1. Delrohir
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    Delrohir Member

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    To power or not to power? that... is the question!

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Delrohir, Sep 20, 2015.

    Hi there lovely folks!:superhello::blowkiss:

    As I sat in Costa Coffee earlier today, reluctantly comforting my brother who had been stood up :cry:, whilst trying to disguise my disinterest:supersleepy: and enjoy my green tea :superwink: (my head is always in the clouds) we somehow got onto the topic of "What are you doing all day with your laptop?"- when I told him I was writing novels:write: again he had a fit, a loud fit... we're talking the entire coffee shop had a giggle. At least it cheered him up. :superyesh:

    After he had composed himself he began to take an avid interest in my literary endeavours, and while he was positing basic questions to me about what I write I was laughing in the back of my head, at least he was back to his usual inquisitive self:supergrin:. Then he said something quiet deep, it surprised me and I didn't really have a reply:supershock:. After explaining to him a couple of ideas in the boiler room he leaned back and said...

    "Take out all the supernatural elements. Write the story first, and only put the supernatural bits in if it actually drives the story forward. Take Harry Potter, Rowling probably came up with the bare bones of the story first and actually put the supernatural element in later...":superthink: he trailed off and went on and on, he said something about the Odyssey and other tales and then topic went back to this girl and the intellectual fire behind his eyes, that briefly illuminated our conversation, died out again. HA!:supertongue:

    But yeah, I was wondering what you guys thought:superconfused:- do you think that supernatural aspects add to a story, or just acts as a gimmick to serve as padding? Do you think that the core of the story benefits from it?

    Thanks and I look forward to hearing your thoughts! :pop::read::superagree:

    -Del.
    :supercool:
     
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  2. rainy_summerday
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    rainy_summerday Active Member

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    That's a very interesting thought your brother had! I quite like it. I've never considered doing this, because I don't consciously decide to write fantasy or supernatural. Once I get the idea, it's already fantasy/supernatural.

    He could be on to something. Many fantasy novels I've read seem to force themselves to focus on anything even slightly supernatural. To the point that the story is lost, because the novel is more concerned with describing the different races and strange places in full details. It feels like the world is more important than the actual story. Which is not a bad thing per se.

    I imagine that if you first write the story without supernatural elements, you will have a more solid plot and a stronger story. There are no additional elements that may distract you. And when you finally add the supernatural elements, you are able to focus on doing it right. It's like creating two layers, and then you put them over one another. Sometimes you get the best of both of them.
     
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  3. Imaginarily
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    Imaginarily Disparu en Mer Contributor

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    Both of my main stories have supernatural elements in them: one is a completely unapologetic fantasy tour complete with dragons, knights, demons, afterlife, and various magics, while the other is a (grossly cliché-inspired) vampire trope set in modern times, with only the vampire stuff being "super."


    My advice is: Focus on your characters and what they're doing. If the fanciful stuff is necessary (like learning a magic spell), include it. If it's not, leave it out for that part.

    For a reader to care about any character, they have to be somewhat believable as a person. Are they still a person without the fantasy elements?

    Sometimes I literally forget that my protagonists have the powers they have because I get so caught up in what problems they're facing -- personally I find it very freeing to use my supernatural cheats sparingly, because it keeps my characters organic and believable while still giving them a trump card sometimes.

    As with anything, it's how you use it. :bigwink: There's nothing wrong with having wild and crazy fantasy things going on (even big fat cheaterpants super powers!) as long as it stays relevant.

    Hope that helps!
     
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  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I tend to agree that supernatural elements have very limited value in their own.
     
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  5. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    To emoticon or not to emoticon, that is the question.
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2015
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  6. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Some stories are all about the consequences of something supernatural. For example, Groundhog Day is about the protagonist's experience of living the same day over and over again. If you take out the supernatural element, then there is no story to write in the first place. I think science fiction has even more of this than fantasy if you replace "supernatural" with "applied phlebotinum". Frankenstein, the grandfather of all science fiction, is about the protagonist's experience of being a reanimated corpse.
     
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  7. Daemon Wolf
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    Daemon Wolf Active Member

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    I think Supernatural elements and any elements in the like aren't "padding" but really add to the story.

    For example of the two books I am working on right now: Without spacey wacey stuff there would be no actual story and it wouldn't work with The Darkness Plague. Also without Anarchy my side project book would have no story.
     
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  8. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    I don't think Harry Potter is a great example of this because the story wouldn't BE without the fantastical elements. I don't think she sat down and said "I want to write a story about a boy at a boarding school who is destined to kill a serial killer who failed to murder him as a baby." And then, later down the line, thought: "Oh, and maybe let's include magic because that's fun."

    I think magic, and the fantasy element, was part of the original idea and is inseparable from the plot construction.

    So, with that in mind, I think you write the story how it needs/wants to be written. If you're just including supernatural elements because you think that would be a nice selling point, you're doing it wrong. I'm one of those people who believes that stories are trying to tell themselves through us, and if we get too intellectual and less instinctual, they wont get told they way they need to.

    Also, friend, as a cautious and kind word of advice: I've noticed on several of your posts now that you are extremely enthusiastic with your use of emoticons. I suggest toning it down a bit, as it makes your posts very distracting to read. They don't add much to your communication when they come in excess like that.
     
  9. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    But Groundhog Day isn't about the supernatural; it's about the character, in a situation that couldn't exist without the supernatural element. The element allows us to explore the character; it has no value entirely on its own.

    That may feel like too fine a distinction to consider, but I don't feel that it is. Books that specify a lot of exciting supernatural elements, with a sort of kid-in-a-candy-store excitement, can get pretty boring pretty fast. It's rare that a supernatural element has much interest or value without being tightly tied to other, non-supernatural, elements.
     
