1. Whitepaws
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    Whitepaws Member

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    Not enough action in my first act

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Whitepaws, May 9, 2015.

    I'm writing a dystopian urban fantasy.

    I received feedback that my first chapter doesn't have enough action. I happen to agree.

    I was trying to get a dead body into the first chapter, but that now doesn't come til the second chapter because first chapter introduces main character, setting, minor character and atmosphere. Maybe I could do a jump ahead to the dead body in the first chapter...and then backtrack.

    In any case...I'm now stuck at the fourth chapter because my action has dried up. I tried to do the scene beats method, but nothing is coming. I know where I need to get to, but the scenes on how to get there are a total blank.

    Anyone here want to brainstorm with me?
     
  2. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    When they say more action, do they mean just fighting and chasing, or suspenseful plot build up? At what point does the plot take off, would you say, as oppose to character set up only? When you introduce your characters in the first act, what are they doing before the 'inciting incident' occurs?
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2015
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  3. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can introduce characters, atmosphere, setting all within the context of action occurring, whatever action or interest that might be. Readers can learn about the dystopian world as they go along, picking up clues from events, actions and observations within the context of the story as it proceeds.
     
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  4. Whitepaws
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    They said it's too subjective...but then it is 1st person. But, I have a fair amount of foreshadowing for what is to come. It's funny that they said although there's not enough action, it kept them reading.

    The plot takes off in chapter 2 when the protagonist finds the dead body of her colleague, and she gets a mysterious phone call from someone who tells her to get ready for the rest of her life, because everything is going to change.

    Chapter 3 - she is reacting to the inciting event, and argues with her boyfriend over her decision to start asking questions and digging for the truth to her colleagues death. He wants the cops to take care of it - she doesn't trust the cops.

    ChApter 4 - she attends the funeral, and meets the 'mysterious caller' in person. She wasn't expecting that at all...

    And that's where my ideas run dry....even though I know she will end up going underground and working with the mystery woman directly.
     
  5. GingerCoffee
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    Not sure what you have in chapter one that can't be combined with chapter two. If it's just revealing stuff about your character and the setting, don't reveal it all at once, reveal it more slowly. And if the dead body really starts the story, you might think about starting with that, or bring it in within the first few paragraphs.

    Every story need not start with a bang. The one I'm currently reading (Daughter of Smoke and Bone) didn't and I almost put it down. But it wasn't that it didn't start with a bang, the bang didn't come in for a while. It's that it started with an uninteresting action.
     
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  6. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    When you say your ideas run dry, what is the ending to your premise, if you have one yet? Usually a lot of good stories, are good, because the writer came up with the ending after they come with the idea. That's what I hear anyway. If you come up with your ending first, or close to first, then you can build into it from then on, if that's what you did.
     
  7. Whitepaws
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    Thanks! I have that book, and I recall the beginning which feels slow and disconnected for sure...unrelated to the main plot. It's incredible that it's become so popular! But it does get better down the line.

    It's another lesson. I'll see if I can move the dead body up to the first chapter. Originally, it was in the first chapter, but the first chapter ended up being 6,000 words so I cut it in half.
     
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  8. Whitepaws
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    Whitepaws Member

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    That's a good question! I am not yet super clear on my premise and I have to work on that big time.

    I do know the ending...which is the start of a revolution...and then it leads into the second book.
     
  9. GingerCoffee
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    It was fine the guy bit her on the neck at the very beginning, though I cringed it would be a vampire book. But the scene that almost made me put it down was the immature making the ex-boyfriend have an itch to get even with him for posing as a model in her drawing class. It implied the story would be for young teens and those stories don't interest me much. Maybe the book became popular with that crowd first?

    I don't think the chapter length is a big issue. It's what's in that chapter. Are you trying to put too much backstory in or tell us stuff about the character we don't necessarily need to know before the story gets started?
     
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  10. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Can you be more specific on your ending, besides JUST the start of a revolution? Do you know what you want within that or besides that?
     
