1. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    Can't Think of a Good, Short Title (For This Thread)

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by jwatson, May 10, 2010.

    Boy, that was a long title...

    Okay, so my question is: does the way that a writer keeps the audience interested in their novel have to be a way that contributes to the main plot?

    Sounds confusing, I know, but let me give you an example. James is being forced to join a band of three other men on a mysterious adventure in which he is only told what he has to do right before the time comes for him to do it. This adventure takes a lot of time, and a lot of traveling, but throughout his journey, James feels like his three companions have done nothing but lie to him about the truth of why they are on this journey with him. So, naturally and out of curiosity, James does some snooping around.

    I want to use this snooping as a way to really grab the readers. I want them to be as curious as James is as to what the bloody hell these three other characters are doing on this journey, what their professions are, and why they have not shed any light of this to James. However, the way I see it, is that this curiosity that James has, which may go on for a couple of pages from time to time, does not actually contribute to the main plot, the basic structure of what is going to happen in my novel.

    Is this method of roping the audience in frowned upon, inadvisable, or just plain wrong? Am I focusing too much on how enjoyable the characters are to read about?

    Thanks for your time,

    J
     
  2. linden
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    linden Member

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    From my (limited) experience, having breadcrumbs like that can be either very effective, or plain annoying.

    For example, a book I recently read used what had happened in the past lead up to an explanation of the present as their breadcrumbs. But the description of the present wasn't nearly as interesting as the recollections, and so I skimmed (or even skipped entirely) those parts. The present took me out of the story.

    That being said, it can be done well. I can't think of any particular examples at the moment. But as long as you're not obnoxious about it, you can definitely pull your readers further in as your main character learns more about these men and why they are there. Just be careful not to over do it.

    Hope that helps a little.
     
  3. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not clear on whether the journey itself has any plot relevance? That is, I understand that the journey is necessary to get them all to the place where James does what he does, but would the _plot_ be just as healthy if you bypassed the whole event with:

    "After three months of muddy journeying, it was time for James to do his part."

    If so, then I think that, yes, I'd be irritated if I had read chapters of Journey Diary. If I'm reading about a journey, I want there to be things learned, or friends or enemies made, or relevant personality traits illuminated, or something that has some impact on the plot.

    If the journey is relevant but the snooping isn't... that's hard to say without knowing more.

    ChickenFreak
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i don't see how anyone can answer that question cold... if you did a good job of writing, it'll work... if not, it won't...
     
  5. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    James and these men have goals each step of the way on their travels, so I don't think the "after three months" thing could work.
    Thanks for the responses it's giving me ideas in a good way. And yeah, Maia, I agree, but I thought I would ask anyways for any hint of an idea.
    Thanks all! : )
     
  6. MissBelle
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    MissBelle Member

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    Well, I am assuming James is going to find something about the other men that in the end will contribute to the plot? (Maybe not) Either way I think using that snooping around as a way of keeping your reader engaged is fine. (Just reading the post, I am curious about what motives these other men have about lying to James)

    Obviously don’t overuse this method of keeping the reader engaged, because they will get board with it after a while, and make sure that the readers curiosity does not turn into disappointment if James does not find out anything juicy enough about the other men.

    Good Luck.
     
  7. Nobeler Than Lettuce
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    Nobeler Than Lettuce Contributing Member

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    Alright, I'll pull something out of my bum. K.A. Applegate, a children's author, was enormously popular with my circle of friends in elementary school. She wrote this series called the "Animorphs" where children could morph into animals due to some alien technology. She also wrote something called "Diadem" which was slightly more mature and fantasy based, though with some firm roots in science fiction. I forget what gender K.A. was but it was enjoyable.

    Anyway, she taught me several rough forms of pacing which she used to great effect. The best that I can imagine being a device where the narrative shifts focus from a certain group of characters to another. Paring off individuals kept the reader motivated to find the structure of the plot. Naturally one was doing something exciting full of raw action and cliffhanger endings, while the other was setting up the pins so another scene could go on and it just tumbles like this forever. To young minds it was sometimes excruciatingly painful waiting to see what happened to the kid who could turn into the falcon, rather than the kid who could turn into a gorilla. Also, "filthy hobbetses." Damn you Tolkien!

    I'm sure there are other forms of pacing we're all aware of, right? That what it sounds like this problem could benefit from.
     

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