1. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    What's wrong with my plot?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Mckk, Nov 21, 2012.

    I can't seem to make the first half of my novel pick up. I can feel it when I read it - it's boring all the way til Chapter 11 and then suddenly it's riveting (or at least it had my heart pounding and wanting to read on, which was not the case until half way through). What is wrong with it? :(

    I think the problem is in my subplot:

    1. It's very separate from my MC's journey, making it harder to introduce and relate to

    2. My secondary characters - for the life of me I cannot think of what else they could be doing before their subplot starts. These are the leaders of my fantasy country during a war. I can't even play strategy games so writing about war strategy would be a disaster. I've also found myself utterly uninspired when it comes to battle scenes. I write them out of obligation (since my novel does concern a war) and here my writing struggles to jump off the page, so I wouldn't like to focus on strategy or battles. But what else is there?!?

    3. My MC has a series of dreams, and these dreams reveal plot and establishes the twist in my ending - so they're mandatory - except for the life of me I cannot seem to make them mysterious. I feel like I'm spelling out plot rather than telling a story. (it's mostly a series of dialogue)

    I've been stuck for a month now and I've lost all enthusiasm for the book thanks to it. Please help.

    Just a note - the MS is complete. This is the editing stage when I'm noticing these flaws.
     
  2. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Very hard to say without reading it. The only thing that comes to mind is that you might want to check out some of Don Maass' books. I saw him at a conference recently and he talked about making your characters unique. One of his books is called "Putting the Fire in Fiction," but he has several that talk about characters in general. If you could develop the characters more, maybe that would make the m/s more engaging until the plot really starts to take off.

    Just a thought -- I know it must be frustrating. Good luck.
     
  3. idle
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    idle Active Member

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    I don't know about the first part, it's hard to tell how it is important to the story but if you have a hard time thinking what to make them do, maybe it isn't necessary to describe at all. I wouldn't mind a war story without any battle scenes at all, although others might disagree.

    As for the dreams, my impression is that too much dialogue isn't very dream-like. Could you maybe turn some of it into images? Instead of using words to say something, just suggest it.
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    As Liz said, it's hard to say without actually reading it, but here are a couple of thoughts:

    You may need to think of your secondary character(s) separate and apart from the subplot. How much have you thought about them? You may want to try thinking about what his/her story would be if you were writing a story specifically about that/those person(s).


    Maybe it's just me, but I see a couple of problems with this. One is that using a dream to establish a twist sounds a lot like the dream comes true, which to me only makes for a good story if the character is trying to prevent the dream from coming true and in the process causes it to come true (a la the Greeks). The second is that if the dreams are mostly doalogue, you create the potential for long strings of dialogue which can be tedious to read. Not to mention that by using dreams to foreshadow plot, you may actually be robbing your story of good old fashioned tension.

    If you would like more specific advice, feel free to PM me.
     
  5. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Character development is not a bad idea, I'll think of ways of tweaking it in.

    As for the dreams - it's hard to turn it into images, because the whole thing is a concept, and the concept determines how the ending turns out. Think of it as a ruling principle of the world.

    And it's not that I want to be describing what my secondary characters are doing - but when I cut in to introduce them, they should be in the middle of something, not just sitting and waiting. And if they're actually doing something worthwhile, I might be able to use it to spice up the first half too.
     
  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    But it sounds like it's instead weighing down the first half, so I'd suggest just dropping their first-half activities and picking them up in the middle of what they're doing, with not more than a sentence or two to explain what's going on.

    I'm a bit worried about character development just being an idea. For me, the plot exists in order to run the characters through their paces and let you delight in (or gnash your teeth at) their personalities. I realize that not everyone is as character-centric as me, but the characters should never exist merely for plot purposes.
     
  7. GHarrison
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    GHarrison Senior Member

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    As far as dreams go, writing about them can be difficult if you are unwilling to set aside the rules that bind our stories to reality. Dreams are the oposite of reality, and therefore regular sequential storytelling is not required. Break all kinds of rules and dont feel that the nonsensical requires justification. Sneak in a meaningful bit here and there.

    As for the war scenes, I think you are asking the correct question in: What else is there? Because if you are writing them out of obligation, odds are they are not going to be much fun to read. Maybe one of the characters has a wound that is obvious, and he tells a war story of how he got it that incorperates some important detail for the main theme, or there are pictures on a wall somewhere and a character sees them and recognizes the historic imagery in detail to set some backstory. Anything but stock battle verbage.
     
  8. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    ChickenFreak - lol yes there is already character development in my novel - but unfortunately thinking about it, the only character who develops is my MC and my villain. My MC matures and moves on from his guilt, which tormented him. My villain's backstory is revealed and his desire is satisfied in the end - he's more of an anti-villain in a way. One of my secondary characters goes crazy, if that counts as development. When I said character development is not a bad idea, I simply mean that perhaps I could look for more opportunities to develop more characters.

    and I think you might be onto something there about cutting the planning altogether... I might try that, thanks!

    GHarrison - thanks for the advice with the dreams - I've tried that, burning leaves and hanging bodies and it all came out cheap and trying too hard. The problem is I don't actually know how these dreams should be written. I've written one other dream before (one that doesn't reveal plot, just a passage of time from another character) and that one came so naturally. And yes I agree totally about avoiding stock footage of battle scenes - I have 2 in my novel and I do not intend on writing more. Those are just 2 that have to be there.
     
