One more chapter to go...

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Megs6703
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One more chapter to go...

Post by Megs6703 » July 13th, 2011, 1:36 pm

...and I can't seem to figure out how to start it.

I've worked on this book for months, slowly building up to this major conflict at the end.....and now that battle's over, and I know the random things I need to tie up in the end, and I know how the last few paragraphs will go....but I can't seem to find a way to start the last chapter! It's driving me insane!

Here's the deal. My MC, Grace, nearly dies in this battle. At the end of the chapter, she loses consciousness. So I can either-

1. Start the next chapter right there in that moment or
2. Start the next chapter after some time has passed.

I went back and re-read a few books from authors I like who have dealt with this situation, and the trend (at least among the books on my shelf) seems to be to skip a little bit of time, whether it be a few hours or several days or even weeks.

Do you have any preference? Does it bother you not to know what happened at that very moment? (Would it help if I posted the last couple of paragraphs that I'm talking about, where she passes out?)
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Re: One more chapter to go...

Post by dios4vida » July 13th, 2011, 1:53 pm

I had a situation like that in my last WIP. I started with my protag returning to consciousness. He got the 411 on everything that happened while he was out from his partner, we did a little resolution, the end. Of course, that's neither the only nor "right" way to deal with the situation.

I'd say go with whatever feel right to you. Write out both options and see how they flow. You can always scrap it if it stinks.
Brenda :)

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Re: One more chapter to go...

Post by oldhousejunkie » July 13th, 2011, 1:54 pm

I hate endings. They're awkward, for one.

My only advice would be to go with what your average reader would expect. Or rather what you would expect if you were reading your novel.

I originally wrote a cliff hanger ending and when I revealed it in my synopsis, the people reading it had a fit. So I had to add a chapter, and it was oh-so-difficult. But what I did was jump forward by six months. I had to do this in order to let historical events come to pass because my characters could not return to a certain place until these events had transpired. So it was an easy decision, but still hard to write.

Good luck to you!

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Re: One more chapter to go...

Post by Megs6703 » July 13th, 2011, 2:35 pm

Thanks you two!

Brenda- good idea to write both and see what happens. I think I'll do that. Typically when I get stuck on a section I just skip it and move on to a part that I already have figured out- then I just have to go back and fill in the gaps and make it match up. For whatever reason, that is just NOT working now!

Caroline- I completely agree that endings are so hard!! I also think that's part of my problem- purely psychological. I know it's "The End" so I'm struggling with it.

-Megan
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Re: One more chapter to go...

Post by Leila » July 13th, 2011, 3:26 pm

First up, welcome to the Forums!

A few thoughts come to mind re the last chapter. If you have a gut feel about what best suits your character, go with that. I guess you've already thought about what happens in their future, or possible futures as a result of this battle? If not, going forward with that element can help you track back later. Actually, along those lines, Margo Lerwill has developed the most amazing list of questions/considerations for world-building on her blog: http://urbanpsychopomp.blogspot.com. I’m not sure what your genre is, hers is urban fantasy, but the list is a really great way of thinking about your characters in context with the world they belong. And her list can be adapted across genres. I know you are focusing on the last chapter, but if you really feel stuck there may be something in that list which may help unlock that final element for you.

Are you an edit as you go or edit later kind of person? I'm an edit later type. I like to enjoy the writing and then worry about the editing later. I only ask because if you are an edit later person, then you will have ample opportunity to let your story 'sit' whilst you edit. Many things come out in the editing and then polishing process, as I'm sure you know, so there's plenty of time to see how whatever ending you come up with works in the overall scheme of the story as well as for your character.

Do you have anyone you feel comfortable with to read your work when you've finished? Another perspective might also be handy in that regard.

In any case, best of luck with the final chapter. I'm sure you'll find the right fit.

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Re: One more chapter to go...

Post by CharleeVale » July 13th, 2011, 4:53 pm

OK, I do have an opinion. I really don't like summary. So I personally really, really, really, don't like the character losing synopsis and catching up via somebody else. It's one of the things that drove me CRAZY in Mockingjay.

You readers have lived this much of the story with the character, they don't want to live the resolution through someone else. They want to be resolved.

So I would say as little time as possible.


CV

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Re: One more chapter to go...

Post by polymath » July 13th, 2011, 6:26 pm

A final chapter's sole purpose is wrap up, or more technically, the denouement scene, act, or chapter, reporting the final outcome of the main dramatic complication and any other lesser complications that need finalization. Leading into a denouement is a final crisis, the moment of full realization of the full circumstances of the complication.

