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Posts Tagged ‘story structure’

Still working on BECOME: TO CATCH THE LIGHTNING–though chores are pretty much getting in the way today.

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I finished the scene I was working one.

More important, I got that story structure more or less ironed out for six different important characters. I’d post a bit of it here, but . . . that would give away too much of the plot.

What’s most important about that is that it not only straightened out my idea of how the story needs to go, it also generated a few new ideas.

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I’ve come to the conclusion that the problems I’m having getting traction with BECOME: TO CATCH THE LIGHTNING have to do with story structure.

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Now, I’m a discovery writer (I believe I’ve mentioned that a few times before), but a modified one. That is, I don’t outline the entire story before I start writing, but I do like to identify a few sign posts along the way so I can keep my story moving in the right direction. At a minimum, the inciting incident (where the story problem first crops up) and key event (where that story problem becomes more personal for the hero), the midpoint or turning point, and the climax. Mostly, from there, I sort of let the story structure flow instinctively and only double check it for pacing during the revisions.

I know all of these points for this story.

Or, more precisely, I know all of that for the main story line. But the problem is, this story doesn’t have a single central story and a couple of subplots. It’s a much more complex story structure.

What I have planned is something more like this:

My main character or hero, Gaian, has three possible destinies. Obviously, he can only fulfill one of them. But two other characters, let’s call them secondary heroes, will each fulfill one of the other two destinies. (One in a fairly typical heroic character arc, the other in a redemption arc.) And all of that has to come together for the climax to happen. So they have their own plots–and story structures–that are not subplots and have to braid into Gaian’s main plot.

Then there are a few other characters who will also have at least subplots of their own. A couple of them, like the antagonist, have plot lines that probably lie somewhere between a subplot and one of those three main plots.

And, though they all need to end at about the same time (the climax), they all start at different points–a couple of them twenty years after most of the others. No wonder I haven’t felt like the story was coming together properly.

So now what I think I need to do is step back a little and identify the main points of each of those plots/subplots–all the points: Inciting incident, key event, first plot point (turn into Act 2), first pinch point, midpoint/turning point/second plot point, second pinch point, third plot point (turn into Act 3), and the climax.

This doesn’t mean I have to stop writing while I do this, of course. This is a first draft and I’m still primarily in Gaian’s main plot.

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I have learned through experience that when I struggle with a story as much as I have been struggling with BECOME lately, it means there’s something wrong.

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It’s time to take a step back and try to figure out what and how to fix it.

And yesterday I might have come up with an answer. Maybe. Not sure yet.

I’ve always known that the structure of BECOME was going to be odd.

I really feel I need to include the background of the brothers’ relationship as adolescents. In the latest iteration, I’ve tried to do that through flashbacks, but that just interrupts the flow of the story and forces the early part of the brothers’ story to be very episodic–only the most important events can be included that way.

Then, of course, there are some important events in the protagonists early manhood. In part, because of the weight of those extensive flashbacks, I’ve been forced to keep those somewhat episodic, too. Because it’s already taken way too long to get to the inciting incident.

And, even then, there’s still going to have to be a major skip in the story because there are a couple of important characters who haven’t even been born yet. (That part, at least, has the possibility of being somewhat fluid. I could make some changes in who those characters are, though I’m not sure I want to. I’ve intended more to use that as a cut-off between the first and second books of the series–which, unfortunately, tends to end book one on something of a cliffhanger.)

The result of all of this is that I’m not happy with the story as it’s developed so far. And if I’m not happy with it, I can’t expect anyone else to be either. So, then, the question is what to do about it.

I think, though I haven’t made a final decision yet, that one answer might be to break it up. For example, I might just reconstruct the brothers’ early story–I have a lot more written than I’ve been able to include in those flashbacks–and publish that in novella form. Maybe certain other parts of the early story, too–in a separate novella. Then start this first part of the main story line much closer to that inciting incident and move forward.

I’ve got to think about this some more before I jump in. It’s an unconventional way to publish an epic fantasy. It’s not too unusual to publish prequels, but they’re usually published after the series is complete, not before. On the other hand, that’s one of the advantages of indie publishing–it allows me to try unconventional things when I think it’s the right way to handle the story. And I can always bundle the novellas together. Even include then with that first book.

Well, we’ll see.

 

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Three-day weekends really mess up my sense of time. I nearly forgot to blog today, ’cause in some ways is feels like Saturday, knowing I have tomorrow off.

I’ve mentioned before that BECOME has a somewhat unusual story structure.

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The relationship between the brothers is important and I’ve tried to show its development. But that’s given the beginning of the book a somewhat episodic structure. And some of my critique partners who are reading the early chapters have a problem with that.

Actually, I’m coming to suspect that I have more of a problem with it than I’ve realized, too. I think that’s at least part of why I haven’t been making better progress with this story. It’s disconcerting to think that I’m almost 44,000 words in and I might not have gotten to the real beginning of the story, yet.

I’m not quite sure what to do about that other than keep going, hope the pace picks up when I do get to the meat of the story, and then figure out how to fix it–what needs to be cut or moved.

As Shannon Hale said,

Writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.

 

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As I’ve said many times before, I’m a modified discovery writer. This means that often there are things I don’t know about the story I’m actually writing. This is particularly true of BECOME.

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And it’s not just the unorthodox, non-linear story structure.

Right now, I don’t know how many books this series will be.

This isn’t completely unusual. When I started the DUAL MAGICS series

Dual Magics 1-3 Boxed SetI thought it would be a trilogy. It ended up as four books.

I’m 33,000 words into this book. I know it’ll take more than one book to finish this story. I just don’t see yet whether it’ll be two or three. I think that’s partly because I don’t yet see the right places where the story breaks into separate parts. But it’s definitely too much story to fit into one book.

Well, while I figure that out, all I can do is keep writing. That’s what discovery writers do, after all.

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Thanks to some comments in a writer’s forum I belong to (Hatrack River Writers Workshop) about what is–and is not–a flashback and other kinds of story structures that are not linear, I think I finally have a good idea how BELONG needs to flow.

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As I’ve said before, BECOME is loosely based on the Hercules myth/legend cycle–turned upside-down. What has intrigued me most about that story is that Herc, at the end, ascends and becomes a god.

Now, exciting as his story is, it’s undeniable that outside of killing monsters and similar feats, Hercules’s life was a disaster. Admittedly, Hera was responsible for most of that, but still . . . what about his life prepared him to be a god of anything (except possibly killing monsters)?

So, Become is mostly about what happens when my character, who has led a blessed and very successful life (upside-down Hercules, remember) is suddenly confronted with the first thing he can’t do easily–become a god. That’s when the story really gets moving. But there’s a lot of story before that, too. Both about the hero and about his near-twin half brother (very like Hercules) who is his sometimes ally-friend, sometimes opponent and who will be the one to try to take advantage of that failure.

I now think I know how to start the story much closer to that key event and then let the earlier story come in, hopefully organically. We’ll see how well I succeed at that.

I have a reading list of a couple of books that have done something similar to look into, too.

Of course, what I really should be working on is MAGE STORM. I guess my muse just doesn’t agree with my plans.

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