1. EricaJRothwell
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    EricaJRothwell Active Member

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    How to write a relaxed, uneventful period of time?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by EricaJRothwell, Dec 27, 2015.

    Hi :)

    Thank you for taking the time to view my post!

    I am writing a post apocalyptic story and in it, my band of characters find themselves in a safe haven for a fairly long period of time. I don't want to just skip this time by wrapping it up in one sentence before moving onto the next disruptive part of their lives.

    How can I show this period of time without it being boring? Can I invent some mini side stories i.e. love stories between some of the members of the group?
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Why are they there? How does it add to the story? You don't want a random story interjected, you want something that moves the story forward.
     
  3. EricaJRothwell
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    EricaJRothwell Active Member

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    They have found a safe haven, a walled home that offers them some much needed protection and respite from their struggles. The sanctuary will become the place where society begins to rebuild itself.
     
  4. datahound2u
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    datahound2u Member

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    Maybe they can start planning whilst they are in the safe haven. For example, they could plan on how to better protect themselves. Maybe they could plan on how to rebuild society, or how to rebuild it better than it was before. If not told previously in the story, this could be a place to "think back" to how society came into such a state. Just my thoughts. Good luck!
     
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  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    You answered your own question: the place where society begins to rebuild itself. Combined with ideas such as @datahound2u suggested, you need some society rebuilding to happen.

    Think what they need:
    food, water, shelter sources
    social structure
    political structure
    means of commerce
    security
    maybe they need healers
    perhaps someone can have their baby

    The story could delve into lots of things along those lines.
     
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  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are times to tell, rather than show. I appreciate that you don't want to wrap it all up in a single sentence, but if nothing much is happening that contributes to your ultimate plot, you may need to be a bit ruthless.

    Alternatively, this could be a time for your subplots to shine. Do you have a rivalry between two characters, or a romance? Is there a passing-of-the-torch motif between an older leader and a younger one? Rather than coming up with something totally new to fill the pages, I'd look for things that are already there, and bring them out. Assuming you really must write this time period in detail.
     
  7. EricaJRothwell
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    EricaJRothwell Active Member

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    Oh, great idea! Perhaps, this could be a quieter period where we get to know some of the characters stories a little bit more.
     
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  8. EricaJRothwell
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    EricaJRothwell Active Member

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    The thing is, at the moment they don't realise that they are setting up the future of society. They are just thanking their lucky stars that they found such an amazing place. It's not until after the long period of time that they decide to leave the grounds to see what is left of the world when they come across a raider settlement and there is a debate within the group as to whether they should step in and help the innocent people or just remain hidden.
     
  9. datahound2u
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    datahound2u Member

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    Excellent idea! Retrospect and hindsight are very good ways of informing the reader of things that took place before the story, be they things about particular characters or things about the story itself. It sounds like you're back on track!
     
  10. GingerCoffee
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    You need to ask yourself again then, "Why are they there? How does it add to the story? You don't want a random story interjected, you want something that moves the story forward."

    Just delving into a couple relationships won't be enough to keep the reader interested if the relationships don't move the story forward.

    Sometimes we want certain things to happen in the story because we are there and we're enjoying the pleasant surroundings. I had to work hard to take this wonderful relationship I wanted my character to have with her boyfriend and inject conflict (meaningful conflict of course) so that they had to work harder to get that relationship. It's much more rewarding when characters have to struggle to reach those happy endings.

    So why are they in this wonderful place? Is it because you'd like them to be there or because it adds something to the story?
     
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  11. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Read Dwight V. Swain's Techniques of the Selling Writer, specifically the section on Sequel. For something like what you're talking about, you use summary, coming to a decision and character(s) emotional reaction to the previous scene to bind it all together. Swain explains all this very clearly.

    And it's flexible in that you can cover as short or as long a period of time as you want without risking reader boredom.
     
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  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    But either way, there would surely be pent-up things that they've been longing to do. Wash their clothes, for example. :) Bathe. Cook something other than food on the run. The weapon-incompetent could teach the others how to use weapons. The one that knows how to use a needle and thread could mend clothes. Haircuts.

    There are elements of personality that only come up in survival situations, but there are also elements that only come pu in non-survival situations.
     
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  13. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    I recommend reading metro2033
    There are quieter parts that make up large amounts of the book, but their safe place is under threat, so move on in order to attempt to save it.
    In the hobbit, they smoke pipes in the shire.
     
  14. EricaJRothwell
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    EricaJRothwell Active Member

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    Good point. They're there because they are, unknowingly, going to rebuild society here. It can't just jump from them stumbling upon the place to them beginning to rebuild immediately, right? Or do you think that would work?

    These people are group of average people who were so far lucky to survive, they have a good group mentality and leader.
     
