1. The Backward OX
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    The Backward OX Senior Member

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    Story structure

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by The Backward OX, Mar 1, 2009.

    I have my main characters’ lives starting in one country, however the main part of the story, obviously involving these characters, is set in another country.

    The story is set 150 years ago. Travel between the two countries is by sailing ship, and takes months.

    Would a chapter about this journey, as such*, be okay to include in the story? *In other words, as a travelogue? I personally think it is, but I have been criticised on the grounds that such travelogue is not directly related to the later events that make the backbone of the story. However I think that’s nitpicking.

    So I’m putting it to you, both as writers and as readers. What do you say?
     
  2. Aeroflot
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    Aeroflot Senior Member

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    There's a rule that says if the writing is good and it works, then throw all the rules out. :)
     
  3. pacmansays
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    pacmansays Senior Member

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    I'd say write it anyway, if it works in the overall piece then keep it and if it doesn't then don't
     
  4. Agreen
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    Agreen Faceless Man Contributor

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    It's hard to say without seeing the piece in question. Is it absolutely necessary to start the story in the original country, or can you pick up when the plot begins in the new one?
     
  5. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    I am going to agree with Pac. (May I call you Pac?)

    Write it, regardless. Then, when all is complete, you can simply make a contradistinction between the piece with and without it, editing and changing as needed.
    If ultimately it simply does not add anything to the story or seems more like a cumbersome burden upon the reader with no real interest, then scrap it.
     
  6. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hello TBO, it's been a while.

    As you know, the contemporary school of thought advocates using only those descriptions that advance the plot. All else is considered superfluous and "should" be removed.

    In my opinion, this narrow view of storytelling discounts the value of creating "atmosphere" or mood for the reader. A side story about the sailing voyage could be very interesting to your target audience. While it may not be directly related to the later events, it does provide a "tone" for the story and insight into your character(s). The ultimate decision should reflect expectations of your target readers.
     
  7. The Backward OX
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    The Backward OX Senior Member

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    Hip Hip Hooray to you!
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I do believe there is value in conveying the passage of time, and in establishing your world. But if it's just a travelogue, consider this.

    If you have friends who have taken a long vacation, how much do you look forward to the evening that they invite everyone over to see the photos from their trip? If it's just a sequence of scenes, it gets boring pretty quickly, even though your friends are excited to share them.

    However, if they share some anecdotes along with the scenery, it's a lot more fun.

    So keep the journey, but you could also take the opportunity to get to know the characters somewhat along the way. Weave in a storyline about how one or more characters experience the journey, especially if you have one who has never been on such a journey before.

    Who knows, you might find yourself with a couple of chapters worth of material.
     
  9. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    If it contributes to the story or character development, even if it's not directly related to the overall plot, and it's not boring, include it. You could get some interesting character development out of it, or do some breat world building.
     
  10. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    You could start the story in country two and tell of the journey through snippets of backstory.
     
  11. iolair
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    iolair Active Member

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    I've been facing a similar issue with my story, which seems to require a certain amount of travel (though days and not months) between locations.

    My characters don't know each other very well before the journey, so that's given the opportunity for useful conversations where a little more about them can be revealed. I've also added in one or two incidents as they travel which reference later or earlier occurrences in the story. Might they meet someone as they're travelling who becomes important in the story later on?
     
  12. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    The way I see it:

    If it's interesting, then put it in.

    If it's boring (unless it advances the plot and is irreplaceable) leave it.
     
  13. JohnNoZ
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    JohnNoZ Member

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    What happens in the old country that is important to the emotional journey of the characters or the plot?

    If it is necessary to start in the first country that you speak of, then I think that it is jarring to just have the characters pop up across the ocean.

    Can you introduce some tension or conflict on the journey, and offer some minor characters on board for your main characters to play against in ways that provide characterization?
     
  14. TyroScribe
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    TyroScribe Member

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    I don't see anything wrong with that. As a reader, I like to know anything that has helped the protagonist develop, even if it's small details. As a writer, the only concern I'd have is if talking about the journey will do anything for the story as a whole. What I mean is if you have that chapter (or chapters), could anything from it come up again later in the story? If so, how and why is it relevant? If you can address that, it just makes the story more appealing. :)

    It's one of those cases where it's the writer's perrogative.
     

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