Start the story somewhere else...

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lmjackson
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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Post by lmjackson » December 31st, 2010, 12:25 am

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 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.
Maybe reevaluate who you are writing for, because atm it doesn't sound like it's for the readers. Which is okay. Not everyone needs or wants to be published. BUT, for those that do... there is something called a market out there. Prospective authors to some degree need to pay attention to it. Does this mean they should sacrifice their craft and start writing a YA vampire novel if their love is in historical fiction? Of course not! But it does mean that they may have to cater their writing with the interest of the people who will be reading it in the distant or not-so-distant future. Agents will be more forgiving than publishers, and A LOT more forgiving than readers will be.
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.).
That's what makes books like Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World interesting. Nobody wants to read about sunshine and rainbows and butterflies. To hook the readers there must be conflict. There must be a reason to pause the television, put away the cell phone, and devote an hour to the blob of text in front of them. Perfect is boring.
Kill your darlings. Kill your ideal to make it stronger overall.
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.
There's always those artists that have the stance of "If you don't understand what I'm going for, then you must not GET ME." Or even worse: "If you don't understand it, than you're not intellectual enough to GET IT".

Nobody is asking you to make a "dumb edition". We're trying to help you create a finished product that people (like us) would actually want to read. Isn't that the point?

EDIT: That came across way more snarky then I intended, well I intended it to be snarky at the time but looking back that's not too flattering. It's your WIP, only you can make the choice you feel is best. I wish you the best of luck!
Last edited by lmjackson on December 31st, 2010, 1:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Post by polymath » December 31st, 2010, 12:59 am

George Orwell's literary debut semi-autobiographical novel, Down and Out in Paris and London, 1933, opens on a quiet picaresque account of a young artist living a high life in Paris and thriving on modest means. But it's not long before Mr. Eric Blair encounters reversals that impoverish his circumstances, by chapter three actually. The tenuous nature of his existence is complication enough for reader engagement right from the title into the opening lines. I suppose if I have a favorite novel, Down and Out in Paris and London might be it.

There's plenty of room in the world for quiet openings, large niche target interest, and critical acclaim. Plenty of room and demand for something so quiet, tragic-comic, and beautiful as Down and Out in Paris and London. Ernest Hemingway's fishing story career capstone novella The Old Man and the Sea, 1952; Charles Frazier's sophomore historical fiction novel Thirteen Moons, 2006; Susanna Clarke's freshman fantastical fiction novel Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel, 2004. All too rarely every once in a while a fresh, original, timeless masterpiece comes along.
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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Post by lmjackson » December 31st, 2010, 1:18 am

polymath wrote:George Orwell's literary debut semi-autobiographical novel, Down and Out in Paris and London, 1933, opens on a quiet picaresque account of a young artist living a high life in Paris and thriving on modest means. But it's not long before Mr. Eric Blair encounters reversals that impoverish his circumstances, by chapter three actually. The tenuous nature of his existence is complication enough for reader engagement right from the title into the opening lines. I suppose if I have a favorite novel, Down and Out in Paris and London might be it.

There's plenty of room in the world for quiet openings, large niche target interest, and critical acclaim. Plenty of room and demand for something so quiet, tragic-comic, and beautiful as Down and Out in Paris and London. Ernest Hemingway's fishing story career capstone novella The Old Man and the Sea, 1952; Charles Frazier's sophomore historical fiction novel Thirteen Moons, 2006; Susanna Clarke's freshman fanastical fiction novel Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel, 2004. All too rarely every once in a while a fresh, original, timeless masterpiece comes along.
The first page of Down and Out in Paris and London,
The rue du Coq d’Or, Paris, seven in the morning. A succession of furious, choking yells from the street. Madame Monce, who kept the little hotel opposite mine, had come out on to the pavement to address a lodger on the third floor. Her bare feet were stuck into sabots and her grey hair was streaming down.

Madam Monce: ‘Salope! Salope! How many times have I told you not to squash bugs on the wallpaper? Do you think you’ve bought the hotel, eh? Why can’t you throw them out of the window like everyone else? Putain! Salope!

The woman on the third floor: ‘Vache!’

Thereupon a whole variegated chorus of yells, as windows were flung open on every side and half the street joined in the quarrel. They shut up abruptly ten minutes later, when a squadron of cavalry rode past and people stopped shouting to look at them.

I sketch this scene, just to convey something of the spirit of the rue du Coq d’Or. Not that quarrels were the only thing that happened there — but still, we seldom got through the morning without at least one outburst of this description. Quarrels, and the desolate cries of street hawkers, and the shouts of children chasing orange-peel over the cobbles, and at night loud singing and the sour reek of the refuse-carts, made up the atmosphere of the street.
Here I see commotion, noise, chaos... all interesting. I, for one, feel dragged into the scene as opposed to lulled to sleep.