The final crisis might be a moment of decision, deciding to make a noble sacrifice, deciding the final blow of a hammer will be the last blow before quiting, the decision to throw the cards into the air and see where they fall, and so on. Or discovering the meaning of the last piece of a puzzle, riddle, etc., and then acting on it. Or a final reversal of circumstances. The nemesis is as spent as the protagonist and retreats, or refuses to engage further, then pressing the advantage when all seemed lost. Decision, discovery, and/or reversal are the main points of any crisis that bridges the various acts, scenes, chapters, or turns. Five major turns, seven minor turns.

A denouement also must restore emotional equilibrium that was upset in an opening. For instance, an infant is orphaned by a consumately evil man. The evil man cannot accomplish his goals so long as the boy lives. The main dramatic complication. The infant grows up and learns how to defeat the evil man. The young adult defeats the evil man. Denouement.

Whether a jump transition in time between the last falling action scene and the final crisis sets up for the denouement is the question I'd ask. Or skip the loss of consciousness and jump transition because the protagonist cannot make a decision, discovery, or experience a reversal of circumstance while unconscious, though that's not absolute. Loss of consciousness near an ending is challenging in that regard. Unless the loss of consciousness leads directly to a decision, discovery, and/or reversal that sets up for the final outcome of the main dramatic complication. Denouement.
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Re: One more chapter to go...

Post by Megs6703 » July 13th, 2011, 9:53 pm

Leila- That world-building list is AMAZING!! Thanks so much for sharing. My novel is YA urban fantasy as well (isn’t everybody’s?! At least it seems that way sometimes!) so I’m definitely going to tear through that list when I start editing. I’m an “edit when I’m finished” type, for the most part. Although sometimes I can’t stop thinking about something I’ve already written and I’ll have to go back and work on it. I try not to though, because I could seriously write and re-write forever, I think.

CV- I think you and I have the same feeling. I keep thinking that if I skip very much time it will be like information dump when I have to go back and explain what’s happened, and that’s super annoying. I really like what you said about the reader having gone through the whole story with the MC and not wanting to hear the resolution through someone else. That’s an excellent point, and I hadn’t thought of it that way.

Polymath- You’ve made me completely re-think what I was going to do with my last chapter- thanks so much. It’s going to be so much better than what I was originally planning- and I’m so excited to go write it now!! (Until I get stuck again…at which point I’ll just come back here and whine.)
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Re: One more chapter to go...

Post by CharleeVale » July 13th, 2011, 10:25 pm

Margo quotes this in her blog, but it is the god of all world building lists.

http://www.sfwa.org/2009/08/fantasy-wor ... questions/

CV

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Re: One more chapter to go...

Post by washingtonwriter1968 » July 13th, 2011, 11:58 pm

Sometimes, and especially after an extremely tense climax I need a break from it all. I look at the resolution time; much like I do pillow time after a good romp! :oops:
I almost need to catch my breath. I think that is why most people have a time delay after the climax. Though I like both types of endings, I prefer the ones that leave me with at least some questions like what happened during that time I am not told about.

Of course to much time in-between irritates me. I think my author is setting me up for a sequel. I guess if you are intending to write more that is OK.

I would say set it up to be only a few days later. then it would seem like you joined your MC as they were trying to process what had just happened and decide how this would effect the rest of their life. Something like....

'Had that only been a few days ago?' ,I thought. It didn't seem that an event that changed me so completely....... or something like that.
I always like the stories that irrevocably change a Character and I like to hear a MC tell me how it changed them.
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Re: One more chapter to go...

Post by trixie » July 15th, 2011, 10:23 am

I struggled with this same issue. I had the climax and all the action written, but I needed to somehow pull all the pieces together, tie up some loose ends, and put the baby to sleep.

Instead of adding another few chapters of having the other characters get the MC from that climactic situation and to the place of healing, and then write all the scenes--showing not telling--of how each player on the chess board returned to their specific place, I opted instead for a time break.

I began the next chapter a few days later. However, I do cringe at the stale technique I used to get there. At the end of the previous chapter, I had the MC fade into unconsciousness. When she awoke, it was a few days later. That was a cop out on my part and it's something that needs to be fixed in the next round. To me, it's akin to having your story start in a dream state--it's generic and should be avoided. But for now, I'm okay with using the passage of time to bring the reader to the official end.

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Re: One more chapter to go...

