where she does her rose breeding experiments threatening to build a cottage on that spot? Did she have an injury that kept her from training for the 5k? Did the laptop that she's using to write her novel break?

    Or has a parent or authority figure tried to take those things away? That could establish the fact of her solitude and how much she values it.
     
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  5. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Exposition is a bastard. I hate reading it, and I can't write it.

    So I don't.

    It took me a while, and a lot of varied reading, to realise you don't have to include exposition - at least not in the sense of page after page of the stuff.

    Just tell your story and try to vary the elements as you go along. Re-reading Hunter S Thomson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas has taught me a lot -and I'm only a few chapters in - and that is that you can weave all the elements onto the same page; dialogue, action, exposition, thoughts, flashbacks...

    Just mix and match these elements and stop being controlled by 'rules'.
     
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  6. Greenwood
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    Greenwood Active Member

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    I reckon this. You don't have to create some perfect picture of who a character is and what he/she does all the time, right on that first page.

    I find that thinking of a good setting, however random or simple as it may be, and subtly weaving in the traits and background of the character as you go along works perfectly fine, and doesn't make you feel as if your reading a biography.
     
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  7. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    A scene doesn't have to be buzzing with action it could just be interesting. Your character could be painting ladybugs on her toenails and watching pug videos on YouTube while waiting her three day limit to move onto the next level of Candy Crush.

    My main thing would be what's the conflict or issue - is the girl content with her lifestyle and someone comes along to shake her up or are you the writer showing the reader - look how boring this girl is I'm going to give her a life?

    Maybe show some contrast as Sifunkle said - is wishing she could join in with friends or co-workers or is she thinking I'd rather just go home and watch Sailor Moon.
     
  8. AniGa
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    AniGa Member

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    The reason for her being alone isn't exactly a "the world sucks" or "I enjoy being alone" thing. She tells herself it's the latter, but the actual reason is that she suffers from a psychological trauma due to something that happened in her past, and being alone is what she does to protect herself. In other words, she wouldn't admit it to herself in that way, but she's extremely scared of letting people into her life.

    That's what I'm doing, actually. What I'm going for is to create a direct contrast by first casually describing that it's a sunny day on the beach, spending a few lines on the people there having fun - and then I jump right over a bit further inland into her room. That's the part I'm satisfied with.

    Yeah, the plotline is done. I know exactly what happens when for all major events and so on. But introducing her and kicking off the plot in the same scene or so, that feels very rushed when I consider the pacing I tried to give to the story.

    Well, that's not the problem for me - like I said, I have a completed plotline, so I already know what leads into the events that get the plot rolling.

    That's the point right there! Yes, I know what to write, but I'm having a bit of trouble finding a right balance between not boring the reader and not going into some territory that would be inappropriate, see first quote-reply.

    About that first one - no, there's virtually no one. A few abandoned her, and she abandoned the rest of them herself. But otherwise, yes, that's what I want to go for. Everything you say here... I'm just trying to find the right balance.

    That's pretty useful advice right there, thank you.

    I know what you mean. I want to give her actions and behavior meaning by showing where they come from, without spoilering much, of course.
    Like I said, what I'm being so careful about is the mood and atmosphere of it all. I want to strike the right balance to bring her personality across.
    Other than that, read above.

    I also have to say that I posted this thread right before I went to sleep! : P
    I tried for a while to find the right balance - and I'm sure I'll just find it by myself anyway, but I really wanted to hear the opinions of writers who are not me. : )
    That's always something one should value, and something one can draw a lot of inspiration and "sureness" from.

    Thank you all for your replies so far!
    Some of it made me feel notably more secure about the approach I'd like to do for introducing her.


    Greets,
    AniGa

    PS:
    <-- That. Well, she's not actually content with it, she just pretends she is. But yeah... she's inside her turtle shell, all defenses up, and someone comes along and crawls right into that fort of hers, whether she likes it or not. That's what a large chunk of the plot is about.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2015
  9. Sack-a-Doo!
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    You might start with one single scene that exemplifies her situation. It doesn't need to tell all, just enough to paint a picture of her situation at the beginning of the story.

    And if you don't tell all, if you raise questions instead (why is she a loner? for example) you'll intrigue the reader rather than boring her.
     
  10. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    One way to handle a story is to view your main conflict as a sort of incision into the main character's life. Just like with an experiment, we learn about the initial nature of the character by first introducing a change.

    So for example, if the story is about her adjusting to her asshole stepfather, the story could start with him coming home and laughing at her for being a loser, rather than just showing us what she does after school and then showing us her new stepfather.
     
  11. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why does there have to be a reason? Why can't people just simply prefer a solitary life?
     
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  12. Elena Schmetterling
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    Elena Schmetterling Member

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    If you're going to go down the whole "due to past experiences, don't want to let anyone get too close to me" route, you'd better make it unique. The amount of times I've seen it now just makes me lose a lot of interest.
     
  13. AniGa
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    Well, I already pointed out there is a reason, and what it roughly is.

