1. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    Essential I'm missing

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Justin Rocket 2, Mar 25, 2015.

    I think there's something basic about plotting that I never learned and need to. My stories are much shorter than comparable stories written by other authors.

    My WIP starts with the following scenes
    Prologue: begins to introduce the great big problem by focusing on the herald's problems in another place
    Scene 1: Introduce the MC who is scaling a cliff on the Columbine trail at twilight in a snow storm in order to rescue a young boy who fell and is unconscious
    Scene 2: On his ride home, the MC, on his snowmobile returning to the city, realizes that he is being followed by something which he first thinks is a mountain lion, but learns that it is moving far too fast and must be something else.
    Sequel 2: Upon arriving in civilization, the thing on the mountain is no longer chasing the MC. Within a few days, the MC comes to believe that his imagination had just been playing tricks on him
    Scene 3: Introduce the mentor, the MC's step-dad, whose relationship with the MC will reveal the MC's major need and fear
    Scene 4: ??
    Scene 5: the MC's house is attacked by monsters. He is rescued by the herald.
    Sequel 5: the MC learns that more of these monsters are coming for him. He receives his first Call to Adventure (the herald tells the MC that the MC must leave with him - the fate of the world depends on it) and turns it down. The MC reveals fear of responsibility (he's afraid he'll fail if he is responsible for anyone else).
    Scene 6: One of these monsters injures the mentor and poisons him.
    Sequel 6: The only cure is where the herald is trying to take the MC (the MC's second Call to Adventure). The MC agrees to go with the herald so that the mentor can get needed medical care

    So, that's the first act. It takes only six scenes and two sequels. This is about twenty pages.
    My gut is telling me there is something important I'm leaving out and that's why my story is so much shorter than it should be. But, I cannot figure out what I'm not including.
     
  2. bluehouse
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    bluehouse Member

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    Don't let length act as the final judge on whether or not something is complete. This isn't a high school English class, where for some reason teachers believe word count matters (perhaps in an attempt to prevent the class clown from writing a single word and presenting it as "Avant-garde").

    Depending upon the style exhibited and the topic explored, I have found that some stories are simply meant to be told within the frame of a certain space. It may be that a story, as one imagines it, is simply meant to be a short story instead of a full-fledged novel.

    I don't necessarily get that impression with what you've explained here, which leads into another very helpful piece of advice I would apply if this were my plot: make intros as short as possible. Readers keep reading by asking "Then what?". While certain details of description are important to a plot, whether it be that for the setting or the character, it doesn't actually drive it forward. Action does. Decisions do.

    With regards to a first act, I believe there are two questions that absolutely need some kind of answer by the end of it:

    What is the MC's goal?
    How does the MC officially begin the journey to achieving this goal?

    In taking into account, say, a roller coaster, the average person cares little for when it was built, who built it, what material was used. Suffice it to say that the ride is not at all likely to kill someone, they want to ride the ride more than anything.
     
  3. RachHP
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    RachHP Contributing Member

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    Hi Justin,
    I tend to average at 8 pages per chapter (6,000ish words) which is along the lines of what you mentioned, but that's no where near an entire book (in the traditional fiction novel, sense) and what you've planned seems reasonable for a prologue/1st chapter and the beginning of a 2nd, so I'm not sure what the problem is?
    You can flesh out your storyline to fill a whole novel, if that's what you want to do. Or, stick with a novella (17,500 to 40,000 words).

    If it helps, stop listing scenes and just map out the story (start simple. MC encounters creature. MC's mentor is hurt/herald recruits. MC finds cure. MC prevented from returning. etc etc etc) then expand on the scenes/events that each headline consists of. Then plan all the the novel classics that will accentuate your core plot (love interest, obstacles, plot twists) and boom - there's your book. Or at least, the blue prints of one.

    Then it just comes down to writing it ... :p
     
  4. RachHP
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    RachHP Contributing Member

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    Also, here are some resources I found helpful when struggling with plotting/planning issues. They might help give you some ideas or provide a structure you can use to fill out your story.

