1. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Story Framing: Help!

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by GuardianWynn, Aug 14, 2016.

    Warning, this is going to be a long post, and one dear to my heart.

    A story I attempted years ago, and even got me to join this forum. Yet, while I believe in its core an interesting story, it has still to date alluded me to find what this story needs.

    I found myself with a rare sudden realization not on a solution, but rather, a nicer way to describe at its core, what the story is about. Which is:

    "An at heart, good natured, woman falls into despair and darkness only to eventually be brought out of it and discover that redemption isn't so much an action but a state of being. One of accepting ones past and moving forward."

    Kerrin(MC's name) is a woman to whose life is mostly tragic. the only real bright side is my intended ending is something along the lines of hope. That she has moved past everything and survived it(in a manner of speaking) and that possibly a happy ending may be in her future.

    My original story featured her starting at the end, and it flashing back to notable events in her life. Most readers have come to think of this as a flawed method of expression, as it slows the main story as well as just randomly gives you chunks of her past.

    But the trick of a linear story is, there is a lot of content. Where to start? Where to skip too?

    To summarize her life events briefly.

    - She lives a realitively normal, yet somewhat magical life(magic is not common in her setting. She is quite honestly the first spellcaster to exist in her home)

    - The lose of a loved one causes her to lose her sanity creating her evil years(which are large in number and she does a lot of bad things.)

    - Eventually a defeat and imprisonment allows her to reflect on her status and the realization that she wasn't a hero.

    What do you guys think?

    @Nicoel
     
  2. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Okay (rolls up sleeves)...

    Let's break this down. You've got some key moments here:
    • she discovers she's got magical abilities (which is only implied in what you listed),
    • she loses a loved one,
    • she turns 'evil,'
    • she goes 'on a rampage,'
    • she gets locked up, and
    • she repents.
    I see two possible catalysts in what you have laid out:
    • the moment she discovers she's got magic, and
    • when she loses the loved one.
    If she's known she's got magic for a while, rather than cover (possibly) years where nothing untoward happens, it may be better to use the second as a catalyst... unless you can come up with a way to compress all that time without losing the forward thrust of the narrative. Then you could use her moment of discovery as the catalyst and the loss of the loved one as the first turning point (the event that propels her into Act II).

    So, assuming you use the loss as a catalyst—the event that gets her headed toward the rampage of evil that will be Act II—you can put this pretty close to the beginning (second chapter) and write the first chapter to follow her around doing virtuous things (with an impending doom hanging over her head). These first chapter deeds are what make us care about her. The first hint of a coming disaster could arrive at the end of chapter one, after we're thoroughly sympathetic with her.

    Then we see the loss (disaster) in chapter two after which we see her emotional and intellectual processes (and the events) that lead her to turn evil. At least one more event would have to happen that will make her decide that 'evil' is the way to go. It should be something unfair from her point of view, as unfair as that loved one being lost. (If you go with her discovery of magical abilities as the catalyst, however, the loss can be the first turning point.) It's her reaction to this second event that will bring out the evil. Keep in mind, it should be a problem that, had she not been in a sorrowful state of mind (perhaps feeling life and everyone around her are being unfair), she might have solved in a more positive way.

    On the other hand, going with the discovery as catalyst instead, perhaps it's the reaction of those around her to her magic that leads her to evil.

    And it might even be that all the 'evil' she commits in the middle chapters, she justifies as either revenge or even 'doing good.' Her thoughts and feelings would need to keep the reader unsure of her moral stance or might even make the reader think she's right in doing these evil deeds... until she suddenly has to answer to authority.

    So that leaves you with two possibilities...

    One:
    • she's just a normal person going about her business, well-liked, etc.
    • she discovers she's got magic,
    • it freaks people out, they turn on her,
    • she loses a loved one (perhaps because of people freaking out), and
    • she turns evil.
    Two:
    • she's a magical person going about her business,
    • she loses a loved one,
    • people turn against her (perhaps because of the loss?),
    • she deals with animosity until that one big event where she just can't take it any longer, and
    • she turns evil.
    I hope that helps. I'm certainly not saying these are the only ways to go about it, but perhaps something in this post will trigger some new thoughts for you.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2016
  3. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think I'm on the same page as @Sack-a-Doo! in thinking that you need to decide what your main story is and then start when that story starts.

