1. stubeard
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    stubeard Active Member

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    Frodo leaving the Shire moments

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by stubeard, Sep 22, 2010.

    How many other folk here commonly write good old-fashioned fairy stories, in whatever genre? I'm having a crisis about the "Frodo leaving the Shire" moments and how far into a book they should come. Anyone interested in discussing how best to create a balance between showing "the Shire" in its proper pastoral light whilst getting to the action promptly?
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm in the process of writing one right now. I think I have about three chapters with my MC meeting up with people at home, there is a day teaching at school. Then I move on to the main journey in the big country to the North.

    EDIT: Steerpike is right about leaving clues that all is not well mine begins with unusual weather signs, and feeling that something is wrong.
     
  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Hmmm...well if it is just going to be about setting the scene and the status quo in the "shire," or whatever your equivalent is, I wouldn't drag it out too long. You should start where your story starts, and even if you want to set up the way life is for the characters before the main action of the story, I think you should be planting seeds of the action to come as you do so. Even in Lord of the Rings, interactions between Gandalf and Bilbo (before he leaves the Shire and Bag End to Frodo) come pretty early, and the reader is given bits of the story to come.

    If all you are doing is painting a bucolic sort of picture of the life of the characters before the actual story beings I, as a reader, wouldn't generally have a great deal of patience for it.
     
  4. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Agreed - the plot should already be moving, or else there's no point staying more than a couple of pages. The duller fantasy I've read had several long world-building chapters, while the more exciting would, even if it were cliche, have the village burned down and the parents dead by the second/third page or so. :p The better ones seem to give one or two events that are very directly related to the plot, even if it doesn't seem so right away (without dropping huuuuge hints, you know?) and usually only linger an average chapter length or so before the hero's wandering off.

    In my own story where a character leaves his "ideal" little world, I got events moving right away and only had him look back at what his world was like in retrospect, knowing he was leaving it. As it was first person I sort of felt like that was the only way to justify doing any real scene-setting.

    Probably stole that approach from some published work I can't remember right now, as well. :p

    Only other approach I can think of is going with a childhood scene as a sort of prologue (so if there's some longer scheme to the plot - usually a prophecy in my experience of reading) and then jumping right into the leaving, and the assumption that the only thing that's changed is how tall the main character is. :p
     
  5. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Start with the main conflict right off the bat. Preferably within line one -- definitely within the first three sentences. Sum up the most crucial info right at the start.

    Then, as the story progresses, you can show in bits and pieces the idyllic home setting. But don't dwell on it. If someone's skimming through deciding to read your story and the beginning doesn't grip them....yeah, they won't read it. :)
     
  6. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    You can give a sense of the pastoral/bucolic while driving forward with the plot, it doesn't have to be one or the other. Incidental descriptions, carefully chosen diction, calling attention to those relevant details can all help build the appropriate tone without you having to slow the plot down to talk about things that aren't related to the plot. The world you build is the language you've used to build it; I think a lot of fantasy writers, amateur and professional, would do well to reflect on that from time to time.
     
  7. stubeard
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    stubeard Active Member

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    I have a prologue introducing one element of the main plot, but that happens thousands of miles away from where the young lad lives.

    The problem is that his "leaving of the Shire" has nothing to do with the main plot. Basically he's kidnapped by slavers and arrested by the Royal Navy. That's how he finds himself in the Caribbean, where he meets a strange guy around whom the whole plot centres.

    The young lad has no direct stake in the plot, although he sticks around for two reasons: he has no way of getting home, and he wants to take care of the strange guy because he reminds him of his grandpa, who he parted with on bad terms.

    I know it's hard to make a judgement without more detail but does having the lad "leave the Shire" with no relation to the plot, other than his character development, make this project doomed from the start?

    P.S. The slavers and the Navy don't actually come back into it, although the things that they do are important for the lad's psyche, and therefore become important to the plot.
     
  8. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I'm more concerned that your protagonist has no stake in the main plot. If he's not invested in it, the readers won't be either, unless your protagonist is really just a narrator, and the real protagonist is the guy he is observing. If that's the case, then the plot involving him being kidnapped is more or less irrelevant, and is probably better related through backstory later in the novel, otherwise you risk having your readers engage with the wrong person.
     