    Yeah. I went for something I myself can relate to, and something that would definitely make her(!) react the way she did.
    Something fitting, and something very human in its nature.
    (Not to mention it happened in the past, and is not what happens throughout the story. It's "just" one of the triggers that even allows the story to happen the way it does.)

    And thank you all so much for your replies and advice.
    I think I'll just be more confident about introducing her, and I'll definitely find the right mood / atmosphere balance to strike.

    Thanks a lot, really!
    I think I'll get right to it again after eating something. : )

    I actually have something good in mind to hint at that inner conflict...


    Greets,
    AniGa
     
  14. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ah, my apologies. I'm afraid I did what I criticise others for doing, and skim-read your post.
     
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  15. AniGa
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    No problem, to be honest.
    I know it's all pretty long.

    We all bitch about it, but we all do it: TL;DR-ing. ; )


    Greets,
    AniGa
     
  16. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    While there's nothing wrong with having a character who normally would be an extrovert but was traumatized into behaving as an introvert, I'm still troubled by a vibe that you see extroversion as normal and introversion as a dysfunction. This came primarily from the idea that the definition of a loner is someone who does essentially nothing.

    I really do suggest that you read the book Quiet, even if you feel that your character is innately an extrovert. To get a taste of the topic, you cod watch the TED talk by the book's author. (Susan Cain.) Even if your character's loner status is a dysfunction for her, I think that if you're writing about loners, it's important to understand them.
     
  17. AniGa
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    Hell, no. I don't see extroversion as normal and introversion as a dysfunction.
    The point here is that her introversion is a dysfunction, something she doesn't want if she were to be honest with herself for a second.

    I myself am sort of really introverted; I prefer spending my time alone, or maybe having contact to people via my PC - but I don't like leaving the house or meeting people directly.
    Every now and then, okay... but not often. So no, I do not see it that way. Okay, I am somewhat of an autist and also have social phobia to this day, but not to a degree where it hinders me greatly, so yeah.

    And this story is loosely based on my own past, when I myself had extreme problems.
    I had really severe social phobia ("One cheese burger and a small coke, please." turned into an incomprehensible jumble of mumbled and stuttered words most of the time), I had no friends and I was practically scared of even having a social life.

    Well, it's not even nearly fully based on my past... but it's the base idea and inspiration.
    So, yeah, I know full well what people like her are like. I was like her, to an extent, difference being that she's much more directly antisocial and "defensive" than I was (for me it was much more a sheer incapability of having social interactions).

    Not to mention I make sure to get in an... "intense" amount of writing exercises to truly get to know each and every single one of my characters.


    Greets,
    AniGa
     
  18. Sack-a-Doo!
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    That was an example of the type of question I'm suggesting could be raised in the reader's mind. There doesn't have to be a reason for being a loner or anything else, but there almost always is, especially in fiction. And without these reasons, why does the author write at all?
     
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  19. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    What is going to get her out of that house?

    That's what you should focus on, now that you've set up her 'present' circumstances. These circumstances need to change in some way, or there will be no story. You'll just be writing a vignette of some girl who is painfully introverted and what her miserable life is like. That's not a story. That's a situation. Something needs to come along and challenge that situation, to turn it into a story.

    Once you know what that challenge is, you should find writing the next bit a lot easier. Push your character out of her comfort zone.

    I'd say forget about formalising the structure while you're doing it. Dig into the heart of the story, and just write. You can pull the structure together later on. I wouldn't say this if you were happily breezing along at the moment, but you're not, by your own admission. So in order for things to change, you need to change them. One thing to change is to ditch any working method that's not working for you. Try something different. Let go of the safety rope and see what happens.

    There is no risk. You can change anything you write, up to the moment when it gets published. So forget about pyramids and fly a little.
     
  20. AniGa
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    Everything's already planned out. I already know what's going to happen... all I had a problem with was showing that lifestyle of hers in an interesting way.
    Which, by the way, I think I'm doing rather well right now. I'm now satisfied with the way I'm doing it.

    I do "just write", it's just the storyline in bullet point form that I structured into these "steps".
    The storyline in descriptive text form, on the other hand, is just a few pages of text without that step structure.
    That's why I said I "roughly" go by that Freytag's Pyramid. It's something that helped me devise the storyline in a way that makes sense.

    So I'm pretty much back to "breezing along" and having fun. : )
    I did have sort of a lil' headache over how to write that first part in a way I am satisfied with... but I'm sure I found it, seeing as how progressing is now easy.


    Greets,
    AniGa
     
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  21. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Great when it all gets past the block! Keep having fun. Sorry if I misunderstood what you were looking for here. I thought you meant you didn't know what to do next with your story. Good to know it was just a very temporary glitch.
     
  22. AniGa
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    AniGa Member

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    Yep! Just a lil' "How to write this part?" wall, nothing more.
    And some of the replies here were really helpful.

    Thanks, everyone!
    Already beginning to like this community a whole lot.


    Greets,
    AniGa
     

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