    Note: I did check all of these before pasting them, but let me know if any are duds!

     
  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Story sounds interesting.

    You've shown us one aspect of the main character, he's brave and selfless and has some skills. Not sure what we learn with the interaction with the step-dad.

    The mysterious thing following adds tension and the problem.

    What's missing in your description is much development of the character. Why do we care about him, or do we? What are his flaws or is he a flat Mr Perfect Hero?

    Does he have a life outside of rescues and monsters that we care about?

    What are his internal goals, we see the external ones.

    And does this monster chase have any significance other than just making actions scenes? What is the story here?
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    This, though I know how frustrating it is when what you want to write is a novel, which, good or bad, does have at least a general expectation of length within the industry. Not easy.

    I have a story that I love that's been with me since Clinton was in office. I love it. I occasionally take it out and tweak it and polish a bit here or there according to how my tastes and style have changed. Twice I have tried to expand it into a longer work and both times have been regrettable. The story was perfect just as it was, no matter my longing for a completed novel.

    It's like a 1957 Corvette. Perfect, simple, finally a decent motor under the hood. Gorgeous.

    [​IMG]

    My attempts to make more out of it just turned it into a 1958 Corvette. Over-done, over-wrought, over-large. No longer elegant.

    [​IMG]
     
  7. RachHP
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    RachHP Contributing Member

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    Great analogy, @Wreybies, though I'm sure lots of people loved the 1958 Corvette.
    It is, as you said, largely a matter of taste.
     
  8. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    I didn't want to mention this too much because it gets slowly revealed over the length of the story. Here, we just know that he's fearful of being responsible for someone else and he dismisses the value of his own life compared to other people (i.e, he's a martyr waiting to happen - taking extreme risks to protect other people in order to assuage his deep lack of self-value). His fear of being responsible for other people causes his step-dad to get badly injured (if he had accepted the first call to adventure, his step-dad would not have been injured).

    This scar derives from the fact that he accidentally killed his younger brother five years before the story starts. He has hidden this fact out of fear that his step-dad would leave him and he would be truly alone. But, of course, none of that detail is revealed in Act 1.
     
  9. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    But word count _does_ matter. The industry (or individual publishers) sets word count requirements for novels.

    Does that mean "make first acts as short as possible"?

    His personal goal is emotional security (we know he has attained that goal when he is able to confess to his step-dad his role in his step-brother's death). He begins the journey by taking care of his step-dad's monster wound.
    The overall story's goal is to prevent the end of the world. He begins this journey once he reaches the place the herald wants to take him (and where the mentor can be healed) only to discover that that place has been destroyed.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 25, 2015
  10. bluehouse
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    bluehouse Member

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    If I, as the make-believe publisher in this hypothetical, read a story that keeps me hooked, leaves me with a surely satisfying ending, and provides ample opportunity to market it, why would I allow something as creatively irrelevant as a number of words to flat-out prevent me from using it? If never written before, do you believe Animal Farm, Of Mice and Men, A Christmas Carol, or The Old Man and the Sea would be tossed in a trash bin today because a publisher called specifically for >35,000 words? Remember that, in the end, a human being is making the decision on your piece. Not a computer. Even if the story is as polished as you believe it can be, and the minimum word count hasn't been reached, it's as easy (albeit tedious, as well) as adding words here and there to simply lengthen sentences.

    Specifically, seeing the word "step-dad" already brings fertile ground from which to grow interesting detail. This naturally implicates divorce or death of his biological dad. How did they split/he die? Where is he now, if not deceased? What's the mother's role/history if the step-dad plays a large role? Not all of these have to necessarily have deep, well-rounded answers. The bio. dad could just be gone and that's that and the story continues just the same. There's no denying, however, that a large number of potential readers will have a step-dad of their own, and that's a solid emotional bridge that you can use to connect with the reader. I think I'd hone in on this area to flush out the first act.
     