Even the first page of Nineteen Eighty-Four,
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.

The hallway smelt of boiled cabbage and old rag mats. At one end of it a coloured poster, too large for indoor display, had been tacked to the wall. It depicted simply an enormous face, more than a metre wide: the face of a man of about forty-five, with a heavy black moustache and ruggedly handsome features. Winston made for the stairs. It was no use trying the lift. Even at the best of times it was seldom working, and at present the electric current was cut off during daylight hours. It was part of the economy drive in preparation for Hate Week. The flat was seven flights up, and Winston, who was thirty-nine and had a varicose ulcer above his right ankle, went slowly, resting several times on the way. On each landing, opposite the lift-shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.
That second paragraph definitely draws attention. A less obvious sense of commotion, created by the disorganization of the setting, a problem (albeit a small one) for the protagonist and an intriguing poster that the protagonist seems to think nothing of.


Both beginnings are admittedly tamer than a novel that say begins in the middle of a battle or some great tragedy, but still are enough to "hook" the reader so to speak. The grand conflict isn't at work here, but there's enough of an 'off' factor that makes you go "hmmmm" and read more. There's a difference between quiet and boring I should think. Harry Potter begins quietly. The Hobbit begins quietly. Hell, even Twilight begins quietly. But I wouldn't call any of these novels boring and neither are they completely conflict-free.

My criticism came from the concern that the original poster was going to be losing a great deal of agents and readers somewhere within those first two chapters. But if the poster does not share my concern then more power to them! Again, it's not my vision and writers are free to discard whatever criticism they feel unnecessary. I'm certainly not an agent, nor a literary genius ;)
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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Post by polymath » December 31st, 2010, 1:41 am

I mean quiet in the sense a protagonist's troubles, problems, trials, dilemmas, in other words, complications aren't roiling at full boil from the get-go, more of an impending simmer. Quiet where a narrative takes its time to engage readers in the participation mystique of exotic proxy reality settings, takes time to orient readers to time, place, and situation before an escalating tension climb toward climax, from the quiet emotional equilibrium of normal routines promising to lead to great doings followed up with a new normal emotional equilibrium outcome.
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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Post by lmjackson » December 31st, 2010, 1:49 am

polymath wrote:I mean quiet in the sense a protagonist's troubles, problems, trials, dilemmas, in other words, complications aren't roiling at full boil from the get-go, more of an impending simmer. Quiet where a narrative takes its time to engage readers in the participation mystique of exotic proxy reality settings, takes time to orient readers to time, place, and situation before an escalating tension climb toward climax, from the quiet emotional equilibrium of normal routines promising to lead to great doings followed up with a new normal emotional equilibrium outcome.
I must've gotten the wrong impression from the poster's description of the first two chapters. Especially the description that "every little detail" was going to play a vitally important role later on threw me off.

By the above description I would say the majority of fantasy or science fiction novels begin quietly in such a way. As I said, the major conflict isn't going to be present right away. But there's still little miniature "conflicts" if you will that intrigue the reader enough to continue reading.
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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Post by Guardian » December 31st, 2010, 9:43 am

There must be a reason to pause the television, put away the cell phone, and devote an hour to the blob of text in front of them. Perfect is boring.
Everything can be interesting. BTW, have you ever tried that life? No conflict, no cell-phone (I don't have a cell phone in the last five years and I truly enjoy it), no television? The only thing what I can tell you about it, it's anything, but not boring. Try this life for few weeks, then you can actually can see the difference between the "great world with conflict" and "your little world without conflict". Perfect is actually interesting to those whose are capable to invent themselves and capable to enjoy life itself.
Maybe reevaluate who you are writing for, because atm it doesn't sound like it's for the readers. Which is okay. Not everyone needs or wants to be published. BUT, for those that do... there is something called a market out there.
Actually as a writer I must prove, I know that. But I don't have to sacrifice anything at all. There is always a third option and right now I'm trying to find that. Oh, and personally I don't give a damn about the market. Nowaday market is NOT EQUAL with the readers' interest. Nowaday market is all about profit, but not about the quality (There are very few exceptions). As a writer, I don't give about the short term thinking and quick money scheme of the market. I'm writing for the readers.
There's always those artists that have the stance of "If you don't understand what I'm going for, then you must not GET ME." Or even worse: "If you don't understand it, than you're not intellectual enough to GET IT".
I never said that, but as I see you have a great prejudice against intellectual works in general. Actually with this novel I'm intending to give everyone a chance to use their mind and fantasy and have a chance to meditate and take up questions. It's maybe intellectual, but it's not elitist. There is a difference between the two. I'm not considering the readers dumb at all and giving them a chance to read a story which is a bit more complex.
Nobody is asking you to make a "dumb edition". We're trying to help you create a finished product that people (like us) would actually want to read. Isn't that the point?
Partially it's the point, but since I'm the writer and not the readers are writing this story, I must know why exact elements and chapters are in the story and it's my job to make those parts clear. Cutting something is the easiest solution. Finding a good alternative is the hardest. I prefer the last one.
I mean quiet in the sense a protagonist's troubles, problems, trials, dilemmas, in other words, complications aren't roiling at full boil from the get-go, more of an impending simmer. Quiet where a narrative takes its time to engage readers in the participation mystique of exotic proxy reality settings, takes time to orient readers to time, place, and situation before an escalating tension climb toward climax, from the quiet emotional equilibrium of normal routines promising to lead to great doings followed up with a new normal emotional equilibrium outcome.
Yep. This is what I try to achieve. A quiet, but interesting beginning.
Last edited by Guardian on December 31st, 2010, 10:17 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Post by Guardian » December 31st, 2010, 10:03 am

