1. Ghosts in Latin
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    Ghosts in Latin Senior Member

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    Lengthening without lengthening?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Ghosts in Latin, Aug 5, 2009.

    Lately, I've noticed that even my favorite books, books which I love reading, tend to explain things which seem relatively irrelevant. — There are many times, in many books, where I just don't want to read about how ruined a piece of furniture is (unless it's significant, which it usually isn't).

    Ray Bradbury does the complete opposite of this, but even his stories are longer than mine. I cannot seem to write a short story that goes passed four or five pages. I finish something, and find it to be complete — to be rather well defined in what need be defined.

    How would you go about lengthening something without lengthening it? Without making it seem tedious to read.
     
  2. hawkedup
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    hawkedup Member

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    You shouldn't worry about how long or short your stories are so long as they are complete. Personally, I don't like that readers want simple, no "fluff" writing all the time. Sometime the beauty of a novel is in the writing itself--the writing is the art form, not whether or not a specific passage is 100% tied in with the plot. I agree with the opposite of this as well, though, which is where you fall in as a writer. Just because something is short, doesn't mean it isn't good and, in fact, if you did lengthen a story you felt was complete, you would probably not feel that way when you were done. Considering that you, apparently, write very concise fiction all the time, you may end up hating a story you love because lengthening it will end up a chore.
     
  3. chrisrozwod
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    chrisrozwod Member

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    First off, I love where your head is at. I've often found myself frustrated with the same thing--describing what doesn't need to be described.

    I don't think you should be concerned about the length of your stories as long as they feel complete. I'm pretty sure I know what you're looking for.

    When writers take the time to write about that ruined piece of furniture, it feels to me like their intent is to add more layers, or depth to the setting. For me, this rarely improves the story (even if I get a clearer picture of the scene).

    I think you might be interested in doing something similar, but by adding layers and depth to the character--not with physical descriptions, because that can be tedious too. Rather, you can insert more dialogue. Dialogue is great for showing us who the character is, and exactly how they respond and interact with others. Plus, it eats up a lot of space with all the indenting and paragraphs.

    Another option is to insert imagined scenes. These are scenes that the character will well, imagine. It could be about something upcoming, or something they wished they'd done differently. People do this all the time, and I think it really helps give the character life to see what they think will happen, or what they hope will happen, or how they would do things differently. There are tons of options with this.

    Another option is to add memories. Cutting it certain memories can really add punch and significance to things that happen later in the piece.

    So there are some ideas on how to lengthen your piece without putting in filler. All of the options I listed can add to the story.
     
  4. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    One thing to consider is that as you write, you have an image in your head, of the characters, motivation, scenery, actions etc. It's a balance, but that needs to be relayed to the reader--just enough so that they get the picture, but not too much that it bogs things down and/or causes the reader to skim.

    That said, there are plenty of markets for flash fiction (around 1000 words).

    Terry
     
  5. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    Oh man, I wanted to start a thread similar to this, but I just can't seem to make it make sense! (even that didn't seem to make any sense :S)
    The thing is, I'm trying to fine tune a novel I've been working on non-stop this whole summer, and I am struggling to increase the content of chapters that are 3K words! It makes me admire those published authors even more...
    My first draft was not as bad, I had gotten them mostly up to 4-5k, but I realized, I don't need to write about this, nor about that, nor do I need to info dump that especially!
    So, I took out the stuff that made it look like a complete mess, basically re-wrote the beginning, and now I find myself going through it five times a day looking at the word count sitting at 2.5K.
    Now, I know you're all going to be like, the length doesn't matter, the chapter is done when it's done, but I honestly disagree. For something I want to have an agent looking at in the distant future, how am I going to find 80 K to put in the literature without describing stuff that doesn't need describing?
    This is kind of the opposite of the original question because I'm actually looking to lengthen. Please don't take it as though I am complaining, this is more of a "venting" process, if you will, and any ideas regarding truly lengthening a story but keeping the readers' interest would be appreciated. (you have no idea.) Thanks
     
  6. Dcoin
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    Dcoin Contributing Member

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    If my agent comes back to me and says, "Publisher wants 30 more pages to your story" I know I'd be describing every piece of furniture too.

    Seriously though I'd try to add another conflict as opposed to bulking up the existing ones.
     
  7. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Add a sub-plot, even if its just a one paragraph offshoot. Or elaborate in places on the central themes of the novel. Give a related piece of backstory that will contribute to the character. Beef up your description of something significant. Just rewrite what you've got already and add a few words that work to bring out the main ideas and images of the work.

    Basically, whatever you add could be viewed as secondary, existing only to strengthen and embellish what you already have, but that doesn't make it any less significant. And those places are where you can be most stylish and experimental, since the absolutely essential bits are already there and won't be obscured by what you write.

    EDIT: Assuming you want your reader to share the experience of the novel you envisaged, everything needs describing. The struggle of the writer is not deciding what to elucidate, but what not to. So maybe take your writing and look at it from that perspective - rather than saying "these are the important things and must be described", try to say "these are the least important details and should be left out". If nothing else, there's more potential for length that way.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Additional subplots, particularly internal conflicts, can develop your characters more.
     
