1. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Avoiding obvious plot lines?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by TLK, Jun 28, 2015.

    Hi All,

    Just a quick question from me, looking for some other opinions.

    My latest project is a fantasy novel about a young man who feels out of place in his society and, catalysed by rejection by a girl he loves and his committing manslaughter, leaves his old life behind and joins a band of mercenaries. My plan for the plot is that this young man find he enjoys this new life of violence, plunder and destruction a little too much and is very close to causing disaster but eventually dissuaded, calmed down and, I guess, returned to his old self as, amongst other things, he falls in love with another girl.

    The slightly corny ending is not the issue, but rather that, for whatever reason, it feels right to me to introduce this second girl to readers before she meets this young man. Perhaps it's because she's such an important character, or that I want to write a story that follows separate characters (I enjoy reading such stories but have never attempted to write one before). The problem is that I feel that if I introduce a seemingly random female character that this, coupled with the fact all the young man's friends are obviously like "you'll find someone else", will lead to readers guessing what's going to happen. That's certainly the conclusion I think I'd draw.

    Now, I obviously can, and plan to, make the girl's introduction a bit more relevant and a bit less suspicious. I haven't decided yet, really, but I'm thinking that the girl will end up fleeing the "bad guys" that destroy the protagonists home town, something which makes him go further into madness.

    So what I'm asking is, is this an obvious plot line and, if so, how can I make it less so? But also I'm asking that, even if it is obvious, if it's written well, does it really matter? Even if readers can guess these two characters will end up together, they don't know what else will happen, after all.

    Thanks in advance! :)
     
  2. Masked Mole
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    Masked Mole Contributing Member

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    My suggestion is that you regularly introduce new characters (especially other females) and write the story from their perspectives. I don't know how well that will work with your story as a whole, but it avoids the issue you mentioned. Readers won't immediately think this is the love interest, and it might be interesting to hear some of the story from the perspective of these mercenary characters. It's just my two cents worth. I hope you find a solution somehow.
     
  3. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    Maybe have more than two female characters who serve only or primarily in romantic roles? Some of the other mercenaries could also be women, for instance.

    eta: ninja'd again -shakes fist-
     
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  4. Masked Mole
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    Masked Mole Contributing Member

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    Great minds think alike, right? At least I know I'm not insane.
     
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  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I like the story line. I don't know that you need to camouflage her appearance among other females. I think she should be relevant to the story and not just tacked on as a prize to make the reader feel the protagonist got the girl in the end. You can also introduce her with a bit of foreshadowing: She appears but the love affair doesn't start until later.

    I'm writing two books and in book one the 'other guy' who doesn't get the gal (protagonist), in book two, does. She is a different female and the protagonist of the second story. So I have this second gal make an appearance in the first book as an intriguing mystery the police are chasing but who gets away.

    The important thing is tying gal two to the story. Why does your protagonist fall in love with her? What is it he finds out about the gal he didn't get that makes him happier with the second one? Or does he still long for gal one but come to love gal two anyway?

    Look at the elements of your characters' attractions to each other. Those attractions need to be immersed in the story.
     
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  6. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Damn masked mole and izzybot said what I was going to say.

    Though I will comment further by saying that audience from what I gather tend to assume they are being lied to when told something directly. I remember a friend and I were watching a movie and the MC said. "I don't need to be in love to define me" and the friend instantly said. "And watch. Now she is going to fall in love!"

    If you over stake the idealism of him finding another person then a reader may think the idea of the book is going to be following how he reacts to that not happening. Just a theory. Obviously not set in stone how people will think. lol
     
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  7. Masked Mole
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    Masked Mole Contributing Member

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    I sincerely apologize for stealing everyone's thunder. Should I step down from the forum? Perhaps it would be best. :)
     
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  8. Miss Lonelyhearts
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    Miss Lonelyhearts Member

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    I'm not sure of your story line. But I like the idea that he falls in love with a girl mercenary and they both ride off into the sunset in a blaze of destruction and manslaughter.
     
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  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    How important is this love story to the overall story arc? Is it the primary focus? In other words, does your protagonist's love for this new girl provide the catalyst for change, or does something else change him, and finding her is just a 'reward' for leading a better life, or what?

    There are several ways to handle this situation. They will all have a different effect on the reader. Here are three angles I can think of, off the top of my head:

    1) you could make the romance the focus of the story. In other words, we are introduced to girl number two fairly early on, and we spend the whole story waiting for the moment that they finally 'get together,' fall in love, or whatever. This is the kind of story that has kept readers going for centuries. It's not bad, simply because it's old. We become engrossed in 'how is this going to happen?' This is the kind of story where you will put many obstacles between them, and the fun of the story comes with finding how they circumvent these obstacles.

    2) you could resolve the romance issue fairly early on. Then the story will revolve around how they solve the main story problem together, as a couple. You could bring in the threat of loss into it, which, because they love each other, would create jeopardy. Being lovers would up the stakes for both of the main characters.

    3) you could surprise the readers at the end of the story, with the unexpected appearance of the love angle. This would mean you'd need to disguise it pretty well BUT its existence must also make sense. The story itself would essentially be about other issues. (I'm thinking Joe Abercrombie's ending to the First Law Trilogy. One of very few books that made me punch the air in glee. I did NOT see that one coming, but oh, fantastic....)

    Just a few thoughts....
     
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  10. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    If you include the girl in a group that are escaping the bad guys, you get to explore her character more with more opportunities for meaningful dialog with multiple characters - including how she interacts with other men, etc, before meeting your MC.

    They could all share the limelight, and then a tragic airlock accident kills all of them except the girl who he saves and they fall in love.

    The end.
     
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  11. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Thanks for the replies guys, they're all very helpful!

    In response to some of your questions:

    @Masked Mole , (and others whose thunder he stole ;) ), there are indeed other female characters in the story, one of whom I'm planning to have a brief romantic - though more sexual - relationship with my protagonist. Being the daughter of the captain of the band of mercenaries my protagonist joins, she's also quite an important character. I could introduce more, I guess, but, at this moment in time, it would seem like I was doing it just for the sake of it - I can't think of any reason I would introduce a new main character to further the plot, except perhaps for people from the MC's old life (which would be a good plot turn as they all think he's dead). The problem with that is that the protagonist has sort of been there done that. He's met (most of) the girls he'd encounter from his own life and has already fallen in love with one and been rejected. Having him fall in love, or have some sort of romantic interest, with another girl from his old life seems fishy to me.

    @GingerCoffee , my protagonist falls in love with girl two because, primarily, she is a lot like girl one. Whilst he suffers from anger issues and enjoys killing, the protagonist knows how wrong it is and, really, just wants to settle down with a girl he loves, something which he envisioned doing in his old life. But since all his love interests have rejected him, and there is no other, he knows this wont happen, and so resorts to his mercenary life, which gets somewhat out of hand. Upon meeting girl two, the protagonist begins to realise he has another chance to have this quieter, preferred life but, as Jannert suggests, I'll probably throw in an obstacle that jeopardizes this.

    @jannert , as to how central this love story is to the plot is a good question. I don't want this story to be a love story - I really don't like stories where this is the primary focus and all my other projects are very low on the romance. However, it is no doubt important to the plot in the way that it changes both the character and the aims of the protagonist. The possibility of mutual romantic attraction leads the protagonist to calm down and begin to renounce his violent ways, as well as switching his aim to undo a lot of the mess he's made as a mercenary (i.e. he's a wanted man and many people want to kill him) so that he can spend the rest of his life with this girl he has fallen in love with.

    In terms of your suggestions (which are all very good by the way), like I say, I don't really want it to be the focus (as in point 1), and nor do I think it will be as there is an escalating conflict happening in the world in which the story is set, which creates all kinds of challenges for the MC's band of mercenaries, as well as loyalty issues for the MC himself. Point 2 isn't what I'd go for either as I don't think this girl would be very useful in many of the situations the mercenaries find themselves in, and I feel the story would work better if the protagonist were to resolve the issues because of girl, rather than with her. As for point 3, that ending is indeed fantastic and, whilst I'm far from the writer Joe Abercrombie is (though ironically he serves as one of my principal inspirations and favourite authors), that's kind of the thing I'm aiming for. Ideally, the protagonist and this girl won't meet until late in the book and the protagonist won't realise he's in love until even later, certainly not until he's got himself and his fellow mercenaries into a bit of a mess. However, I feel that, with this girl being such a main character, she should be introduced earlier on (to flesh out the character as well as provide some external context). My issue is that I feel that readers will take the heart-broken protagonist and this seemingly pointless female character, put two and two together and, correctly, predict they will end up falling in love.
     
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  12. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    One of my pet peeves is the magical destiny romance, two characters are obsessively in love upon first contact, or maybe after some trivial barrier. I don't mind reading these fantasies mind you, I'm just annoyed that seems to be all there ever is.

