1. seekparadise
    Offline

    seekparadise Member

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2015
    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    South Australia

    Non-linear structure/non conventional frame story?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by seekparadise, Oct 21, 2015.

    I started a thread recently about a 10-12k story I'm writing in which a university student falls in love with a good friend who has a girlfriend. The problem I encountered is that about two thirds of the way in, at about the end of Act 2, the guy leaves her after a on/off affair that lasts about ten months or so. During the time he is gone, I have a few short scenes and a bunch of summary that follows her as she experiments with drugs and finds a group of people she finds solace in. Eventually, however, Summer ends, some people have bad experiences and go off the drugs, everyone is forced back to reality, has to get jobs and people break up, and the 'high' of it all has to come to an end. Her ex/old friend then pops back up, and the rest of Act 3 is a closing scene, and they are done for good. The problem is this happens so late in the story that it doesn't make sense to be introducing new people and a new way of life. Most of this stuff is covered in summary, too, and so the reader never gets a chance to delve into this part of her life, and it feels integral to the theme and the parallels I'm trying to draw between the high of love and drugs.

    I then thought of trying out a non-linear structure to the story. Currently it's divided into two parts 'before' he leaves her and 'after' he leaves her. So I was thinking of starting with the 'After' part, opening with a scene at a music festival where my MC has her first pill. It's chaotic and intense and exciting. A guy is interested in her and his pushing triggers a strong negative reaction from her. 'Before' then begins, and we are taken back to Summer the year before and the main story of her and the guy is told, from the beginning to when he leaves. It then flows into the 'After' part again, a year later, in the thick of Summer and her drug experimentation and from there on out the story is told chronologically. Things start going downhill for her and her group of friends falls apart, because they're all pushing for this high that can never be maintained (much like her relationship with this guy..) So that's when he pops back up, and the closing scene happens.

    My question: Does this seem too jarring? Really the only scene that's out of place is the proposed music festival scene in the beginning to open the story, because from there we go right back to the beginning and flow pretty much all the way through. Will the 'Before' and 'After' time markers help enough?
     
  2. lifeisastory
    Offline

    lifeisastory Member

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2015
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    Germany
    Hey, I think it's interesting that you mentioned parallels between "love-high" and "drug-high". You could really work with that, kind of contrasting the two different life styles (if I got that right). Though they may be chronologically apart, they still have the themes or the type of scenes in common, so that could make for some really nice opening chapters. Have before and after chapters take turns in the beginning. This will also create tension as the reader wonders how the character came from one life situation to the other. Then, when you're far enough, you can continue with the before story alone in order to fill the gap between before and after ;)
     
    seekparadise likes this.
  3. Starfire Fly
    Offline

    Starfire Fly Member

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2015
    Messages:
    31
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    US
    I agree you seem to have a good story, especially likening and mixing up the high of drugs with the high of this doomed relationship. Only, I do think it would be jarring to switch back and forth between past and present in a story like this. I'm not sure you need to. Instead, why not give the reader/audience more on the new life? Extend that portion a little, if you feel you need to. Also, I think a chronological telling would make the ending more powerful. The way you told it above, the chopped-up version makes it seem a little too open, like maybe she hasn't learned her lesson and might fall back into chasing fruitlessly after both "highs." I think taking the audience along on the ride would also make it more real for them, leave a deeper impression.

    It could be done well either way, but I think chopping it up would take a lot more skill and careful handling, that's all. I think it would be hard not to take away from the impact of the story, and the audience's emotional engagement, by breaking it up into a non-linear form.
     
    seekparadise likes this.
  4. seekparadise
    Offline

    seekparadise Member

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2015
    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    South Australia
    Hmm I do think I agree with you. I feel like chopping it up would make the story feel very different, and although I do like the idea of doing it that way, telling it chronologically would feel more true to the non-fiction behind the fiction haha. I think my main concern/problem that I'm mulling over is how much of the 'drug lifestyle' is explored. I've got the buds of some scenes sitting here in which she tries to feel something for someone new but the feeling never matches up. Then I've got a bunch of summary that talks about what happens to her group of friends etc. But I'm worried about introducing new characters so late in the piece.
     