  9. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    thanks guys
     
  10. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Describing an old sofa could also be done to reveal aspects of your character.

    "Peter took a seat. The old sofa reminded him of his grandfather who hadn't changed his furniture since before he got married the first time. Peter adjusted himself slowly, fearing any quick movement would send out a cloud of ancient dust. The pillows were sunken and the arm rest was worn to a shine, just where Peter placed his hand. The sofa had been worn into a perfectly comfortable piece of furniture by someone of the same build as himself."

    (I don't write in English so this example probably sucks, but hey - it's an example.)
     
  11. hawkedup
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    hawkedup Member

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    A lot of times when publishers want "longer" or "shorter" they really only want it to FEEL longer or shorter. I've known more than one person who sent in a novel only to get a response of, "This is too long, cut out (or add) about this much." The most recent person this happened to was an older friend of mine who writes fantasy novels under a pseudonym that I'm sworn not to reveal. Anyway, the publisher sent my friend's book back saying it was too long and that it needed to be longer by 25+ pages. The draft my friend sent back to them was SHORTER than the original and my friend pulled an Orson Scott Card and simply wrote on the cover letter, "I addressed the problems you outlined previously." The book is about to be published.
     
  12. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    The middle of the story, or act two, is where the length of a story comes from. Graphically, it might look like this:

    |---------------|----------------------------------|----------|
    Beginning..........................middle.............................end

    Beginning: MCs are on an the ice in Antartica or somewhere. Their mission is to put bombs in the ice that will rip it apart, so they can take the ice blocks and milt them. After they finish drilling and setting the bombs deep in ice, an earthquake strikes. They find out they are stuck on a huge island of ice, drifting like a broken ship. The conflict of the story is how to get off.

    End: Some of them make it off the ice alive.

    The meat of this story will come from the long middle.

    Middle: First plan is to re-drill and remove as many bombs as possible before 12 noon, when they are set to go boom. After digging up two, the drill breaks. They think about digging the rest out by hand, but they would be lucky to dig up one more. They are running out of ways to stay warm. Next plan is to get back to the base to keep warm and think of a new way to survive, because when those bomb blow, they are all dead. Once back, they realize someone's missing. Two guys go looking for him. He is injured. They bring him back to the base, warm him up. He has a head injury. The injured man tells the MC that someone tried to kill him, that he was hit on the head. Now they have a murderer amongst them. MC wants to find out who it is, but not to alert the murderer. They are still trying to find a way off the ice block. They send out distress signals, but the closest boat can't help them do to a bad storm. By the time the storm lets up, so people in helicopters can come rescue them, the bombs will have exploded. Subplot: A captain of a Russian sub just lost his son to a sickness. He hears about the stranded Americans on the ice block, and decides he is going to go against his superiors and rescue them. They run into complication after complication. Every plan the men on the ice comes up with fails, also.

    That is how the middle is extended. MCs come up with a good plan, start to win, and further complications mess everything up, making things worse. They have to come up with a new plan, and each time they fail, things gets worse than before. This is pretty much how every story is crafted, including romances.

    I hope this helps.

    Oh, that's a quick rundown of Dean Koontz' Ice Bound
     
  13. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Lengthening without lengthening…. Now that’s a provocative title, aye?

    Anyway…

    What I do is listen to the cues the story is giving me.

    Example: (real life truth)

    I’m writing a chapter and as I am visualizing the setting and scene and what things looked like, I get the very clear image of two children, brother and sister, both pretty little tow heads, running in front of my two protags and nearly running one of them down. There was a reason for this to happen in the scene, so there was nothing unusual in that these two young characters should present themselves. What was unusual was the clarity with which I saw this pair of children.

    Now, I can chose to ignore these children past the little cameo appearance, or I can pay attention to the my muse when she is handing me a gift. Pereipheral characters (or extras) never present themselves to me with the clarity that these two kids did, so I began to think and woolgather and let my mind go with these new opportunities (the two kids).

    They gave me an entire subplot. They helped me stitch a number of things that were loosely kinda’ floating around. They did end up lengthening the story, significantly, but it wasn’t fluff, it was required.

    My suggestion to you is to pay attention to what your story is telling you; pay attention to the clues it gives you. If you spend time thinking about your story, it will begin to give you ideas. They may not come to you sequentially, they may seem to be willy nilly and non sequitur. No worries. That’s perfectly fine. Write every little idea down that comes to you and make the decision that the contemplation of this little bag of ideas is important to the writing process.

    And most important: Don’t force to happen what doesn’t want to happen.
     
  14. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    They sent it back saying it was too long and that they wanted it longer...?
    I think you meant to type it was too short...?
    But thanks lol. I've already took most people's advice into account I'm adding some extra scenes and subplots to show more of my characters' personalities. Thank you as well arch
     
  15. Ghosts in Latin
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    Ghosts in Latin Senior Member

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    Thanks a lot for your responses, guys. :) They've helped; I'm trying to lengthen things with different thought processes in mind. Having more than just my own is amazingly beneficial.
     

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