Start the story somewhere else...

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Guardian
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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Post by Guardian » December 29th, 2010, 10:53 pm

If the world is "conflict free" then what's the problem? And where's the story?
The story lives around everyone. The problem is, everyone believes it's just a fairy tale. The problem, which is giving the entire story is approaching slowly, but surely, but no one can see it as fear lives only in the legends of this society.
If it's "conflict free" in that it's too-good-to-be-true, then the first chapter should somehow highlight that.
It's not a too-good-to-be-true place. It's the perfect society, where everything is what it seems (With the exception of one thing, but only the MC is looking for it's answers. Others are believing it's just an old fairy tale, a legend.). Because of this, there is no fear, because they don't need to fear from anything. There is no greed as there is no money. There is no war, there is unity. What else could cause disturbance in a perfect society? And the best is, just to make this problem a bit more interesting... this first two chapters are presented via the eyes of a seven year old girl. If she is too smart, that's unbelievable for some readers. If she is too dumb, she is not taking up questions and the story would die already on Page 10.

Unfortunately as I see, this problem is a bit more complex than as I thought.
Last edited by Guardian on December 29th, 2010, 10:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Post by polymath » December 29th, 2010, 10:56 pm

From what I've gleaned from the excerpt, synopses and so on that I've read about the narrative, the foundation of the story is an apotheosis of an ordinary being. I think placing that up front would bring out the subtended emerging conflict. Basically, a problem I have had too is too intellectual a usage of figurative meaning. It's there in full but not as accessible as ideal without an effort general readers are unwilling or unable to bring to bear.

Putting the impending apotheosis up front might mean deploying an oracle messenger scene early on. There's already an internal narrator reporting a story. Consider tying the internal storytelling narrator into the larger action by having him tell a roundabout prophesy, parable style, fable style, history style, or some such style in keeping with the internal and larger narrative storytelling styles. If readers know to expect an apotheosis, dramatic irony comes into play, where ideally readers are in the know, perhaps focal characters aren't, but dramatic irony is where some personas know and some don't. Dramatic irony is a powerhouse tension-driving engine raising potent suspense questions if not a main dramatic question. When, where, why, to who, and how will the apotheosis occur? In other words, a reason for readers to subconsciously wonder what will happen next.
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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Post by Watcher55 » December 29th, 2010, 11:11 pm

Is there a way (starting in the third or fourth chapter) to drop subtle hints, or to make passing allusions to the events of the first two chapters, that imply that the story begins just as it should without giving away too much? the serpent after all, spawns offsping and sends them out from the garden.

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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Post by Guardian » December 29th, 2010, 11:16 pm

Well, that may work, but the narrator is also playing a role in this story. The readers used to guess all over the story who the storyteller is.
I think placing that up front would bring out the subtended emerging conflict.
That's a good idea... but it's also there, Pages 6-10. That's why I'm intending to cut now.
Putting the impending apotheosis up front might mean deploying an oracle messenger scene early on.
It's there in the end of Chapter 2 (Around Page 50). I'm intending to present him in Chapter 1 too.
Consider tying the internal storytelling narrator into the larger action by having him tell a roundabout prophesy, parable style, fable style, history style, or some such style in keeping with the internal and larger narrative storytelling styles.
That's also there. Same as above, Pages 6-10 and every other part where the storyteller is participating. Plus the storyteller has a role in the story (It's a parallel storytelling. While the storyteller is revealing the life of the MC, he is also revealing his life one way or another. The two story is connecting at the very end.).
Dramatic irony is a powerhouse tension-driving engine raising potent suspense questions if not a main dramatic question.
Dramatic irony is also existing, building up from the beginning to the end. This is why Chapter 1 is actually existing, because comparing that to the last chapter, it is also a great irony.
When, where, why, to who, and how will the apotheosis occur? In other words, a reason for readers to subconsciously wonder what will happen next.
Hmmmm. This is the only element which is not in the beginning... but my question is... is it good if I really shoot some of the twists forwardly? Well, I can operate with double twists, but that would make an already complex work to much more complex. There are many things what on the readers can meditate since the beginning... but what should I do when some readers don't want to meditate, but they're demanding answers, actions right from the beginning?
Basically, a problem I have had is too intellectual a usage of figurative meaning.
You're not the first who is saying this. But the entire WIP got the... it's maybe going to be too intellectual for some readers. Well, that was the essence to create an intellectual, interesting, detailed and twisted storyline. It seems I've went beyond this goal a bit...

