1. Gholin
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    Gholin Member

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    Ordinary world: Is it ok to disturb it immediately?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Gholin, Dec 13, 2010.

    Hey there.

    So I am writing a fantasy novel where I have the ordinary world of the teenage MC disturbed at the very first sentence. This disturbance is actually a bit frightening to the MC, so it causes stress whenever it happens. You kind of see the MC's ordinary world through the first chapter, but the three or four occurances of the disturbance shakes up his world a little. The MC also becomes a target of a bully due to his own reactions to the disturbances, which is important because the bully is a huge part of the story, but this also causes more tension.

    My question is, should the ordinary world be disturbed so soon? Do you think I need to slow it down? Would this this create too much tension in the beginning? You have any general ideas how much fleshing out of the ordinary MC should I do before he becomes entangled in a fantasy adventure?

    Thanks for any ideas!
     
  2. R-e-n-n-a-t
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    R-e-n-n-a-t Contributing Member

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    It depends on how it's disturbed. Something personal like killing his family would be too soon, but a distant assassination or a disease spreading would be fine. Essentially, just don't completely shatter the MC's world at first, but any other disturbing event should work out.
     
  3. Gholin
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    Gholin Member

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    It's definitely not that drastic. It's more that a perceived hallucination shocks him one day in class for a reason unknown to him. He learns over the next few hours (and chapters) of the story that the hallucination turns out to be something real and not of the world. It draws him to enter another world eventually. I guess my problem is, I couldn't really tell how to start the story without it starting with the way the MC starts his adventure. I can't figure out any other way to start the story in school and not have it be boring. I guess I'm trying to get right to the beginning of the events to keep readers reading.
     
  4. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Kick off your beginning scene with it. It'll grip the readers right away.
     
  5. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Do what works for the story - I have some fantasies that make it clear they are a fantasy in the first few lines, some takes a couple of chapters. Every story is different.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    nobody can answer those questions without seeing how you do it... write it first, then ask if it works!
     
  7. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    Can it be done? Certainly.

    Should it? Don't know - show us what you come up with first.

    -Frank
     
  8. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Although it can grip the readers right away, it can also confuse the readers right away if not handled properly. If this disturbance is perceived as 'not real,' I think it would be wise to show us what is real first. In other words, beginning with the 'hallucination' is probably not such a good idea. It needs context, otherwise it's like beginning with a dream sequence... and we all know how much we hate that old trick. ;)

    I suggest starting with something normal, so the readers can get a feel for the world and character(s). Even if we're going to leave that world behind soon, some context would provide a firm foundation and give the abnormal or fantasy elements greater weight by contrast.

    But, of course, only you can know what's best for your story.
     
  9. Donal
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    Donal Contributing Member

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    You say that the world is destroyed by three or four disturbances. No way I would have that many different key moments in the first chapter. Let something happen, your character reacts to it, it creates tension, he looks like the world is ok and he could overcome it, then BANG another one happens a chapter or two later and repeat it again. Maybe he starts doubting himself or confides in people who are unsupportive. By all means have a gripping opening but don't waste your material.
     
  10. SashaMerideth
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    SashaMerideth Contributing Member

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    If your ordinary world is disturben immediately, how are we, as readers supposed to know that this world is ordinary? Assume we don't read prologues, dust jackets, back covers, just starting from the first chapter. How are we to know?
     
  11. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Do we? Isn't it an old trick because it can work in some cases?
     
  12. Gholin
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    Gholin Member

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    Donal, it doesn't destroy the world. It only shakes up the MCs perceptions of the world. These incidents are actually split up in 5 different chapters before the MC learns what they mean and what is going to happen.

    The incidents involve a character showing up that doesn't seem real, but turns out to be real and is trying to help him and take him to another world where he is needed by his father. At first, the character shows up levitating outside the window in class and that's where the novel starts. The MC is halfway through class and it happens.

    I show that this is not the ordinary world by how the MC reacts to the character and how he feels about its sudden appearance, (he thinks he's going mad and he doesn't know why) but little things the disturbing character says to him comforts him as well, until he pieces it together and realizes that the character is real and is there to support him and usher him into a fantasy world where he will find what he's been longing for for so long.

    Anyway, if I were not to start with an incident, what kind of situation can I start with in school that would grab the attention of a reader? Would a flashback work, where he is being attacked by a bully (Which is right before the time I Send the MC to the fantasy world) or even from the fantasy world itself?

    That's what my problem is. I have already written the whole beginning, but I'm not willing to share yet until I've critiqued others since that's the rule.

    thanks for all your advice!
     
