1. The Piper

    The Piper Contributor Contributor

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    General Questions About My Plot

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by The Piper, Mar 1, 2019.

    Hi everyone,

    Firstly, sorry this isn't particularly specific. I've got a couple of things bugging me about my story and I'd basically like to ask all at once just so I'm not creating multiple threads. I'll make this as brief as I can. Disclaimer: If you've been keeping up with my story Hide in the workshop and don't want any spoilers plotwise, this probably isn't a good place to be! Read with caution.

    1. Handwriting
    One of the main antagonists in my story, without giving too much detail, is a "monster" with strong links to the second antagonist, an (ordinary?) human. We discover later on in the story that the monster can change its shape and has little control over what it looks like, but often morphs (yes, I hate the word too and promise not to use it in the story itself) into a copy of the human it's linked to.

    The question: at an early point in the story, our main protagonists discover a cave with some bloody messages handwritten on the walls. At this point, the only version of the monster we've seen is a shadowy, featureless thing with claws.

    Does the fact that it's handwritten these messages seem ridiculous? Our protagonists haven't seen the monster yet, but they've seen a victim and are looking for a "wild animal". I'd like to make it explicitly clear TO THE READER that the message was left behind by the monster, but how can I do this without revealing that it can change its shape? Or am I overthinking this?

    2. My main character has a secret that he's keeping from his daughter. The reader knows that there's a secret, and is reminded a couple of times (he plans to tell her on her sixteenth birthday). Later on, we see a flashback which shows us what he means to tell her. Back in the present, once the story is pretty much over, he comes home, the night before her birthday, and is so relieved/exhausted/terrified by what's happened that he decides to tell her early.

    Then he's killed.

    Would this piss you off, as a reader?

    3. Finally (sorry, this is not as brief as I'd planned) what do people think about using a minimum number of characters? I had so many in my first draft, then cut one because she basically served a plot thread that made things too complicated and didn't really serve a purpose. I've just decided to cut another, because he ONLY serves one purpose, plotwise, and I've realised one of my pre-existing characters could do exactly the same job. The problem is, this leaves me with 3 main characters, 3 side characters, a couple of honourary mentions, and an island (population over 200) of people that we never meet. I guess I'm asking two questions here:

    Is it okay to cut characters and give their parts to others?

    How do I make my island seem "busy" without referring to situations that aren't plot-related. The only reason I haven't shown my characters "walking down a busy street" or something nice and easy like that is that a) I'm not sure how to make that seem interesting or even relevant, and b) I want to give the impression that it's a quiet place. I know I'm being contradictory here, but how do I make my island alive, but not crammed?

    I realise that 70% of this makes no sense and the other 30% also makes no sense, but thank you to anybody who's stuck with it this far. Anyone who can give me advice for ANY of these, I'd hugely appreciate it.

    Thank you all!

    Piper
     
  2. J.D. Ray

    J.D. Ray Member Supporter Contributor

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    I don’t have a lot of input on Q1 other than to say that a monster writing out a message (English?) seems to make it less monstrous. Monsters don’t want to communicate, typically. They do, however, leave marks, and they could be sufficiently sophisticated that it’s clear that they weren’t left by a “wild animal”. For the reader’s perspective, take the internal view of the monster when it’s making the marks, crafting them just so, making it clear that the cave is his (?) rather than someone else’s.

    Q2: Yes. Sacrificial characters are annoying, and so are plot-convenient death times.

    Q3: The minimum number of characters is probably one. The more robust the plot, the more characters you’ll need to propel it along. This may seem obvious. The town (island population) is a character in itself. Consider that as you write about it. Don’t worry about individuals, but rather as your MCs’ reaction to them as a group, that may make things easier to manage.

    Good luck.

    JD
     
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  3. Reece

    Reece Senior Member

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    1) Throw some bloody claw marks in there. Also, try to make the script jagged or otherwise a bit rough.
    2) No, it wouldn't piss me off
    3) That seems fine to me. I care less about the number of characters as I do about the quality of characters. As long as they are engaging, it's all good.
     
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  4. Paneera

    Paneera Banned

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    q2

    After all he's been through that happens?
     
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  5. The Piper

    The Piper Contributor Contributor

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    Thanks to everyone so far, some really helpful points made. I won't respond to everything, simply because they're all good points and there aren't any arguments from me. I mean, certainly a couple of conflicting opinions, but that's exactly why I asked and it's helpful to have a good range.

    Instead I'll ask a couple more questions and maybe complicate things even further.

    The "message" was more a collection of words and scribbles and drawings, not meant for anyone to see, just... I don't know, an external monologue? Words like "pain" and "burning" and general rambling, all surrounding one question: "who is Edward Drake?" (This is the name of the human antagonist). This was my way of suggesting that the monster is exploring how it's feeling and why it's feeling, and showing that it knows about the link but can't explain it. Feels like I'm giving it too much consciousness and I agree with @J.D. Ray in that this makes it less monstrous. All that considered, would it make more sense if I had my protagonists (and potentially my readers) have no idea that it was left by the monster and introduce the possibility of some other human character - then reveal later on?

    Everyone's picked up on the death of my protagonist in one way or another - no, it doesn't have to happen, but in a complicated kind of way it brings the story round full circle. The story centres around the price paid to get what you want - Eddie wants his dead parents back, so he makes a deal and loses his soul. He becomes the villain(s), the soulless man and manless soul. My protagonist saves the day, and pays the price of dying for it (he makes "something" angry - like I said, complicated). Finally, his daughter pays the same price as Eddie did to have him resurrected. Full circle, and ready for book two. Would it be better if he got to tell his secret first? Or, knowing this now, does that change anything?

    Finally thanks for your points on characters, looks like I'm good to cut and improve what's already there!

    Thanks again, look forward to hearing more ideas!
     
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  6. Harmonices

    Harmonices Senior Member

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    Monsters communicating isn't strange to me. Think of Frankenstein's monster. Very intelligent and eloquent. I like the messages you describe, it gives depth to the horror and a subjective psychological life to your creature. Its life is monstrous. Its experiences are monstrous.

    The death, no. Not an issue if well handled. If it's written as though a fated inescapable destiny I'm okay with that. Hopefully you can foreshadow it as such, while making it a surprise at the same time.

    Few characters. Fine too. Gives you a chance to write them in real detail and explore their development. This would usually pull me in more than a large cast. Unless exceedingly well written.

    Busy town but not busy:

    How about a rainy walk on the beach. A couple of dog walkers hurrying home. Rows of houses with a sea view. But no one's looking today.

    A quiet drink in the pub, a private booth for a private conversation. Observe the the same handful of locals standing at the bar as they have for twenty years. Exactly the same, just older. Nothing really changes round here.

    That sort of thing? Sleepy town scenes? Evidence of people, but not crazy activity. You could change the setting for some of your conversations to places where others are observed. Or houses where others live. That all I gots. :)
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2019
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  7. The Piper

    The Piper Contributor Contributor

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    @Harmonices helpful stuff as always, thank you!! Definitely a couple of things worth thinking about there.
     
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  8. frigocc

    frigocc Contributor Contributor

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    Question 2: yeah, I'd be mad. I don't like people conveniently waiting to say something, and then they're conveniently killed to further the plot. One of my biggest pet pieces along with "it's not what you think!" followed by no follow up and the other character just walking away.
     
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