As you can see, everything is there, yet somehow it's not working in the beginning.
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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Post by lmjackson » December 29th, 2010, 11:22 pm

You're not the first who is saying this. But the entire WIP got the... it's maybe going to be too intellectual for some readers. Well, that was the essence to create an intellectual, interesting, detailed and twisted storyline. It seems I've went beyond this goal a bit...
Yeah, I think there is a difference between creating something that may be too intellectual for some readers, and not even allowing readers the benefit of grasping intellectual concepts. And if you've been getting this comment from more than one person than its definitely something that should be reevaluated, readdressed, and most likely involve some amount of rewriting.

If this world is perfect, there has to be SOMETHING that makes the reader want to continue reading. Something "off". Nobody wants to read about a perfect world with no war where everybody loves each other. Don't overestimate the attention span of readers (or almost more importantly the attention span of agents and editors). A few pages is all it takes for someone to get bored.
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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Post by Guardian » December 29th, 2010, 11:23 pm

Watcher55 wrote:Is there a way (starting in the third or fourth chapter) to drop subtle hints, or to make passing allusions to the events of the first two chapters, that imply that the story begins just as it should without giving away too much?
Unfortunately not really possible. One of my beta readers also suggested this, but that would require dozens of flashbacks. I don't want to use more flashbacks as there are already few in it. The problem is Chapter 3 has no true impact without Chapters 1 and 2. Chapter 3 is the best of all three, because of the first two (That chapter was one of the favorites of all my beta readers, without exception.).

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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Post by Guardian » December 29th, 2010, 11:32 pm

lmjackson wrote:Yeah, I think there is a difference between creating something that may be too intellectual for some readers, and not even allowing readers the benefit of grasping intellectual concepts. And if you've been getting this comment from more than one person than its definitely something that should be reevaluated, readdressed, and most likely involve some amount of rewriting.
That's what I'm doing now. But I also don't want to dumb this WIP further (This is already the "dumb edition". It was a bit more complex before the present version.). But I also want to keep it's original aspect, and it's tone to make it to a novel what I originally planned. Intelligent, intellectual, detailed and twisted. Somewhere I must draw the line and stop to dumb it further. The present intellectual level stays, that's a guarantee.
Nobody wants to read about a perfect world with no war where everybody loves each other.
This "perfect world" is existing only in the beginning, but I know about this dilemma. Nobody wants to read about it... because nobody can imagine it. Seeking or even creating conflicts is in human nature.
Don't overestimate the attention span of readers (or almost more importantly the attention span of agents and editors). A few pages is all it takes for someone to get bored.
I know. That's why I'm intending to find a balance to make those ones happy whose love easier reads. But I also do know that people are easily bored and easily giving up everything if it's a bit more complex than a straight nail. But I don't want to write a stright nail.

The essence is: I want to give this novel to a wider audience... on the present intellectual level. As you said, to give them a chance to benefit from it's intellectual concepts.

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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Post by Watcher55 » December 29th, 2010, 11:48 pm

Guardian wrote:
Watcher55 wrote:Is there a way (starting in the third or fourth chapter) to drop subtle hints, or to make passing allusions to the events of the first two chapters, that imply that the story begins just as it should without giving away too much?
Unfortunately not really possible. One of my beta readers also suggested this, but that would require dozens of flashbacks. I don't want to use more flashbacks as there are already few in it. The problem is Chapter 3 has no true impact without Chapters 1 and 2. Chapter 3 is the best of all three, because of the first two (That chapter was one of the favorites of all my beta readers, without exception.).
Don't use flashback. You still have allusion, parallel, pun, even mneumonic turns of phrase.

"The woman's earring spun and glittered like a shard of multicolored light and cast little spots, like stars, across her neck and shoulder." (I'm assuming we're talking about CRYSTAL SHADE - nope, not a beta reader.)

Trick the readers' brains and let the first two chapters be the sand inside the oyster.

