1. Futurist
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    Futurist Member

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    Plot structure preference?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Futurist, Jan 17, 2013.

    The novel is about a group of people embarking on a long voyage from which they will probably not return.
    Do you prefer:
    A) Introducing the characters as they embark on the voyage and flashing back to events that led up to their being on the expedition, their motivations and relationships, etc., or
    B) Starting at the planning stage for the voyage and introducing the characters and their backgrounds/relationships/motivations before they are actually accepted as candidates for the expedition. The linear approach?
    If you are interested in replying, maybe add the pros and cons of your preference.
     
  2. bmacd
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    bmacd Member

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    Both can definitely work. I think A might be a nicer option, however. You don't even need to necessarily do flashbacks... I think if you did 1-3 flashbacks (not sure how many characters you hve) and then the other character's pasts could come out through conversations, certain events (and how they react to things), etc. I think A might work better because you'll be right at the beginning of the voyage which is always exciting. What kind of expedition is this? That might help you (and us) decide!
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Whichever works better for YOUR story. In fact, your decision will be a factor in what each story becomes.

    No one else can make decisions like this for you. All they can do is tell you which direction they would be inclined to take if it were their story. It will be a completely differen t story than yours.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto that... but if it were my story, i think i might do something you haven't proposed and start with each character preparing for the trip, then adding bits of their backstory later, at a relevant point in the storyline...
     
  5. Cerebral
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    Cerebral Active Member

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    Yes! I've finally found an error in something you wrote! I've done it! I've done it!
    What a good day.
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Ah, yes, it's the small victories in life that are the sweetest! :)
     
  7. Futurist
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    Futurist Member

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    I believe I was asking for opinion, not advice, but thanks for answering.
    BMACD
    Both can definitely work. I think A might be a nicer option, however. You don't even need to necessarily do flashbacks... I think if you did 1-3 flashbacks (not sure how many characters you have) and then the other character's pasts could come out through conversations, certain events (and how they react to things), etc.
    A good idea. Thank you
    I think A might work better because you'll be right at the beginning of the voyage which is always exciting. That's what I thought.


    What kind of expedition is this? That might help you (and us) decide
    It's a long voyage through space to find a planet that appears to be on the verge to self-destruction (said planet based not too loosely on our own Earth).
     
  8. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's always better to start with action but you can do that with both plot scenarios. Generally speaking, I can't tell you I prefer one or the other. I can remember awesome books who took either approach. All that matters is that you write it well. That's probably the most useful kind of opinion you are going to get, no need to get shirty about it.
     
  9. muddy130
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    muddy130 Member

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    I would start at the middle of the story or some where close to the middle. Sometimes if you start talking about things the reader don't know about, they will keep reading so they can found out.
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't like either one, because both have the flavor of backstory. Even if they _aren't_ backstory, those particular milestones - starting a voyage, or being recruited for a voyage - feel like they are.

    If I had to chose, I'd choose (a), because it's less backstoryish than (b). But I'm guessing that the right point to start is (c), perhaps somewhere during the voyage. Or after it's over, if the voyage is just to get the characters to a destination where the story starts.
     
  11. alexa_
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    alexa_ Banned

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    I prefer 'retrospective', it's always more exsiting and catchy.
     
  12. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    It would depend upon the story. If there is a specific impetus for this voyage, rather than "let's go on an adventure" then I think it would be best to start with that. If it's just an adventure tale, depicting the strange things they see on their voyage, then starting the story at the start of the voyage, or even in the middle would probably be the best route to take. I'd experiment with a few different openings and see which works best.
     
  13. Teodor Pravický
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    Teodor Pravický Senior Member

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    I think you can jump from one place to another at a time, but restrospective is really hard to read. Reader has to remember when was that or who is this about and have to realize why it is here.. then ask himself why is so important such flashback came in.

    It is too much work for the reader and still he gets nothing but the story itself, because you are doing nothing else than introducing people.

    The lamest feeling I have is when I realize that I did some useless tuning like that. It is too much of thinking with no real benefit.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    congratulations!

    but wasn't that a fun blooper?... i can certainly think of situations where such a coinage can apply, can't you?

    hugs, m
     
  16. Cerebral
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    Yeah, that was my first thought...but I wanted to act like a growed-up. I did good?
    He just wanted some comments/opinions on the appeal of both methods, Cog. Nothing wrong with that, I think. I see what you're saying though.

    Futurist: I would personally go with A. Maybe I'm misunderstanding your goal here, but if your story is about a voyage, I would prefer it if that's made clear in the beginning. If you start with character backgrounds and a bunch of scenes leading up to the actual voyage, it might make readers like me impatient. But, of course, maybe you have something else in mind.
     
  17. Futurist
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    I have no need to get shirty, as you call it. I agree completely. Bad writing has spoiled many a good story, even ones by best-selling authors, because bad writing creates speed bumps, distractions that lead you away from the narrative while you try to figure out what the writer is trying to say.
     
  18. Futurist
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    Muddy130
    "I would start at the middle of the story or some where close to the middle. Sometimes if you start talking about things the reader don't know about, they will keep reading so they can found out."
    That's something I never thought about. Thanks

    Chicken Freak
    "If I had to chose, I'd choose (a), because it's less backstoryish than (b). But I'm guessing that the right point to start is (c), perhaps somewhere during the voyage. Or after it's over, if the voyage is just to get the characters to a destination where the story starts."
    Another novel idea. I am having trouble with the construction because there are long periods of relative inactivity which I either have to eliminate or intersperse with action from the past or at other locations.

    Protar
    "If it's just an adventure tale, depicting the strange things they see on their voyage, then starting the story at the start of the voyage, or even in the middle would probably be the best route to take. I'd experiment with a few different openings and see which works best."
    Another good suggestion. Thanks

    Cogito
    "Get used to making choices on your own. It's at the core of writing. Put yourself on paper. Don't just report others' thoughts."
    Gotcha! Your comment started me thinking about all my writing. A member of a writer's group I belonged to years ago said all my characters were me and I wonder if this is not true to a certain extent. I have a real problem getting into the head of someone who is truly evil and cruel or even a very aggressive person or a bully. I can describe the things they do, but only as an observer. Hmm! Thank you, by the way.

    To All: This discussion has led me to the verge of completely rethinking the structure of the novel. Maybe that's why I had several months of writers block—I wasn't doing it right. I have come to the conclusion that the central story is not the voyagers themselves, but the destination planet which is on the verge of total disaster. The rescued, not the rescuers, although it is important to find out something about the rescuers and how they differ from those being rescued, why their worlds evolved differently, etc.
     

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