Establishing a Story Goal

Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by ChaseTheSun, Jan 7, 2017.

  1. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Somewhere in some thread I described my issue with stories that start in 'story future'. For me, the first moment in the story is the "now" for the story, and I want to be primarily on a line that travels forward from that "now". I can tolerate the occasional flashback or flash forward, but I will always be waiting to "get back", always distracted. So a story that starts with something ahead of the event of the story will have me impatient through the entire book. The fact that that start is in a prologue doesn't help.

    This problem completely ruined one of Laurie King's books for me, and I really like Laurie King. It also kept me from finishing the sequel to Flood. I don't know if there are a lot of readers like me, or not.

    Re the question of the daughter dying: I would be very annoyed. I should make it very clear that this is in part because I don't like mothers. No doubt because I didn't like mine. I know many quite good mothers, but my mind still insists that each and every one of them is an exception.

    So to me, the important person here is the daughter, not the mothers. I would wait for the moment when all the mother clutter would be swept away and we'd finally deal with the daughter.

    And then you kill her.

    I would be very annoyed.

    My regarding the mothers as "clutter" is about my issue with mothers. But all the same, I feel that when a human being is the focus of all of the characters of the story, but that human being is not given her own arc or her own place as a primary character, that's an issue.

    It would be different if the whole story were about, oh, the Hope Diamond or the Maltese Falcon. But it's about a person, so the person should be thoroughly a person. Without that, it feels a little bit like those stories that are "about" women, but they're really about the men fighting about the woman. I realize that I can't declare sexism, because it's all about women. But maybe I'm feeling some sort of mother/daughter version of sexism--a reaction to the fact that society worships mothers, and is rather offhand about daughters.

    Edited to add: I remember reading about the show ThirtySomething, about how the writers had an endless detailed biography for Michael. For Hope, they had, "Hope is married to Michael." That's rather the way I think I'd feel about the daughter.
     
  2. ChaseTheSun

    ChaseTheSun Senior Member

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    Fair enough, I can understand that response. I guess it's hard for me to really know exactly how it will all look once it's done. I'm just in the super early stages of the book development. I have read books that do a similar thing to what I'm picturing (and hopefully describing), and it has really worked well for me as a reader. So it's hard to know whether there was something different about the way those books did it, that worked, or just if this is a case where I'm going to have to accept that I can't please everybody, bite the bullet and just make a decision. :)

    I can definitely see your point! I recall getting to the end of the Divergent series and hitting the part where Tris dies and feeling so betrayed. I suppose I have justified it to myself by saying that the book is more about the impact and experience of the child-swap on the mother/s and Lucy is only a supporting character. But then I've been worried that I'm making her too passive ... things just happening too her, to enable a 'more important' story. Which is definitely not what I'm going for.

    Hmm, not sure what you're picturing in terms of the men fighting about the women. The roles of the men are important, but they are more there to highlight and provoke action from the women characters.
     
  3. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Sorry, no, that was an analogy. I'm talking about stories where characters A and B are having a lot of conflict about character C, and the author claims that the story is about C. But really C is just an object that happens to walk and talk, and the story is about A and B. Helen of Troy was C, and the men fighting over her were A and B. In your story the daughter is C, and the two mothers are A and B. (Edited to add: That is, in my analogy. I'm not saying that your C necessarily is an object, but the possibility is my concern.)

    And my point is that when C doesn't have their own character arc, there's a sense of incompleteness. A supposedly important human has merely been a plot device. My view is that that's not good.

    Edited to add: And it particularly annoys me because our society is big on mother worship, so the mothers matter and the daughter doesn't. Just as historically men matter and women don't. But that's why I warn you that I have an issue with mothers, because I might be unfair.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2017
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  4. ChaseTheSun

    ChaseTheSun Senior Member

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    Oh right, I'm with you now, re the analogy! :) Yes. Absolutely. Makes me think of a quote I heard a little while ago, and I would reference if only I could remember the who/why/when of it being spoken, but it was something to the effect of, "If a plot-driving character can be replaced by another character or a precious gemstone, they aren't a plot-driver at all." (I did not say it as well as the original!) And I don't want Lucy to just be a plot device. I want her to be an active and powerful character in her own right. So I need to further consider how I can accomplish that without turning too many people into main characters until there is no supporting cast left!

    I find it interesting that you see society as worshipping mothers. I wonder if you and I are based in different countries? In Australia, I really don't see mothers being held up in particularly high regard in middle class society at all. In fact, I told a university colleague a few years ago (I was engaged at the time) that upon being married for a couple of years I would love to try for kids. She looked me up and down and said almost with a sneer, "Well, that's very 1950's of you, isn't it." But I suppose everybody's experience within society is different, hey.

    In fact it is interesting that you bring this topic up, because one of the primary themes I want to explore in the book is that of motherhood and (or versus) society - including gender roles, bucking the trend, single parenting, method of mothering and society expectations regarding all of the above. So you have yourself already touched on some of the exact questions that will be explored within the pages!

    I know you were only sharing your emotions about mothers as a means to express your concerns about my story and not to garner sympathy, but I just want to say that I appreciate your honesty! I think that relationships with our parents can sometimes be the one thing we never seem to be able to make peace with. I have an excellent relationship with my mother, but I suspect much of my motivation to write this novel about intergenerational and parent-child politics is due to my very damaged relationship with my father. So I can empathise with you, as much as is possible when we know nothing about one another!! :love:
     
  5. amerrigan

    amerrigan Active Member

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    [QUOTE="novel about intergenerational and parent-child politics is due to my very damaged relationship with my father.[/QUOTE]

    Then your story goal is the question you are trying to answer for yourself by writing the novel, and your story ending is when you come up with a satisfactory message that you wish to share with the people you have made live through these situations by volunteering to be your readers.
     
  6. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I'm in the US. And I should probably expand on the mother worship thing. I'm not saying that society gives mothers a high social status, or supports them. If they did, we'd have some semblance of real maternity leave, and so on.

    In fact, I realize that I have trouble putting the mother worship thing into words. Interesting. It's infused in remarks like

    "But she's your mother! She's doing her best."
    "She was your mother. She did her best."
    "She's your mother. You have to forgive her."
    "Don't speak to your mother that way."
    "She's your mother. Of course she loves you."
    "There's nothing more precious than mother love."
    "She's doing the most important job in the world."
    "Don't worry that you think that you don't want kids; when you become a mother, a wave of love will wash over you..."
    "You...don't want to become a mother?"
    "She's your mother. If she needs help, you help her."
    "She's your mother. Of course you'll let her stay with you."
    "She's your mother. You can't throw her out."

    Mothers, of adult children as well as minor children, are often relieved of obligations to behave decently. They're a special category.

    But that's really just one nuance of the issue. Thanks for being puzzled about it, because now I may go write things that will interest me to write.
     
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  7. amerrigan

    amerrigan Active Member

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    You forgot: 'I'm no scientist, but as a mother, I can say that these berries cure cancer.' that's my fav.
     
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  8. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    And of course the corollaries of

    "You're not a mother, so you can't possibly understand;" and

    "What do you mean, you don't want to be a mother? That's unnatural."

    Good times.
     
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