1. Trakaias
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    Trakaias Member

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    Suggestions Needed

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Trakaias, Sep 16, 2009.

    When I was 11 I wrote 3 novels, I was really proud of them and sent them off to everyone I knew to read. As I got older and my writing developed I began to notice some things places where I went wrong, reasons why it wasn't good and became embarrassed for even showing it to people!

    But I loved the characters and I loved the ideas and I thought well great idea maybe a little editing...So I started to edit it. Then I realized editing it was pointless they were a total of 1,000 something pages (together not as a whole) about 300 or something pages a piece. There was no way I was going to be able to edit it all especially since I didn't have the same mindset that I have now as I had then.

    So I decided that I would just rewrite it all over, change it from first person to 3rd person, the tenses, and make some of the characters like the mom and the aunts have more of a history and a background that we see throughout the book.

    And I thought great! How exciting! Well...I ended up with several different characters all with histories and stories I wanted to tell. The Mother, The Aunts (individually), The three sisters (each individually), and perhaps even another character.

    Well...then I thought ok! I'll just break it up and write their 'name' to show which perspective we're in and whose history we're looking at. And I began to type...and research...and type away. And each character I began to write about had me so absorbed because they were all so different and great, and had so many things I loved that were just so fascinating and then....

    I realized I was on the 22nd page of just 'one' of the characters, and at this rate I would be writing another 1,000 paged book (or at least 500). And I wanted it to be around 100 or 200 maybe even less. And then it dawned on me....how do I actually turn 3 books that come up to 1,000 pages into way less???? So...you can see where the rates were going right?

    So my question becomes:

    -Is it okay to have a book where each 'chapter' is dominated by a different point of view.
    (optionally)
    -Is it okay to switch up the point of view, and to go back and fourth in time throughout?


    -How can I keep it short or sweet? or should? Would long be okay?
    -Or should I just give each character/generation their own book/story?

    Or maybe it could work depending on how I went about it. So how should I go about it? (any ideas).

    Something else I noticed. This book has more dialogue than it has 'get inside their head' kind of detail. I noticed while I was writing that the dialogue and the actions express most of the emotions vs. the fillers (which I call filling in thoughts what the character at that point is thinking). I was wondering if that was OK or not good. I don't know why but normally that stuff comes naturally to me, but it just doesn't feel right for some of the books I write.
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Your novel could be too long for several reasons. One, you have too many subplots. In that case you need to get rid of a few of them and stick to the main plot. Two, you may have too much description. If that's the case, then cut down on the description that is unimportant. You don't have to make it shorter if you don't want to, but keep in mind that publishers want between 60-80k words for a first time novel (it depends on genre and could be around 100k for fantasy). So, if you are thinking about publishing it, then try to get it in that range.

    Both of these are fine, but it depends on how well you can write. Not being clear can leave the reader confused. Also, it's a hard job to write multiple POVs and/or do shifts in time. It might be easier to write in one POV and in chronological order.

    There should be a balance between dialogue and narrative. If you do think you have too much dialogue, you could try to intersperse the dialogue with narrative. That will help prevent long blocks of dialogue. Alternatively, try to turn some of what is being said in dialogue into narrative.

    Also, I'm guessing you're writing using an omniscient POV. Is this correct?
     
  3. Trakaias
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    Trakaias Member

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    -Omniscient was the original plan but when I started writing it just didn't go that way. It ended up being 3rd person limited, which only focused on the character I was following within the 'chapter'.

    -I write a lot where I jump around from past to present (flashbacks), which is part of my style even if it's just one memory or flashback. This story however would be the first time that I switched point of views AND went back and fourth in time. There's the problem for me, is doing that alright? And if I did that are there any suggestions/techniques to offer?

    -Description. How do you mean? Do you mean description like describing 'eyes' 'ears' 'nose', in which case I made sure that wasn't a problem (in fact I actually have another problem, when to add in description and how, and at what point in the story. I was even thinking of writing a little section in the back to say this is what they look like so that I don't have to worry about it in the actual story.). Or do you mean description like in describing the history (like you know just telling the story)?

