1. Akarevaar
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    Akarevaar Member

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    Plot help for a 'literary novel'

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Akarevaar, Sep 4, 2015.

    First off, the air quotes around literary is because I'm not 100% this is what it is. It's very different from anything I've written in the past, is largely character driven and has a lot of introspection, but there is still a plot and a few 'normal' novel conventions. So, I'm wondering exactly how detailed and intricate the plot should be, as well as just generally trying to sort out what I want to happen.

    The novel follows three main character over a period of four to five years, from their mid/late teens to early twenties. I have a few plot lines that I know I definitely want to have, and I'm trying to figure out how they overlap and work together. I'm also open to adding in more storylines. The ones I currently have are:

    The Series of Murders
    This is probably the central plot line for my book. My main character, Kaeneus, lives in a small-ish town where a series of gruesome murders begins in the summer and continues well into the school year. This isn't a 'murder mystery' type book though, as Kaeneus himself doesn't really try to solve the murders, but ends up unraveling the mystery any way. It ends when Kaeneus discovers the killer is one of his friends/love interests, Enos. Enos is caught, put on trial, and executed.

    Romance 1: Enos
    The main character has two love interests. The first is the aforementioned Enos. Enos is sort of the 'over privileged arrogant rich kid' cliche, but he ends up growing quite close to Kaeneus. It starts when he and Kaeneus meet soon after school starts up again, and ends when Kaeneus finds out about his involvement in the murders.

    Romance 2: A
    Kaeneus' second love interest is A, the sheriff's daughter. She helps Kaeneus uncover the truth behind the murders. They've been friends since before the books start, their childhood, and are sort of the 'two outcasts who only talk to each other' until Enos comes onto the scene. It starts just before they return to school, when they realize there might be romantic feelings, and ends ambiguously with the two of them talking after Enos has been executed. Along the way, A marries another man but they divorce soon after.

    Kaeneus' Transition
    Kaeneus is a transgender man and his major personal storyline is his transition. He realizes he's trans before the book starts, and A finds out about it soon after. Enos only finds out after they've become good friends, and is weirded out at first because he has feelings for Kaeneus and has a bit of 'so wait does this make me gay now?' type panic, but he ends up coming around. So much so, that he ends up paying for the bulk of Kaeneus' treatments.

    'Exodus'
    Kaeneus, Enos and A all dream of leaving the town where the story starts, for different reasons. Kaeneus needs to leave to transition, Enos wants to flee the state to avoid getting caught, and A just hates all the people there and wants to make her won way in the world. Kaeneus and Enos leave together, when Kaeneus is vaguely suspicious of Enos' involvement but is in denial, and move to a country that doesn't extradite to the Us (still undecided exactly where). A stays relatively close to home, and doesn't see the boys for a year or so after they leave until inviting them to her wedding. Eventually, after Enos is dead, A and Kaeneus return to their hometown.
     
  2. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well, it sounds like you have lots of very interesting angles on the go here. However, I hate to sound like a broken record but you're not going to know if your story ideas work or not until you get them written. Things change during the writing process.

    It's also a mistake to try to get others to influence your plot choices at this stage. It's like refusing to take training wheels off a bicycle. You might look like you're riding a bike, but you're not really. You need to take those training wheels off. Don't ask for our opinions on your story ideas. Just get it written, and THEN let people read it and give feedback. You'll want to know if your story has worked, but surely you don't want us telling you what kind of story you ought to write. Get used to coming up with your own solutions, and you'll be a much more confident and effective writer.

    I don't see any problems with the plot and character developments as you've outlined them. In fact they seem rich with all kinds of potential. But trust me, things will evolve, once you actually get writing. You may end up with an entirely different ending if your characters change during the writing. (And they may well do.) Or you may go back and re-write the beginning. Or leave out a subplot. Or add in a couple more.

    You won't know till you get writing. And you won't know for sure till you get finished. And you won't know if it's 'literary' or not, until you get there either. So ...you need to stop with the preliminary doubts and just get going.

    There is no risk. Whatever you do can be undone at any stage if you find it's not working. So write without fear, and write without worrying about what other people will think about what you write, or how they will categorise it. Just do it.

    And the most important advice I can offer is this: HAVE FUN. Writing is likely to be the most fun you'll ever have sitting down. Just dig into the process and let it evolve for you, personally. And good luck. :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2015
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  3. Akarevaar
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    Akarevaar Member

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    Thanks very much for your input, Jannert, but I prefer to plan out my stories (almost) completely before I start writing, and then if it organically becomes something else adjust to that. I'm certainly not trying to get anyone to tell me what my plot 'should' be, I was merely looking for advice on how other people tie together their plot lines in a neat and natural way. Still, I can understand and appreciate your advice and I do know the dangers of always planning, but never actually writing.
     
  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    That may be your preference, but have you considered trying it another way?

    Half of my book developed as I wrote it even though I started with a complete draft.
     
  5. Akarevaar
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    Akarevaar Member

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    I have considered it, but all my past experience with longer works has been with a lot of planning, and I think that's just the way I write best.
     
