1. Envy123
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    Envy123 New Member

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    Trimming a plot

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Envy123, Oct 24, 2015.

    Hi guys. I'm new here. :)

    I've been writing since 2001, and recently, I found my old stories. Pretty dusty and I also have missing pages that I seemed to have lost in the countless moves I had in the past.

    I'm trying to piece together one of my best stories and turn into a digital novel, and I'm having a bit of trouble. Piecing the events together in a coherent way is fine, but the one problem I am having is padding.

    There is too much dialogue and inaction, especially in the beginning, and goes on for at least 50 pages before the actual story even starts. Some of the dialogue and actions are relevant to future events, so trying to remove some dialogue has the risk that some events may not make sense. The critics who read my story agree with me, saying that the story takes too long to grip the reader.

    Any advice on the best way to proceed from this plot trimming would be appreciated. :)

    If more details are required, then I would happily give them.
     
  2. seekparadise
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    seekparadise Member

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    I'm not expert but just be ruthless. As quickly as possible, establish your characters, and try to combine some of this dialogue into just one or two scenes max perhaps. Could you move some of these events up towards the beginning?
     
  3. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's also possible to move things around, and have the backstory later or details of the setting/environment later. What is in the first 50 pages?
     
  4. Envy123
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    Envy123 New Member

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    Thank you :)

    I've now rewritten the first chapter, so I could introduce the action and characters first.

    The first 50 pages are mainly just the two protagonists fooling around and being immature. I wrote the story as I went along and I didn't expect it to have a life of its own, and evolve into something interesting. It introduces the actual setting and goes in a lot of detail about it.

    I decided to bite the bullet and move the action and characters into the first chapter and it's looking good already, although there's a wealth of background information that would need to be subtly introduced so it's not too much for the reader.

    Thank you :)
     
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  5. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    It sounds to me that the 50 pages of protagonists fooling around isn't wasted, as your story has developed out of that. But, it also sounds like you may not want to include much of that 50 pages in the final novel. Maybe.
     
  6. NathalieDelRey
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    NathalieDelRey New Member

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    Don't delete anything. Make three drafts of the first chapter, one version should be very stripped back and ruthless, one less so, and then your original version. Move bits out of the first two versions till you find a happy medium.
     
  7. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with DefinitelyMaybe. My favourite author also does it that way, introduces the world gradually, not giving out a bunch of information at the start and risk boring the reader.

    But in contrast, look at Tolkien. He did it exactly that way, described the world he was setting at every step in detail and he has a huge followership. So maybe there is no correct way and it is just your voice :)
     
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  8. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    It's about doing whatever you want, as long as it works well. There are few very general areas where there is one style that works. It depends on you pulling if off, though there are obviously limits to it.
     
  9. kateamedeo
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    kateamedeo Active Member

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    We are living in a very fast-paced word. A reader will read the first pages (a chapter at most) and if nothing significant happens it's very probable he will just give up on the book. This is the risk of 'dragging' the so-called 'inciting incident' away from the beginning.

    I have some backstory that I am trying to integrate into the novel but I would not start the book offering all of the info to the reader (especially when that makes up 50 pages, trust me, that's a lot). There is no right way to write, so you have to decide what works for you on your own. There is such a thing as an advice however and mine would be - cut the backstory and start with 'the meat' of the book. You can put in snippets into the scenes, telling the reader about what happened before. In any case, you can always return to your previous draft if you think it doesn't work for you. But it's always best to try something and see where it leads :)
     
  10. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Who said anything about insignificant? The author said it was there because it was important, that means it's significant. And I would argue, if you feel your book want lots of talking at any point, it's probably not super-fast paced so won't attract the easy hit market anyway. I do some kind of action in most of my stuff, sometimes thriller level sometimes more epic, but I always spice it up with more peaceful scenes. I would even encourage putting characters in mundane settings or experiences, to humanize them and make the plot more real.
     
  11. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Looks like you have some good advice going your way. All I can say is if it doesn't add to the story or character development, then it probably doesn't need to be in the final product. :)
     
  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Do you have any possible readers who haven't read the story yet? If so, how about just cutting the entire 50 pages, every bit of it, and letting them read from that point? Their questions would tell you what is missing.

    Edited to add: As an equal but opposite strategy, you could add a subplot to that first fifty pages, so that something does happen in it.
     
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  13. kateamedeo
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    kateamedeo Active Member

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    @Oscar Leigh, with the 'insignificance' I meant the fact that the backstory is something a writer needs to know to write but not all of it needs to be thrown at the reader. If the scenes build the characters and are essential to their development then they are necessary but placing them at the very beginning of the story can turn the reader off and he will not even get to the 'super-cool-stuff' when the plot actually starts to kick off. But if the same effect can be achieved through adding backstory throughout the book, it will make it more readable.

    (Sorry, don't know how to quote stuff but these are the words of the author: 'There is too much dialogue and inaction, especially in the beginning, and goes on for at least 50 pages before the actual story even starts. '

    That is why it's called a backstory and as important as it is to the story, the story does not start up until the 'event'.

    Reading 50 pages to get to the problem that kickstarts the plot is a lot to ask from the reader. He does not care about the characters yet so why should he read on? Have you read a single book by a modern author who would put the backstory in the beginning of the book? And I am not pushing the author to do exactly as I say, it's just an advice. And my advice is not to throw everything out, it is to insert the backstory into the book later on, mix it into the scenes or even flashbacks. That way the author will not miss out on the opportunity to hook the reader.
     
  14. kateamedeo
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    kateamedeo Active Member

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    And it's not just me:

    'The critics who read my story agree with me, saying that the story takes too long to grip the reader.' (again, quote from the author)


    Do you do that in the very beginning of the book for a whole chapter or two? As I said, a backstory is a backstory, one needs some part of it to make the plot have sense but not at the beginning when the plot has not even begun to unravel.
     
  15. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Okay, so I think the thing here is to reduce the intial backstory amount, but keep it there, and add the rest throughout or sometimes maybe just reference it if necessary.
     
  16. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've been using this approach to move from draft 5 to 6 of my WIP. Seems to work.

    Each time I take something from the 5th draft to include in the 6th, I:
    • make a new copy of draft 5 with the title "What Has Not Been Merged" followed by the date in y-m-d order
    • make a new copy of draft 6 (with the new material from draft 5 added) followed by the date in y-m-d order
    At the end of each day of writing (it usually takes several days to edit what's been 'moved forward') I make a new Word file with the next day's date.

    I end up with a lot of files, but it's a comprehensive history of the process. If ever I need to look back, I can... unless I do any about-faces in the middle of a day's writing. So far, that hasn't been a problem, so I don't worry about it.

    Of course, not being a published writer, my approach may not be the best, even for me. :)
     
  17. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just to add to Lifeline's comments...

    Tolkien wrote milieu stories where describing such detail is commonplace and acceptable. Fantasy is the most common milieu genre.

    M - milieu
    I - idea
    C - character
    E - event

    I read somewhere a long time ago that storytelling has four elements, one of which stands out as most important:
    • Milieu stories revolve around the environment (it's practically a character itself),
    • idea stories are about (yup, you guessed it) ideas (a lot of science fiction stories revolve around new ideas),
    • the same for character stories (who the characters are is the most important thing), and
    • event stories (an event of significance, real or imagined, historical or yet-to-happen).

    If your story emphasizes one of the others overall, it would be a mistake to go into such detail. But if milieu is the single most important element, keep your details and go for it.

    It should be easy enough to decide where your story lies. This article should help.
     

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