  5. Starfire Fly
    Offline

    Starfire Fly Member

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2015
    Messages:
    31
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    US
    What I would do is try extending the summary. Try fleshing some of it out more. That's not to say you can't have some summary, or faster transition to a new life, but showing her readjusting to a drug-free life (and psyche) seems key. Maybe summarize some shrink sessions or "pep talks" from her parents, and then show her trying to integrate what she learns into her new life? Or just coming to terms with the realities of life without drugs. The way I see it, she's learning to live with a whole new brain chemistry which will never be quite the same as before the drugs, either, and experiencing life at a lower key and a more even keel. It can't be easy, especially if she's also longing for feelings of love that drugs had warped up to an unnatural pitch. It would be like life in neon. Pleasant at first, maybe, but painful on the eyes after a while. It would take time and effort to appreciate a quieter, steadier, less thrilling though ultimately more satisfying experience of life.
     
    seekparadise likes this.
  6. Tesoro
    Offline

    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    2,825
    Likes Received:
    290
    Location:
    A place with no future
    The problem as I can see is that the peak seem to come in the end of act two and after that it goes on for a while before it just trails off. From your description, there seems to be no real ending or climax towards the end. Sure, there are stories who end like they started, but usually there's some kind of conclusion. What genre is this supposed to be? What do you want the reader to walk away with, except the parallel between highs of drugs and love? What is the conclusion?

    I'd try to come up with some more powerful or at least significant ending rather than just Summer ends, some people have bad experiences and go off the drugs, everyone is forced back to reality, has to get jobs and people break up, and the 'high' of it all has to come to an end. And then the guy comes back just to close the story once and for all? I can't help but feeling something is missing here. Maybe it's the chronology, because it seems like the story is over at the end of act two, and the rest is just "what happened after".

    I also wonder what you mean by "He leaves her", if he was already with someone else, they weren't even in a relationship... My advice is to focus more on the between because that sounds like the most important part, the part that is act 1 and two. Maybe you could make what happens in the third act,happen earlier? Like, she could experiment with drugs in the periods when they don't meet or she can't be with him, during this time? instead of after, because that way it doesn't really seem to go anywhere.
     
    seekparadise and BayView like this.
  7. seekparadise
    Offline

    seekparadise Member

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2015
    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    South Australia
    During the drug experimentation phase of her life, she reaches a point where she realises that the high is not maintainable, and that clues her into the reasons as to why the kind of love she had with the guy was not maintainable either, and why he leaves. The whole dynamic between them is so intense and addictive that it brings out almost the worst parts of each other, and my MC doesn't understand this to begin with. She feels its real love. I would say she thinks this, but she does little thinking at all. She is running on impulse and addiction. She then experiments, she reaches a point where the drugs don't seem to 'work' anymore, and she realises its the same for what she had with him. When Summer is over, and she's back to her life before all of it, he pops back up, asking to see her and even likens her to a drug. What I guess I want the reader to walk away with is the idea that neither high can be maintained, that life has to have some sort of happy medium.

    Well they have somewhat of an affair, to the point where the girlfriend is barely in the picture. I guess they both almost have a sort of 'trial run' relationship and he realises it's not what he wants, and he leaves i.e., stops seeing her, stops picking up calls, basically drops off the face of the earth, and during this time is when she experiments with the drugs. I think I will move this up to act 2.

    The whole concluding scene is when they finally see each other again, and she gets to finally get some answers from him about it all. The whole time they know each other, he rips back and forth between different states of minds and feelings and its an all around absolute head screw. She finally gets answers. When she sees him again, he's engaged to another girl, he's found his happy medium. She realises neither high can be maintained, but under all of that there is genuine love between them for each other as people, and I guess that's what she really takes away from it. He goes back to his life, and she goes back to hers, which is lonely and depressing without drugs or without him, but she finds that thing that could be her happy medium. After that scene, she never touches a drug again.

    I'm hoping that that's enough of a conclusion. Thankyou for your comment. It has got me thinking and I want to make sure the plot is solid enough.
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2015
  8. seekparadise
    Offline

    seekparadise Member

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2015
    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    South Australia
    I really like that, 'like life in neon,' because that's really true and given me a lot to think about. Up until this point I hadn't really given tonnes of thought to that adjustment (even though its something I'm drawing from my own life) and that really helps. Thankyou :)
     
    Starfire Fly likes this.

Share This Page