1. Connor Bible
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    Connor Bible Member

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    Novel I can't get off the ground.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Connor Bible, Mar 31, 2012.

    It's a psychological sci-fi thriller I've been stuck on for a very long time. I can't seem to get past the first chapter, and the plot is constantly changing. I don't even know how it'll end.

    It's about an eighteen year old girl. She's neurotic, witty, cynical, iconoclastic, and bored. She finds her life dull and meaningless. After receiving a letter from her estranged, long-lost father, she discovers that he's working as a scientist for a powerful megacorporation's human enhancement project. It is a combination of psychotherapy, gene therapy, and physical conditioning. She accepts, for reasons that escape me, and is transformed from a nerdy everygirl and into a superwoman. She starts living her life to the fullest, but starts having second thoughts. You see, the other top scientist of the project (a frenemy of the father) has plans of his own, and there are more superteens like her out there, doing his wetwork. She has to engage in and play "games" to become psychologically "redesigned" and to figure out his intentions. At the same time, she has to struggle with her new self and her mental fragility, and there's a possibility that a girl like her should not have volunteered in the first place...

    The setting is a mystery to me. I kind of wanted it to be in a Blade Runner-type future, but I feel that by doing that, it would distract from the story. A seedy suburb akin to the outskirts of Detroit in the near future could give off a paranoid vibe. Who knows? There could actually be a superteen project that we don't know about. There's also the issue of point-of-view. In my heart, I really want to pull of a questionable first person narrator; one that leaves you wondering whether she's an unfortunate victim of an elaborate conspiracy or barking mad. Then again, I feel I could get into the heads of the other characters. Maybe I could "tag" them in first person narration, with the protagonist giving conflicting feelings about them.

    This is a dream project of mine, and I hope to make some serious progress soon.
     
  2. louis1
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    louis1 Contributing Member

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    keep writing, just ask your self, what if ''this happens or that'' and keep writing and one day you'll be done and you'll have to edit the huge mess you've written. if you don't like this idea then stop writing and start plotting out your novel. decide how will it end, and build a plot that will bring the story to this particular ending. either way you have to stop worrying and start working, it will probably suck a lot in the beggining but as the story grows you'll find out what it's truly about. that just how it goes for me.
     
  3. -oz
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    -oz Active Member

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    Realize what novelist John Brunner said in his three laws that Francis Porretto is fond of quoting:

    The raw material of fiction is people;
    The essence of story is change.

    Really, truly realize who your characters are. Know what they've done, their personal quirks, their hobbies, their habits, and their beliefs. Once you've done this, your setting will effectively be complete. You know where your characters have been, you know where they work, play, sleep, eat out, wander. By knowing the experience of your character, you will not just know where you are, but you will know why your character acts the way she does and how she would react to change, the essence of story. THIS is the true backbone of a story.

    -oz
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sounds to me like you need to do some serious thinking/deciding/outlining... since this plot and its characters are so complex, i don't see that you'd be able to just keep writing by the seat of your pants and come out with a cohesive, coherent novel...
     
  5. TinaB
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    TinaB New Member

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    You seem to have a lot of ideas which is great! Perhaps you could have a brainstorming session and get as many of your ideas out of your head and on to paper as you can. Then play around with linking different groups of ideas and how you could link then together. You might find one combination of ideas that gets you past the first chapter....
     
  6. ithestargazer
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    ithestargazer Active Member

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    I've had a really similar issue though mine is a little different in that I've written the middle chapters of the book but can't seem to decide on the first. What helps me is writing out a plan. Draft out a rough plot for your story and expand them into sections or chapters so you know where it's headed. Then, as you write, you can add thoughts to these sections and go back later and change them. Another method I like is writing out a random scene or dialogue between characters. You don't have to use what you write but it helps with progressing your character along and might serve as inspiration for new ideas. Hope some of this helps :)
     
  7. Connor Bible
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    Connor Bible Member

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    That's okay. I just feel that by figuring the mystery out as I write, I can be in the heroine's shoes.
     
  8. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    Here is your problem:

    "She accepts, for reasons that escape me, and is transformed from a nerdy everygirl and into a superwoman."

    The reason Scott Rogers decided to accept the super soldier serum is what made that character so likable. You are missing why I should even get behind your character.
     
  9. Skodt
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    Skodt Member

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    Seat of your pants may work for an outline. Yet if you the writer is figuring out he mystery as you write, then who is stengtening the tale for the reader? Sometimes writing is about the small things, the hints at future actions, or scenes, the idea of a clear consice conclusion. I think you should step back away from the story. Then come up with a clear beginning and a clear ending. You have a place to start and somewhere to work towards. Let the middle fill itself, but at least have a beginning and a end. Even then planning the middle the best you can would help the process along greatly.
     
  10. marcuslam
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    marcuslam Senior Member

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    I think it's fine to keep plotting and writing. Sometimes, the best way to find a solution is to just get in there and mess about. :)
     
  11. thecoopertempleclause
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    thecoopertempleclause Contributing Member

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    That's Captain America I assume? I couldn't remember his actual name.

