1. kitsune4
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    kitsune4 Member

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    Starting a novel too late? Advice please!

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by kitsune4, Nov 17, 2013.

    Hello, so I've often read that starting your novel too soon is bad. The story may lag a bit before becoming engaging. However, is starting a novel too late also bad? By that I mean is not allowing enough time to connect to the character before the central conflict also bad? And how do you know if you're starting too late or too soon?
     
  2. Laze
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    Laze Active Member

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    Sounds like you're having a similar problem to me. I'm writing a story about a teenager who discovers some unusual fictional qualities about himself. But I didn't want to rush into the fantastical side of things within the first few chapters, I wanted the blend between the somewhat real world, and the fantastical world to feel seamless. Reason being was so that it would immerse the reader deeply, and allow the unbelievable to feel a little more believable. If you know I mean.
    I guess I find it a little boring when books throw you into these utterly fantastical worlds within in the first few words. But, that's just my personal preference. I enjoy reading fiction that has some kind of relation to our own reality.

    The way I tackled it, was to be very concious about making the less important parts of my story interesting. My character is a little dramatic—like all teenagers I suppose. But it allowed me to create some good humour and relateable situations, whilst I allowed the reader to become emotionally invested into the main character in our reality. It shouldn't feel like bland fillers in order to reach the climax, if it does, then you really need to come up with some interesting scenarios that can lead up to the main plot of your story.
     
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  3. TessaT
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    TessaT Contributing Member

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    Are you talking about the storyline of your story? Just start writing. Don't worry about where you start in the storyline, just start where it feels natural and good. If after you've written the entire thing, you feel like the story doesn't make sense because you left out XYZ, go back and add it in. If you feel like the beginning of your story is too slow, you can edit it out.
    The great thing about a story? You can change it however you see fit!
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Too late or too soon relative to what?
     
  5. Aurin
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    Aurin Member

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    Just start writing it from whatever point you feel like - you'll know eventually where it should really start.
     
  6. casperpearl
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    casperpearl New Member

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    I'd start at the scene where your dilemma arises and sprinkle any necessary backstory along the way.
     
  7. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think Laze has highlighted an important point to keep in mind.

    If you need a Masterclass in how to do this, you could do worse than read Tolkien's start to Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring. He begins with a birthday party! All that backstory, Middle Earth, rings, high lords, wars, orcs, Mount Doom, Sauron ...nope, he sucks us straight into the story with a birthday party. And with hobbits, who are a lot like 'us' in many ways.

    I thought it was interesting that the movie did the exact opposite. Of course I'd read the books many times, so all that highfalutin' stuff about how the ring was lost in a War that was presented as the intro, was something I already knew. It didn't bother me much, but I do wonder what effect it had on anybody who hadn't read the books. Confusion, maybe? Lack of engagement? I think the book's introductory scene is much better.

    Also look at the start to Joe Abercrombie's First Law Trilogy, The Blade Itself. A huge trilogy with a lot of 'stuff' for us to learn about, but it opens with one of the best hand-to-hand "you-are-there" combat scenes I've ever read. And no, we don't learn all about the background to the conflict at that point. What we do is meet one of the main characters and get to see what he's like and get a feel for the world he lives in, from his perspective.
     
  8. kitsune4
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    kitsune4 Member

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    By this, I meant starting too late into the conflict to establish a connection with the character so that you actually care about what's happening.

    The first chapter of my novel establishes the sort of character I want my POV to be but because I'm so close to my character, I know I care but I'm not sure if someone else would. I suppose the best way to find out would be by having someone read the first draft.

    I'm curious about when people decide to start their novel in the plotline. Thank you for all the responses! I see there are a few variations. I guess I just need to pick one that feels most appropriate for what I want to accomplish, so I've written an additional chapter which I feel is a much better set up for the coming events, pushing the original chapter into second.
     
  9. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Okay, thanks for clarifying. Now, it makes sense to me.

