1. TomBE

    TomBE New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2017
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0

    Density of the Plot

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by TomBE, Feb 23, 2017.

    Hi, new here and this is my first post.

    I am working on a debut novel and I have found it difficult to write without constantly adding new plot points. While this is not always necessarily a bad thing, I feel I may be making it hard to follow and I think I am going to finish with fewer words than I'd planned. The novel was originally intended to be about 45000-50000 words long and it always seems that something is missing from the story. I feel I may only make it to 30000 words at the rate the story is progressing. I've noticed that there is not much internal dialogue from the main character (the story is written in first person) and since the story revolves around action it can be difficult to find space for these moments of reflection. The flow of the story has sped up over time so the number of events coming out of the story is steadily increasing and I worry that this might be overwhelming for the reader. Essentially what I'm trying to say is that it feels a bit like building a wall with only bricks and no mortar. I believe this is problematic on a number of levels. Firstly character development relies on lots of brief events and this makes it difficult to infer what sort of person each one is. Secondly, there won't be as much emotion as there could be and the task of identifying the sort of bond that exists between any two characters is made harder.

    Has anyone had similar problems?
    If so, how have you gone about tackling them?
     
  2. sprirj

    sprirj Senior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2009
    Messages:
    576
    Likes Received:
    193
    I've not. But I guess it depends what kind of book you are writing. It might not work adding slower soul searching segments into your work, alternatively you might want to add additional parts, and descriptions, once the first draft is done when you can better judge the pacing of your novel. As long as it's a page turner, I don't think you are doing anything wrong, however if you are reading about yet another fight scene and care little for your characters, you may want to evaluate.
     
    TomBE likes this.
  3. Elven Candy

    Elven Candy Pay no attention to the foot in my mouth Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2016
    Messages:
    788
    Likes Received:
    530
    Your first task is to finish writing the novel. If you let yourself get bogged down by the thought of "I need to slow down and do a bunch of internal dialogue," then you're liable to stifle your creativity. Some of us (me) do well at making more internal dialogue, but worry that there isn't enough action. I'm not going to worry about that right now. Right now, I'm going to get the first draft finished. After that, I can go back and figure out where I can add some action and maybe take out some of that self reflection.


    If you're going through your completed first draft and you still can't find good places for some self reflection, and you still feel like your novel needs them, give the story to a few beta readers and ask them what they think. Don't tell them what you think's wrong with it because then they'll be reading with a bias. If they say, "It was great! I was hooked the whole time," then there's a good chance you're overly worried. But if they weren't hooked the entire time, or if they felt like something was missing, they might be able to help you pinpoint the problem areas and then you can more easily fix them.

    Good luck!

    Edited to add: Welcome to the forum!
     
    TomBE and S A Lee like this.
  4. S A Lee

    S A Lee Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2017
    Messages:
    1,070
    Likes Received:
    1,396
    Location:
    Greater London, England
    I agree with @Elven Candy here, right now, just focus on getting everything on paper.

    In the Ghibli film Whisper of the Heart, Shizuku, the protagonist, is shown what looks like raw emerald by an elderly shopkeeper. He explained to her that she could polish the stone around the emerald but it wouldn't have any value, but if you refined the green stone in the middle you'd have something that is precious for its beauty.

    I like to think that the first draft of a story is like finding that raw emerald. Editing is the cutting and polishing so you go from a green shard in a lump of ordinary stone to a stunning gem.

    Don't worry too much about the pacing right now, just get it on the page, trust me, it's way easier to polish it after you've got it on there than before.
     
    Elven Candy likes this.
  5. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2015
    Messages:
    594
    Likes Received:
    247
    That's assuming there's a raw emerald in there to begin with. Compelling character development takes smart writing. No one's going to put that raw emerald in there for you.

    A first draft may be a rough diamond, but it's still a diamond. You don't pick up diamonds digging up the ground randomly. It's a considered process that takes alot of mindfulness.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2017
  6. S A Lee

    S A Lee Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2017
    Messages:
    1,070
    Likes Received:
    1,396
    Location:
    Greater London, England
    I have no doubt there, but at the same time, you do not buy large amounts of polishing and cutting equipment for a single raw gem. Getting the first draft together is determining whether you have a few precious rocks or a full on vein and identifying what the mineral is (iron pyrite isn't called fool's gold for nothing).
     