    Yes, you need a reason. Superpowers can either be forced upon people, or they can choose them. If you're opting for the latter, there needs to be a reason why this girl would risk her life and change everything. You can go the Kick-Ass route and have her motivation being a desire to change the community she lives in. Or you could make it more personal. Being bored with life isn't a strong enough reason (though it would be a very good one for most people), I think you need her to have a personal goal that having these powers would help her attain. Maybe somebody wronged her in the past (please for the love of god don't make it rape or dead parents) or perhaps everyone just continually walks over her in life and this is her way of standing up for change.
     
  12. louis1
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    louis1 Contributing Member

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    two options here: one, stop writing and figure out the plot, beginning to end, then write it. second option is. keep writing what ever happens, ask yourself, what if this happens until you come to a conclusion. either way you have to stop worrying, and start writing. ( says the guy who hasn't written a single word today.. )
     
  13. kingzilla
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    kingzilla Senior Member

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    My advise is to just write. This will sound cliche, but let the characters tell the story. Write and you'd be surprised what is the end result is. If you don't like the final result then edit the draft. If you can't plan a project and the actually do it, then dive head on into the project and get it done.
     
  14. Kay Lesgo
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    Kay Lesgo Member

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    sounds to me like this character is breathing down your neck, waiting to be written. She won't leave you alone until you start listen to her. Make a pot of coffee at home, fill two mugs, and sit down and talk to her. If you have an open mind you will be able to ask her questions. And you will get answers. I just wouldn't do this exercise at a busy coffee shop!
     
  15. stubeard
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    stubeard Active Member

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    I would advise you to step back and work out the plot before you dive into it. As Skodt says, every little thing can matter, and what seems like a good, strong plot can unravel on the tiniest problem, like one person doing something out of character to get the plot moving.

    Ultimately, I think it depends how much time you have. If you have plenty, then why not write it? Stronger ideas can come as you write, which will then enable you to start again, knowing where you went wrong. However, if you have no time to spare, it might be better to take an overall view, sorting out every little question - answering every little 'why?' - first. That way you won't feel like you're wasting time writing prose for a story that might not go anywhere.
     
  16. Caldenfor
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    Caldenfor Member

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    Perhaps her motivation is linked to her "estranged father" and it has nothing to do with her own pre-established goals.
     
  17. Connor Bible
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    Connor Bible Member

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    Maybe it is. Maybe it isn't. The project is driving me crazy.
     
  18. noodlepower
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    noodlepower Member

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    I dunno about that one. I think being bored could be a strong enough reason to accept having superpowers. It could be an interesting to read about a character that does stuff out of sheer boredom but as plot becomes more complicated, she starts to understand herself more and what she wants to accomplish with these powers. For example, the character now has super strength and decides to have some fun because she's bored. There's a massive loss of life because of her actions. Scenes like that would be interesting to see how a character that's probably amoral (because I associate being bored with life with being amoral) learns and grows.

    Anyway, to the OP, I say this sounds like a case where you need to outline. Ask yourself, "What story do I want to tell?" Once you got that down, begin outlining events based on that.

    I really suck at outlining stuff so I usually use writing software to help me organize my thoughts. Cause otherwise my outlines consist of a few pages in one notebook, a few pages in another notebook, something written on my laptop, something written on my desktop, and some sticky notes here and there.... Anyway, if traditional outlining doesn't work for you, then maybe you want to consider some type of writing software.
     
  19. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    I agree with this. The least you can do in a character development is give the character a desire, the deeper the desire, the better. In your case may be she wants to impress her father, to become something of worth in her father's eyes. Develop this father-daughter relationship throughout the story.
     
  20. Steph4136
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    Steph4136 Senior Member

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    You mentioned she was a nerdy, every day girl who was contacted by her estranged, long-lost father. Sounds to me like there's your reason for her to accept the superpower right there. When I was in high school, the nerdy types weren't exactly at the top of the popularity food chain. Maybe she didn't have a lot of friends, was socially awkward, whatever, you could run with it and make up your own reasons. Then she hears from her father and is overjoyed and would do anything to have him back in her life. Work out why he was gone, perhaps this research was dangerous so he had to separate himself from his family to keep them safe?

    I agree with everyone else that you need to sit down and do some brainstorming. Outlining doesn't always work for me, nor do writing programs, but if it works for you, use it. I just sit there and type out in no particular order things that could happen. One of my best friends is great to bounce ideas off of, especially if something could be going down the lame category and needs to be scratched. I also carry a notebook around at all times in case an idea strikes out of the blue and I don't want to forget it.

    Also, don't think you need to write this story start to finish, chapter by chapter. I often don't write like that, if an idea for something that could happen later on in the book, I jam it out. That's what revision is for later on, from the get-go just get the bare bones out and worry about polishing it up later. Maybe you're struggling because you think you have to write in a particular order and have every single detail hammered out before you sit down at your computer.
     
