1. mickaneso
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    mickaneso Member

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    Is this enough?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by mickaneso, Aug 6, 2012.

    I've written my first chapter, of my first draft, of my first novel. 3000 words in counting (It's a fantasy story by the way). It starts with the mass genocide of a religious group. The country decreeing this is also taking action against outlaws, pirates and "traitors" by throwing them into abandoned holds and monitoring them. Yes this is supposed to mirror the Holocaust to a degree. My protagonist is a pirate. He was extremely self destructive growing up and left his family in a time of need (I'm also trying to mirror this to drug abusers to give it a sort of dark edge). His guilt has caught up with him in later life now that he has decided on the path of self recovery (abandoning the outlaw life to return home).

    My worry is my fist chapter is too plot driven as opposed to character driven. Explaining the events of him witnessing the executions and then being caught and taken to one of the holds. I never touch on his passions or interests. I only touch on his guilt and his road to self improvement very briefly. He develops a little in this chapter by having words of encouragement on his path to self improvement, making him slightly more pro active in it (though his despair at being in the camps will probably over power that next chapter) though I never say that, I only make a mental note that he's encouraged.

    I worry that I'm focusing too much on Show don't Tell and in doing so I'm not telling enough about the character. Am I showing enough character by touching ever so slightly on his guilt and desire of self improvement or do I need to spill more beans to make him engaging from the get go?

    Also any problems with my story idea would be welcome. This is the first thing I've started to write though so let me down gently please!
     
  2. idle
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    idle Active Member

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    I'm afraid it can't be said how much is enough when speaking generally like this, without the chapter itself. It's all in the tiny details. Sometimes just half a sentence can suggest there's a lot more to the character. The readers might then even start looking forward to learning about it later, when the pace slows down.
     
  3. Timberwolf
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    Timberwolf New Member

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    At the first chapter of the first draft, I'd keep going. There's a huge temptation to edit and fiddle with everything almost before it's down, and I know I've lost several minutes (and usually my train of thought) trying to figure out a perfect word only to immediately un-perfect it with my next sentence. Maybe if you feel you're veering too far towards plot, go heavily for character in the next chapter. You can always juggle bits around to achieve more of a balance in the second draft.

    (And don't forget that once you know where the novel ends up, you'll probably want to hack your first 10,000 words to pieces putting in foreshadowing and taking out all the hooks that turned out to be dead ends.)
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A story concept means nothing. What matters is how you write it: the characterization, the flow, the imagery, all of it.

    There's absolutely no benefit in asking what other people think of the concept! They'll either say,"Sounds great," or, "it sounds like a ripoff of..."

    If the idea stirs you, write it. Then ask people what they think of the final story. After they tell you what they don't like about it, revise it, usually several times, until you're happy with it or until you throw up your hands and say the hell with it.
     
  5. mickaneso
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    mickaneso Member

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    Thanks for the answers everyone. One thing that is frying my head at minute is the show don't tell rule when it comes to character. Say Bruce meets Steve and he thinks he's a bit of a jackass. I'm not allowed to have Bruce think "jeez, this guy is being a bit of a jack ass" I have to show him not being too friendly to Steve via dialogue. Sometimes I think it's too subtle, and I think "what are the advantages of writing a book over a script when I can't tell the writer what my character is feeling. I could just as easily do a dialogue scene for a script".

    Thanks for the advice, I'll definitely soldier on and try to be more character orientated in the next chapter. I might write a little note down after this chapter saying "revise, try to show character more" for my second draft. I don't want to give into that editing temptation.
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Stop.

    It's not a rule.

    It's a guideline. You don't HAVE to do anything in particular, you're not prohibited from doing anything in particular, and what you decide to do will vary based on what else is going on in the story. It may very well be that Bruce thinks Steve is a jackass, but I, the reader, would not. Maybe Bruce thinking Steve is a jackass is a reflection of a flaw in Bruce's character.

    Do yourself a favor - if this really is the beginning of your first attempt at a novel, don't think of it as anything other than the first step in a long learning process. If you come to this site, read and participate in the discussions - you'll quickly realize who is the most reliable in terms of advice (there are about a half dozen that I prize) - but do not - repeat, do not - post your work, your ideas, or ask us to judge your work in any way because there are many people here who post authoritative-sounding opinions that aren't worth the bandwidth that they occupy, maxims are turned into rules, and all you'll do is become a very confused novice writer.

    In my opinion, the worst thing a writer of any stripe or level of experience can do is to allow his/her forward momentum in writing to be stopped. That's not to say that you shouldn't pause to check facts, or style, or spelling, punctuation and grammar ("SPaG"). But you need to guard against relying on others to validate your ideas.