    -The first 3 books didn't really have subplots (they were long because I literally followed the character through a section of her life and described it as I was living my own life). But this novel which thus far is only 22 pages but for only 1 of the POV characters I'm doing (which can mean trouble). I think the subplots would be the extra characters I wanted to give a history too which is why I developed multiple POV's and chapters dedicated to them. In a sense each character has their own what was supposed to be 'mini story' that followed their life while they were all connected.

    Oooo I just thought of something! Right now my story and what I want to write isn't long so much as what I plan to add (the 3 books compounded into 3 small mini stories). How do I compound 3 books into 3 small mini stories, how do I break down all the important scenes into 1 small story less than 22-40 pages per original 3 characters? And how do I convert their 1st person into 3rd person.

    -Narrative. For me narrative doesn't feel natural for this story. I guess what I was really asking is, if having less narrative natural or a form/style of writing alright/exists or is it just something that doesn't exist and if I used it should be really good. Because it just feels natural to show what's going on through tiny movements combined with dialogue none of the 'She looked sad as she stared at the rose.' long narrative paragraph rather to express it in her interactions and in her actions. Or would it just not work like that? My plan was to write it all out and then to determine if I felt it read naturally without it and then 'add' in any narrative that I needed. ???

    -While I do plan to get published, I am a strong believer in not putting a limit to creativity and that with enough effort and work I could get my work published. I also think that if it's good enough I could get my work known in many ways, since touching an audience is all I care about.
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    My suggestion is to look at books where authors do this. The only author I can think off that does this is Faulkner. I understand that some people don't like him, so if you are one of those people, then you'll have to search for books where authors do this. I can't think of anymore off the top of my head, but perhaps someone else can offer some books to look at.

    Take out unnecessary description like describing things the character's wouldn't notice. For example, if a character is walking down the street, try not to spend too much time describing the people he passes unless it's important. Try to imagine yourself in place of the character and see what he or she sees. Another example is if the character is walking down the street and you describe how his legs are moving. Only describe it if the character notices it. Otherwise, leave it out. So, look for those types of things in your writing. If this needs more clarification, just ask.

    I'd avoid too much dialogue. It tends to get repetitive; it's sort of like having pages and pages of only narrative (although it's more common to have long narratives than long sections of dialogue). My advice here is to look at some of your favorite books and see how the author handles narration. Note also when and where the author uses narration. It'll help when you go back and look over your piece.

    This you can probably do through experimentation. See what needs to be left out. That will shorten your story. Only keep the essential details and descriptions. Converting 1st to 3rd is harder than it sounds, especially since you're using 3rd limited. Remember that for 1st person POV, you're inside the character's mind and can see his or her thought. Remember to take out the thoughts and such when writing in 3rd limited.
     
  5. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I guess its just me, but that ultra-realist approach to description seems really limiting. I don't see any reason, for instance, why a limited narrative in thrid person couldn't go into a digression about that character or their past, or something that isn't in the immediate scene. I find it more productive to think of the limited perspective as maintaining focalisaton on that character, not necessarily forcing the narrative through their eyes...if you're going to do that, you might as well write in first person. Same goes for thoughts - I don't see any problem with a limited 3rd person narration expounding on what the character is thinking about.
    Like this:
    "Charlie walked into the bar. He had the feeling he'd been there before."
    I don'tsee any problem with that...to me, it's still limited 3rd, but it easily goes beyond what the character is seeing, or what we can see on the character.
    Or even:
    "The feeling persisted. 'How do I know this place?' he thought. Perhaps if he hadn't drunk so much that night he would've remembered. It was four years ago, and he had come with his brother."
    I know that is kinda awful, but hopefully it shows that even in third person limited you can easily move beyond what the character knows. Unlike with the first person, the character and the narrator do not inhabit the same body. They can be quite healthily separated if need be.
     
  6. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Absolutely. It has been done many times. The best way, IMO, is to title each chapter with a character name. Chapter 1: Mary, Chapter 2: Diane, etc. You don't even have to number them.

