1. Onoria Westhrop
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    Onoria Westhrop Contributing Member

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    timing and interweaving plots

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Onoria Westhrop, Jan 11, 2007.

    I just wrote chapter seven (I write chapters of about 9000 words, but they usually have 3-4 scenes).

    Now, in chapter seven my lead character is getting back story from her father during one of the scenes - and then moves her own story (which ultimately relates to these confessions and revelations from her father).

    My problem is that I have a lot of backstory yet to relate before my characters can push the main story forward, at the same time I would like to keep the arabesque interweaving of stories at an even pace - two stories moving in tandem till the next point of convergence.

    Net result - a poverty of exciting scenes in the present, as I resist making any major revelations that could rob the backstory of interest. I've been using the romantic plot to keep things on the boil - but it's tricky.

    Anyone got any good ideas on how to balance the spacing of your mainplot/subplot/backplot.
     
  2. Onoria Westhrop
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    Onoria Westhrop Contributing Member

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    I should say, concretely that at the moment devices I am using are - Confessions/ letters discovered/ conversations overheard/ objects that spark memories- often in conversation/ photographs found/ contacts from people whose histories relate even though they haven't met
    I'm looking for more tricks like this that give my narrative links to chuck in backstory elegantly.
     
  3. Max Vantage
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    Max Vantage Banned

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    Use convenience. It's a simple trick. If one character is relating to show backplot write it so that it fulfills a dual purpose: to give information and to push the story into its next event. It's very simple when done with practice.

    As for the balancing the spacings between mainplot etc. If you have written all the major and minor events and sequences of events (such as on index cards) you'll inevitably create a map. From a detached critical point of view you'll be able to see where the mainplot needs to take preference, then where the subplot needs to come in, and then maybe any backplot/exposition.
     
  4. Onoria Westhrop
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    Onoria Westhrop Contributing Member

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    Hmm...interesting advice, but leads inevitably to the "if you plot too much, it's no fun to write" problem discussed elsewhere.

    I was looking for ideas like the "penseives" or "riddles diary" in Harry Potter - original tricks to slip in back story.
     
  5. Max Vantage
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    Max Vantage Banned

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    No, no, no. I don't mean in-depth note-taking, just something resembling one sentence on one card that would sum up the context of each and every scene, then the same again for the others.
    Pin them all up on a wall in linear sequence to get a good structured idea of how it's plotting out.
    This is the same method that production illustrators (storyboarders) use to visually plan out sequences in film.
    You can always get creative with the flow if you decide not to stick to linear plotting.

    Ach, don't bother with 'tricks'. That's a bad excuse for what could be good writing. Develop your own ways of using and providing information.

    Right now I'm writing a short fanfic for the short story forum based on the Predator stories. I need to get as much info about the start of this story (the first predator film with Arnold Shwarzenegger) so I have used the same character Arnie played (Dutch Schaeffer) in a scene being brutally interrogated. This is doing both in terms of providing exposition and pushing the seeds of foreshadowing for what the plot will be about.
    Although I know that this certainly isn't original an idea, it is something I am using because of the design of the story itself, so logically this idea will be used but not in the form of a cliche (at least I hope it's not).

    Don't bother with tricks. Develop your own ways.
    You're a writer, so think, THINK, THINK, damnit! ;) :D
     
  6. Rueso
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    I sort of agree with Max in that using a trick can force a hand to write uncreativity, especially when you've "painted" yourself into a corner, so to speak.

    However, I sheepishly admit that I have a "trick" that I develop before I even begin to write.

    I find one universal element that all of my characters have to deal with but can't change no matter what happens in the story, which could be anything from the physical surrounding to emotional circumstances.
    It's like a concrete foundation that sets some of the rules, yet simultaneously acts as a source of creativity when I'm stuck.

    For example, in my recent work I have established the physical element of a low oxygen content atmosphere, which is only a fraction of the entire back-story. But from this one condition, I could lift my work out of a lull or to slow it down with ideas that come out of thin air, literally, without actually revealing more of the back-story until I want to.

    Since all of my characters have to deal with the same circumstance, I can put them into myriad situations any way I chose. If I take oxygen away from daddy, I get an emotional explosion in a child, creating drama. If I put my "hero" in a situation where he has to chose between oxygen for his wife or daughter but not both, I have a moral conflict or even a heroic sacrifice. I can break my protagonists arms and legs and place an oxygen mask 50 feet away from him to create suspense.

    It's sort of like a safety net. I just have to be careful not to abuse it, turning it into a crutch.

    So, I don't know. Maybe all you need is one element in your back-story that does the same thing. It's an idea.

    By the way, I really enjoyed reading the portion of the story you posted. Excellent writing.
     
  7. Emerson Darkness
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    Emerson Darkness New Member

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    I think an interesting way to deal with plots, is to use them with subtlety in all the right places, and bash the reader over the head with them, when such is called for.

    You can use some sub plots to advance main plots, and some to halt them. That way it will be easy for an audience to keep track of them, because they are so specific in their purposes in relation to the main plot.

    When concealing major revelations, you may know how much you wish to divulge at any given time before the end of the story. (Maybe you can alter your thinking on how much is too much...)

    Maybe you can throw the answer in front of the reader's face in the very beginning, or somewhere before the end. Not so obviously, of course, but the answer can be there in the birthing moments of the book.

    From that point you can feed the reader undoubtably strong hints (hints possibly bigger than you think you should) and come up with a coutner. A foil. Throw up a few smoke screens, to invite uncertainty in your audience. You can use subplots to do this, so that the reader can see the road block well before the writing actually comes to it. You could leave the audience feeling his/her favorite characters are stuck between a rock and a hard place for a while.

    EXAMPLE: Mary Jane Watson finds the spider suit in Peter Parkers bedroom, but it's halloween in two months, and he claims a lack of creative judgement in his choice of costume.

    (granted, this was meant to fool a character, and not the audience, as all of us already know who Spiderman is, but you get the picture.)

    A little later, Harry Osborn claims to have seen Parker slinging from a wall. Peter tells Mary Jane that he was shooting a fanfilm, and the special effects will blow her mind. He even bought the camera to proove it.

    Exit stage left! Peter has to rent a video camera for the weekend, before his scheduled meeting with Venom. Yeesh, this is worse than proposing, and having to find a descent tux! The life of a superhero, I tell ya...

    Smokescreens can make advancing the plot more interesting. Not only must the character, and often the audience, tangle with a road of bread crumbs, but also deal with the false roads that have bread crumbs on them. It makes detective work sooo interesting.

    How about a matchbox with a very singularly important date, name, and phone number on it, found in the coat pocket of so an so...?
     
  8. TheNewEyes
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    TheNewEyes Member

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    Hey Onoria,

    How would you describe your story in 2/3 sentences in a query letter?
     

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