  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    @Akarevaar
    I wasn't trying to tell you you shouldn't plan ahead, by the way. Lots of writers do that, and it certainly works for them. As @GingerCoffee said above, just be prepared for the plans to get altered as you go.

    I was more concerned that you might be asking for plot ideas—or feedback on the plot ideas you already have. You wrote: "So, I'm wondering exactly how detailed and intricate the plot should be, as well as just generally trying to sort out what I want to happen.

    "The novel follows three main character over a period of four to five years, from their mid/late teens to early twenties. I have a few plot lines that I know I definitely want to have, and I'm trying to figure out how they overlap and work together. I'm also open to adding in more storylines."

    I obviously picked you up wrongly, and apologise for the rant!

    Maybe you might elaborate on the kind of feedback you did want from us? Are you trying to figure out how to weave a complicated plot together?
     
  7. Akarevaar
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    Akarevaar Member

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    No problem, Jannert, I probably should've explained myself more clearly. I'm not looking for a specific explanation or suggestion of the exact plots and events of my own novel. More, I was wondering how everyone else ties together their plots, any advice on ensuring the story flows, tips on maintaining proper pacing etc.
     
  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Aha. Now I understand!

    Yeah, it's tricky. I see from other posts you've made on at least one other thread, you're looking to set your story in a 'real' place, presumably in the more or less present time?

    The first thing I would do, if that is the case, is establish a timeline.

    This is NOT an outline of your plot. This is simply a calendar or diary. Enter in all the data you have now about what is / was happening in the 'real world' at the time of your story. (And as far back as you need to go to encompass your backstory as well.) You do this as an ongoing thing as you do research, so you can keep track of what real events or facts might derail your story. OR enhance it!

    I broke mine up year by year until I got to the actual time of my story, where I broke it up into month-by-month, then week by week and day by day.

    The purpose of this is to keep you straight on what happens when. If you're tying it in to real events, this is especially important. Stories don't happen in a vacuum usually, and outside events do influence things. There can be changes in the law, large national events, smaller more local doings, a school year, Christmas holidays, weather, etc. All these things influence your story. As does distance between locations and the passage of time.

    Once you've got your basic setting details worked out, then start adding in your fictional stuff—as you plan AND as you actually write. If you make changes, you'll need to make sure the timeline will allow for them.

    When I wrote up my timeline, I used a different font to keep the fiction separate from the fact. (I bolded the fictional entries, and kept track of my main characters' ages at the start of each year.) An awful lot of this will never get used, but you can occasionally mention outside events so your story doesn't seem to take place in a world where nothing exists outside of the immediate setting.

    Here is an excerpt from my own timeline (all backstory—hence lack of fictional detail) to give you an idea how this works:
    This is a wonderful method to keep your story straight. Obviously once your story begins and the backstory ends, the fictional bits will dominate the timeline. But even getting birthdays straight will help.

    I also supplement my timeline with an actual calendar for the time the story takes place, which lets me know exactly when things happen AND HOW LONG THEY TAKE. This way you can keep track of what all of your characters are doing at the same time, so you don't end up with a plot where two characters meet at the train station on 7 October, when earlier in the book you'd established that in October one of the two characters would be in the hospital with a broken leg. Trust me, this kind of thing can happen. A timeline solves the problem, and dovetails real events with fictional ones ...whether the real events actually influence your story or not.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2015
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  9. Akarevaar
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    Akarevaar Member

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    Thanks so much! I haven't though of using a timeline before, but it seems like a brilliant idea. Since my story takes place over a number of years I can see how this could become particularly important. Also, I have a running motif in my book about seasons and change, so this would very obviously be a great way to both sort out my pacing as well as make the motif and themes flow with the plot. Great advice, Jannert. Do you have any recommendations for software to help with the timeline? Or do you just write yours out in word or a similar program?
     
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  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I just started a document in my ordinary wordprocesser, named it Timeline, and listed all the dates, year by year, from 1860 through to the time of my story. That's it. Just a list of dates.

    Then, as I encountered facts during my research phase I simply added them in after the relevant date and re-saved the document each time. I included the date of each change in the title of my timeline, which now reads Timeline 22-08-15, which was the last time I made changes to it.

    There isn't anything complicated about this process, and you certainly don't need special software for it. Just start an ordinary document, name it, and amend it as needed. Recording the date you make any changes can be important if you encounter an older version of your timeline and wonder if it's up to date.

    I'd suggest that once it's up and running you should print it out as well, just to have a copy to quickly refer to, if need be.

    It's also a tip to record WHERE your information came from, if it's controversial in any way. (Notice how I've put reference to certain books into my timeline—even page numbers where the information can be found.) You may want to re-check it at a later date, so including the source is a good idea, too.

    You can break up your timeline into any units you want. Including Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring for each year, if that helps. It's your document, so design it to suit your needs. As ideas occur to you about your plot, check to make sure they don't conflict with something else. That's all it's for, really. But a MASSIVE help and confidence-booster, when it comes to continuity issues.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2015

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