    The main thing to keep in mind is that in each book, all the stories should intersect or influence each other at some point. They should come together to form a "big picture". If the stories are entirely separate, what you have is a short story collection, not a novel.

    Switching POV is fine at any time where it makes sense/is necessary to do so. . but time shifts are a different can of worms. For most people, this ends up as infodumping. They want to explain everything that happened in the past.

    Consider how much more interesting things might be if the reader is left in the dark. Drop subtle hints, and keep them guessing. Questions keep people reading, and answering too many questions too quickly could leave you with some very flat and boring biographies.

    Some things are for you to know, and for the reader to guess at. Fleshing out characters can only be a good thing--in your head. Consider that perhaps not all of these stories need to be told. They add depth to your characters and plots by influencing things in the present. Great! But often that's as far as it needs to go.

    Consider how you might weave it all together to write a suspenseful and intriguing story in the present. Picture it: there's just enough information for me to gradually piece things together, but never enough for me to be satisfied. I have to keep reading if I want answers, and as I read, I come up with more questions. I'm hooked to the very end, and even then, I want a sequel. I still have questions!

    It sounds like you'll end up rewriting everything entirely, so I don't think you'll have much difficulty reworking it in third. Don't bother to "convert", just write it all fresh.

    Third person limited, I think, is a wise choice. It's the ideal POV for character hopping and maintaining an intimate connection with each. Omniscient tends to be flat and rather infodumpy in unskilled hands. That is, I think it takes more skill to pull off successfully. TPL is probably the easiest and most practical choice for a relative newbie. I use it almost exclusively.

    Most stories can be significantly shortened by eliminating back story, and by resisting the urge to explain things. A lot of the content running through your mind can probably be left out, and the story will be better for it, so long as the reader isn't too confused.

    If you want to eventually publish your books, try to keep it under 100,000 words. The 'soft cap' depends on genre, but if you go much over 100k, you'll probably have a more difficult time publishing anything as a first-timer. You can find more information by searching the forums. There are numerous threads on word count.

    If you can't connect the dots in one book, then maybe that would be best. You should tie the plot threads at some point, or at least show how the stories might influence each other.

    A good example would be George R.R. Martin's "A Game of Thrones". Most of the story takes place in a fantasy land reminiscent of old Europe. But accross the sea, on another continent, an exiled princess and her brother seek to gain support to reclaim their kingdom. The characters that are half a world apart never interact, but there is a clear connection between the stories. Martin jumps from one character to another in every chapter, and the reader is left to guess at how it will all come together. There are around a dozen POV characters in 4 books, some much more important than others.

    Sounds good. This goes into showing vs telling, and it sounds like you're showing, which is good. It might be a good idea to check out some of 'show and tell' threads (search) to get a full explanation.

    A lot of your questions are routinely answered around here, so you might not get a ton of feedback. . There is a wealth of information scattered around this site, so it really is worth the time to browse through old threads. You'll find answers to a hundred great questions you never even thought to ask.

    And check out the review room, too. See what people say in critique. I wouldn't suggest putting up your own work right away (you'll have to write two constructive reviews first in any case) -- just take the time to read through it, and you'll soon learn about most of the common mistakes and controversial issues.:)
     
  7. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    What you've thought of actually sounds like grounds for several books, not just one.

    I mean, a story with multiple characters that rotates perspectives is tied together by the plot, so it's plot driven.

    A plot with a single character's perspective can be entirely character driven.

    You could even have your own kind of Canon - a world in which your characters exist in a constantly evolving relationship with each other.
     
  8. Joran Selemis
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    Joran Selemis Member

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    Making every chapter a different perspective and/or time is an original and invigorating idea, however, be aware of how difficult that would be. It's easier to lose a reader in too-quickly-changing perspectives, times and places than in anything else.

    I suggest you instantly create context (maybe the character walks past a store and sees Richard Nixon's face on a black-and-white tv or something like that?) with something easily recognisable, and also try writing every perspective in a different style or with a different twist to the last one; that way it is both easier to identify the characters as soon as the chapter starts and also easier to empathise with them.
     
  9. Trakaias
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    Trakaias Member

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    Thank you for all the feedback and advice.