There must be a reason to pause the television, put away the cell phone, and devote an hour to the blob of text in front of them. Perfect is boring.
Everything can be interesting. BTW, have you ever tried that life? No conflict, no cell-phone (I don't have a cell phone in the last five years and I truly enjoy it), no television? The only thing what I can tell you about it, it's anything, but not boring. Try this life for few weeks, then you can actually can see the difference between the "great world with conflict" and "your little world without conflict". Perfect is actually interesting to those whose are capable to invent themselves and capable to enjoy life itself.
Maybe reevaluate who you are writing for, because atm it doesn't sound like it's for the readers. Which is okay. Not everyone needs or wants to be published. BUT, for those that do... there is something called a market out there.
Actually as a writer I must prove myself. I'm well aware of that. But I don't have to sacrifice anything at all to achieve this goal. If I would want a very quick fame and glory, where I must sacrifice everything, then in this case I would be a "writer for hire". But as there is always a third option, right now I'm trying to find that to make this thingy better and solve those problems what my readers mentioned.

Personally I don't care about the market as nowaday market is NOT EQUAL with the readers' interest. Nowaday market is all about profit, but not about the quality (There are very few exceptions). As a writer, I don't care about the short term thinking and quick money scheme of the market. I'm writing for the readers. I was a marketing manager for few years and I can tell you from experience, the market is don't give a damn about what the clients really want. The market just want to sell the product and get a quick profit. There is no problem with that as this is what the market is all about. But I always liked to meditate in longer terms, where both side is satisfied, both the market and the readers. But in this case the primary target must be the client instead of the market as the client, in this case the reader is paying the money, which is turning the wheels of the market. Greater impact on the reader, better profit on the market. But if you consider the market on the first place... less readers, quick profit and then your product is vanishing in the void, between the millions of others. But I don't want my novel to be vanishing in the darkness after a year or two.
There's always those artists that have the stance of "If you don't understand what I'm going for, then you must not GET ME." Or even worse: "If you don't understand it, than you're not intellectual enough to GET IT".
I never said that, but as I see you have a great prejudice against intellectual works in general. Actually with this novel I'm intending to give everyone a chance to use their mind and fantasy and have a chance to meditate and take up questions. It's maybe intellectual, but it's not elitist. There is a difference between the two. I'm not considering the readers dumb at all and giving them a chance to read a story which is a bit more complex.
Nobody is asking you to make a "dumb edition". We're trying to help you create a finished product that people (like us) would actually want to read. Isn't that the point?
Partially it's the point, but since I'm the writer and not the readers are writing this story, I must know why exact elements and chapters are in the story and it's my job to make those parts clear. Cutting something is the easiest solution. Finding a good alternative is the hardest. I prefer the last one.
My criticism came from the concern that the original poster was going to be losing a great deal of agents and readers somewhere within those first two chapters. But if the poster does not share my concern then more power to them! Again, it's not my vision and writers are free to discard whatever criticism they feel unnecessary.
This is why this thread is existing, because I'm not willing to loose them, only a minimal if I have to. As a writer I also must find a balance and know what is serving the best interest of the readers AND also the story, what is giving the hook for the readers.
I'm certainly not an agent, nor a literary genius ;)
Then assuming from that smiley, YOU'RE presumably an agent and / or some sort of literary genius. :) Also thanks for that opening. It's a good reminder that I should read that novel again.
I mean quiet in the sense a protagonist's troubles, problems, trials, dilemmas, in other words, complications aren't roiling at full boil from the get-go, more of an impending simmer. Quiet where a narrative takes its time to engage readers in the participation mystique of exotic proxy reality settings, takes time to orient readers to time, place, and situation before an escalating tension climb toward climax, from the quiet emotional equilibrium of normal routines promising to lead to great doings followed up with a new normal emotional equilibrium outcome.
Yep. This is what I try to achieve. A quiet, but interesting beginning. And in the meantime I realized maybe I should change the tone a bit in the beginning to achieve this.