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  10. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    You are right, which is why I said Groundhog Day is about the consequences of the supernatural, not about the supernatural itself.
     
  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oops. I hate it when I debate with a position that turns out to be my own position. :)
     
  12. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    I think you should write the way you write, the way the story unfolds in your mind.

    I'll admit I am speaking from a place of naivety, but I cannot imagine agreeing to writing a story using an artificial process (write the story sans powers, and add them in later). Too many scenarios can pop up where you need to consider how the power affects the MC, other characters, the setting or the scene, to ignore it completely and add it in later.

    A power (to my mind) is like a concentrated or noticeable character attribute, like aggression / impatience (any Hitler memetic video)



    acute memory loss (Memento, for example),



    or actual powers (Chronicle)



    Those things don't drive the story per se, it's still about the character(s), but they are important. Crucial, even.

    There is a trap I suppose, where the power becomes the story, overriding the character and the plot, however this is not, IMO a given. Or is there for some sparkle that does not add to the story itself.

    If your story has "powers" -- either through the characters or the environment, I would suggest you have them in from the start. I think you can tell before you start if those powers are necessary or filler. I do not think you need to write the story without them and then add them in later. Part of the story is how the power changes the character(s) -- something you could not (I would certainly find it close to impossible to) write about unless the power was there, in the scene, revealing its nature to you as you write.

    Apologies for the cinematic examples vs literary ones, I hope they make sense.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2015
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  13. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    That post above of mine is aimed at writers in general.

    The one thing your brother knows that we do not, is you. Looking at your post again, in light of what @Lyrical wrote, it appears you enjoy embellishing your posts with emoticons -- glitter, if you will. It's possible that specifically in your case, your brother knows you very well, knows that you like to add lots of gloss and glitter and sparkly bits to your communication.

    In that case, then yes, I would urge you to ensure the story is solid and the powers per se are there as a necessity, that they help drive the story, and are not just an easy bit of apparent sparkle.

    That said, I'd still suggest you do that up front, rather than writing the story and adding them back in afterwards, due to the points mentioned above.

    Part of this comes back to the plotter vs pantser dichotomy and whether you can in fact plan things and map things out in advance, or if you have to write and plot as you go. But that's another discussion.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2015
  14. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think I'm summing up the above feeling that adding Supernatural is wrong. Including Supernatural is right.

    My own WIP started out as a GoT rip-off, merely taking a different part of British history, but I found it so hard to incorporate the supernatural elements that I gave up; it's now a straight historical novel.
     
  15. Delrohir
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    Delrohir Member

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    Ahahaa thanks for all your responses guys- funnily enough I usually don't use emoticons on other forums I'm at but I thought it would be a laugh too here- don't read too much into it but duly noted thanks!

    It is interesting for sure, I think what was said earlier about the supernatural elements creating a situation is spot on!
     
  16. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with @daemon and @ChickenFreak. Generally speaking, a story is about a protagonist with a goal trying to overcome the antagonist, the force standing in the way of the goal. Whether a story has supernatural elements or not, the point of the story should be the characters and their quests to attain their goals. But that doesn't mean the supernatural elements are arbitrary.

    I think a good approach would be to avoid making the supernatural elements the crux of your story, and instead make them a facet of who your characters are or what your characters are reacting to in their environment. After all, a story is about people, first and foremost. Supernatural elements are just part of the setting or part of the makeup of the character, not an end in and of themselves. But you wouldn't write a story without setting or character makeup and then add them in later, would you?
     
  17. Delrohir
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    Delrohir Member

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    I think you're right, especially about not writing a story without a setting or character makeup.

    The way my writing method works is that I come up with an idea for a story, as simple as 2 lines and as I start to write it out more and more of it comes to me and slowly the plan fills out, then I write the proper manuscript. I guess it's all to our own but that's how I really enjoy to write!

    As for the part about
    I agree. Actually this really resounded with me because even though I'm not a huge fantasy reader I must admit I have read Lord of the Rings and I notice that throughout the story, Gandalf very rarely actually uses his magic at all. That is something I always took with me from the books and I think you've put that really really well Xanadu thanks!

    -Del.
    :supercool:
     
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  18. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    Glad I could help!
     
  19. Emberi Homa
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    Emberi Homa New Member

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    You can do whatever you want with a story. You can animate a table and have Mr. Table be your antagonist. You can kill of your main character half way through the story and continue on with other characters, as done in The Prophecy (1995) movie.

    You can do anything, so long as you have a clear vision, a message, and/or a goal.

    For me, characters and 'morals' are the meat of my story. I have written in the realm of the supernatural and fantastical occurrences, but always with a strong character and central concept.

    An example: Let's say I want to write a story about a man who suffers from depression, and I want the reader to feel that fate gives self determination a run for its money. Great! I have two overarching points for my story. Now, I can use many or as few elements of supernatural as I want. So, I will make depression its own character. This character will be a terrible, magical force that affects my protagonist deeply. The man will go on adventures. He fights a dragon, he saves a bar maiden, he tries to learn magic but can only ever do one spell.

    This works just fine, because I have fortified my story with what your brother called "the bare bones" of my story. Depression challenges his ability to do these things. Sometimes he can pull himself up by the strap of his boots, sometimes his efforts don't matter even a smidgen (like with learning magic).

    In short: Stories with supernatural elements are not innately gimmicky. So long as there is "content" in your story (ie. world building, complex characters, prevailing themes, and what have you), you will have a strong piece of writing!

    :D:bigwink::rofl::crazy::supergrin::superhello::write::superagree::cool:
     
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