  7. rktho

    rktho Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2017
    Messages:
    1,546
    Likes Received:
    396
    Plot points are very good if spread across multiple books. For example, when writing I needed to solve a problem and I created an entire subplot to deal with it. In my story, the overarching plot is that there are five Elder Swords with individual powers. When combined under a certain mountain, they unlock unimaginable power. To protect that power from falling into the wrong hands, the wizard Shuzirons keep them separate. However, one Shuziron named Phyandarst felt that keeping the power suppressed was selfish. He created a new order of wizards called the Kenjai whose goal was to unlock the Swords' power. After a battle in which the Kenjai nearly realized their goal, both went into hiding and the Swords and history of the Shuzirons was forgotten.
    I had some trouble determining how dragons became magical. What I had was: the Shuzirons would take intitiates into a room that creates a virtual experience. Upon emerging from the trial, which is specifically created for them, their azulor would awaken and they would be able to perform magic. Every so often, an initiate would "fail" the test. This would signify that he would become the Riphalaron. The Riphalaron was the head of the Shuzirons, who communed with the Ristlaron, who is the creator of my universe. (The last Riphalaron in my story did not pass on the title but remained as a ghost to continue to guide the order. The central protagonist fails the test, meaning he will take the old Riphalaron's place and there will be a living Riphalaron once again.) I couldn't have it be a test of morality, because then the potential Riphalaron could be evil (which I didn't object to; I actually implied that the antagonist could have been the Riphalaron had he not made better choices, even though he did not fail his test. But if it was a test of morality, then everyone who would fail would either be the potential Riphalaron or evil, and guess who there'd be more of.) The reason I needed this was because I needed Shuzirons and Kenjai alike to be able to unlock their azra in this way (and wizards who for whatever reason wouldn't fall into one category.) I was also having trouble determining what the objective of the test actually was. It had to be the same for everyone, but different in a way that reflected their personalities. Here's how I solved it:
    The virtual room is actually a portal to a parallel dimension where a rare metal called azulorum exists. It can only be found there. The candidate must find an object forged from azulorum, which they are drawn to. They take the object out of the room and their powers are awakened. The object bonds with them and when they die, the object remains for two generations before returning to the parallel world. Then I thought, naturally, the Elder Swords should be made of azulorum that remains indefinitely and cannot be returned to the parallel world. And now I had to go back and give each magical character an azulorum implement they gained from their trial. So there's that.
     
  8. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2015
    Messages:
    1,640
    Likes Received:
    1,493
    Welcome to the forum!

    Action can also provide opportunity for interior dialogue, as the characters in the fight (or whatever) observe and try to predict what the other person is going to do, whether they are getting tired... what visual cues are they seeing? How are they themselves feeling? Do they think they are winning, holding their own or losing their ass? This brings the reader inside the head of the fighting protagonist and makes the fight personal and felt, not some action scene observed on the movie screen.
     
    Elven Candy likes this.
  9. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2015
    Messages:
    594
    Likes Received:
    247
    To be honest the idea of saving most the work for the back end of the process never made sense to me. It's like turning a giant truck around compared to turning a bicycle around. If we look at the beginning and put a huge amount of the consideration into the scene list, how much easier is that? Compared to combing through hundreds of pages of text. If we have a firm idea of how these characters will develop from the beginning, before we even start the first draft we can take away alot of that rock that's covering the gem, so we can see it and know what we're dealing with.

    Discovery writers won't plan much but why not evaluate and edit the first quarter, then the half way point, then the the third quarter, then the full draft. Because if you change one thing early on that often creates a ripple effect in the narrative that requires changes later on, if not throughout in order to keep continuity, that ups your workload tremendously. No one wants to keep having to look through hundreds of pages of first draft.