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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Post by lmjackson » December 31st, 2010, 11:30 am

Guardian wrote:
There's always those artists that have the stance of "If you don't understand what I'm going for, then you must not GET ME." Or even worse: "If you don't understand it, than you're not intellectual enough to GET IT".
I never said that, but as I see you have a great prejudice against intellectual works in general. Actually with this novel I'm intending to give everyone a chance to use their mind and fantasy and have a chance to meditate and take up questions. It's maybe intellectual, but it's not elitist. There is a difference between the two. I'm not considering the readers dumb at all and giving them a chance to read a story which is a bit more complex.
Yes, I'm an English major with a polisci minor because I absolutely DETEST intellectual works. You hit the nail on the head! Brb, telling my professors I can't read and annotate Melville, Hawthorne, or Plato. Lol.

And your welcome for the opening excerpts. Nineteen Eighty-Four is an excellent read, even if it is--as you say--such a "typical" dystopia novel.
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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Post by Guardian » December 31st, 2010, 12:03 pm

Yes, I'm an English major with a polisci minor because I absolutely DETEST intellectual works.
Read "The Eclipse of the Crescent Moon". It's a bit different type of intellectual work, which is really entertaining while it has a unique style.

http://www.amazon.com/Eclipse-Crescent- ... 9631333728

I also detested intellectual works until I read this one. It's a very famous, historical fiction novel, was written in 1899. As in my country it's a mandatory read, there is no citizen who haven't read this one (I read it around four or five times.). The writers in my country are usually written these sort of intellectual works. They're entertaining the reader, while the intellectual stuff is staying in the background, almost invisible, but it's there and it's determining the novel itself (It's working on a subconcious level.). Our writing culture has an interesting, but well known rich spirit and I'm trying to follow that spirit. My present WIP is trying to merge the western writing spirit with the writing spirit of my native country. Basically this is one of the sources of the present problems.

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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Post by lmjackson » December 31st, 2010, 2:50 pm

Guardian wrote:
Yes, I'm an English major with a polisci minor because I absolutely DETEST intellectual works.
Read "The Eclipse of the Crescent Moon". It's a bit different type of intellectual work, which is really entertaining while it has a unique style.

http://www.amazon.com/Eclipse-Crescent- ... 9631333728

I also detested intellectual works until I read this one. It's a very famous, historical fiction novel, was written in 1899. As in my country it's a mandatory read, there is no citizen who haven't read this one (I read it around four or five times.). The writers in my country are usually written these sort of intellectual works. They're entertaining the reader, while the intellectual stuff is staying in the background, almost invisible, but it's there and it's determining the novel itself (It's working on a subconcious level.). Our writing culture has an interesting, but well known rich spirit and I'm trying to follow that spirit. My present WIP is trying to merge the western writing spirit with the writing spirit of my native country. Basically this is one of the sources of the present problems.
I think my sarcasm was lost but I'll definitely check that out! [Definitely glad there's an English translation]
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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Post by Guardian » December 31st, 2010, 3:13 pm

I think my sarcasm was lost...
First I thought it's sarcasm as you intended to write, but as I already met with people who had the very "same combo" (English with a polisci) and they hated intellectual works, I thought it's better if I understand your sentence word by word, then you'll correct me if I'm mistaken. And I'm glad I was mistaken about you. :)

Enjoy the novel. I hope you're going to like it.It's one of my personal favorites from our literature. It's a very accurate historical novel, regardless it's fiction at many places.

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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Post by polymath » December 31st, 2010, 3:22 pm

Sarcasm like verbal irony is challenging to pull off with only words, without verbal intonation and body language for cues. Hyperbole or overstatement, or litotes or understatement work wonders for expressing irony. Then there's courtly irony, damning with faint praise and sly slights. "If not for the courage of the fearless crew . . ." verbal irony and hyperbole right there and courtly irony galore throughout the tv series.
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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Post by wordranger » January 8th, 2011, 11:17 pm

Yikes! When I saw this post, I was sure you were talking about me!
(Since this was my admittedly extremely harsh critique)
I was glad to read down to see others felt the same way. Yes, true, I have not finished it yet to see the payback, but I think I agree with you decision to add a little conflict in there.

There is nothing engaging in the beginning to hold the reader on until they get the payback. The perfect novel, especially one as in-depth and well thought out as CSA appears to be, needs to be a balance of the “unknown’ and the ‘known’ to grasp both the patient and the impatient reader so they are clambering to keep turning those pages.

Good luck!
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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Post by Guardian » January 9th, 2011, 8:30 am

(Since this was my admittedly extremely harsh critique)
I wouldn't call it as harsh, but I call it as honest. It was an opinion what I accepted, because I also feel you was right in that matter.
but I think I agree with you decision to add a little conflict in there.
A good critique, like yours, is always helping to make these sort of decisions. :)

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