    A true romance starts with friendship. There may or may not be a physical attraction at first, but there has to be things in common and true friendship is what makes a real romance magical.

    You say he thinks girl two is like girl one. It would be nice if girl two turned out in the end to be nothing like girl one. To start with, she befriends the MC, no strings attached. She cares about him as a friend, that's how he becomes convinced to to change, because a friend helps him change.

    In the end he sees she's not like girl one, where the attraction was superficial. But along the way she's a fellow mercenary, or reluctant mercenary, or an inadvertent mercenary, or an accidental bystander caught up in the fight, whatever you choose.

    Anyway, just a thought. :)
     
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  13. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Here are a couple of thoughts, related to Joe Abercrombie, which are spoilers... obviously you have read him, so I don't need to worry, I hope. If you haven't read the First Law trilogy, however, avoid...!

    I certainly didn't ever for a moment think that Ardee West and Glokta would get together at the end of this trilogy, and yet both characters were in it right from the start. Thinking about it ...Glokta seemed uninterested in getting any girl, while Ardee West was presented as 'destined' for Jezal—and seemed interested in Jezal as well, at least for most of the trilogy. So the ending came as a total surprise (but a delicious one!) Glokta gets the girl!!!

    You might want to try something along these lines. Give your Girl Two somebody else as a lover or potential lover, and make them look like a solid bet. Nobody will suspect your main character will end up with her, especially if they haven't even met for most of the story. You could even keep your main character focused on how to get the original girl back. Why did she reject him? Could he be trying to become the kind of person she would not reject? This would make the reader focus on THAT possibility, rather than looking around for another lover for your MC to find.

    It would also help if you include other females in your story ...which I do hope you will. They can be used as red herrings, of course, but can also be strong characters. The more females you create, the harder it will be for the reader to 'guess.'

    I'm a big believer in turning stories on their heads. So you COULD take one of your male characters you've been working on and make this character into a female. Maybe one of your MC's companions, or military superiors or whatever. This would allow you to build your story as you've been doing, but having another strong female character around would help to spread the possibilites around a bit.
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2015
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  14. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Some fantastic advice there guys, thanks a lot!

    @GingerCoffee , I get what you mean about the "fated love" and share your opinions about it. Whilst obviously, in my head, these two characters are "destined" to end up together, that's only because I, as the author, know how the story is going to pan out, more or less. In writing, it won't seem this way so, as you advise, I intend to have them fall in love slowly, perhaps with some threat to the girl's life making the protagonist realise how much he actually cares about her. I see your point about having the second girl being different to the first and, yes, it would be nice. However, for starters, as the story is currently, we don't even meet Girl One (though this could change) and also I feel that people tend to go for the same type of people, even if they are actually quite different. So, although, like I say, we don't meet her, I imagine Girl One to be quiet, focused on studying and her career, yet secretly funny and a caring person. This is why I feel it's best for our protagonist to fall for another girl who is like her, in the fact that she's a simple bystander, rather than any female mercenaries who may be in the story, who I would naturally tend to write as being far more confident, full-on, and not as caring.

    @jannert , having Girl Two begin the story with a lover or potential lover is a fantastic idea! Like you say, that, plus the inclusion of other important female characters, should make it harder for readers to guess what happens. Still, I'm wary of creating female characters purely for the sake of doing so, and have them being weak and not advancing the plot. I know a lot of it is down to my writing skill, but I still feel it's an issue. Again, having the protagonist try and get Girl One back is an interesting idea, and would be something I'd seriously consider if I decide that he will end up bumping into people from his old life at some point in the story. However, as it stands, the story is about the protagonist leaving behind his old life to seek something he, wrongly, believes will be better - his old life is, at the moment, simply a background for why he's doing what he's doing. I could always flesh it out though, and include more chapters set in the MC's old life. Finally, good shout about switching up characters so drastically like that. It's not something I've done before, but something worth considering!
     
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  15. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    I'm not sure why you feel that Girl 2 is 'seemingly pointless' but if you find some kind of 'point' for her outside of the happy ending (coughcough) that seems like a good solution, right? Maybe she has some information the mercs need, she hires them or helps them with a climactic job. Maybe I'm misunderstanding but you seem to have some sort of plot in mind for her already. Introducing her a bit earlier on for a non-romance reason, fleshing her out as a real character, and letting the romance plot fall in organically sounds fine. I kinda think you've already answered your own question ;)

    You could also downplay the protag's heartbrokenness - imply that he's pretty much over Girl 1, he's stuck in the life he's in now and the fact that her rejection in part landed him there is no longer relevant to him. He's moved on, he's okay, then this other girl turns up and he's like "oh hey".
     