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  11. Whitepaws
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    Yeah, that's part of my problem, I see the scenes in snippets, and then have to find all the points in between.

    Ok, so the mysterious caller has by now become the protagonist's close friend and mentor. They have eliminated the antagonist ( at the climax). At the denouement they learn that another has taken his place, and that no real change in society will happen. In fact, conditions could now actually get worse with this new antagonist in power.

    They are conversing about "what do we do now!?" It's then that they realise that change can only come through a revolution...and it ends like that.
     
  12. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. So the caller turns out to be a possible threat at first, since he sounds mysterious over the phone, but is a friend later. And you need more plot for in between, right?
     
  13. Whitepaws
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    Basically, yes to your question.

    Sorry I didn't respond sooner. I had to get to sleep (I'm located on GMT timeline).
     
  14. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Do you have other characters besides the caller and the protagonist, that you can make subplots out of? What about the villains, are they just behind desks, doing their jobs, until the revolution starts, or do they have problems they have to deal with throughout? I am new to this writing thing as well, so not sure if I am helping :)
     
  15. Whitepaws
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    Your questions do help Ryan....thank you :)

    Yes, there is her boyfriend Raheem - who will soon disappear by the end of the first act and then Josh. Then there are the Ashanti's (the mystery caller) helpers, Spence the editor - and the antagonist. The protag Lysandra will eventually have to go underground to get save herself, and thus away from all office related stuff. But fortunately, she's a journalist so she will be be out and about in the city from chapter 5 onwards asking questions and digging around. I'm thinking Raheem might have to be killed off as a warning to her to stop snooping around. It's after that that she goes underground. No doubt she will encounter other characters at that point - though I don't yet know who.

    Those are the characters I have so far, but will have to put more in as the plot develops.
     
  16. Whitepaws
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    Ok, I think the problem is that my main character is being suppressed too much. Right now, she is a journalist who works for a newspaper that doesn't cover any hard news at all. That is the way the entire society is - there is very little truth allowed to be published. So, right now she's a boring celebrity journalist, and there's not enough conflict - other than a dead body in chapter 2. I think I'm making her leap too fast into trying to solve a murder after being a celebrity journalist for the last 5 years of her life. She has no skills yet to do a good job of it.

    So, I think I will double up her role - and make her a closet crime tracker that can't tell anyone what she does in her private time. So, when the dead body pops up in her office, she has more inner conflict to deal with between her outer and inner personas. What do you think?

    I didn't want it to turn into a Who DunnIt though. It was meant to be dystopian urban :(
     
  17. Whitepaws
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    After some thought, I am sticking to dystopian.

    Then, I think back to 1984 - and how "slow" it started. I can totally understand why because it's all about suppression, atmosphere and world building. It sets the tone. Some say because 1984 was written back in the 40's, it catered to that era's audience. But then I take a look at Hugh Howie's work, and see that while his first line is super strong, the rest of the first chapter is all atmosphere and the main character is simply dragging himself up a spiral staircase. there is very little action otherwise, and lots of internal subjective stuff.

    Maybe I'll start a dystopian thread, and ask about other dystopian models.

    Thanks for listening to my rambling here. Writing it out helps me understand my problems :)
     
  18. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    What does your main character journalist do in her personal life? One movie I can think of to go buy (I watch a lot of movies, more than books, and am into screenwriting myself), is Minority Report. In that movie, Tom Cruise's character (Anderton), solves who is going to becoming a murderer and stops it in the first scene. The next scenes are describing the dystopian future, and Anderton's problems in his personal life. After that we see some creepy conspiracy theory backstory with the precogs which Anderton is suspicious about and follows up on. He is also suspicious of the new guy come to audit where he works, who may or may not have his own agenda.

    After all that, then we get big bang that starts off the story, which is Anderton being blamed for a murder that is going to happen, and then the action and plot really gets going. But we have all this backstory before, which helps build into the foreground later on. Perhaps you can take an approach like that, and show other parts of your story, beforehand, or will that not work structure wise?
     

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