    And psychologically when you've got so much content it's difficult to switch huge chunks around and make radical structural changes. So ultimately why make life harder for yourself?
     
  10. S A Lee

    S A Lee Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2017
    Messages:
    1,070
    Likes Received:
    1,396
    Location:
    Greater London, England
    This depends on the person, with me, despite the fact that my characters 'talk' to me a lot as I work, I'm actually a very visual person and I am better at gauging the flow of the my writing when I have it written down. I should also note that I do some polishing on a chapter-by-chapter basis and not exclusively when everything is done.

    In terms of continuity, I have a firm idea of what it is I'm striving for, and I write copious backstory notes (things like races, social structures, terminology, laws, settings, the sort of things that might not be touched on that much) on top of the actual writing so I have a handbook for my world alongside the stories (I'm gunning for independent stories in the same universe rather than a series).
     
  11. Elven Candy

    Elven Candy Pay no attention to the foot in my mouth Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2016
    Messages:
    788
    Likes Received:
    530
    I knew the ending of my story and nothing else, except maybe a few traits about the MC. It was during the story itself that I really found the MC's personality and the entire plot. I do have to rewrite the beginning, but that's something I couldn't have figured out until yesterday because it was literally yesterday that I figured out why I didn't like the beginning and how to fix it. When I let myself go back and edit the stuff I've previously written (in the way you're describing, not little things my alpha reader spots), I lose the creative flow that allows me to continue the storyline itself and it takes months to get it back. The way TomBE's talking, I think he might get stuck if he focuses on trying to get that internal reflection in the first draft. His story might not even need it, and forcing it in could change the way the entire story goes--and not in a good way. Even if it does need that internal reflection, it shouldn't be too difficult to go back and edit it in. If he has the plot down, the reflection just needs to be what drives the MC to do what he/she does. What he's getting down right now is the plot and characters. Once they're established, the rest is just editing in the details.

    I'm not saying everyone works this way, but it shouldn't hurt to try.
     
  12. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2015
    Messages:
    594
    Likes Received:
    247
    Whoa it's not going to be easy for him.
    If TomBE's story is otherwise fine and just needs some moments of reflection then okay yeah, that's going to be easy.
    But if it's as I suspect: He just has a bunch of action sequences that are barely held together. Bricks with no mortar, that's going to take alot of work.
    You can't just add character moments to action. Even I couldn't get away with that and I'm making graphic novels. Character shouldn't be treated as just a vehicle to get you to the next explosion.
     
  13. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    15,344
    Likes Received:
    13,070
    You seem to be assuming that the editing is the hard part. For me, the editing is the easy part. The editing is a pleasure.

    Also...

    Huh. Y'know, I never made this connection before. I'm no longer particularly responding to your post, but your post made me see the connection.

    I've always been a lucid dreamer. That is, all my life, I've had dreams where I knew I was dreaming. And because I knew I was dreaming, I knew that I could do what I wanted. When I was in elementary school, I would enter a dream where I was in school, and I'd fly around the school eating the cardboard of the displays on the walls, because I declared that the cardboard tasted like candy.

    I always tried to control the dreams--what was in that room, what I was wearing, who I met. And the harder I tried to control them, the more the illusion of reality fell apart. What looked like rich detail when I wasn't consciously creating it, collapsed when I was. And the same thing with the plot; when I tried to force happenings, all the happenings just stopped.

    This has made me conclude that the part of my mind that creates fiction is not directly accessible or answerable to my consciousness. And if I try to drag it in front of my consciousness to answer questions and take orders, it's just going to melt away, go back to the room where it lives, and pout for a while.

    The same seems to be true of writing. When I write something, my conscious mind is generally not telling it where to go. The fiction-writer from the back is instead coming out and dragging me by the nose. It's not a painless lyrical process; I don't want to suggest that. I have to continually kick the fiction-writer to give me anything at all, sentence by sentence. But sometimes, when I look at those fragments months or years later, I see things in them that I did not see, not the least little bit, while writing them.