    Best of luck.
     
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  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sure you are. Just refrain from spoonfeeding every little idea and conclusion to the reader--though I agree that that's something to worry about in later drafts, not right away. But as an example of what I mean, this is spoonfeeding:

    Bruce grew very annoyed as he watched Steve rant at the waitress He disliked self-important people, and always thought of them as "jackasses", a word that he'd learned from his aunt when he was still a young child. He also felt anxious in the presence of angry people, and generally tried to avoid them, as a result of an unpleasant experience... (blah blah blah)

    This isn't:

    Bruce watched Steve rant for a moment before shaking his head and turning back to his book. What a jackass.
     
  8. Gonissa
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    Gonissa Contributing Member

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    I'm going to give you some really annoying advice: read The Gulag Archipelago. This is the true story of Alexander Solzhenitzen's experiences in the gulags of Soviet Russia (whose prisons predated and lasted much longer than Hitler's), as well as all the information he could glean from those who had also been. This guy goes into serious detail about what life is like in a prison camp, which can help you get a feel for what would work for your book. The thing that makes Solzhenitzen's book really good is that it's "character driven" (pretty weird to say when it's about real people) and you get a sense of how real people would react to being imprisoned.

    The reason this is so annoying is that The Gulag Archipelago is that it's three books long, all of them over two inches wide. However, if you read the chapter "The Soul and Barbed Wire", you should get a good character feel for how someone would survive.
     
  9. mickaneso
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    mickaneso Member

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    Thank you, that seems much more natural and fluid. I guess like Ed said I need to stop using the Show don't Tell as a rule, and figure out when to use it and when not to use it. I've read a lot of writing fiction books and they all say that you should Show over tell as much as possible and sometimes I've felt it's more natural to tell. As I write in those moments I'll try and take more authority over it.

    That sounds great. One of my biggest pains has been looking for decent research books so I'll always welcome advice on that. I don't want to halt my writing for research right now but I could read them whilst I'm writing and probably go back and change some things for the 2nd draft.

    Thanks Ed. This has definitely made me feel a bit more comfortable with showing character. I'll try to improve in the next chapter and do what I feel is right rather than following the rules even when they're hindering me.
     
  10. mugen shiyo
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    mugen shiyo Contributing Member

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    I don't write short stories often bt I would say that since this is only your first chapter, you probably shouldn't try to write the whole story in it. Everything doesn't need to be explained. In fact, if you do it right, omitting certain facts can intrigue the reader and make them read further into your story with interest. I really like the idea. A really interesting starting point for a fiction.

    The rules and regulations of writing- snooty as they sound- do come in handy sometimes. The important thing to know is where you will and won't give ground on. As far as writing, I would say just write the story regardless of the mistakes. Get it out of your head so that once you have the story, you can make improvements on it later without confusing yourself.
     
  11. tupbup
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    tupbup Member

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    Remember that you are writing a novel. And a fantasy one at that. You have plenty of words left to develop your character, and to develop him you will need to set up what he is beforehand. I don't think there's anything wrong at all with the first couple of chapters being completely plot driven. This will be exciting for your reader and provide plenty of hooks to keep them turning the pages to the next chapter. Make a note of all the ideas you have about what your character wants to change and learn about himself and feed it into the action later on when it becomes relevant. Keep going with what you have for now and you'll probably find he will start to develop of his own accord after a few chapters.
     
  12. charlesvee
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    charlesvee New Member

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    To Cogito. Once again I must agree with you.I skip past entries when the author admits his entry is incomplete or in initial stages of whatever.
     
  13. writerwannabe13
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    writerwannabe13 Member

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    One piece of advice I got once was "Screw how many words you have. The story uses as many or as little words as is needed." So if you have an Anne Shirley type character who LOVES to talk that's fine. If you have a Slient Bob character who is more action and "VERY LITTLE DIALOG" go for it.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    This is a good point, but keep in mind this is also relative to other characters in the scene, or in the piece overall.

    The overall proportion of dialogue to narration is a separate choice, and that choice can vary from scene to scene as well. Obviously, a hunting party stalking prey is a scene with very little speech, but even similar scenes can vary in dialogue percentage too. That choice can help set the mood of the scene. A very chatty scene can convey excitement, awkwardness, relaxation, or rage. A taciturn scene can convey seething resentment, depression, intimacy, or a subject no one is ready to face.

    Every such decision is another tool in your writer's repertoire.
     

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