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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Post by Guardian » December 29th, 2010, 11:59 pm

"The woman's earring spun and glittered like a shard of multicolored light and cast little spots, like stars, across her neck and shoulder." (I'm assuming we're talking about CRYSTAL SHADE - nope, not a beta reader.)
I use many similar descriptions. That's not a problem. Oh, and Crystal Shade is not a woman. It's something else. By the way, why do you believe it's the name of a woman? I always wanted to ask this, because many believed this already. I'm curious. :)
Trick the readers' brains and let the first two chapters be the sand inside the oyster.
Like a magic trick. :) A little misdirection here and there and voila... well, that could work.

Thanks! I'm going to try this tomorrow.

P.S.: And again, the easiest solution is the best solution. And the only solution what for I never thought. :)
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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Post by polymath » December 30th, 2010, 12:03 am

Guardian wrote:
polymath wrote:When, where, why, to who, and how will the apotheosis occur? In other words, a reason for readers to subconsciously wonder what will happen next.
Hmmmm. This is the only element which is not in the beginning... but my question is... is it good if I really shoot some of the twists forwardly? Well, I can operate with double twists, but that would make an already complex work to much more complex. There are many things what on the readers can meditate since the beginning... but what should I do when some readers don't want to meditate, but they're demanding answers, actions right from the beginning?
A quiet start is not the same as a slow start, where some readers demand an action packed opening. If the apotheosis is the main dramatic complication, and it seems to me it is as well as an ongoing complication for follow-on saga installments, posing its impending arrival sets up for the quiet utopia's reversal, coming action, and a final outcome, albeit with a reserved overarching final outcome to be realized in later installments.

An opening involves what screenwriters call a twist, but in a generic sense it's a reversal, perhaps not a full blown peripetia, but at least reversal for a quiet opening of an inciting crisis, a twist, a reversal, a discovery, a recognition of a building complication. The characters don't have to recognize a reversal, readers do. Meditating on meaning while reading is a fatal demand to make on readers' patience. They want to engage immediately in a participation mystique. Cueing the apotheosis prophesy up front, perhaps first, might just do that.
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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Post by Guardian » December 30th, 2010, 12:06 am

Polymath, Watcher. You're the best! I already see what I missed. Instead of deleting scenes, I should add few more twists. Just as before the commercial breaks in screenwriting. And that can be solved...
inciting crisis, a twist, a reversal, a discovery, a recognition of a building complication
Silent crisis, checked. Twist, checked. Discovery, checked. Recognition, checked. "Reversal" is missing from the present version and that can be applied to the present draft. That can solve the problem and "Reversal", combined with "Misdirection" may reveal the seemingly invisible parts.

Thank you very much everyone!

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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Post by Watcher55 » December 30th, 2010, 12:20 am

Guardian wrote:
"The woman's earring spun and glittered like a shard of multicolored light and cast little spots, like stars, across her neck and shoulder." (I'm assuming we're talking about CRYSTAL SHADE - nope, not a beta reader.)
I use many similar descriptions. That's not a problem. Oh, and Crystal Shade is not a woman. It's something else. By the way, why do you believe it's the name of a woman? I always wanted to ask this, because many believed this already. I'm curious. :)
I was actually just using that as an example of a way to redirect the readers' memories back to the hall with eleven columns and the crystal shard. I guess the woman in my example was a subconscious response to the title, but on a conscious level I always assumed "Crystal Shard" was a meta-metaphor for light and shadow and referred to the nature of the shard.

Besides, I still might call my first daughter Crystal Shard ______:}

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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Post by Guardian » December 30th, 2010, 12:30 am

I was actually just using that as an example of a way to redirect the readers' memories back to the hall with eleven columns and the crystal shard. I guess the woman in my example was a subconscious response to the title, but on a conscious level I always assumed "Crystal Shard" was a meta-metaphor for light and shadow and referred to the nature of the shard.
Ah, I see. That example is a clever approach and a good example. And your observation is partially correct, but it's also false regarding the shard. These things have few explanation and meaning throughout the story. But this is the essence, to bring out any sort of the subconscious or even conscious fantasies of the reader, be it because of the title, some descriptions or even the story itself. On this way, the world is becoming a bit more interactive, because regardless from the details what you've read, you're also capable to connect these things one way or another on the subconcious and also on the conscious level. And as I see your response, it's working, even in the opening. :) On the subconscious level, you already created something, a plus around the world, while on the conscious level you have something else, something different. And as the story is progressing, the reader should get more and more similar things, while the story is also offering another, different solution. Well, at least if I did it right... if not, a great crash and burn will be my reward. :) But this was my goal, to create a story, which is expanding the fantasy of the reader and giving more story and experience with one read.
Besides, I still might call my first daughter Crystal Shard ______:}
:)

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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Post by AMSchilling » December 30th, 2010, 11:08 am

What about putting ch 1 and 2 as a prologue? You'd have to cut them down quite a bit, but it would provide a physical break for the reader to know: "okay this is important but it's also something that will be explained later." Not sure if this is a viable or attractive solution for you, but it does address some basic issues with form and reader annoyance (I would be annoyed to commit to 30+ pages and then get to ch3 and not know why I had to go through the detailed beginning to get to that bit.)

