1. Pandywoo
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    Pandywoo New Member

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    Story within a story

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Pandywoo, Sep 1, 2012.

    I've already tried to write this once but my computer crashed and now i'm angry, so i'm going to try and write this with as few words as possible! :mad: Haha

    What's a good way to present to a reader, a book being read to a group, within a story?

    I'm writing a story purely to get myself into the habit of writing on a regular basis, and to blow away some cobwebs, whilst I'm planning a serious projest. So far I think I'm doing alright. I have a basic idea of what's going to happen and I'm about 600 words in. Fairly near the beginning of the story a character reads a book to a large group of people. The problem I'm having is getting across to my reader that the "book" has begun. Ideally I won't be including a title of this "book" and as it stands at the moment it starts straight off with dialogue. This is an excerpt so far.

    Mr Sullivan clears his throat from the seat of the cart, his old chequered quilt pulled firmly into place, and in a low drawn out voice, he begins to read.

    ‘What was found?’ I ask, wondering if I'd be able to stomach the answer.
    ‘Very little until we reached the edge of the town. I don't know if the others found anything, but I daren't go any farther'.


    So the part between "he begins to read" and the dialogue starting is the transition. I've let a couple of people read the whole thing so far and both had to re-read that section before they realised the book had started. What advice would you give to make this clearer?

    My anger has subsided now! :D
     
  2. The Hollow
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    The Hollow Member

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    When they're about to begin a section that is different from the story as a whole - such as a story being told by a character or a newspaper article or something - usually, authors will make it look visually different from the rest of the text by italicizing it or having it in a slightly different font (for example, newspaper or typewriter font). Since your character is reading a story, you could separate it from the rest of the text visually by having the story told in italics.

    If you don't want to do that, you might want to refer to a different book in which this occurs. For example, In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Rowling has Hermione read from Tales of Beedle the Bard to Ron, Harry, and Mr. Lovegood. I forgot how she separates the tale of the Three Brothers from the rest of the text, but you should look at books like that to see how it's successfully done.
     
  3. Cerrus
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    Cerrus Senior Member

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    Read The Princess Bride by William Goldman. It's basically a story within a story, and it's very well done. With the way it's written, you are connected to both the outside story as well as the inside story. I highly recommend it.
     
  4. Pandywoo
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    Pandywoo New Member

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    Hi thanks for your replies.

    I did consider the idea of writing it in Italics. The only thing that puts me off doing it that way is, the vast majority of the story is going to be from the book and doesn't return back to the "real" world. I guess an option could be to write the "real" world section in Italics, but that feels a little odd. I think it would be easier if it returned after an excerpt from the book but since it doesn't I don't want to make it stand out. I just want the transition to be easier to understand.

    *Sorry I didn't make it clear that the main story was actually within the book.
     
  5. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    If I'm not mistaken, the turn of the screw by whatever his name, henry james? It starts off with them sitting around and some one tells a story. Check it out for some ideas as he's considered one of the greatest writers... the 'father of realism.' Another book I could recommend is Alias Grace by Atwood... Not a frame narrative by your description, but as far as they go it is a great example and maybe could help you understand the concept better, as in cases like these you learn by reading...
     
  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I believe that a block quote would be appropriate as the typographical indicator of the shift to the story. Italics, I believe, would not.

    (Oh, I see - the real world is just a wrapper around the main story? No block quote or italics, then. Are you positive that you even need the wrapper?)
     
  7. Pandywoo
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    Pandywoo New Member

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    The real world actually turns up within the book itself. I don't want to give too much away since I might post it for review, but yeah, the wrapper is pretty essential.

    Thanks for all the book recommendations :D
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    don't use italics or block indent, since so much of the novel will be this book... simply make it clear when you're going in and out of it, by referring to the reader of the book and using line or chapter breaks to keep them separate...
     
  9. Pandywoo
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    Pandywoo New Member

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    I've decided that I'll either let the the sentence trail off before the book starts as in.
    "Mr Sullivan clears his throat from the seat of the cart, his old chequered quilt pulled firmly into place, and in a low drawn out voice, he begins to read... "

    Or

    I will write the two parts in different fonts. Not wildly different, most likely Ariel into Times new Roman.

    I only intend it to be a short story, so I don't think I'll include chapters. I will write until I feel I've told a story worth reading and stop. Then onto the next.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    do not use any different font, if you hope to have it published... mss must be all in the same font... courier new is the most universally acceptable one, since tnr is too cramped and tiny to read comfortably all day, every day, which is what editors and agents must do...
     
  11. Pandywoo
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    Pandywoo New Member

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    Ah ok, thank you. Back to the drawing board! :)
     
  12. Patrick Bade
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    Patrick Bade New Member

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    I had the exact same problem as you. I solved it by rewriting the introductory sentence of the book (the first sentence to be read out to the audience) to make it more obvious that something completely different has started.

    Another solution would be to make a cut at this point and, if it's possible in your case, to start a completely new chapter with an obvious title that makes it clear for the reader that the contents of the book are now being told.
     
  13. Pandywoo
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    Pandywoo New Member

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    I Think this is probably my best option.

    What I'm now thinking is changing the opening "books" line and dependant on what this actually turns into, maybe have it go into a new chapter. It was only supposed to be a short story but the plot is evolving into something I think I could work with now.

    Thanks
     
  14. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Read Conrad's Heart of Darkness to see how he deals with a framing narrative. Read Shelley's Frankenstein to see how she does it (Oates tells the story of Frankenstein who tells the story of the monster who tells the story of, for example, the de Lacey family who tell the story of Safie -- all without having to change font for different levels of narrative).
     

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