    To me, the most interesting part of your story might be the redemption story. The happy life and turning evil part would just be backstory for that, and your real story would begin when something happens that makes her start her quest for redemption.
     
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  4. Sack-a-Doo!
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    I hadn't thought of that. That could work well, too.

    And all the 'evil' backstory could come out as she contemplates the problems she's trying to solve throughout her redemption process.
     
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  5. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    That was my original framing but it got a lot of critism for being bad. As people felt the back story interrupted the flow of the story. But this was a long time ago I wrote it. Perhaps it was just that I sucked to blame and not the actual framing.

    Not at home. So csnt give this one a proper reply yet.
     
  6. BayView
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    If the redemption story is your main story, it's your main story. There's more than enough there to make an interesting book.

    You do need to be careful that you don't let backstory take over, though. You can often find ways to make it an intriguing mystery rather than a block of infodumping - have a character react to your MC with horror but don't explain why right away. Have another character try to kill her and show her struggle to respond with compassion (b/c he's right to seek revenge) rather than retribution, and don't give away too many details of why. Make your readers really want to know why.

    For me, why is the question the makes books worthwhile. Who and Where and When and What and How are interesting, but WHY is the humdinger. Don't blow your tension by answering the best question too early.
     
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  7. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks for the nice response.

    I don't actually have a lot to say. Though, the lose of the loved one was the true event to cause he to go evil. So, I couldn't push it to something else. It actually also was related to the magic, though again, big time gap,. That was also on purpose, as there is some foul play at work. In concept that is one of the this may be a tricky story. That every major event has a decent time chunk. Someone once thought that was good, to give it time for it to settle in as a very slow paced story with huge twists at various intervals

    The thing is, yes and no. I mean. Yes, I originally created the story as redemption themed picking the style I did for that reason. The character was seen in my main story, and I loved her so much, I wanted to explore her origins as well as what happens after she left the main story. But I am not set on a style or theme. Since my true goal is to show that she isn't purely the monster she is seen as in the main story.

    Though fun fact, we were almost on the exact same idealism. As in my first two chapters. I showed the clash between her evil self/trying to be redeemed self. I did that on purpose trying to beg the question of what happened to her to cause such a harsh division in how she behaves. I was focused on the what, not the why I guess. As I said. I was kind of a failure back then lol.
     
  8. GingerCoffee
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    The death of her loved one is the trigger or inciting event if the story is about redemption. And it could be that the beginning of the redemption story starts there.

    What matters here is just what has been said, you have to decide what your story is. Is the redemption long and slow occurring to the character when she is bitter and evil? You still have to start with the evil character.

    Some people would start with the evil character and reveal later how she became evil. I think that's getting a tad cliché, though if done right the reader will forgive you. But if you start when she is evil, what is the inciting event?

    If the inciting event is something that changes the character, then it could be something that leads to redemption. Then you'd have a story of an evil person struggling with their conscience. If that's the case would there be some single thing that changed the character?

    Start writing the story, if you haven't already and be prepared to chop off the beginning and start somewhere else once you see h How has the story developed? That is where your answer lies.
     
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  9. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    :D I did write it. It was a 31k long train wreck that a few people on here didn't completely hate.

    Yeah, funny thing is I am slightly more lost than before, a while back everyone sort of convinced me that I should go linear but now everyone is arguing for flashbacks. lol

    I mean, both aspects have pros and cons. Gonna write them out to see if doing that helps me or helps anyone on here help me.

    Linear Pros

    A huge story(I hear length is a good thing!)
    Lots of twists and turns.
    Lots of little moments I think are amazing.
    A more complete dive into her life.

    Linear Cons
    No real plot. I mean, plot events happen but there is no clear cut goal from page one. Like, protecting her loved one is a goal but then he dies. In a sense every goal of the book would hold a similar drawback.

