1. L.B.N. Ferreira
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    L.B.N. Ferreira New Member

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    How to write a story within a story?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by L.B.N. Ferreira, Jun 28, 2012.

    I need help writing a story within a story. One of my main characters is going to read aloud from a fairytale book to a few other main characters.
    First, are there any punctuation rules i should know about, such as putting words in italics, or double quoting?
    Second, this fairytale stars the main characters of my novel, and was written a couple of centurys ago. The whole moral of this novel is that you make your own fate and nobody can decide it for you, therefore, the novel will end differently than the fairytale does.
    My question is, how do I make both stories interesting, with the same setting, characters, and plot, but with different endings?
    Please, help!
     
  2. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    This is quite confusing. I don't think anyone besides yourself can be concerned with the plot, characters etc.

    We can provide you more so with info on how to write it. You can write it literally any way. My suggestion is to get the fairy tale out as soon as possible. Then, upon an edit/re-write, come up with a strategy of how to convey it well. Perhaps have character interrupt him/her while he tells the story, to remind readers it is fairy tale being told. Also, italics isn't necessarily a rule of thumb. Some publishers prefer italics, so in reality it is up to publishers how to punctuate in this circumstance. I recommend the "'FAIRY TALE'" double quotations approach.

    The last part I don't get. The fairy tale has the same setting, characters, and plot as your novel but with a different ending? If that was so, wouldn't it be as long as your novel...? Anyways, I assume you want it to be similar to your novel in plot and setting, almost as another way the lives of your characters could go. So, how do you make it interesting? I wish I had a formula for that. Well written and an intriguing plot should do the trick.
     
  3. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Maybe you should read Michael Ende's The Neverending Story I think he uses this technique.
     
  4. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Sounds fascinating. My thought would be to use a distinct font for the fairy tale that instinctively tells the reader its the story within the story. You could also try having slightly narrower margins for it. Other then that the punctuation etc, should be the same. My thought would be to read The Princess Bride as it uses a similar idea.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  5. Complex
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    Complex Senior Member

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    I remember this in an anime series called Monster. A good portion of the work revolved around this author who wrote children's books. The book and its entirety is revealed and sets up the psychology in a big way. If you are doing a story within a story, make it brief or make it directly related to the plot. This was also done with Final Fantasy 7 Crisis Core, which the antagonist recites poetry 'Loveless' and reads from it like gospel. While a bit awkward, its end resolves with the plot and the verses.

    Typically these works are well... lacking and are distractions, but such examples of works within works, though this is not to be confused with citing popular works or culture for your world. Harry Potter has that Bard story, Lord of the Rings has it as well, but they do not impact the plot in a major way. If this is a key plot element, beware making it cliche, boring or obvious in foreshadowing. Sometimes it is better to have a key idea or statement be recited then an entire work within the story. Fairy tales have morals, the moral should make an impact, but I'd not hammer the same half a page into the reader at every turn unless you have good reason to.
     
  6. Furyvore
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    Furyvore Member

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    one way I've seen books differentiate between stuff happening in the story and stuff being read from some text is that the text (if a character is reading a letter for instance) would be indented, and italicized.

    As for the story itself, I assume there is a message you want to convey to your characters to help them grow, and become more 3-dimensional. it seems it's a good way to do that. You can make it so the meaning of this text is not clear at first, but some conflict later on causes the main character to suddenly understand the moral that this story is trying to convey. To see an example of this, read Mockingjay (the final Hunger Games book). There is a scene where the protagonist sings a song that she has known since childhood, but she realizes it's true meaning for the first time due to the problems she is facing right now. This occurs partly because the meaning of the song is very relevant to her current predicament.

    good luck on your project
     
  7. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Having your MC read another story aloud sounds infinitely boring to me... sorry to say, but I would not like that. I'd wonder why I should care about the fairytale at all and for me, it'd just hinder the story I am already interested in.

    Perhaps instead of reading it out loud, they could just be parallel stories? eg. alternate between chapters?
     
  8. Steph4136
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    Steph4136 Senior Member

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    Wally Lamb did this in I Know This Much Is True, but instead of a fairy tale it was about the MC's grandfather, who wrote a book about his life and immigrating from Italy to the US. He used a different front for the grandfather's story, which helped separate it.
     
  9. JoePetchonka
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    JoePetchonka New Member

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    I would italicize or indent the story within the story, otherwise your readers will probably be confused. Like someone else suggested, you could also take a look at what Michael Ende did with "The Neverending Story."

    I'm sure you can think of other creative ways to do this, but these methods are surefire winners.
     

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