1. Space_Goose
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    Space_Goose Member

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    New to writting, need help with plot.

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Space_Goose, Feb 22, 2010.

    Hello,

    First a little about my story, I am not a writer and this is my first attempt at a major writing project. I first came up with the idea for this story over 10 years ago when I was in high school and had to write a paper for an English Class. From this short story, I developed the same dream that a lot of young people have today; I wanted to create a video game. I was naive, I actually believed that if I came up with a good video game idea, that I would actually be able to get a company to buy the idea and create the video game. Now that I am older, I realize that I have a better chance of winning the lottery than getting a video game maker to buy my idea and story. So once I learned this fact, I pretty much gave up on the story but it always stayed in my mind. Finally a friend of mine has convinced me to try to continue with my idea and write it down in story form. So once it’s done, I don't know what I plan to do with it but I will worry about that after I have it written.

    Ok so here is what I have. The idea I have had in my mind for over 10 has a lot going on so I feel that for the novel to be worth reading and not be too quick, that I should split it up into different stories/books. I personally hate prequels. I always feel like a prequel is an author or movie maker trying to squeeze another penny out of a good story. So I think my first story/novel should start at the beginning.

    The problem I am having with this is when I came up with the idea for this story, the part which will be the first book was only a page long back story. I wrote it down so that I would have a solid base of where my character came from and what got him to his present location and state. But now, I am having a hard time trying to turn this one page into a book. What I do know is that the story is being told by the protagonist as though the events has already happened, like his telling us of the story. I have decided to do this so that he can kind of express wisdom and lessons learned as he looks back on the events.

    So what I really need help and advice with is, what are some ways to help me turn this one page back story into a story long enough to maybe publish as a book one day? I know how the story starts and how it ends but being that all this was originally a page long, I am having problems with in the "between". Any help or advice would be appreciated.
     
  2. EileenG
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    EileenG Member

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    To be honest, I think you are trying to get too clever here. Forget about prequels and backstory, and just write the story. Start at the point where things go wrong for your hero, and go from there. Drop in small bits of backstory as they become necessary, not in big chunks.

    I would also NOT write the story as someone looking back, as that takes away most of the tension, and please don't have him expressing wisdom and lessons learned. Let the reader pick those up for herself.

    At the moment, you may think you have plot for several books, but when you start to write, some of your plots lines may not work as well as you had hoped, so I would start with trying to write one cracking good story, and worry about a series later.
     
  3. Camille
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    Camille Senior Member

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    When I first started writing, I also found that I could not write much for one idea.
    My first solution was to write a short story.
    My second was to make the story progress slower. Try making it start earlier, finish later. Insert small events, descriptions, add new characters to see how the old ones react to them, have something come to disturb the story (a flood? a war?)
    Good luck pursuing your idea!
     
  4. TragicJuliet
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    TragicJuliet Senior Member

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    Back story doesn't always have to be a story. Let the reader find this out through out the book naturally then trying to force an expansion in places that don't need it. Sometimes this is the best way to get readers to go along with your book, having them find bits and pieces out through out the book. Legend of the Seeker is a good example of this. It starts out in the middle of the war but as the book goes along we find everything out that we need to, had he written a book about the back ground though it may have been interesting it may not have been able to keep the same tone as the other 11 best selling books of his (yup eleven).
     
  5. Space_Goose
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    Space_Goose Member

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    Hello everyone and thank you for your reply.

    Thanks for the suggestions Camille; I will certainly give your suggestions a try.

    And EileenG and TragicJuliet, when I first came up with the idea for the story, the back story was just that. I will reveal a little more. My protagonist is a man who personality wise, I modeled very much after my self. He is a man of good intelligence yet is held back by his lack of focus. He is also a dreamer and is one those people who if he spent as much time trying to make his dreams a reality as he did dreaming about them, he would go much further than he currently is.

    My protagonist came from humble beginnings from a small rural town. He became afraid that he was doomed to same life that he parents had, and would forever remain in that small rural town. So, he joins the military in the hopes of traveling and to make his world a whole lot bigger. All of that works good for him at first, it is everything he dreamed it would be but then, WAR. He is forced in to war that he finds himself not prepared for mentally and the horrors he witnesses during the war haunt his current life.