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  11. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    Book thickness is not based on whether you like the book. You are getting book stores to rent shelf space on _projected_ sales. There's a lot of things which can cause the next great Harry Potter series to never sell well. You are also asking them to have confidence in book sales for a new book and new author. A thin book must absorb the unchanging costs of artist to do the cover, binding, etc. over thinner novels, which reduces the profit margin.

    That was certainly a factor in my decision to use a step-dad.
     
  12. bluehouse
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    bluehouse Member

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    I just feel that in the (I presume) full absence of two acts, you're putting the cart before the horse here. Full-length novels, as I'm sure you're aware given your knowledge of the business side, require vast, vast amounts of information. Information that may not even hit the page yet serves every bit of a significant role toward the MC, antagonist(s), auxiliary characters. At this early stage, I can say with confidence I wouldn't be able to mentally juggle the creative elements and worry about meeting all the non-creative requisites. I'd suggest to simply keep writing until you have what you can call a complete first draft, defined only by having any sort of "beginning-middle-end", to crudely put it. Then, I'd look at missing/insufficient business-related aspects as a motive to make changes and further refine the piece to fit whatever mold a publisher has.

    I like how you use underscore to emphasize a phrase. Never seen it before.
     
  13. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes.

    Quality becomes a KPI and art becomes a commodity.

    Or did I get those two the wrong way around?
     
  14. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    That's like suggesting to Rush Limbaugh to vote for Obama.
     
  15. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    Did you mean "chapter" or did you mean "act"?
     
  16. RachHP
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    RachHP Contributing Member

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    I meant chapter. I wouldnt necessarily agree the info you gave was enough for the first third of a book (which is what I presume you meant by act) but that's just me.
     
  17. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    My usual guess as to the problem when someone says, "Why is my story too short?" is that there's probably too much summary and not enough scene. I gave a sample of summary and scene, as I understand them, in this post:

    http://www.writingforums.org/threads/going-for-length.136420/#post-1296294
     
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  18. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    Thanks. I tend to think of the first act as the first quarter of the book (from the hook to the first act turning point) because the second act is twice as long as either of the other two acts.* If I put the first six acts in the first two chapters, then the attack on Luke's home and his decision to follow the herald would no longer be the first act turning point (it would come too early for that). The next significant point would be discovery that the place the herald wants to take the MC is destroyed and the organizing of a team to help fight. Then, discovery that the MC's team has a person who is working for the bad guy. After that, the next big turning point is Boone getting kidnapped by the bad guys. What should be my first act turning point.

    *I like to break the second act into two acts, so that there are four acts total
     
  19. RachHP
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    RachHP Contributing Member

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    Well, to be completely honest, I'm not sure we're on the same wavelength - so have nothing helpful to add to my original post :unsure:
    Good luck! I hope you get a handle on it soon :)
     
  20. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Maybe I'm missing something here, but how do you know how long it's going to be when all you have for scene four is ??

    Have you actually written all these scenes or is your length estimate just based on how long you think scenes and sequels will be?
     
  21. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    It is based on how long I think the scenes and sequels will be.
     
  22. bluehouse
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    bluehouse Member

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    Actually, it is a person's point of view that is volunteered to aid with a problem you have. One you opened up to a public forum. You not sharing the same viewpoint is one thing, but comments like this only reveal your ignorance and petty cynicism.

    Good luck with your novel. And your freshman composition class.
     
  23. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    Sorry your sense of humor died.
     
  24. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't have the faintest idea what you mean here. But I do feel that when Person A asks for help and Person B tries to help, there's a certain minimum level of courtesy that Person A owes to Person B. And unless I'm missing something here, you're failing to achieve that level of courtesy.
     
  25. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    The comment was intended in humor. The comment was not a reflection on the advice given or the poster that gave it. It was a commentary on how hard it will be for me to use that advice because it goes against my nature.
     

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