  15. EricaJRothwell
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    EricaJRothwell Active Member

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    Thank you! I'll look into that.
     
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  16. EricaJRothwell
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    EricaJRothwell Active Member

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    Ok good, so these things won't be boring. That's exactly what I wanted this time to be, a slower paced time where we get to know the characters more and show some day to day living - including how they learn to grow their own food, etc

    Great! I can see this taking shape now in my head! Thank you x
     
  17. EricaJRothwell
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    EricaJRothwell Active Member

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    'Tis true.

    Thank you :)
     
  18. Tea@3
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    I agree with Ginger that there needs to be a reason linking it to the overall plot, and with Bayview that telling is necessary sometimes.

    Have you asked yourself why it needs to be expanded? Or, asked yourself why it's bad not to expand it?


    I'm learning here. A lot. In my story which I'm converting from an existing screenplay, I have been struggling to figure where to begin the novel. I've been confused because using the opening scenes of my screenplay as chapters one and two of the novel felt like I was 'dancing around' the story and felt like I would be starting the actual MC's story at chapter three. But, I thought, the reader MUST know these things, so I kept trying to shoehorn them in to build the right feel. Wrong.

    That's when my big eureka hit me a few days ago; novels aren't screenplays.

    In a screenplay everything is seen or heard. Only seen or heard. So back when I did this screenplay five years ago (which I like a lot btw) I built those opening scenes so the viewer could get a 'feel' for the epidemic of crime sweeping this city, by showing a few actual attacks (show don't tell). No narrator or anything; the viewer sees four subsequent attacks with news coverage, and get the impression the city is dealing with an escalating issue. Nobody has to 'say' the obvious, the viewer can 'see' the problem. Then in scene five I introduce the MC and nearly instantly link him to the attacks (from his back story) and go on from there into the rest of the plot, which springs from his reactions.

    It was driving me nuts when I began the novel because I was going along with the structure of the screenplay but something was nagging me about not having the MC on page one. It didn't feel right showing these attacks in the first few pages of my novel. I felt torn about it. I was telling myself I MUST show the 'town climate' first, yet if I show that first then I'm delaying the MC's entrance.

    So at some point it hit me I need to move those first 4-5 scenes somewhere else and start instead with the MC's reaction to them. It dawned on me that his reaction is really where my story starts, and that I was only showing those attack scenes in the screenplay to set the table for the viewer. Then it hit me that those attack scenes can be cut altogether since it's not necessary to show them, because the town climate issue can be delivered in summary on the very first page of the MC's reaction to them. This is the point, anyway, to get right to the story. In other words the attacks around the town aren't part of my story, I was using them as a device to illustrate a setup. (climate & setting). But being naive about novels I thought I HAD to keep them. But a novel is not a screenplay; I learned something this week!

    So essentially I took whole scenes and slashed them, reverting back to 'tell don't show' just for this one special circumstance. I give a couple of lines about the town epidemic, and move right into the MC's actions.


    I think this is an example of what Bayview was referring to. (apologies if not so much)


    But just think, if I were still rigidly fighting to 'show' those climate scenes fully fleshed out, it would make for a very sluggish read while the reader waits for the story to begin.

    Those scenes were unnecessary, plain and simple. So I hadda cut 'em. :superyesh:
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2015
  19. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Cool. You'll still need some emotional payoff from those scenes, but just the emotion of the luxury of being able to stop moving is a start.

    But, as an example, a scene of methodically planting tomatoes is likely to be boring. Learning that Jane, the useless one they've been taking care of the whole way, is an expert gardener and can make a glorious meal with perennial vegetables gone feral that nobody else recognizes, is emotional and character payoff.
     
  20. AASmith
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    AASmith Contributing Member

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    I think you have to find a way to write every line with a purpose. So while there may be no action, the down time should be the perfect part for reflection for your characters or a time for a mini story lines to occur.
     
  21. GingerCoffee
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    If the story calls for it, but not just as filler.
     
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  22. GingerCoffee
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    You have to keep going with this. Why are they there? What was the reason they stopped there. Why don't they know they will be rebuilding society? Do they find out they are the only ones left?

    You're not asking yourself enough questions.
     
  23. plothog
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    Maybe they're not thinking as far as rebuilding society. But they will be worrying about how they can survive long term. If they have enough to eat and drink. If they'll be forced to stay here till they die, if there's any possibility of ever getting out. etc Some of their actions at this point could be sowing the seeds for building a new society, even if they don't know it yet.

    They've succeeded in their initial goal of getting to safety. But make sure that you don't spend long in defining new goals for them, otherwise readers won't have anything to root for.
    Relationship goals are okay as a subplot in this sort of story, but I worry it would feel rather disjointed if the main plot-line seems to have switched from post apocalyptic survival to romance. - So make you keep the survival related goals going strongly at the same time.
     

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