  21. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    So, if her newfound relationship with her father is not pivotal to her actions/motivations, why mention it? With all of the information you have laid out, I can't imagine all of that happens in the first chapter. Right? I think you may know a lot more about this story than you realize; you are just blocking it. And, if you don't know the whats and whys of the story, you will never be able to figure out the hows.

    Think of your story/characters in the same manner you might relate to a new aquaintance. You have just met someone. You don't know everything about him/her but you know a few things. (This is actually the best way to approach presenting character description for your reading audience, too, btw.) Even if you thought you knew everything about them, as you progress through your story, you learn more and more about your characters that you didn't know you knew. You say you can't get past the first chapter but you do know what's going on in their lives in the future, you just have to figure out how your characters are going to get there.
    Q: So ... How do you get them there?
    A: Make something happen. But it can't be just anything happening. It has be a situation that threatens someone or a situation where someone has something at stake (Like somebody shooting at them or chasing them or a secret is about to be discovered unless ...)
    Borrowing from an A List author much smarter than I, "When you're stuck, make something bad happen to your characters."
    And, when I'm stuck, I always remember that line, and I take it to heart. It has helped push me through some pretty rough spots. Yes, sometimes I have to go back and chop it all up but ... it gets me past the blockade and back to the writing again. And, sometimes, that dangerous situation is exactly what a character needed.

    Maybe it's time for you, too, to sit back and start making notes on what happens next. Where is your MC at the end of chapter one? Has she met her father yet? Has she been introduced to his research associate? Has she been invited to participate in the experimental research?
    (HINT: If you answered you answered "yes" to any of these questions beyond the first and, maybe the second, then you've probably got too much going on in that one chapter and need to break it up into smaller, more 'digestible' pieces.)

    Since you already know much of what you want to do/tell in the story, then maybe you would work more effectively by using an outline. Some people find it very helpful while others prefer the seat of the pants method and do quite well in that mode. If you find you are having trouble breaking your story down into manageable segments, perhaps your efforts would be best served by using an outline. This can be anything from short timeline notes where you list the progression of events with nothing more than short 'hints' at where you want to go, or it could be as elaborate as in-depth paragraph form delineation of events along that timeline. You might even choose to set it up as you probably learned in elementary school and have a main topic, sub-topics, and even tertiary sub-sub-topics under each of those - however it works best for you to enable you to "clean house" with your storyline.

    You obviously have a lot of information about your story. You just need to get it organized in your head. Sometimes it helps to get it organized on a page first. And, don't worry too much about not knowing where/how it will end. You can work on that as you go along. And you may be surprised to find the solution to your dilemma presents itself to you with no conscious effort on your part. As I noted, previously, your relationship, hence your awareness and familiarity with your characters will grow as you get to know them better. And the better you get to know them, the more you know about their behaviors and what makes them tick. These things will help to dictate how they behave in any particular situation and so how they will respond to whatever threats and/or problems they will face.

    In other words ... you've got it, you just need to figure out how to pull it out.
     
  22. Connor Bible
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    Connor Bible Member

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    I've tried virtually everything to get this thing written, and I can barely come up with a sentence.
     
  23. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    It sounds to me as if you're in a perfectionist spiral. My first suggestion would be to temporarily pretend that all of these problems are already resolved, and write a scene or series of scenes that belong in the middle of the book, glossing over or arbitrarily deciding any details where you're lost. That might bring your character to life for you, and clarify some of these questions. The fact that the scenes probably won't end up in the book is irrelevant; the goal is to get to know your character.
     
  24. Connor Bible
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    Connor Bible Member

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    Tried that, didn't work.
     
  25. Morkonan
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    Morkonan Senior Member

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    The reason you are stuck is that there is no plot. More on that in a moment.

    The reason that it is a mystery is because you are flailing around without knowing where you are going - You have no plot.

    You have a detailed setting and characters, but you have nothing for them to do. Every character can be an angst-ridden teen, but most of them just sit around and whine all day or lash out at authority figures. That's interesting, in an introspective way, but it provides no direction whatsoever for a story.

    You need to establish the basics of building a story, right away. To do that, the simplest thing is to come up with a goal for your protagonist and something that either acts against that goal or something that they must work against in order to achieve that goal. That is not to say that the character's goal is always the most meaningful thing in a story. Characters change during the course of a story. It appears that you understand that. So, part of your story will revolve around your protagonist changing, for better or worse. She may change the way she views herself, her world, her family or even a culture or social relationship. But, the mechanism that enables that is going to be the events in the story and for that, something must happen. To facilitate that, I suggest you add a traditional theme of "conflict." To do that, you must have a goal that your character must reach and forces that oppose that goal.

    That's why you're stuck and are currently treading water - There is nothing for your characters to do. You have all sorts of character development ideas and side-plots thunk up, but no storyline goal for them to struggle to accomplish.
     

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