  16. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    @izzybot , it's not so much that Girl Two is 'pointless' from a writing perspective (after all, she does advance the plot) it's just that I feel her introduction will be interpreted as a bit too convenient by the readers. At that point, she's not an obstacle for the MC and nor does she help them. She doesn't, at that point, alter the story arc of my MC and so I think the readers will guess that she'll meet him eventually and that they fall in love. However, like you say, I may be overthinking this and I do indeed have a plan to make her introduction a bit more 'relevant'.
     
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  17. Kallisto
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    Kallisto Active Member

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    I want to state for the record that being "predictable" isn't always bad. Yes, it would be nice to create a story no one saw coming, but I would rather read a predictable plot than an unpredictable story that is totally a mess to read as it tries too hard to surprise me.

    But onto your question: how to introduce the girl. I would say having her have a clear purpose to be there, other than falling in love with the other character would be a good start.
     
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  18. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Romeo and Juliet is all about MC falling for Girl Two, and Girl One is all backstory.

    But, of course, Girl Two also brings her own set of complications...
     
  19. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    That's a very good point about not trying too hard to surprise people, Kallisto, and another, Shadowfax - in some ways I guess my story is rather similar to Romeo and Juliet...
     
  20. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have a hard time "buying" your mc because of the text in bold above. I find it hard to believe that a character who enjoys killing would actually only want to settle down, OR that rejection by a girl would cause anyone to get into that kind of life. One gives the impression of a sensitive, romantic guy and the other a cold hearted maniac. And that he would actually KNOW "it's wrong", but do it anyway... no, I'm sorry, I would probably put the book down at that point. Do you want the guy to raise sympathy in the reader or do you want them to hate him? It feels like you're trying for both here And I don't see how that would work.
     
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  21. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Fair enough if the protagonist doesn't float your boat, one particular book obviously can't suit everyone.

    In response to your queries though, it's not so much that the MC enjoys killing because he likes causing pain, rather because he realises that he's very good at it and, for the first time in his life, he feels valued, useful and, most of all, looked up to and admired as he finds he fits into the life of a mercenary and the things entailed by it. Whereas, in his old life, he felt out of place, looked down on by more popular, higher-class citizens and the rejection by this girl was simply the last (admittedly rather large) straw, making our protagonist feel even more unwanted by his old society and that there was nothing for him there.

    Hence the MC uproots and joins a band of mercenaries, where he quickly becomes not only accepted but also a valued member. Now, if the MC could wave his magic wand, he'd much rather be an accepted and valued member of the society to which he used to belong, but that's simply not possible. And so, even though he wishes otherwise, and knows that he shouldn't really be doing it (some of the tasks the mercenaries are set are morally questionable - which is one of the main themes I'm planning to run with), he is essentially killing to retain his place in the new society in which he finds himself. Think of it as having a really dull job for which the income is a necessity. Although you hate getting up for it in the morning, and would much rather have another job, it just simply has to be done.

    Obviously, I'm going to have to write well to make sure the story comes across as I want it to, but I guess that's my own problem!
     
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  22. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Of course not, and I apologize If my answer was out of topic, It was just my reflections. A believability issue, not something concerning the actual plotline.
     
  23. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    It's important to tell each other this kind of thing when it's what we think. What you said made sense to me. But then @TLK's further elaborating made the story very believable.

    I was going to say the protag could be angry, yadda yadda, but it would be the standard trope. I like your idea, @TLK, it's quite original compared to the trope that immediately came to my mind.
     
  24. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    @GingerCoffee is right of course - @Tesoro indeed has a very valid point (and I can see why you'd reach that conclusion) but I'm glad I could get my intentions across with my explanation and hopefully clear a few things up, and I'm glad you like it too!

    I'm sure I speak for a lot of people here in saying that I'm more than happy to receive constructive criticism like @Tesoro's back there, as it can only help me improve my story and my writing in general.
     
  25. Bjørnar Munkerud
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    Bjørnar Munkerud Contributing Member

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    The way you write it is far more important than the clichéed nature in which things turn out. If you can put your readers on their seats about what's going to happen and have a realistic and satisfactory end result simultaneously, everything's fine. The more obvious the plot seems to be, the more attention you need to put into making it be unique and interesting.
     

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