  9. stubeard
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    stubeard Active Member

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    That's my worry. The problem I have is that I want the strange guy at the centre of the main plot to be out of the reader's reach, to some extent. There's plenty of mystery surrounding him and making him the centre of attention would remove a lot of that mystery.

    Thinking about it, Luke Skywalker doesn't really have any stake in the main plot of the first Star Wars film. He's dragged into the rebellion's fight against the Empire against his will and because he doesn't have anywhere else to go. It's the same with Han Solo. They're thrown together by circumstances and have to fight their way out.
     
  10. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd agree that in that case you really ought to at least start with the odd guy... Hrm, but if the main character's concern is saving up enough to get home or whatever - which could create interesting dilemmas if he gets enough to go back while the plot is still half unresolved - then you should give the place he comes from enough of a nod that it feels worth it.

    Is that prologue about the odd guy, or something else? If it is, maybe you could just go as planned? If not, maybe write some stuff with him before turning your attention back?
     
  11. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    But with the Star Wars trilogy, the stakes are raised very quickly and it becomes clear that they're all necessary, besides which there is the love story which adds tension and a reason for the characters to stick together and fight the Empire. The reasons you gave don't really seem to represent a significant investment in the conflict.

    Personally, I would be far, far more interested in having the story of the mysterious guy narrated by this other character who, like the audience, is in the dark about him a lot of the time. It would certainly be a more interesting take on the terribly cliche epic hero tale. Just because he is the "centre of attention", so to speak, doesn't mean you have to lose the sense of mystery, and the fact that the narrator is a character, rather than some disembodied voice, means that you have more room to play with the idea of an unreliable narrator, and playing with the dynamics of dramatic irony and things, having the reader know more than the narrator at certain points. (The Sherlock Holmes novels, for instance, work in this way; the reader often knows more than Watson, but never as much as Holmes, and this dynamic is one of the reasons they are so successful).
     
  12. stubeard
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    stubeard Active Member

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    The prologue is about the odd guy, but has limited information. The trouble is he's blind, but I don't want to give away how he went blind. Neither do I want to make it obvious whether he is blind or not. The prologue is ambiguous enough.

    I think I just need to come up with a better reason why the young lad has to leave his home - make it a bit more relevant to the main plot, so he and the odd guy are forced to work together for the same reason.
     
  13. stubeard
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    stubeard Active Member

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    That was entirely my intention. Thank you for putting into words what has been jumbling around inside my head though :)

    I guess I just need to find a good way for the two to meet.
     
  14. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Their meeting doesn't really matter, all that matters is that they do, since whatever happened before is irrelevant to the main plot. And really, I see nothing particularly wrong with the scenario you had; it seems as good as any other, although I guess I don't know too much about the context.

    I'm generally against prologues, but I think in this case, an ambiguous prologue that establishes the mysterious character as someone special would probably be quite effective. That way, when your character meets him, the reader will understand that it is a significant meeting while the character doesn't, one of those moments of ironic tension where you have the opportunity to play with the reader a little.
     
  15. stubeard
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    stubeard Active Member

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    Thanks my friend. Your advice is much appreciated.

    I know this is an entirely arbitrary question but how far into a 350 page book would you expect the two characters to meet? As a rough figure?
     
  16. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Assuming you're not including the narrating character's journey/kidnapping/whatever until later? Probably with the first 20-30 pages realistically, since it seems like he is the character's only link to the main plot. But as you say, it's totally arbitrary; so long as what you are writing is interesting and well-written, the reader could stay engaged a lot longer than that.
     
  17. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    That seems reasonable to me. :) I'd say though that you really ought not to go much further than that, unless what's happening before they meet is directly main plot-related... It's fine not to have 2 characters meet a while, even if they are the main ones, but the plot does have to seem to be moving... And if your odd guy supposedly IS the plot, then the sooner they can meet up, the better.
     
  18. stubeard
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    stubeard Active Member

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    Well he's not entirely the plot on his own, but I know what you mean.

    I think I've got enough to be getting on with now. I'm going to start it with the lad getting chucked into prison, meeting the odd guy by page 5 at the latest.

    Thanks to both of your for your help. I don't know what I'd do without this forum. (Actually, I do. It involves spending hours of soul-searching, playing Minesweeper while I try and sort out the thoughts in my head.) And you do it all without any hope of reward. Marvellous!
     

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