Post by dios4vida » July 15th, 2011, 11:26 am

trixie wrote:However, I do cringe at the stale technique I used to get there. At the end of the previous chapter, I had the MC fade into unconsciousness. When she awoke, it was a few days later. That was a cop out on my part and it's something that needs to be fixed in the next round. To me, it's akin to having your story start in a dream state--it's generic and should be avoided. But for now, I'm okay with using the passage of time to bring the reader to the official end.
I know it's been done a lot so I agree that it's a bit stale, but I think the "wake up from unconsciousness" is still an okay way to handle things. I mean, you're totally right, trixie. Having to show the characters walk away from the final battle and get back to their thing would be a total droll. At that point, readers want their ribbons tied into a nifty little bow, all the loose ends fixed up, so they can walk away with a lovely gift of a great novel. To have the main character miss a bit of that boring stuff and then come back for a "yeah, everything's fine" wrap-up still seems okay to me.

Or am I too attached to that cliche?
Brenda :)

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Re: One more chapter to go...

Post by Megs6703 » July 15th, 2011, 1:44 pm

Thanks for your input washingtonwriter, Trixie, and Brenda!!

I totally agree about the awkwardness of dealing with everything that would occur after the battle. What I've done at this point is skipped to the next afternoon when she wakes up. But I'm not really doing an information dump at that point....there's no "Let's fill you in on every single thing that's happened since you passed out." I think it's working okay so far, but I'll have to re-read once it's finished and see. I'm a little concerned that it's too dialogue-heavy, so I'm sure I'll need to do a little balancing with that.
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Re: One more chapter to go...

Post by dios4vida » July 15th, 2011, 1:58 pm

Megs6703 wrote:What I've done at this point is skipped to the next afternoon when she wakes up. But I'm not really doing an information dump at that point....there's no "Let's fill you in on every single thing that's happened since you passed out." I think it's working okay so far, but I'll have to re-read once it's finished and see. I'm a little concerned that it's too dialogue-heavy, so I'm sure I'll need to do a little balancing with that.
Yay, Megs!! So glad we could help spark something to help you get it finished up.

I had a thought on what might make the "wake up from unconsciousness" way of handling things work. At the end of the battle our hero(ine) is overcome by the stress or injuries and fades away. When they come back - and I think this is the important part - how much have they missed? At the end of my last WIP I had my hero wake up after a few hours. All he had to ask was if he'd gotten all of the bad guys. His partner says yes, they're all gone, the portal that let them into this world had been closed. You did it, good for you, the world's safe again. I think the ending was pretty successful and none of my betas had any complaints about it.

What would make it clunky or "telling" would be having to recount the entire last half of the battle or major changes that had occured during their nap. Things that would be world-shaking or major endings to the main conflict. I think that anything we've been working up to or looking forward to resolving needs to happen in the present. The only things that should happen while our hero(ine) is out of the picture are things the reader isn't really dying to know.

What do y'all think?
Brenda :)

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Re: One more chapter to go...

Post by polymath » July 15th, 2011, 2:35 pm

dios4vida wrote:
Megs6703 wrote:What I've done at this point is skipped to the next afternoon when she wakes up. But I'm not really doing an information dump at that point....there's no "Let's fill you in on every single thing that's happened since you passed out." I think it's working okay so far, but I'll have to re-read once it's finished and see. I'm a little concerned that it's too dialogue-heavy, so I'm sure I'll need to do a little balancing with that.
Yay, Megs!! So glad we could help spark something to help you get it finished up.

I had a thought on what might make the "wake up from unconsciousness" way of handling things work. At the end of the battle our hero(ine) is overcome by the stress or injuries and fades away. When they come back - and I think this is the important part - how much have they missed? At the end of my last WIP I had my hero wake up after a few hours. All he had to ask was if he'd gotten all of the bad guys. His partner says yes, they're all gone, the portal that let them into this world had been closed. You did it, good for you, the world's safe again. I think the ending was pretty successful and none of my betas had any complaints about it.

What would make it clunky or "telling" would be having to recount the entire last half of the battle or major changes that had occured during their nap. Things that would be world-shaking or major endings to the main conflict. I think that anything we've been working up to or looking forward to resolving needs to happen in the present. The only things that should happen while our hero(ine) is out of the picture are things the reader isn't really dying to know.

What do y'all think?
A concern I'd have with both dios4vida's and Megs6703 scenarios from what's given is the hero/heroine/protagonist isn't being proactive while unconscious. If being unconscious is of import and proactive then I'd be good with it. If not, I have doubts about it. A protagonist whose lights go out and things happen meanwhile is no longer central to the dramatic action. He, she, or it is removed from the stage or at least no longer under the spotlight. Readers might have difficulty bridging that gap. Being near an ending is even more problematic from potentially seeming like a coincidence. But again, no absolutes.
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