    -Description. I used to describe what my character noticed when I was in 1st person. I'm find it difficult to do that in 3rd person omnisicent, and I find it difficult to figure out when to do that for 3rd person limited when Narrative isn't really a big part of the book, it suddenly seems alienated when you're in this flow and suddenly something dedicated to hair colour and eye colour pops up. Another thing that's difficult is explaining a character that has two different colour eyes. You can't just say 'blue eyes' and would 'one blue eye and one green' seems like to many words in this situation. And multicoloured eyes makes you wonder...but what colour eyes. So often I have to bring another character in at some point to go woah that's crazy. And I like to do that stuff in the beginning of a story and get it all out of the way because I'm not a fan of letting people come up with their own idea of what my character looks like...because to me I am showing people a piece of my world and how I see it, of course it will be filtered through their eyes but...well I try! I guess I have to write the whole thing and think of inserting here and there little bits and details?

    -Moving beyond what the character knows is why I chose to do 3rd person limited, I call it 3rd person limited because each section revolves around the character whose name is in the title. I really like the way you described that arron not inhabiting the same body. That's another reason why I chose 3rd person limited...I don't want to inhabit a body, I want to exist apart from it. When I wrote the 1st person books they sent a different message, served a different purpose, and evoked different emotions. For what I'm writing for what I want to do I need 3rd person limited.

    -Intersection. They definitely intersect. They're each individual members of a family at different times in their life separated but two generations. One example is the Mother who is in the second Generation as an adult. In the first Generation we see her as a child and how she got to be where she is. It also is the eye lifter of the novel where you go OH! So that's why she is like this...I know I could have done that so easily through another character telling the story but I felt it would be a lot more fun and interesting to delve into some scenes like that. It explains certain things that I make a deliberate effort not to make...I don't know how to put it into words. For example you would have never guessed that she suffered a traumatic event in her childhood and that something so positive in her life today is a result of that event unless you go back into her childhood which aren't revealed as flashbacks they're revealed throughout the book under the generation and the name of the character that it takes place in.

    -Switching POV, the only way I know to switch POV is to end the first POV like a chapter and to switch to another 'chapter'. (this is me thinking out loud because you're right I think)

    I drop subtle hints, but I don't want my characters left in the dark for some characters. So often I drop subtle hints or even hints that aren't hints that later reveal. One subtle hint is her great ability in one specific area. It's later revealed why it's important. Whereas for a minor character who is a supportive character and comes by for a visit her life is subtly hinted at and later revealed lightly but not much more is said about her. We experience her only through the support that she gives to the other characters.

    -Oh Kas, thank you your advice was really helpful. I agree some of my stories are too long because of the backstory and explanations. So when I do my edit I am going to just eliminate that and write an end chapter dedicated just to explaining the backstory of characters. (I do that a lot kinda like something that exists at the end of the book that has name DOB, and biography...like when you play one of those martial arts games and open up the book and it tells you the background of your character so you can choose them and fight harder and understand the end result in the game and why they react the way they do when they win).

    -I didn't know what to call it, but thank you for putting it into words. Showing vs. Telling I do plan to look that up. I guess I made a thread because I didn't know what it was and I had some questions that I thought were specific to my own situation that I had trouble finding when I searched. But I'm going to look through the forums some more now.

    -I guess the story is a cross between mini stories, but they all blend into each other and coexist and I think can exist on their own but also explain other characters behaviours that I don't want to tell in the new generation. But I can show in the last generation. At first I thought it wouldn't work but I did something last night that changed my mind and now I know it can work.

