1. loonypapa
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    loonypapa Member

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    Is this too corny?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by loonypapa, Apr 17, 2016.

    I'm trying to intro my MC quickly in the first couple of pages. She's stressed out, a good chunk of her family support structure is off doing other things, her daughter is sick, her community has certain aspects to it that are pivotal to the story, and she has an interesting element in her family ancestry that plays a big role in one of the themes of the book. I tried walking her through the first part of her first day in the book, showing these different reference points along the way, but it's waaaaay too long and boring. I experimented with a few things, and the quickest device (under a page and a half) was to have her get up out of bed and walk through the house, past physical objects that act as the references to these different elements I want to introduce. Plus a part that I think may be too corny and tropish: a reference to a bad dream. Is the bad dream part too corny of a device to use? It's gnawing at me. It's not a full blown dream sequence, but I still think it's too goofy. I'm looking for some help. Thanks.
     
  2. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It sounds like you're trying to introduce too much too soon. Focus on one or two aspects that the reader must know right now for what's happening in the current scene, and let it flow from there. What happens in her day? Link the events to some of these reference points - you don't have to tell the reader outright. For example, if the MC has an unsupportive husband, you could have the MC come home with a load of shopping and her toddler child running mad, whilst the husband sits on the couch and shouts for a beer to be brought to him. If the MC's struggling with finances, she could come home to a pile of letters that she just knows is the final warning from the gas company that they'll cut off her gas if she doesn't pay up soon but right now she doesn't have the strength to deal with it. Etc :)
     
  3. loonypapa
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    loonypapa Member

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    I'm going to try and shorten the walk-through, and do away with the dream thing. I don't like it at all, the more I think about it.
     
  4. loonypapa
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    loonypapa Member

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    Hi Mckk, good points. I think I'll try to focus on the stress part and the support system part. The other elements can actually get dropped in a little later. It's more important to me that the reader be left with the immediate sense that a) she's very intelligent, b) she is completely stressed out, and c) she misses her husband being there in the house (he's off on a work assignment). I can do that within the framework I already have laid out, probably within one page and without a goofy bad dream! Thanks again for listening!
     
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  5. loonypapa
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    loonypapa Member

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    I just deleted the dream portion. Very liberating, and I nailed the first bit of info down in less than a page.
     
  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that getting out of bed and walking through the house is likely to come off as backstory. I wouldn't recommend it.

    If you need her to interact with certain objects, why not have a reason? She's cleaning up for a party.

    Jane was fine with the party, just fine. Really. Until she learned that Aunt Vera had invited herself.

    She just came home to the door swinging open and she's making sure nothing was stolen.

    Jane's front door was open. She had locked it--she always locked it, and checked it, and sometimes came back from the car to check it again. Rebecca was always talking about OCD and a therapist, but was reduced anxiety worthwhile if it meant a laissez-faire attitude about locking doors?

    Jane stared blankly at the door for a moment, then dumped the groceries on the step and rushed inside. She passed by the phone, she ignored the gun cabinet. She didn't stop, she felt as if she didn't breathe, until she was standing by the opened third drawer of the dresser in the second floor guest room, holding a threadbare stuffed rabbit. Then she released a breath. Muffy was fine.

    At lunch later that morning, Rebecca asked, "You thought that burglars had come and stolen a twenty-year-old stuffed rabbit?

    "Thirty-two. My father got Muffy for me the day I was born."

    Rebecca's tone was a fraction gentler, but the effort to keep it that way was apparent. "Hon, you are not Elvis Presley. No one is stealing artifacts of your childhood. Next time you need to call the police. Hon? Are you listening?"


    Or she's furious about something and she's a rage cleaner. I'll lay off the examples here.
     
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  7. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I feel exactly that way about my 65-year-old teddy bear! :) You're good.
     
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  8. loonypapa
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    loonypapa Member

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    Here's a blurb. It's not all of it, but this the direction I took it.

