1. J.D. Ray

    J.D. Ray Senior Member

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    Plot Development: The Payoff

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by J.D. Ray, Jun 7, 2019.

    I "finished" (e.g. wrote all the scenes; need to trim the fat and sweep up the droppings) the first segment of a novel. One reviewer, a several-novel published author, picked up on a somewhat-telegraphed plot point and said, "If that's your payoff, that's not enough. It needs to be something better."

    I hadn't intended for that thing to be the payoff, but more or less because I hadn't really settled on a payoff yet, which was probably something I should have decided on at the start. Now I'm kind of freaked out because I don't know what to do, and all I can do is stare at the gaping hole in my plot.

    What constitutes a valuable payoff in a novel? It's a bit of a "hero's journey" story, except that there are two primary characters. I've read other novels where two characters change over the course of the story, but usually it's a yin/yang thing. I'm trying to craft something where a young couple who don't really know each other well at the start grow together over the course of the novel to the point where they operate nearly as a single unit by the time the novel ends. That, to me, is the payoff. Is that good enough that people will want to read it?
     
  2. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    What was the thing your beta reader picked up? The somewhat-telegraphed plot point? And what do you mean by 'first segment?' How far into the story does this segment go?
     
  3. J.D. Ray

    J.D. Ray Senior Member

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    You've read parts of "Lives in Time" that I've posted, yes? At the beginning of the story, you meet an old couple waving to a young couple who (unbeknownst to them) are going on an adventure that involves time travel. :) I sent out about 45K words for review, which (hopefully) is about a third of the novel. It came to a reasonable stopping point, one where I was thinking of publishing the result as a standalone novella.
     
  4. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    What 'payoff' did your beta think wasn't good enough? So far I'm not seeing a payoff at all. Isn't this just the start of the story? The couple goes off on an adventure that involves time travel? There isn't any payoff as yet, is there?
     
  5. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Contributor Contributor

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    Who is the antagonist of your story?

    What kind of resolution there is between protagonist & antagonist in your story?

    What is the main conflict? What kind of resolution does it get?

    Is the end really the end of that story and it's main arches?
     
  6. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I'm not quite understanding what you or your reader really mean by payoff. And just because someone's published doesn't mean all that much when it comes to critique. I wouldn't let that make you think what they are saying is right. There's also a problem in getting feedback on part of a story vs. the whole story. You said you could publish what you have as a novella. I've reached a point in my novel where I sort of think I could do the same, but it's so close to actually being a novel that I've decided to keep going with the story. I think there's a bigger payoff in finishing a novel vs. a novella. That sort of payoff I can understand. I'm not sure what your reader was looking for or expecting, but I wouldn't let it derail you.
     
  7. J.D. Ray

    J.D. Ray Senior Member

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    As I said, my goal is to have the story about two people who grow together over time. The "payoff" for the novel is not simply that they make it to the other end of the adventure, but that they grow, both individually and as a couple. To me, that's enough. My question is whether or not it's enough that people will want to read it. I suspect so if I can tell the story well enough (this reviewer is actually a pretty tough nut to crack, and his overall review was generally positive, which pleased me no end. He said he finds my premise good and my characters engaging. Great start, I think).

    I did, and could, after a few rounds of clean up. One story arc is complete, a major one. It can stand alone, but ends on a cliffhanger. After this part, the story arcs become shorter, and none of them would stand alone as a story, at least not something to be published independently.
     
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  8. J.D. Ray

    J.D. Ray Senior Member

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    Stories, as you're aware, are about something. His feedback was that if all my story is about is that the couple in question made it through the adventure, that didn't seem to him to be enough to make the story worthwhile.
     
  9. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm trying to focus on this: "One reviewer, a several-novel published author, picked up on a somewhat-telegraphed plot point and said, "If that's your payoff, that's not enough. It needs to be something better.""

    It's the somewhat-telegraphed plot point that I'm trying to understand. What was that? Was it your character growth, or was it something else?

    I'm wondering if perhaps you inadvertently led the reader to expect something they didn't get. That's usually quite fixable, but you have to pinpoint what that 'something' is, before you can fix it.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2019
  10. J.D. Ray

    J.D. Ray Senior Member

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    In the opening of the story, an elderly couple are waving goodbye to a young couple who are headed out for a picnic and afternoon of adventure. To wit:

    The young couple quickly find themselves thrown back in time nine hundred years. They have nothing but each other, and have to leverage their wits, modern education, and other intrinsic resources to survive. An astute reader will guess that the elderly couple and the young couple are the same people.
     
  11. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    So that is the 'much-telegraphed plot point' that your reader was referring to?

    Okay. What I'm picking up here is that the reader was a bit disappointed and wanted more? Or felt they were being led in a too-obvious direction?

    Perhaps there was something in the way the story began that made the reader assume there would be something more intriguing about the situation, than just the fact they were the same people. Your reader was astute and picked this up right away. Maybe it was kind of anticlimactic to find out that, 'Hey, yup, I was right. They're the same people.'

    What made them think there was going to be a Big Reveal that was going to be more exciting?

    Just thinking out of the box a bit ...what would the impact on your story be if you made it clear right at the start that they were the same couple? Right away. Maybe either leave out the 'waving goodbye' thing altogether. Or make it clear by what is said that they are actually waving goodbye to their future/past selves? So this wasn't even a momentary mystery? Therefore there wouldn't be a Payoff expected here at all. Your payoff will come later on, when the story develops into something more.
     
  12. J.D. Ray

    J.D. Ray Senior Member

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  13. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I take it the older couple 'knows' that the younger couple is themselves? But the younger couple doesn't? I'm a little confused as to how this happens. They seem to be inhabiting the same world at the same time.

    Okay, here's a thought. And it's a radical one, but it would solve a lot of problems for you. Why not just eliminate the time travel thing altogether? And simply tell the story in a straightforward way. You could start with the older couple, looking back on their life. And then the rest of the story gets told in 'real time.'

    I think your plot hole (and it is pretty big) has to do with this time travel idea. Maybe it's the easiest thing to fix. If the interest in the story comes from the progression of the couple, then why not make that the focus, without this 'what the heck' sort of convolution regarding the two couples existing side-by-side? Not to mention the two couples having the same names, which I know would lose me, eventually. I read along far enough to realise this shifting was going to be hard to keep track of.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2019
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  14. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

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    There is a rip in the continuum. :) I would read something like that if there was something that worried me that maybe they would disrupt the continuum, or something to add stress tension or electrical field that they have to stay ahead of, which has followed them through time.
    And I’m not sure how far I could make it into the first chapter before the hook comes to play.
    I say write on and see how it develops.
     
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