1. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    Beginning, Middle, and End

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by killbill, Apr 21, 2012.

    Here's the thing with my writing; everything I write, even a 500 words flash fiction, end up having some sort of a beginning, a middle, and an end. That's not a bad thing I suppose, but I worry if this habit will be counter productive when I write my first novel. I understand that a novel is not a straightforward beginning, middle, and end thing. There will be many chapters which doesn't require to have that arc (or whatever it is called). Hmm... I am not sure where I am going, so let me just ask you again: Will my habit influence (negative or positive) my first attempt at novel writing?

    Thanks in advance for your replies.
     
  2. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    No matter how many sub-plots you include, I think all stories have a B-M-E. I mean, you have the first page, the book ends, and the action is in the middle. (BTW, I call the overall story an "arc" myself, and I don't know if that's the proper word, myself.)

    I did try to scew with the reader. The first chapter of my story is entitled The "End." That's not a typo or a misuse of punctuation. That's the real title.

    But I do congratulate you about looking for originality.
     
  3. MissRis
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    MissRis Contributing Member

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    I agree with this. Every story has this in some capacity or another and I don't think you can avoid it.
     
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  4. louis1
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    louis1 Contributing Member

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    Of course you're habit will influence your first time writing a novel. But it's normal for your story to have a B-m-E. every good story has this, a story would suck if it only had a Beginning and a middle with no ending.
     
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  5. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know if it qualifies as originality having a beginning, a middle and an end in a story... ;)
     
  6. thecoopertempleclause
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    thecoopertempleclause Contributing Member

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    Most people expect some kind of a three-act structure in their entertainment, and it's very hard to write without using it. Two acts and people feel short-changed, more acts and people start to wonder if you climaxed too soon and got lost in epilogue.
     
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  7. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Don't think it'll be counter-productive. If anything it'll help your novel. Every chapter is meant to have an arc of some kind - every chapter should move the plot forward in some way, which means something important needs to happen. Think of it as two dozen short stories tied together by one overarching plot :)
     
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  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    This may be the case for screenplays, but I don't buy it for novels in general. The reading audience has few expectations other than that the action and intensity will escalate to a climax at or near the end of the story.
     
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  9. CH878
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    CH878 Active Member

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    Agreed. It can be a useful structure for screenplays, but you have more freedom in a novel. Novels vary so much in pace and structure, far more than films.
     
  10. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    ...picky, picky... ;)

    But seriously (yeah, I know, from me) what I meant to infer was the thought process the OP brought to the table. He/she was worried about the concept and if it had a counter-productive bent. Yikes, I don't think many authors give a rip about delving into the creativity at that level. I thought it showed his/her sincerity to the craft.

    I think we should reward that. I want to read the excerpts because of this concern.
     
  11. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    The only thing that matters is that you get the readers attention, keep them interested and then give them a finish that makes them glad they read the story. You never know if you've accomplished it till you're done writing, rewriting, editing and everything else. The process of how you get the job done doesn't really matter to anyone but you. What works, works, and only you can decide what does works for you.
     
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  12. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    I agree. It's just nice to see an author take a track that catches your attention and whets your appetite. I remember reading a story that began something like, "Killing a man is easy, what comes after that is essentially up to him."

    I didn't have the faintest idea where that was going, but I read the story, anyway.

    The OP questioned the format of the traditional three act play, and it's a good question. William Holden once started narrating a movie with him floating dead in a swimming pool. That caught my interest, as well.
     
  13. Jenny Masters
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    Jenny Masters Member

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    It's not a bad habit. It's worth following your intuition here, which is telling you good things. If you analyze stories, they do have a straightforward beginning, middle, and end, though it takes a little knowledge to understand how sometimes.
     
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  14. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    Thanks for your replies, very insightful indeed!


    That's a very interesting first chapter title. With a title like that I would expect a prologue style chapter, a bit of foreshadowing and may be a mysterious element to it to keep the readers interested, not necessarily requiring a B-M-E arc in that particular chapter. And that is where I think my habit (sometimes obsession) will be counter-productive if I were to write such a chapter. This is my worry.

    Thanks. I do want to know all the possible pitfalls before I start writing my novel and more importantly I am trying to find out if I have all the skills to write a novel.

    This is encouraging, because that means I can start writing right away :) But is it that simple? I gathered that short story writing and novel writing are very different beasts.

    You are right but surely no harm knowing what usually don't work beforehand specially for someone who has never attempted a novel before.
     
  15. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Congratulations. Novels should have a BME, especially if you are a novice writer. The most original writers are just subtle about it. I gave the example of The French Lieutenant’s Woman in another thread--a really unusual work which still follows a clear arch.
     
  16. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Yes, it does have a prologue-ish entry at the beginning, I'm just not sure I like what mine implies.

    It's more of a story about personal spirituality and making the right choices for a ll of the right reasons. However, I'm, trying to be careful about the lead's singular purpose. The problem is that I believe that I have a singular purpose. And I also believe that your core values color your prose.

    In reading the opening post I became reassured that many authors were also struggling to tell a story and get it right. Where does the line between 'making adjustments' and 'selling out' begin and end, as well?

    For me it's a matter of your personal comfort zone. There are many things I enjoy, and many things I have enjoyed. That's an important issue. You do get pressured in life, both to go along and not become a stick in the mud, or you get outright barked at because you managed to hit some fraud under his armor.

    Both of these conditions set off alarm bells for me. We pour a lot of ourselves into our stories. You might be innovative--in which case those who are not try to encourage you to be more mainstream. You're making them look bad. Or your prose is clearly and unshakingly an affront, and the claws come out.

    A story is your baby. It should be protected as such. Idiots come and go, but the idea of compromising an important issue will heap guilt on you for a very long time. This B-M-E issue is one of those ideas. Your story will be avant garde, making a statement and a fun read. That's an important issue to see through to the end.
     
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  17. Jowettc
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    Jowettc Contributing Member

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    This is an essential quality for all story's.

    it may not be linear but it remains the same - a good story has a beginning, a middle and an end - which does not necessarily mean that every string needs to be tied up into a neat bow - life is not all about tying things up. Depending on the story some conflicts (ideally not the major one) may never be resolved. Scenes or storylines might never be fully developed because the MC only interacts briefly with that story.

    This, I feel, is your major point of the question. A chapter need not have a beginning a middle and an end in the linear sense. It does of course need a start, but the start may be a lead on from a previous chapter. Naturally the chapter needs to be a collection of inter-related scenes which tells an important piece of the story - that I would regard as 'the middle' or 'the meat' of the chapter. It does not necesarily need an end. In a lot of cases chapters end on a cliffhanger moment to entice the reader to read on. If every chapter opens, progresses and concludes like a mini-story then it may become boring and tedious for the reader, or it may make the overall novel seem disjointed.

    Of course your habit will influence your writing - that is your style. Read some of your favourite writers and see how they approached the chapter / novel selection process. What was the point of the chapter, what were they trying to say, and where did it fit into the whole story?

    In brief: Main plot and MC, B - M - E is fine. Chapters - not necessarily an issue.
     
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