1. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Decision time

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by OurJud, Aug 28, 2016.

    I've approaching the point in my story, now, where I feel as though I need to start bringing things to a head and moves towards an ending, otherwise things will start going around in circles.

    Problem with that is my word count, which currently stands at somewhere around 30 thousand-ish.

    My thinking, however, is that because I under-write, I would probably double the word count for each chapter during my editing/rewrites.

    The decision I have is a difficult one, because I don't know if the story has actually run its course, or I only think it has because I'm running out of ideas.

    It's a very simple story and I think this is half the problem. Basic premise is two friends who turn their fleeing from drug-dealing loan shark into a road trip across Britain. The story follows the various characters they meet and scrapes they get themselves into, but it's now starting to feel a bit repetitive (get into scrape >> get out of scrape >> travel >> get into next scrape >> get out of scrape >> travel >> repeat repeat repeat).

    Because of this I've asked myself whether I ever had a novel to begin with, but then I think of something like McCarthy's The Road, which was basically 90,000 words of two people going through a daily routine of: Walk >> Set up camp for the night >> Get up >> Walk >> Set up camp for the night >> repeat repeat repeat.

    Do I need to start wrapping up, or has this still got legs? And if it has, what can I offer as a change to the monotony?

    I suppose what I'm asking is if you were reading this, what would you want as a change to the pattern of 'Out of the pot into the frying pan'?
     
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  2. Solar
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    Solar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, most stories have an underlying repetition. Characters do stuff, go places,
    talk to other characters, do some more stuff, reflect on things a bit, do more stuff,
    talk again to other characters. If the author's feeling particularly adventurous,
    there maybe characters talking to other characters while doing some stuff.

    That pretty much sums up ten thousand years of literature.
     
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  3. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you have an introduction, the establishment of a compelling central conflict, numerous sub-conflicts and sub-resolutions, all within 30K words? I agree that you're probably underwriting quite a bit.

    If you're unsure, you could go back and start the editing now, adding depth as you go, and see where your word count ends up before you wrap up the major conflict.
     
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  4. Scot
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    Scot Active Member

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    ' (get into scrape >> get out of scrape >> travel >> get into next scrape >> get out of scrape >> travel >> repeat repeat repeat).' sounds pretty much like a lot novels to me.

    Do your characters reach some sort of nadir, where things can't possibly get any worse, from where they climb back up into the sunlight (rubbish metaphor, I know). In other words, does your story take your characters on an emotional journey as well as a physical one? Is the geographical road trip merely the means in which we explore the characters as people, and see one, the other, or both of them change?
     
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  5. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is what I'm thinking. As I said in my OP I'm fairly confident I can, at the very lest, double the word count of each chapter by adding depth and elaboration.

    They certainly haven't reached rock bottom yet. No one's died or been killed, and I'm not sure I want that anyway. The road trip aspect is, as you say, a means in which we explore the characters but I'm not sure what, if any, change has taken place in either.

    To be honest I've never really understood the whole 'personal journey' thing; this notion that your character has to have changed by the end of the book. Why do they? What's more it's not something I'm ever aware of in the books I read. The characters still appear to be the same person by the end, and it's never lessened by enjoyment any.
     
  6. Scot
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    Scot Active Member

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    I've read a few books, any of the Jack Reacher novels spring to mind, that left me feeling flat and thinking "What the hell was that all about?". He gets into and out of scrapes with monotonous regularity, always wins, doesn't change in any significant way, and then moves on to the next town.

    Mind you, I would like to be as successful an author as Lee Child. :meh:
     
  7. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, I dunno. When you put it like that, I'd certainly want it to be a little deeper than this.

    It's been going fairly well up this point, but I sense a wall. This is going to test my resolve and determination, as it's usually the point at which I lose interest and give up.
     
  8. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think characters have to change, but I think it's almost always best if SOMETHING changes. Like, there should almost always be a sense of the story building to a natural conclusion when the central issue is resolved. If you're story is kind of episodic, it sounds like you may not have a strong central plot (are they looking for something meaningful that they really need to have?) in which case maybe your story is character-based and the story will end when the MCs have realized something/changed themselves, but if you don't have that - will your readers feel satisfied at the end of your book?
     
  9. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    It doesn't and I never intended it to have. I don't enjoy reading plot-heavy books and in the same way don't enjoy writing them. I suppose the natural change would be that they eventually realise they can't run away for ever and must return home to face the music. But is this enough?
     
  10. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    'Platoon Leader' (J McDonough) is a prime example of that. By the end of the book, the person speaking is unrecognisable from the one who started out. And the real creepy thing is, the writing voice changed as well, throughout the book.

    It's not the only book which follows characters, more than the story, just the f** best I've run across.
     
  11. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sorry, you've confused me. How is that an example of characters who don't change?
     