    That's the process that I want to nurse along to get past writing scenes or mini-stories or dialogue bits, and expand to writing a book. I may eventually have to give up and write a neat tidy plot for the book and hope that the fiction-writer tucks in embellishments between the planned parts. But I'm going to try this for a while longer, and whatever I do is going to be driven by my realization that my conscious mind is not the one with the jewels.
     
  14. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2015
    Messages:
    594
    Likes Received:
    247
    No, I qualified that. I said if you save most of the work for the back end of the process. Ie if you say I'm going to allow a first draft without quality control, under the rationale that "writing is rewriting", and then hoping to make it good in editing, then editing will be the hard part. Maybe not in every single case ever as I'm sure there are some writing geniuses out there who can make a first draft without quality control then not do much work editing and still have a classic in the making.
     
  15. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    15,344
    Likes Received:
    13,070
    By "quality control" are you referring to SPAG? My first drafts are pretty much always correct, in terms of English. (Or where they're incorrect, that's a conscious style decision.)

    I'm talking about content. Major content. I'm still not sure if Emily from Coriolis Effect is going to end up being merged with Lovejoy from Tulips and Butter. That level of content. And I'm probably not going to know that until I've written a hundred thousand words or so for both.
     
    rktho likes this.
  16. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    Messages:
    3,414
    Likes Received:
    2,922
    Wow, I'm exactly the opposite: my stories always feel more real to me the more I take all the pieces apart and see how they work before putting them all back together.

    The Doctor Who story in my signature is basically a 63,000-word action sequence, and I would say that it's the most introspective story that I've ever written ;)

    Characters don't need moments of reflection in between the action scenes, characters can think during the action about what everything means to them in the moment.

    And those brief moments of characterization don't have to happen in between the action either, two characters with distinct personalities will approach a single goal in distinctly different ways that show how their personalities differ.
     
    Elven Candy likes this.
  17. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    15,344
    Likes Received:
    13,070
    I'm curious--are those pieces written, as in a first draft, or are they just in your head or in outline form?

    I'm not saying that I don't take the pieces apart. But I am saying that for me, they have to be in writing--narrative and dialogue, not just outlines--before that.
     
  18. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    Messages:
    3,414
    Likes Received:
    2,922
    I do this a lot just with the notes I have outlined, I keep doing it while I'm finishing my first draft, and I do it even more once I start getting Beta readings.

    I've always been a math/science nerd, and I've always enjoyed looking at how all of the smaller aspects of a concept fit together into a larger whole.

    No matter how long I've been committed to a specific idea, I'm always looking at all of the different pieces and asking myself "If I change only one piece of this idea and keep everything else, how would this one different piece change the whole picture and would I like it better?"

    For example, I got 2 and a half chapters into my Doctor Who fanfiction before realizing that I wanted to re-write the lead hero as being a sociopathic serial killer :D

    Which then led to two of my other guys being a couple (despite my having previously tried writing one of them as being AroAce like me :rolleyes:)

    I'm a very Idea-Driven writer, and I like knowing that I've explored my ideas to the breaking point.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2017
  19. Elven Candy

    Elven Candy Pay no attention to the foot in my mouth Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2016
    Messages:
    788
    Likes Received:
    530
    How easy or difficult it'd be for him depends entirely on how his creative thought process works. For me the hard part is creating the first draft. Adding missing scenes (that I later realized need to be added; I never purposefully skip them) and editing in character traits is the fun part, and is thus relatively easy. Even when I need to do a little overhaul (such as rewrite literally the most important scene in the MC's life), I don't find it all that difficult because the bones of the story is already there. I know where I'm going and I know the story works.

    Every time I try to force something into my story or characters, it kills my creative process and I can't continue writing. That's why I think TomBE needs to focus on finishing the first draft. I don't want him focused so much on what he "should" be doing that he doesn't find his natural writing style. He's worried the story might be hard for readers to keep up with or that it'll lack emotional depth, but he's not entirely sure. As far as he knows, the story's perfect just the way it is. Once the first draft is completed, he can reread it as a whole to see if he still feels a lack of emotion and flow, and if after reading it he's still unsure, it might be time to pass it on to betas to see what they think.
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice