1. mbinks89
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    mbinks89 Active Member

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    Book within a book question

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by mbinks89, Aug 10, 2013.

    My MC, a misanthropic sociopath who ends up worshiping Iblis, getting horns tattooed on his forehead, and is either plagued by a demon or vivid hallucinations, is reading a book within my book called Eclipse. I'm starting to wonder if it's getting too long. It's a first person book written by a fictional Egyptian scholar from the viewpoint of Iblis, so it is pertinent, and the ending will be especially, but right now I'm describing the Islamic Apocalypse, and it's 11,000 words out of my book's total of 41,000 . . . and I'm not really close to done it. Should I break it up into sections, so that it's the text of the book, then my MC's adventures, then the book again? Do you guys think I should omit the less interesting parts, or just go through until the end, and shorten the parts that aren't that important? It's full of interesting stuff (Jesus, Mahdi, False Messiah, warfare, Gog and Magog, mythical beasts, etc.), but I'm wondering if it's just getting too long now.
     
  2. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    interesting to who?

    It sounds like you are writing about a guy doing a history course o reading a history book? How pertinent can 11,000 words be to your story?

    I did something similar writing an historic fantasy thinking it was great, thinking this was so good it'll be picked up by schools and will feature on the curriculum and then thought hang on - to me it's interesting but what do other people think? Turned out it was a massive info dump and bored the socks of people.

    I cut tons out leaving just the bare necessity and it's so much better.
     
  3. mbinks89
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    mbinks89 Active Member

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    I'll probably shave off thousands of those words when editing in any case, but I agree, it might just bore people. It does relate back to the main story thematically quite a bit, as well as spur the development of my MC, though. I'm thinking of breaking it up into smaller sections, and then it will culminate with the actual climax of the book.
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    First question: how does what you're writing advance your story?

    Most backstory that people feel they have to include in their stories is interesting mostly to the writer. But if it doesn't materially advance your story, then it's something that you should read but not write.

    As it happens, I've been wrestling with a similar question recently on my own project, a historical novel. There is a segment of history in the country I am portraying that is extremely eventful, and I have been agonizing over how I get all this great research into the novel. And then I remembered - the key to a good historical novel isn't the history, it's the story for which the history serves as a backdrop. I knew this, but still I agonized. This afternoon, as a warm summer breeze swept past me as I sat at my dining room table, it suddenly hit me.

    Tell your story.
     
  5. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    Think about how the Great Inquisitor relates to the rest of the "Brothers K", or how the "Treatise on the Steppenwolf" relates to the Steppenwolf as a whole, or Dr Talos Play to the Book of the New Sun...

    Is your Iblis-story thematically mirroring the "main" story? Is there some sort of paralel development that your reader will eventually recognize? Or does the story-within reflects another aspect of your MC, his world-view, something not evident or explicit in the "main" storyline? Maybe there's a repeating cosmic pattern, a glance into past lives of protagonists, or something else to puzzle your reader?
     
  6. Ray West
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    Ray West Member

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    Is your main character reading the book all in one sitting, or coming back to it periodically? I think that inserting a book of 11000+ words in the middle of your story might draw the reader away from the main story you're telling. Probably only keep the most important parts of the book within your story, and have them in chunks as your MC reads it, and then how it impacts his life?
    Alternatively, if you feel it is very important to your story, or if there are parallels between that book and the story of your MC, maybe break it up so the reader can gradually see how they are coming together, and how the book is impacting your MC?
    Basically, I would definitely suggest breaking the book up within your story, so that your reader doesn't lose sight of the main storyline, and only keep what is important to your plot.
     
  7. mbinks89
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    mbinks89 Active Member

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    Thanks for the input everyone. [MENTION=55561]Ray West[/MENTION], I'm planning on doing what you've said. Breaking it up into smaller segments which I will weave together with the main narrative.
     
  8. blackstar21595
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    blackstar21595 Contributing Member

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    Ever try looking at Assassin's Creed?
     
  9. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Your point being?
     
  10. blackstar21595
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    blackstar21595 Contributing Member

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    My point being that Assassin's Creed is a series that is known for having stories based in historical settings, and that it might help you.
     
  11. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    11,000 words that's not even the story is far too much - by the end the reader will have probably forgotten what the story's about altogether. I remember 1984 - the philosophy bit where the MC's reading the book, roughly 20 pages, was the most boring thing I'd ever encountered and completely and utterly destroyed the story for me, because by the end, I'd stopped caring. I was so bored, bored out of my mind, that I actually ceased to care for the story and characters altogether cus, frankly, I couldn't remember it anymore. The climax was lost on me because as I read about the characters' torture, I just didn't care. It broke the flow and it was just repeating what it'd already done so well in portraying through story alone anyway.

    Get the main points across. Maybe you can consider slipping one page or two pages of the "book" between chapters. Each time at the end of a chapter, there's some crucial information or statement made by the Egyptian scholar - make it short and poignant and relevant to the next chapter, or else it should sum up the last chapter succinctly.

    Brandon Sanderson did something similar in The Rithmatist. At the end of every chapter is a one-page diagram of how the magic system of rithmatism works, and each time it got slightly more advanced, gives you a little more insight into how the system worked. I think Sanderson did an excellent job. He explained his magic system well without interrupting the story at all and kept the info interesting because they were only snippets and built up the reader's understanding slowly. Maybe try this?
     

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