  12. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it could be, but I don't think it automatically will be. I'd say that if they realize this just out of practical concerns, rather than because they've learned something/grown as people over the course of the book, I as a reader would find the story unsatisfying. I don't think I'm alone in that, but I can't say that the sentiment would be universal.

    Basically, I'd say that having a less-than-satisfying story structure isn't a fatal flaw but it's a significant one, and it means that everything else in the story will have to be that much better in order to make up for it.
     
  13. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well I'm fooked then, cos I can't do story arcs and plots to save my life.

    Negativity is starting to overwhelm me now. I need to stop and let the bad vibes settle.
     
  14. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    It might just mean I'm not your audience. Doesn't necessarily mean there isn't an audience out there.

    (Also doesn't mean you couldn't learn to do story arcs and plots if you decided to. Nobody said writing was easy.)
     
  15. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    It's the opposite, actually. A person changing into another man.
     
  16. Francis de Aguilar
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    Francis de Aguilar Active Member

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    If they are being chased why not have them get caught, maybe one could escape and spend a few chapters searching for, and getting the other free.
     
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  17. Francis de Aguilar
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    Francis de Aguilar Active Member

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    Maybe even one of them doesn't make it?
     
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  18. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have considered the getting caught line, just haven't been brave enough to take the plunge yet. It would certainly bring some immediacy to the proceedings and be a change from what's gone before.

    I suppose I've hesitated because it involves ramifications I don't want to explore. Being based in reality, my MC would see how serious things had become with such a development and go straight to the police, but it's not the route I want. There's the old trick of avoiding this because they don't want the law's involvement, but I'm not sure that's what I want either.

    Pansting has got a lot to answer for!

    I've probably injured my desire too seriously now anyway. I've done the one thing I promised myself I wouldn't with this one, and that's discuss the plot. I think I've only got one novel in me, and I can't see me ever seeing it through to the end.
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2016
  19. Spencer1990
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    @OurJud, you are far too hard on yourself, my friend.

    There's been no damage done by discussing the plot. I think you can totally make it work. Don't be afraid to explore the places that you think your plot needs to go, but you feel ill-equipped to handle.

    I firmly believe that writing bravely is the only way to get better. If we keep doing what's comfortable, we can't grow as writers. Explore a little, don't be afraid to have to do it again. It happens to everyone. Don't buy into the malarky that you need to love everything you write. You don't, I'm not sure anyone does.

    ETA: You should be excited about the idea. But you don't have to love every scene. That's why the revision process is so important.
     
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  20. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks, Spencer. My depression has descended over the last day or so and when this happens I see negative in everything. I want to stop, but if I do I'll lose all interest and not write a thing for another 12 months or so. At my age I'm fast running out of time for writing that leisurely.

    All I'm seeing now is hopelessness.

    Sorry for sounding like such a dramatic arse'ole, but I need to go away. I'll see you lovely folk around some time.
     
  21. Francis de Aguilar
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    Francis de Aguilar Active Member

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    Use that feeling of depression and hopelessness to fuel the write.
     
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  22. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I would do two things (well, three - the first is take a deep breath and relax; light word count isn't the problem, it's a symptom).

    Finish where you are going with it. Don't take yourself out of the rhythm you've established in writing the story. If your instincts are telling you to wrap it up, then do it. It's a first draft. You can change it later.

    Then, go back and read it through, focusing on whether you've exhausted all the possibilities for your mc. Does everything event flow logically from what went before? Is there any way your mc might change that you haven't considered? Have you shown us enough of his motivations and his reactions? Have you made enough things go wrong? Have you varied what went wrong? Have you increased tension over the course of the story?

    I'll also echo @Spencer1990 - don't be so hard on yourself.
     
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  23. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    The weird thing about all this is how my lack of motivation for the story has coincided with the way I sense my MC is feeling about things. He's getting bored and tired with events in the same way I am.

    I should be able to use that to drive the story, but if this was real life he would probably relieve the boredom in ways that would be of no interest to the reader.

    It's like the story started life as a wind-up toy, and now it's run down and stalled. I need some way to wind up the toy again.

    Creating problems for them isn't an issue, but it's the infeasibility of this that's stopping me from moving on. Someone once said a good story is like real life with all the boring bits taken out, and while that's fine in principal I don't feel able to put it into practice.
     
  24. Spencer1990
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    The only way to do that is to try. There's a difference between self-doubt and idea-doubt. I think you have a little bit of both. I think you should let yourself write the story the way you want to write it. The only way you can critically evaluate all of the moving parts independently is to be able to look at them (write them).

    Get the story down, then evaluate. You might surprise yourself.
     
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  25. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've just thought about the story long-term, wrapping up and a possible event at the end, and it ignited the faintest of lights somewhere in the right hemisphere of my brain.

    If I head towards this then re-write to bulk up the chapters, there may just be something.
     
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