    Evie crept quietly in the low light toward her home office, trying not to wake her children, past the dozens of family photos neatly framed on the white walls of the main living area. She stubbed her toe on a toy near the fireplace, and steadied herself on the mantle, and jostled her children’s assortment of sports trophies. Entering her office off the master bedroom, she caught her knee on a stack of old cardboard boxes filled with books that she still hung onto from her PhD dissertation, and spilled a little coffee on the sisal carpet around her desk. Evie sat down, pushed aside the stack of old research papers that she had been reading, fired up the laptop, and tried to read some happy news as she ate her small breakfast.
     
  9. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I still feel as if you need a reason for all of these details. Evie is probably not thinking, "Oh, that's a sisal rug." on an ordinary day. If, say, Aunt Vera is coming, she might be thinking, "Oh, God, sisal. Vera's going to make cracks about dorm rooms. She probably has priceless Persian rugs."

    And, similarly, when she gives the kids a snack, she probably doesn't say, "Now, go eat in the main living area." What does she call it? The living room? The family room?

    I'm saying that (1) the information should be based on your POV character and (2) there should be something driving the sequence of thought. It doesn't have to be, "Oh, my God, aliens are bombing the house!" It can just be, "Yikes. I'd better start cleaning for the party this weekend," or even, "My life sucks. This is not how I thought it would be." But it shouldn't just be, "Oh. I'm awake and in my home."
     
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  10. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    There's also a definite lack of emotion to the details. Other then stumbling over things there's no connection to her mood, or what's going on in her mind. And as a reader I'm not certain what she's feeling or where the story is going.
     
  11. loonypapa
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    loonypapa Member

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    I left the beginning out. I should post the whole page, sorry. Still working on it, though.
     
  12. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I feel you might be trying too lard to make sure the reader can see everything you want them to. Don't be afraid to let the reader infer from your text. Your text is currently lacking some kind of purpose - if it is description that allows the reader to see the place and feel the atmosphere, yours doesn't do that. All I'm seeing is a regular woman walking around her home doing something mundane. You put so much detail in, and yet you do not pause to allow the details to sink in. The result is: I have no idea what I just read, despite the fact that it is clear and not badly written.

    One thing you seem to be lacking is emotion - "She stubbed her tor... steadied herself... jostled her children's... trophies." - So where exactly is her reaction for when she stubbed her toe? When you stub your toe, it's painful. But she seems not quite human because she just finds her balance without any emotion, without any outcry, without any expression of pain, without frustration, without irritation - she just steadies herself and then goes on her way.

    You know my reaction when I accidentally kick one of my baby's toys? She's not even old enough for me to demand that she tidies up (she's 9 months old haha). So there's no one to blame and no one to be angry with. But when I do that, I think, "Oh for goodness' sake!" Or I think, "Shit that was close - I'm carrying the baby and what if I'd fallen over!?" Or perhaps, "Ah crap, really need to tidy that up when I get the chance."

    And I didn't even stub my toe. There's not even pain involved. Your MC's kids have trophies - that means they're old enough to tidy. How many times do you think your MC has told them they should tidy up after themselves? So how do you think she feels, what is she thinking, when she's hurt herself because of her children's lack of care, not doing as they're told again? Learn to think in your character's POV.

    Later your MC spills coffee on the carpet. Again, there's no reaction. What's your reaction when you spill something on the carpet? Do you just look at the puddle without a thought, as though you were seeing a cloud in the sky, and move on without comment or reaction?

    So, more than worrying about how to introduce your MC, I'd say focus more on painting the scene from her perspective. Show us how she's feeling, what she's thinking - currently you have the reader at a distance, observing your MC. No, let the reader come and sit in your MC's head :)
     
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  13. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    One paragraph of your work is still fine. But if you were to post a large portion of it, then it belongs in the Workshop for critique - and to post there you have to fulfill certain requirements first :) you can find what they are in the rules.
     
  14. loonypapa
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    loonypapa Member

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    Good stuff! Thank you!
     
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  15. Dogbird
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    Dogbird New Member

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    I'd erase the stubbed toe . Advance the plot or the character .
     
  16. loonypapa
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    loonypapa Member

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    I have completely changed the opening. None of this appears in the work now. It's a lot cleaner now.
     
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