1. Hubardo
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    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

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    How not to over-tell when story is MC telling a story?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Hubardo, May 14, 2015.

    Does the title make sense? I have this idea right now for example, a guy in a jail cell. Tells story of how he ended up there to his cellmate, so that's really the story. In the story there can be moments of coming up for air to present tense, something happening in the cell, but just little moments to maybe remind the reader of the meta-context. But mostly I want the reader to become immersed into the story the MC is telling -- as the main story. The jailcell is just an interesting container for the narrative. I've considered maybe just telling the story instead of having that meta-layer could be better, but I love when this is done well and would love to be able to execute it.

    Story within a story - is there a term for this? Slaughterhouse Five is one of these but way more complex, and Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk is my all-time favorite in this way. Cloud Atlas has elements of it but the whole book is a big show-off so whatever.

    In my story idea the MC is a songwriter so presumably he's good (enough) with words. But does the MC/narrator have to be? Probably not, right? They can be bad with words in the writerly sense but good at storytelling. And if plot and character descriptions/development and everything is good, that probably doesn't matter. Or am I wrong?
     
  2. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Check out The Room by Hubert Selby, which is a prisoner in a cell telling his story and imagining revenge on the people who put him there.
     
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  3. Hubardo
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    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

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    Seems interesting. Reading chapter 1 on Amazon right now. Only problem is, this is an overnight kind of booking jail at the police station -- it was just a bar fight. The guy is in a band and the whole band started fighting each other at the bar. The cops arrested everybody and put them in separate cells. So it's not like some criminal madman like The Room. It's just some drummer who writes songs, who had to defend himself when the singer got drunk and violent and provoked everybody. So, pretty different. Nonetheless, interesting and cool.
     
  4. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    The stories will be different, but as far as an effective style to tell an expanded interesting story while the person telling the story is confined may be useful.
     
  5. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    At this point in your writing you should ignore any and all advice on "Show don't tell" and "info dump".
     
  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    There are two ways I know of to do this. One is simply to have your character start telling the story, then do a scene break and give us the events of the story as if they were happening 'now' in the author's voice, rather than the character's voice. Then do another scene break, and return to the character and have him finish telling the story (or comment on it) to his audience in his own words.

    The second way I have done this is simply to let the character tell the story, using his own words. This works just fine, and also allows for the audience to interrupt the story to ask questions, etc.

    It all depends on whether the story itself is the most important factor, or whether it's the way the character sees or tells it that you want to emphasize.
     

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