    That was a summary of my original back story. My original idea was to start the story with protagonist having a nightmare, a war flashback. He is reliving some of the horrors of the war. Initially, you don't really know much about the war, who the enemy was, where the war was. But as the story goes on, the protagonist continues to have these nightmares where more and more of his war experience is revealed to the reader. The primary story however is not about the war. The primary story takes place 14 years after the war has ended. The protagonist is a washed up private detective who is barely able to make his rent. The primary story starts with him simply trying to make money to survive yet ends up being dragged kicking and screaming into a series of events that is beyond his control and he wants no part of.

    So my original idea is what you suggested, to reveal the back story slowly through these nightmares that my protagonist has. But as I was laying out my story, creating time lines and back story and such, my friend who convinced me to start to write this all down felt that my back story was in its self worthy of a book. So my friend suggested that I maybe write a trilogy. But as I read your comments and posts. I am liking what I was going to do originally with the nightmares. So I may just take your advice and keep the back storey, the back story.

    Sorry for any bad spelling or punctuation but I am typing this in a big hurry.
    Thanks for the suggestions so please keep them coming. ;)
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    My advice is to forget backstory, and concentrate on story. Leave out the main character's past, except where it directly impinges on the events of the story.
     
  7. EileenG
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    EileenG Member

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    Forget the backstory. Yes, it's useful to know that your character has been in a war and didn't enjoy it, but that's all you need. Every flashback has to give ESSENTIAL information, and it doesn't sound as if they will. To be honest, one scene where he meets a buddy from the military and they reminisce about the war would cover everything you need.

    Start with him as a broke PI and run with it. That sounds like the start of a good story.

    You know that "lack of focus" thing? This is an example. Focus on the story, not the backstory.

    Unless your friend is a publisher or an editor or someone similar, I would not base months of work on his recommendation. Friends are notorious for giving advice based on friendship rather than reality. Sometimes it's better to get an opinion from strangers or people who don't really like you. War time experience is a very difficult book or write and even harder to sell.
     
  8. Space_Goose
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    Space_Goose Member

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    Well, as far as the main story goes, it is not important for the reader to know that the protagonist came from humble beginnings in a small town. It is also not important to know why he joined the military. But as far as the main story is concerned, it is important for the reader to know about the war, why it was fought, who the enemy was, and the eventual outcome. It is also important for the reader to know what the protagonists’ involvement in the war was. I said in my above post that the protagonist is dragged kicking and screaming into a series of events that he has no control over or wants no part of. That is no exaggeration. He is dragged into the middle of these events as a direct result of his involvement in the war. One of the characters in the story is the younger sister of the protagonists’ best friend he had in the military. The protagonist watched his best friend be killed during the war. Not just killed but brutally killed right in front of his eyes. This sister of the protagonists former best friend is one who ends up dragging the protagonist into the series of events. Also during the main story, the protagonist must have contact and deal with his former enemy in the war. During these interaction, the former enemy is somewhat hostil and untrusting again as a result of the war. So understand the war its self is important for the main story even though the main story is not about the war its self.

    I know I am not giving you much information, it is not because I am worried about anyone on here stealing my ideas or anything like that. I just don't want to give to much away.

    You guys all have a lot more writing experience than me and I really appreciate all your advice and suggestions. I feel honestly like just responding to your comments has helped me. I find that when it comes to coming up with ideas, I am kind of like Dr. House of the TV show "House". I need someone to bounce ideas off of, even if I don't go with your suggestion or idea, sometimes bouncing ideas off of other people seems to help my mind work.

    Like I said initially, this story has been rolling around in my head for 10 years so I have come up with a lot of new ideas to add during that time. This story is actually very complex. I may actually be over my head for a first writing project. I might have to do like Camille suggested and start with a short story then keep adding.
     
  9. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    To write exceptionally good fiction, I think you need to focus on an endless series of very tiny, sometimes almost insignificant objectives. And, to write anything short of exceptionally good fiction will almost guarantee a manuscript destined for the filing cabinet rather than the bookstore shelf.

    To that end, you might try beginning with some tidbit that particularly interests you and simply start to write a scene from which the character emerges surrounded by some conflict. I imagine you have some strong connection to certain aspects of your idea (maybe some aspects more than others). If you grab hold of one of those intriguing aspects and unfold a single scene--and then another and another--until the meat of the story starts to feel a bit more weighty (to you, I mean), you may reach a point where the overall begins to coalesce (maybe like you now envision, maybe not).

    In any case, doing something like this may create new ideas and more vitality (it does for me) than simply thinking of your challenge as a connecting pathway that joins what you're now considering the beginning of your story to its predetermined end. You may find that the possibilities are far more interesting.