One concern I have with slow first chapters that don't seem to necessary until later is that you won't engage a reader. And readers are your lifeblood. I'm not suggesting dumbing it down or going for cheap action to hook them, but the simple fact is that you MUST hook them. Otherwise they will put your book down and never go back. Same with an agent, editor, etc. If you cannot engage people right away (in some cases I'm talking about within a paragraph or two), then your book will not be read no matter what. While your world may be unique, utopian societies are not unheard of. Read some of the classic books in this vein and maybe you'll see how those authors handled the beginnings? It might give you some ideas.

It all depends on your goals, of course. If you want to write the book the way you feel it must be, then keep the first two chapters. If your goal is to get it sold and read, a change must be made. Listen to your betas. Enough of them are telling you something that I bet an agent will end up telling you the same thing. You will most likely be told to change it in order to get representation. So do it now and avoid eliminating possible agents who don't want to go through a major rewrite with you to make it saleable. Kill your darlings. Kill your ideal to make it stronger overall.
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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Post by Guardian » December 30th, 2010, 9:33 pm

I'm not suggesting dumbing it down or going for cheap action to hook them, but the simple fact is that you MUST hook them.
That's what I'm going to do, but without axing the first two chapters. Unfortunately the prologue is not possible as the first two chapters are too long for that. Plus there was a prologue what I already cut and took it to the ending (That was the action opening, but as the resolution and explanation came only two volumes later for that scene, it's better if it's not there.).
It all depends on your goals, of course. If you want to write the book the way you feel it must be, then keep the first two chapters. If your goal is to get it sold and read, a change must be made.
Changes will be made, but within a limit and without sacrificing any serious elements. Watcher and Polymath gave me few idea how to solve this part. And it's maybe harder to make a rewrite instead of cut the first two, but I rather work on it a bit more instead of present the story on a way as I definitely don't want.
Enough of them are telling you something that I bet an agent will end up telling you the same thing. You will most likely be told to change it in order to get representation.
If an agent is going to say to change the whole thing drastically, I won't work with that agent, because in that case that agent want to represent his own taste and not my novel. First of all, the agents are working for the writers and not the writers are working for the agents. If an agent will want drastic changes, because of a matter of taste and not because of some serious mistake what I committed, then we will take two different path instead of walking on the same one. Unlike many, I'm not willing to impress an agent, especially if their salary will be paid from my sales. To me it's really matter who is going to get the 10% from the sales. There is one story, what is fix (With the exception of the aforementioned planned changed) and there are plenty of agents to choose from. If I must wait for the right agent for few more months, but for exchange the original story will be published, be it. :) I want to impress the readers instead. That's a huge difference.
While your world may be unique, Utopian societies are not unheard of.
Every Utopian society is usually following the scheme of 1984. But if you can tell me some novel title which is presenting an Utopian world which has no conflicts (Literally), I would appreciate it, because that would be very helpful. (A novel about a true utopia which has no conflict. The utopias that about I read was an illusion, where in the background dark forces created conspiracies, conflicts and controlled the people. In those stories these gave the source of the conflicts. Here, the dark forces are not present in the beginning at all, so I can work only with the "conflict free" side.).
Kill your darlings. Kill your ideal to make it stronger overall.
That won't happen. I rather try a third alternative as always. If something is original, I won't dumb it, nor kill it. I rather try to find a solution instead of making useless sacrifices just to impress people, but write something on a way as I don't want to. I'm writing this story to present this exact story to the readers. Not an alternative version, not a dumb edition, not a trendy cliche parade. I want to present this story on the way as it is. Just with some changes to hook them, just as you mentioned, as it's necessary. But If I kill the darlings and foremost the ideals, this story wouldn't be the same. So ideals and darlings won't be sacrificed.

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