    Time jump difficulty. I mean, her life is in my mind written as backstory with each stage taking chunks. Might be tricky or bad to have to jump from one timeline to another, IE, a few years later. lol.

    Yeah, off top of my head, thoe are the only 2 drawbacks I see with linear but they are kind of big.

    Flashback Pros

    More consistant theme to the story.

    Faster pace

    Does not having the timeline issue count as a pro? lol.

    Flashback cons.

    A lot of big moments lose flare this way. It isn't the loved one yanked from under your fingertip. As the character obviously had a tragic thing happen to her how ever I write it.

    A lot of neat little moments get discarded for the tightening plot.

    Pacing issue might also be somewhat a thing given how her past needs to be revealed to some degree. That was the point. I mean my original climax was finally revealing what was the inciting incident that caused her to become evil. Which is at the time, the darkest thing I ever wrote! Eek.

    Gah, so even. Both seem to be valid. I mean, it face value, the tightning plot may seem obvious, but I can see a lot of value in this story being slow.

    Like, her opening life involved her being a girl on a prary like setting. I once, for fun(not in the book) wrote a seen in which she met her future husband, as he was stealing apples off her tree. And she made a deal with him, music lessons in exchange for food! Course this is before she discovers she has magic.

    I love the idea of that scene and it moving to the moment where she loses her loved one and the heart break in linear fashion! God it almost makes me cry(it used to).

    Ekk I am still so stuck! Sorry for my complaining. I hope I am not bothering ya guys too much!
     
  10. GingerCoffee
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    This is plot:
    This is story:
    http://cinemoose.com/plot-vs-story/
    You need to start with story, what is that thing burning in your soul that you want to tell about this character?

    Start there and the rest will fall into place.
     
  11. Sack-a-Doo!
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    I suspect the criticism was aimed at how you used the redemption as bookends, not that redemption factored so large in the story.

    A bookend story, being separate from the main story, comes across as a prologue/epilogue kind of thing and in a lot of ways, has the same sigma. The reader gets settled into what they think is the story, the opening bookend, and suddenly they're being led into a whole other story that took place in the 'past' (from the POV of the bookend). If there's no conflict in the bookend, no hook to make this second story relevant to a predicament/circumstance in the bookend, the reader has no reason to follow you into that past and trust that you'll eventually come back to the 'present' and give them a pay-off.

    I'm only going on the bits and pieces you've revealed in this thread, so I may be off-base, but that's how it sounds to me.

    So, again, I'm thinking you've got two choices...
    1. just tell the story without the 'looking back from the past' element (the bookends), or
    2. tell the redemption story without spending a lot of time in her past (which implies that the only story events you write about will be those that come after she's locked up).
     
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  12. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    In both cases it sounds like your saying skip the past?

    That reminds me of perhaps my best framing moment though. the character, in pain had sort of blocked out their weaker self.

    The true turning point(after the lock up) is when a character forces(with magic) to relieve her past. It was a nice framing moment, as the flashback was in a sense what she was expierencing in the present. And when she wakes up from that her temporment is extreme. Mainly torn. As, being forced to relieve that sort of brought that side of herself to the surface, a side that understood that she was being evil, and that is the moment she begins to regret what she became.

    If that makes sense?
     
  13. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Nope, just in the second suggestion.

    In the first, the I'm saying the 'past' is the 'story present.' In other words, you'd tell it chronologically. It wouldn't start with her in jail; it would start with her going bout her life just before the 'death of a loved one' moment.

    And if you were to decide to tell it as I've suggested in the second suggestion, it would start with her in jail (as you did in the bookend) but continue on from there. The only time we'd see the 'past' (what you originally had as your main story line) would be through brief flashbacks and then only as they shed light on her current circumstances.
     
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  14. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Wait. Sorry. To clarify. Then what were saying I should skip if I do the book in order? The redemption part?
     
  15. Sack-a-Doo!
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    No, that would come at the end (but only at the end). Chronological order of events.
     

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