1. terobi

    terobi Senior Member

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    How much time between a warning and the warned event happening is required?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by terobi, Nov 6, 2016.

    Pretty much as above - I have a scene where in a relatively short (but time sensitive) journey, something goes wrong and the engine has to be quickly patched up. The engineer warns "it might explode", they decide that they need to risk it, and then a few paragraphs later... it does.

    Now, I can't shift the warning to any earlier, because literally the entire journey takes place in that one chapter (and naturally if the warning was any closer to the beginning, the obvious thing would be to find an alternate means of travel)... but the way it's written now, it seems very convenient that the inconvenience happens so quickly. If I stick anything in the middle of the two points, it's pretty much just filler.

    So, my question is, how do I make this seem less convenient without lobbing in a lot of filler? And is it just the amount of words that pass between a warning and an event that makes it seem convenient, or is there something else at play here that I haven't considered?

    It seems like clumsy foreshadowing to me, but there's no other way to do it that I can think of.
     
  2. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Would depend on the warning light. For example, my "service engine soon" light has been on forever. It's on because I need to service my catalytic converter. It needs to be done, but it's not a fatal issue. I could literally run for years with that light on. Now, if the oil pressure warning light came on because of a sudden escape of engine oil, that's a much more immediate thing. I'm in trouble.
     
  3. terobi

    terobi Senior Member

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    Well, it's not a light - it's literally an engineer cobbling together a quick-fix and going "Yeah, this isn't safe, but we need to risk it".

    I don't think it's a mechanical problem I'm having, (it's fairly obvious that "it might explode at any time" could just do it immediately), but I think it's a narrative issue here. I could dispense with the warning altogether, but then it seems a bit like it was just thrown in for kicks - and removes some of the character development point, which is important here.
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2016
  4. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    I'm not sure I really see a problem here.

    It seems like a natural chain of events. Something goes wrong. The decision is made to continue anyway. Something goes more wrong. Seems like the natural order of conflict.

    Did I miss something here? Is it possible you're overthinking your situation? Speaking in terms of narrative, if there is a reason to mention a possible explosion and a reason for that mention to be ignored, it doesn't seem like clumsy foreshadowing...to me, anyway. Then again, I'm speaking through a very narrow frame of reference based on your post.
     
  5. terobi

    terobi Senior Member

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    That's all fine - but I think the problem is the proximity of the two events. It might just be my perception, then, and I'll see what alpha/betas think.
     
  6. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    Okay. I get what you're saying. You think those two things are too close together, thus making it feel contrived.

    Well, you said that anything you insert between is filler. Why does it have to be filler? Is there a way to make something between relevant to the story? I mean there are narrative strategies you can deploy to increase the length. Analepsis and prolepsis if you feel so inclined can work as long as the content is relevant.

    Or you can employ a slowing of narrative time. You can draw out an interaction between characters (in a meaningful way) to put more physical space between the two events but it won't take any more in story time.
     
  7. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Is it absolutely necessary for the engineer to say that? What if the thing just exploded? Or you could foreshadow it earlier, some other way? Either by questioning the engineer's competence, or mentioning how old the vehicle is, or making it imperative the people take that journey, no matter what they might be risking? Or they might think the risk is minimal?
     
  8. terobi

    terobi Senior Member

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    What I currently have after the warning is them deciding that, despite the risk, it's imperative that they carry on. This is important for two characters, as it illustrates an aspect of their growth - in one case having become less self-centred, the other having realised that his enemy is the world order rather than one specific set of people - and I'd quite like to maintain that. After that, there's a bit of journey continuation (a paragraph or two, tops) then the worst happens. It does feel a little contrived to me.
     
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  9. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    Without knowing your story, to retain what you have and add some physical length between the words on page, I can only suggest narrative devices. How those devices come out (filler or not filler) depends on execution. Supplementary events are not always filler and shouldn't be seen as such. Take a page or two and insert an event on board the (train? vehicle?) that serves a purpose in your narrative. Make it a mini-conflict between characters. I don't know.

    I'm just brainstorming here. Take my responses for what they're worth to you.
     
  10. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Is there some way they could have known before they boarded the ship that the engine was old, and might need repair? They could still do the personal growth thing and take the risk that it wouldn't need repair at all?
     
  11. matwoolf

    matwoolf Banned Contributor

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    'That rear engine sounds like shit,' said ground crew batsman Tennessee P O'Grady, and he waved our Vulcan jet away from the carrier's deck.

    Meanwhile, from the cockpit, a mile above sea level I also waved, and frantically, caught in the excitement of air travel.

    Wowsers, me a real sky captain flying my own rocket plane, who'd have imagined three weeks before, and I listened in a great excitement to the high whine of Royce engines, the sound perceptibly like insects in our dormitory.

    So much coincidence in one lifetime for me, Nigel 'Bug' Armstring, and Busby Moran-Aldran, the pair of us, once naval catering assistants. What a giant leap of fortune for mankind from that pretty administrator Suzanna Mengele to transfer us both to navigation headquarters, we must send her a post card.

    Then, skipping from the nozzle through to my tuckbox, I reached the Snickers bars laid aside my pilot's instruction leaflets, a quite starving fellow, the long journey ahead of us to goodness knows where - up, and then down somewhere, I hoped.

    The sun shone through portholes, our engine flamed beautifully, smoke billowed long the fuselage...
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2016

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