    I recently attended a talk given by Rachel Simon, who wrote "The Story of Beautiful Girl". She was speaking to a group who advocate and provide services for people with developmental disabilities, and MC is one such person, but her talk also was a great example of addressing this question. She talked about the MC, a woman who was intellectually disabled and selectively mute, who has been raped by a guard at the institution she is in and is pregnant. She and another inmate, a John Doe who is deaf and mute and whose sign language is not understandable, have fallen in love and they escape together before the baby is born. They find a shelter where she gives birth, but the authorities are soon on their trail and they must run. On a cold, rainy night they come to a farm house inhabited by an older woman living alone. At first, she's taken aback by these two people, but sees the baby and realizes they are in some kind of trouble, and she lets them in. Shortly afterward, there is loud banging at the front door and they realize they are trapped. The man escapes out a back window. Just before the woman opens the door, Beautiful Girl thrusts the baby into the startled woman's arms and whispers, "Hide her!!" The woman says, "I will."
    By this point, Rachel had been talking for about ten or fifteen minutes, complete with a slide show of art work depicting some of the scenes she'd been describing. And she said, "All that is backstory. This is where the novel begins, with the girl being led off and the woman wondering what she will do with this baby."

    You need to know your character's backstory. My advice would be to keep that all in mind, but let the way your character reacts to the story you are writing establish the sort of character (s)he is.

    Good luck. PM me if you would like to discuss further.
     
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  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Damn. You really sucked me in, there! Good point, though. :)

    However ...it might be different if the main story was about what happens to the Beautiful Girl and John Doe, rather than what happens to the stranger woman and the baby. If the story is about how the couple struggle to get back to that house and find their baby again, perhaps the 'backstory' should be included.
     
  11. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Actually, the story is about what happens to all of them - Beautiful Girl going back to the institution, the John Doe trying to avoid recapture while getting Beautiful Girl out of the institution and how the woman fares with the baby.
     
  12. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Okay. I'll buy it. Sounds like a great story, actually.

    I guess I'm maybe not keen to get that particular backstory removed from the start of the story, though—especially as it sucked me right in. The details could be a bit too crucial to be left to ongoing snippets, and presenting flashbacks might be awkward as well. I'd have to see how it all panned out before passing judgement.

    But I do take your point.
     
  13. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Actually - and I strongly recommend the book - if you read it, you'll find it sucks you in just as it's written.
     
  14. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Okay, I've just ordered it from Amazon. I'll let you know how I get on.
     
  15. Obscurum
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    Obscurum New Member

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    I'll have the same thing. My story starts in a hospital, where two of my characters work. The action starts soon after: they are beeing attacked, but have no clue by what. I wont tell the reader either. They come to know it by flashbacks i tell them about what other characters have seen: the monster that is.
     
  16. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    (Memo to self - send e-mail to Rachel for commission on sale)
     
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  17. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    Any story involves a protagonist who has their orderly life disrupted in some way. We call the disruption the inciting incident. Usually, we meet the protagonist slightly before things go to hell so we have a baseline and know what the protagonist is trying to get back to, or escape from.

    Every scene has some common elements. The protagonist has an initial goal the reader is aware of. Something will happen to disrupt that. From then on things will continue to go wrong and the tension will rise until either it's resolved and the story is over, or things go so far out of control that the protagonist must withdraw (or escape, or hide, etc.), setting things up for for what's often called the sequel, followed by the next scene.

    See how your opening matches up to that for an idea of where you stand.
     
  18. Obscurum
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    Obscurum New Member

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  19. Obscurum
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    Obscurum New Member

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    Is that a reply to me?
     
  20. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Speak for yourself.
     
  21. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    @ Obscurum:

    No. I was responding to the OP.
     
  22. EmmaWrite
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    EmmaWrite Member

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    I think the rules of starting your plot too early or too late are flexible. As long as your characters are developed somewhere along the way and you keep the reader engaged, start your plot where it feels right.
     

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