  9. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    Then maybe it should start at chapter 11.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You should ask instead, "What's wrong with my writing?" Plots are rarely at fault. Plots are what drive characters through events. And if you mean the storyline, what happens is also rarely the problem either. The problem is usually in how you unfold it before the reader.
     
  11. divided_crown
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    divided_crown Member

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    A good line of advice i heard several times is that if you get stuck with your plot, it's probably because you don't yet know enough about your world, your characters, your setting's dynamics. As the secondary characters you are stuck on are leaders, maybe reading up on some real-world people might help out as well. I was in a similar situation with a similar character, and ended up basing him heavily on Frederick II after reading a really good biography. I admit that's already going fairly deep, but sometimes Wikipedia will do.

    That is a really good point. It's also while many writers swear by plotting in advance until you are absolutely confident in your plot. Because that way, if your writing seems off, you don't start reorganizing the entire story but instead work on what matters, i.e. the writing*.


    * - In theory, that is. Practice... weeeelll.... that's a different story entirely.
     
  12. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Trilby - no, it's not that everything that comes before is utterly useless - my problem is before Chapter 11, everything's just being established. I've looked it over and every scene is necessary, unless I think of a different way of establishing the same thing, or somehow merging two scenes into one. It's a little fragmented and hard to merge though - the subplot is entirely separate from the main plot, meaning definitely separate scenes are needed, and the scenes with my villain is also separate from both the main and subplots. Basically it ends up that I have a lot of scenes with not much happening, but it's not that it's unnecessary.

    Cog - unfortunately I have to agree with you. Something's lacking in parts of the writing - there're certain types of scenes that I'm just better at and while I can create suspense and atmosphere, I find it hard to do so for scenes I'm not as into, or by this point, I find it hard because everything has turned a little mechanical. I write thinking something will create a certain effect, but I don't even feel it anymore. I'm hoping by continuing to write (hence this thread to get me started!) I'll reignite the spark that I lost and my writing can move forward. It's also one of the things that's robbed me of my enthusiasm - having finished my MS, I have come to realise just how plain my writing is. It's by no means bad, even if I do say so myself (but which of us writes thinking it's bad anyway?) - my writing's good, but it is not excellent. It is acceptably good, but it is not exciting and vivid (some parts are but now we all know that's not exactly good enough, is it?). And having seen this has discouraged me greatly :( because surely I cannot improve fast enough to edit an existing manuscript and complete it within the year - and I am determined to have it completed by the end of the year.

    Divided Crown - I also agree with you - one of my main problems is unfortunately that I have no idea what the High Priests (my rulers) actually do :D It's why even in my original post I asked, "What else is there for them to do?" Once I know the actions, I find writing it way easier and it often comes out better. Sometimes I wonder if I'm in the wrong genre - I love the supernatural stuff but I hate writing magic systems and fantasy rulers. For my next one I'm gonna give a story set in the real world a try, and at some point soft sci-fi. I think I loved Hunger Games for that reason - none of the sci-fi jargon and technology, but since it's futuristic it had all the "supernatural" qualities that I like in fantasy :)
     
  13. AGWallace
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    AGWallace New Member

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    Carl von Clausewitz said that war is the continuation of politics by other means.

    Obviously, I've never read your novel; and I have almost no idea of what it's about. I do know that you find it difficult to write battle scenes, that the book concerns a war, and that the first half is stagnant.

    My first thought was, "Why not focus on the politics of warfare?" Is that something you've considered? Battle scenes could be revealed through the eyes of the Priests (the "politicians") who must receive regular reports about how the war is progressing. You could have a spy in the inner sanctum, generals who embellish the truth, sexual blackmail of trusted aides, and lots of other skullduggery.

    My second thought was, "What is your strength?" What do you enjoy writing? (It's been established that this is not battle scenes.) My advice (for all $.02 that it's worth) is to cut the scenes written out of obligation. I know that's tough ... but if you leave them in, your readers will know they're The Obligatory Scenes.

    As for dreams ... well, I'm not ecstatic about dream sequences unless they're VERY well done.

    The idea sounds great. It reminds me of certain Star Trek episodes, and the album 2112 by Rush.

    Don't give up!
     
  14. johann77
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    johann77 Member

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    Writing while your emotional is yuck.
     
  15. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    But "everything's being established" isn't a good reason for narrative. It sounds like chapters 1 through 10 are backstory, and backstory is never a good idea. I know that it looks impossible to get along without those chapters, but if they're _just_ backstory, then I argue that either they have to change, or they have to become more than backstory.

    What if you handed chapter 11 to someone to read, without them ever reading any of the earlier material and without you offering them any explanations beforehand, and let them tell you where they're confused and what they feel they're missing? I doubt that the result will be so miraculous that they won't be at all confused, but perhaps they'll have a great deal less trouble than you expect. It might be an informative exercise.
     
  16. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Mckk, you've sparked my interest.

    Can you flesh out the plot in three sentences? And then explain the difference between section 1 and 2 in terms of plot?
     

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