1. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    Rhythm of my manuscript

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Garball, May 16, 2013.

    Starting to wrap up my novel and trudging through the mire of doubt. I am currently at 90k words (which I figure fits nice enough into the "desirable range") with sixteen chapters. The story itself is not an action packed thriller; more of a psychological horror delving a little into the supernatural realm. The first five chapters are biographical of the MC interspersed, both present and past, with a little action not related to main conflict. Chapter six, MC reaches location where conflict happens. Chapter 7, conflict happens. The rest of the novel is the action derived from chapter 7 until the resolution in the final couple of pages. Does this rhythm seem ok, or are five chapters of getting to know the MC too much? Should I find a way to introduce what the conflict is going to be somewhere before it actually happens?
     
  2. mbinks89
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    mbinks89 Active Member

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    Well, to give us a better idea, perhaps tell us how many words, or pages, and not chapters, you use for character development.
    Five chapters seems okay to me, but there needs to be something keeping me reading. Suspense, action, plot, whatever, even just good writing (mind you, it should be quite good if you are to be devoid of action/plot). You said you have some action, so it should be fine.
     
  3. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    roughly 28k; just under 1/3 of the book
     
  4. PlotDeviceManager
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    PlotDeviceManager Member

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    At first glance, five chapters seems like WAY too much. But, that really depends on how we are getting to know the character and the "interspersed" action. Is the action a way of showing the characteristics of your MC? Even if it doesn't really relate to the main conflict, is it still tied to it (like events leading up to the main conflict)? As long as it's not a biography that suddenly jumps into a totally different story, I'd say "Author knows best."

    Really, its not how you chop up the story into parts, but how those parts tie together. It's all about flow. When you read it, does Chapter Six feel jarring? Does it feel like it should be the beginning of a new story? I think that's how you would know. (Keep in mind that I am not a professional, so my advice is, at best, to be taken with a spoonful of sugar.)
     
  5. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    When one speaks of the rhythm of a literary piece they are referring to the way it moves from word to sentence to paragraph to page to scene to chapter... Not how/when the placing of the plotting elements come into the piece. And even if it was, it is more about the way you put it, than where you put it.

    Post a scene or two, and we'll tell you how it looks.
     
  6. The Peanut Monster
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    The Peanut Monster Senior Member

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    I guess it depends how much plot action is going on in those 28,000 words. For me - I need to get a sense at least of what the character's story goal is the first couple of chapters, even if its not a full blown inciting incident, you know. If it's a very character driven book though then I guess 5 chapters of intro could work as long as there is enough going on to get the next page turned...
     
  7. heal41hp
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    heal41hp Contributing Member

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    I find this really hard to judge without actually reading it. I second PlotDeviceManager, though.

    I know it's incredibly helpful but there was an article I read, the title and author of which I can't remember, that broke down a few guidelines the author (or was she an editor? maybe both. no clue) had found useful. She said there are three elements to a story: the character(s), the plot, and the setting. Every chapter should progress at least two of those three elements. I've yet to seriously test this formula but it seems sound. So if those first five chapters further the character and one of the other elements, it should be sufficient. Also, she said that by page 50 it should be clear what the plot is. Again, I haven't tested this, but it seems sound. I'll see if I can find this article for you when I get home. :)
     
  8. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    There are no fix rules in fiction writing, so it is really difficult to give advice without actually reading your manuscript. However, as a writer I would certainly think twice about the 28K MC's biographical chapters, and I suspect that is what boring you at the moment. If it bothers you, the writer, the readers will certainly feel it and therefore you might consider revisiting the structure of your story.

    And if you are going for a change one way to go is to introduce minor conflicts. In many superhero stories/movies the beginning scenes usually involves the SH saving the day displaying all his/her powers etc. while doing so. We are at the edge of the seat as SH dives like a rocket to save the little girl hanging by a branch off the cliff. By the time we catch our breath we know the abilities of the SH. This is of course a simplistic example, you should preferably tie the minor conflicts to the main conflict of your novel (the little girl in my example could be the daughter of the future villain of the main conflict). This would make the minor conflicts serve the duel purpose of introducing the character and also add layers to the plot.
     
  9. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    sorry, double posts.
     
  10. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Sounds like your story starts in Chapter 6. You should introduce your MC as the story progresses, not dump it all in as a sort of info-dump prologue or sorts, even if you label them as chapters. You might consider interspersing the action chapters with your MC's background chapters, but then the background should somehow relate to or answer the puzzles of the main story/conflict.

    So like this: Chapter 1, story starts. Chapter 2, MC's background. Chapter 3, back to main story. Chapter 4, continuing from chapter 2. (but somehow Chapters 2 and 4 should unlock, or serve as a key to, a puzzle that chapters 1 and 3 are trying to resolve)

    Hope that makes sense.

    But if the MC biographical chapters aren't even related to the main conflict/story, then delete them. Problem is, your MC is only your baby, not the readers', which means, the readers don't care. They wanna read a story, not a biography. If they did, they would've probably gone for the non-fiction section.

    I once read a book by Agatha Christie, and I couldn't finish the book, precisely because of this problem. The book was only something like 150-200 pages long, a very short book. But for about 80 pages - over half the book - it was all about the two protags' lives. But I picked the book up for the crime mystery, and I was forever waiting for the damn crime to happen. If it had been advertised as something else, and I was here to read someone's drama/romance, I wouldn't have minded. But I picked it up expecting crime, and that didn't happen til like p.100. By that point, I'd stopped caring. And the quality of the writing was good, it was Agatha Christie, and still it lost me. Chances are, you're even more likely to do so if you do the same thing.
     
  11. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    It's not the quantity of the words but rather how you use them. You can go five chapters and keep a person hooked or you can lose them in the first chapter. It all depends on how it's done. It's far more important to pay attention to that rather than numbers.

    I don't believe there is a set number for when you should introduce larger conflicts. Books with larger casts often take multiple chapters to introduce everyone. Hook me with a scene that has some excellent foreshadowing that doesn't tell me precisely what's going on. Pique my curiosity and I will keep reading. So again, it's not the amount it's how you use it. :)
     
  12. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think a lot depends on what you give us in those first 5 chapters—and, of course, how you present the biographical stuff.

    We should get to know your character well, through scenes and character interactions which are compelling and insightful, during those first five chapters. A little foreshadowing of the conflict to come, during the earlier chapters might not go amiss either. If the person has personal issues they struggle to deal with in the first 5 chapters, then those issues are what should be tested during the rest of the book.

    If you are presenting your MC as a person with no problems, happy and carefree at the start of the book, I would say 5 chapters of this blissful state would be far too many! If the character is troubled, and you show how they got to be that way, then your 5 chapters are probably fine.

    Like many others have said, it's difficult to judge without reading the piece. Do you have a beta reader—someone you trust to 'get' what you're doing— who is willing to read your finished work? If so, that's when you'll get real, meaningful feedback.

    Unfortunately, novelists have a hard time on this forum, because they can't post their entire novel for critique. A novel is an entire piece of work, and can't really be judged in snippets. It's like painting a picture that's 6 x 4-foot size, then showing people a 5 x 5-inch square and asking for a critique! Ach well, no help for it. Finding yourself a beta reader to go over your first draft is the best way to attack this problem.
     

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