    -Joran after reading your comment I sat down and suddenly...just like that everything clicked. And I realized what I have to do and how I have to do it and that if I do it in this way and just right it will blend in and not be too long. Thanks to a lot of the feedback, I now realize what I have to do to make it short, and not too long, and I figured out how to order my book, and where to insert different generations/characters and times. I wrote down the major characters and a brief summary about who they are and what they do and which generation they're in. (there are only 2), I wrote on the side other characters that were minor and what their role was. And when I was able to sum all of the characters I felt were important and wanted to touch base on organized onto one full page. I knew that my thoughts were organized and now the story had an organized direction and shape. I feel more confident and less confused. Thank you for allowing me to sort it out here. I will definitely read around some more and glad you guys were here to help me get that 'click'
     
  10. Trakaias
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    Trakaias Member

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    p.s. after this post I began to research more on the concept show and tell. I came across show don't tell, and I saw a line that said important scenes should be written and dramatized but sometimes things happen that take place outside of those scenes. This is where you narrate to move a bit quickly. I realized that the reason why my other books were so long was because I felt like I had to show everything including what happened outside of those important* scenes. The back story itself didn't take up all of the space, I realize now that it was writing and documenting everything, there wasn't a balance there. (I just wanted to throw that in because it was a great realization! I can avoid it in the future :) )

    Edit: I also know I either show too much or show too little. Usually stories where I write just for me and for no one else, based in a fantasy setting not 'reality' setting or catered towards people who exist in this reality--I have a good balance and don't need to explain, and there is a good pace, and there is good balance. But when I write about reality in the real world, I write everything, the car drive to work, breakfast, what they ate, laying in bed and thinking. There's just all that excess that isn't important and doesn't need to be added or can be eliminated or maybe even made important some event that makes it different from all the other times they had breakfast. So I guess this is really great to know. Balancing showing and telling etc. Knowing where my weakspot lies in which genre and being aware so I can eliminate that. Thanks :), wouldn't have thought about that until Show and Tell was mentioned here.
     
  11. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    I see people asking questions like this all the time. All these options for how to write the book/s are fine. The only thing about switching POV and through timelines is that you have to be able to do it in a way that keeps the audience from getting confused. If you can do that, you can do almost anything with these types of things. If you write multiple books, they should each be able to be understood and enjoyed by people who haven't read the others.
     
  12. Joran Selemis
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    Joran Selemis Member

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    Happy to help. I'm actually curious now to see how you do meld your characters, because I've never really seen it done very successfully. But if you ever need help with it or just someone to look it over and say whether or not it's confusing then feel free to ask.
     
  13. Trakaias
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    Oh wow! Thanks :). I actually spent all day reading Writing Guides and books. Wellllll several hours at a cafe reading books and taking notes to see what to apply and what not to apply and working on my outline because sometimes having an outline keeps me on track and lets me know where to go and what to insert when and where. '

    I'm focusing on my weakspots which I've been narrowing down as I examine my writing. Sometimes talking to other writers helps me analyze and think, like the phrase show and tell was literally a lightbulb for me. It's just little things, and I think the key t obeing a strong writer for myself is to be aware of my weaknesses and to eliminate them (with a can of Raid -laughs-)

    I do want to see this done successfully though and I know that there's no way I can do it on my own 100% so when I finish completing it I would love any advices or tips so that it moves successfully. I'll spend forever working on it. For the past week I've been up mostly doing nothing but working on this story, researching things I don't know for certain characters...just everything, and then writing pieces, then pausing to make sure I got it together before I go on (I'm on pause right now until I get the outline going).

    Sometimes I stay on pause because I get nervous. Does that ever happen to anyone? They get nervous about writing on, so you just have to take a deep breath and keep writing. I guess I'm nervous because I want this to play out right. I'm really excited about it.

    Oh P.S: Does anybody have any suggestions for posture. Because my spine has been hurting a lot from sitting all day or even laying down gets me while typing...just comfortable positions while writing...standing feels so much easier at this point sometimes. And any suggestions for wrist/hand comfort?
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    trak...
    you can answer every one of your questions by doing one simple thing... READ!

    you'll find many examples of all of those answers in any book by a good writer...

    and SLOW DOWN... don't be in such a hurry to 'finish' it... a well-written novel should take a beginning writer at least months [often takes years] to complete just the first draft... and months more, to edit and polish...

    as for bodily comfort, a good desk chair that fits your body is a must... to keep from getting spine/hand/wrist/arm fatigue, you can change position, wiggle around, shake out your hands, neck, etc. while sitting there and taking mini-pauses from typing...

    love and hugs, maia
     
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