  13. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, I say hit 'em with what you've got right away if that's how you want the story to open. No reason it can't workout.

    I have a partially-done first chapter of a YA fiction where the entire earth explodes in the first sentence (much to the surprise of the protag).
     
  14. Donal
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    Donal Contributing Member

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    Ah I see got the wrong end of the stick there. Go for it.
     
  15. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    I never said it couldn't work. I only said most people hate it.

    But, now that I really think about it, I believe the point I was trying to make isn't applicable to Gholin's question, because what he's doing isn't a "dream sequence." What the character sees is real (and, therefore, not a dream,) it just takes the character a while to realize/accept it as such. However, I still feel like the character's experience is a major deviation from the 'norm' and, therefore, should not be presented before we know what the 'norm' is.


    It's not uncommon for fantasy writers to feel that the 'normal' world isn't interesting enough to hold their readers. Have some faith in your readers' attention spans and in your ability to hold them without having to jar their senses right out of the gate. Plenty of novels have been written about school life with no magic.

    I advise against flashback openers as well, for many of the same reasons I advise against dream openers. Both imply that the present situation isn't interesting enough to hold readers, so the writer whisks the scene away to the past or to a dream world or to a hallucination to spice things up. Again, have some faith. The world is a very interesting place if seen through interesting eyes.

    Opening paragraphs are generally used to introduce your MC or his reality. I don't mean a "Hi, my name is ____" introduction. I mean you should introduce us to why he is interesting enough to warrant an entire novel built around the fulfillment of his wish. You could begin by telling us what that wish is. What is it about this world that makes him want to get away so badly? If I don't even know him, why should I care that the 'thing' outside the window is disturbing him? At least give us a few paragraphs with the guy before shattering his reality.


    And, lastly, it's not a question of what will and won't work; writing is (almost) never that black and white. These are only suggestions. I can't know what will work best for your writing, so I just try to give you things to mull over or rally against, all in the interest of improving ourselves. :)
     
  16. Gholin
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    Gholin Member

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    Hey AnonyMouse, you definitely got me thinking, and maybe I should give him some time to reveal himself and how he feels about his life while in English Class.

    What I wanted to do was first say something happened in English class, but then build up to the point that it happened, showing his bordedom, his thoughts on the teacher and how he feels about two important students that are major characters, then all of a sudden, the thing appears out the window and the ordinary starts changing. Something like this for example:

    "I never expected to learn in English class that dogs could levitate. That tidbit just never crossed my mind in six weeks of incomprehensible lectures and pointless assignments. If you asked me what I thought on the matter of levitating dogs when I first entered the class room that day, intending to daydream my way through class as always, I would have laughed in your face and called you mental. But after that frightening experience, I never laughed at impossibilities again and I was very careful never to daydream for fear of what I might see after I woke.

    My descent into the bizarre didn't start until well after I had settled into my seat..."

    And that's when I should start his ordinary world for the next 20 minutes. Thoughts, feelings, and observations about the people around him and his life in general. Does that sound more on par on what you were saying? In a way, that's kind of how I wrote it already.
     
  17. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's exactly what I was getting at. Looks like you're off to a good start there.

    PS: Sorry for the slow response. Was super busy the last two days.
     
  18. JeffS65
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    JeffS65 Contributing Member

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    My personal view is that you need to set off the story with the reason the reader should engage in the story. You don't have to give away what the disturbances are but if this is key to the story, then you may want to get to that right away. This assumes that the disturbances are a very central element of the story. If you don't 'get to it' but instead try to just build a little bit of the story and characters in the meantime, that's nice and all but you're going to lose readers pretty fast.

    A story should give the reader a reason why they are reading pretty much right away. Like I said, you don't have to give away the 'information farm' but you do need to have a hook for the reader.
     
  19. Gholin
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    Gholin Member

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    So, did the quick write-up I did during my last post seem to work for what you are saying, JeffS65?

    Thanks for the advice AnonyMouse! No worries on the dely! Busy time of year!
     
  20. Cornflower
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    well I'm reading "Keys to the Kingdom" adventure-fantasy series by Garth Nix and in the first book the disturabnce happens within 5 minutes of the chapter (or so it seems to me)
     
  21. Klogg
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    Klogg Member

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    I think this is a good idea. Kurt Vonnegut said, "Start as close to the end as possible." I am going to go under the assumption that the MC's life begins changing drastically following this point. You are starting at the precise point that the action starts. I would say this is a very wise. The beginning of a story should hook the reader quickly. A few pages of day to day life and backstory won't do this.
     

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