    Here's to your passion, skills, and creativity--all of which you can develop as you grow your story (which is probably the most dependably rewarding aspect of writing anything)! Make the most of it.;)
     
  10. EileenG
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    EileenG Member

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    Based on what you told me, no, you don't need the war experience. Assuming it is a war that people have heard of, the reader's own knowledge will fill in a lot of the background. And apart from a few psychopaths, all soldiers are dragged kicking and screaming into events in a war that they want no part of.

    Start your story with the broke PI, then introduce the sister, they can briefly mention what brought them together, then get on with the real story.

    The war may be important background, but let it stay in the background. You may well find that this makes the whole thing a lot simpler, since you won't have to weave in a huge panorama of death and devastation.
     
  11. Space_Goose
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    Space_Goose Member

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    Well EileenG, that’s the thing. It is not a war that people will be familiar with because it hasn't happened yet and god willing will never happen. The story takes place in the future. I suppose though, I could just do like star War did for years, mention the war but not give any more information than is absolutely necessary. Like the Clone wars before the prequels were made.

    Also ManhattanMss, Thank you very much for your advice and encouragements :)
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Exactly!

    It could be something as simple as a mention of the war in conversation, to which the main character says something like, "I fought in that war. I lost friends in that war." And then changes the subject.

    Say less than you need to, and leave a bread crumb or two from which the reader can infer more. But stick to the story!

    Someone earlier mentioned writing short stories. Short stories differ from novels in important ways, but they also have a great deal in common. One lesson in particular you can learn from writing short stories is staying focused. Successful short stories are tight, moire so than novels. You learn not to wander off into irrelevant story lines. It;s a lesson that is usefuil to a novel writer as well,but harder to learn in that extended form.
     
  13. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    I write only short myself, but I have worked with many unpublished novelists who don't write (or even read) short fiction at all. For those who do return to short stories now and then, there is a distinctly different quality about their long fiction that I believe benefits noticeably from the kinds of things they've learned from writing short, especially the tightness of their prose. I've heard many novelists say they write short stories exactly for that reason (another reason being to jiggle loose ideas in between their longer projects), and I've seen this benefit both literary and genre novel-writing.

    The benefit has to do with focus on the small things that matter a lot when painting a story onto a smaller canvas (very careful language usage, more vitality in dialogue, suggestive details, and the choice of bread crumbs that Cog mentions, e.g.). My own take on focus in short story writing is that these small things often generate the ultimate (short) story that results, rather than simply exercising the ability to stay within some idea boundaries as the novelist might need or want to do.

    In either case, it's easy to see that drawing out the significance of various details in the author's own perception can be carried back into the longer project to its benefit.
     
  14. Space_Goose
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    Space_Goose Member

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    Ok guys, so I have tried taking the advice given to me on these forums and just leaving out the nightmares that my protagonist has about his war experience and just concentrating on the main story. The problem is I haven't been able to come up with a new way to begin the story that I actually like. Originally, the story started with the protagonist having one of these nightmares, the reader had no idea at first that it is a nightmare until the protagonist wakes up.

    Again, I just haven't been able to come up with anything else I like besides this. Any suggest or advice would be appreciated.
     
  15. jacklondonsghost
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    jacklondonsghost Contributing Member

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    Beginnings are always ridiculously difficult to write, for me at least. No scene ever feels good enough to me, so I have learned to simply start with chapter two, three, or even in the middle of the book. You get to work writing then, instead of laboring over the same scene over and over again. It's easier to write a beginning once you know where you're headed, anyway.
     
  16. EileenG
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    EileenG Member

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    That's a good idea. It's amazing how many books really start at Chapter 2, and don't need chapter 1 at all.
     
  17. Space_Goose
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    Space_Goose Member

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    Well if thats the case, then I suppose I could just keep the beginning the way I had it. Star the story inside of a nightmare the protagonist is having. Never say it is a nightmare, just have horrific scene what would unnerve anyone. Then just as the reader is asking, "Wow, whats going on?" Have the protagonist wake up. Then take up that advice from there and not talk about the war unless absolutely needed.

    This was how I had always seen the story starting even when I was young and wanted it to be a video game.
     
  18. jacklondonsghost
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    jacklondonsghost Contributing Member

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    Yeah, I would just make sure to be careful with a nightmare sequence. They can easily seem overdone, unrealistic, or unneccesary. As long as it fits it should be ok, but don't be afraid to cut it altogether if you find it doesn't further the plot.
     

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