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is there a novel in there or did i just do a short story?

Posted: January 21st, 2011, 3:33 pm
by joshuef

So i recently started down the road of writing. I've wanted to do it for a while, and just never given it a go. Then one day with some wine and creativity on the brain and sat down and splurged out some book. I didn't have a plan, or plot. I just started writing and went with what I got.

What I got was a small bit of some funny, interesting stuff (according to my friends). What I didn't get is a plot, or indeed any direction.

I am now struggling. I can't decide if what I did was just start and write a short story, and so I should just end it a bit better with what I have got and then try something new. OR... or I just need to figure a plot and then I can take it from there.

I like the characters, but it isn't easy to write anymore because I am stressed as it is a bit pointless (plotless...).

Anyone else done this, any advice on whether I should just shelve this and call it a learning experience (like... learn to have at least some idea of something prior to beginning) or if trying to tease a story out of this might be a good idea, seen as I have characters I like and when I know where they are going they are fun to write...

Any words from more experienced people would be gratefully received...

If anyone wants to critique partner me on this that would rock too (though I know that's for a different bit of forum.


Re: is there a novel in there or did i just do a short story?

Posted: January 21st, 2011, 3:42 pm
by Margo
It could be either, depending on how much you want to develop it. I've had a short story develop into a novel. I've taken novel characters and written short stories that occured before or after the time period covered in a novel. I'd suggest doing a bit of studying on short story and novel structure and see which one draws you and seems best suited to what you already know about your characters and story. It seems a tad early to give up on this idea, but that's just my impression.

Re: is there a novel in there or did i just do a short story?

Posted: January 21st, 2011, 3:55 pm
by polymath
If it is, indeed, plotless, then I don't think it's a novel or a short story. By definition, a narrative whether of long or short forms must have a plot. There might be one or the other hidden in there somewhere waiting for the plot's realization.

A useful place to start is on the main dramatic complication. What is it? A main dramatic complication is a high magnitude problem pushing and pulling on a protagonist so that the protagonist wants to do something about it, struggles to do something about it, and either fails or succeeds. Long forms require a broader, higher magnitude problem than short forms, and vice versa, a more compact, lower magnitude problem for short forms. A main dramatic complication compels a profound transformation, which in turn in a final outcome gives readers a satisfying emotional payoff.

Re: is there a novel in there or did i just do a short story?

Posted: January 21st, 2011, 5:23 pm
by Guardian
Everything starts as a short story or as a pointless story.

Example #1: My trilogy is started as a one page long short narrative story years ago. There the narrator had a name and there was a short narrative and some visuals that told a pontless story (It meant something only to me.). I written that one page... honestly I don't now even today why I written that one page. I written it for fun... maybe. Now, years later that one page is the opening of my flagship WIP (It's the core of the entire story. Even the title, "Crystal Shade" is originating from that "pointless" one page.). The character is also the very same, but in the present the character is a fully developed character and the world is a fully developed world. The difference between the one page long story, that simple "flash" idea, and the trilogy is many years. So the result is: one page long pointless, little enchanting story ----> trilogy + mini series scripts.

Example #2: My other WIP which had no true plot, no characters, just a concept. It raised only questions, without any answers (In the beginning it was a really pointless story with some dialogue sequences and an idea which revolved around a paradox.). Now this second WIP is a completed webseries with a fully developed world, with a story, which has a really strong and twisted plot, good characters, etc, etc... and now I'm doing a comic novel adaptation from it. But again, the development from the pointless one to the polished one is two, almost three years. Result: pointless lines and concept ----> webseries + comic book.

Example #3: Two or three lines long idea without any true plot. Result: five pages long short story, no more. But it can be developed to a complete series anytime. Time of development, a day.

So, the real question is: what do you want to do with your story? Do you want to create a short story or a novel? It's up to you. As you can see from my example you can create many things from a single idea or one page. The difference is the time of development. It can take years or it can take days.

Actually what you've just started is called: world and story development. ;)

P.S.: Joshuef. What is the length of this little "idea", "pointless plot" of yours? If it's short 1-4k words, tell me and I'm gladly take a look at it. Just drop me a PM.

Re: is there a novel in there or did i just do a short story?

Posted: January 22nd, 2011, 1:31 pm
by Falls Apart
What you have isn't a novel or a short story; it's a starting point, which is, in my opinion, a great place to be at. You can take everything you like out of your "pointless" piece and come up with a way to make it better. Do you love the characters, but can't see a way to use them in the setting? Relocate them. Do you think that the world it takes place in is great, but don't see any real depth in the people you created? Kill 'em off and make some new ones. As soon as you get a good idea of the characters and the world, conflicts should already be developing in your head. And as soon as you've got good primary and sub conflicts, you've got your plot. Good luck! :)

Re: is there a novel in there or did i just do a short story?

Posted: January 22nd, 2011, 1:44 pm
by lac582
What I think it comes down to is: at what length can the heart of what you're trying to tell be done in a dramatically satisfying way? The heart is that spark that compelled you to write in the first place. Was it a character? A theme?

I don't know what genre you're writing in, but take, for example, Harry Potter. Jo Rowling's on the record saying the idea germinated with Harry's character - she saw this boy wizard, fully-formed, in her head. Figuring out what to do with that character - well, it'd be nearly impossible to satisfy one's curiosity about a boy wizard in just a short story. You need to be immersed in the world, you need to watch how he handles growing up, etc., to feel dramatically satisfied.

Whereas the heart of a lot of science fiction short stories are all built around exploring a single question, "what if...?". Those writers don't need lengthy backstory or large casts of characters or subplots to raise the question, then answer it. Compare the short story "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long" to the feature-length film adapted from it, "AI: Artificial Intelligence". Or "Minority Report" the story to "Minority Report" the film. In both cases the film's plot feels overdrawn. The extra plot was filler - it didn't add to my understanding of the answer to the dramatic question.

So figure out what your central dramatic question is-- "How does never married woman in her 40s find peace with being alone?" "What would happen if you found out you had a long lost twin?" etc. Is the answer something that can be found in a short space, or does it need a lot of detail, backstory, scenes between different characters, etc?

Re: is there a novel in there or did i just do a short story?

Posted: January 24th, 2011, 6:09 am
by joshuef
Thank Yous!

Great replies that have inspired me to not give up on the whole thing. I will be trying to think about what I can use from it for other projects... probably take a couple of characters out of there and into a real story where I have done, at least, a bit of a plot plan. I think the problem here for me was after a little bit I really had no idea where it was going; this realisation kind of stunted the whole thing afterwards.

But again, thanks for the great replies. Really helpful!