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Thread: In a Pickle

  1. #1
    Emerging Anew tjwriter's Avatar
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    Unhappy In a Pickle

    I know have mentioned in some posts that I am working on my first novel, which is a fantasy. I believe it will epic, but as it is constantly evolving, that may change.

    The problem is that I did not create a "why it has to be this way" in my main conflict. I created classes for my characters to belong to. Think Druid, Ranger, etc. It's around those lines but unique (as far as I have read) for my story.

    The MC is a specific class that is rare and the only one able to wield the weapon to defeat the evil man and his army, yet with the right tools the man can wield the weapon as well. The weapon has been used before by an ancestor of MC.

    I guess I got to thinking too much (a common problem) and now feel like I can't continue until I know why it has to be the MC and why exactly the weapon works. I figure that really leaves me two options:
    1. Go back and write out a brief backstory about the history of the weapon and how it was used the first time, making it specific to the class.
    2. Continue working on the story, see if the situation resolves itself, and if not go back and do #1.
    Any suggestions or ideas about the best route to take? I feel like such an idiot for not seeing this before. The parts I have worked on just came out without much effort and my brain decided to ruin that process. :Smack:
    Last edited by tjwriter; 02-27-2005 at 07:04 PM. Reason: "The evil" just sounds stupid - don't know what I was thinking (or not).

  2. #2
    I aim to misbehave Uncarved's Avatar
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    you could always go with the "sword in the stone" theory.... have the entity that wields the weapon have to be of pure blood, pure spirit, etc, something that tests him. When he realises he can power the weapon, perhaps that answers a internal quest? I'm just thinking outloud, I'm sure you've already thought of this though.

  3. #3
    excessively spartan preyer's Avatar
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    i'm not sure if enough information is there to offer a bit of opinion. of the two options you provided, i think i'd opt for the second one. but, if i understand the problem correctly, it sounds as if you're going to wind-up doing number one eventually. i think a reader will naturally want to know why the MC can use the weapon, eh? that doesn't necessarily mean you have to tell the reader right from the beginning, either. it could be mentioned in book two, you think? there's got to be four or five different ways to go on that. are you writing it from start to finish or skipping around and doing scenes as they interest you? i tend to do the latter, but there's usually a mental structure in my head. having just recently attempted a trilogy-type/length project, even i broke down and put some thoughts into better semblence, then on paper, else i lose track pretty easily due to the complexity of storylines. that's why hoping it works itself out may not be the best option, but since you don't know if it's a trilogy or not, that makes it more difficult to answer, eh? if i knew it was a trilogy, i'd probably go right to the second option after some more thought. then again, don't you have a slightly different pacing with massive stories as opposed to just really long ones?

    especially at the end of a trilogy, though, i think i'd feel somewhat cheated if all the questions hadn't been answered, and that/those question/s being answered seems pretty intrinsic to reader satisfaction in this case.

    i think this is a good question because it illustrates the importance of having *some* kind of idea of the project's scope beforehand. if it's 'just' a regular novel-size book, you might have some leeway. in a trilgoy, on the other hand, i'd definitely make the decision as soon as possible so that it doesn't have a far-reaching ripple-effect later in the story.

  4. #4
    Emerging Anew tjwriter's Avatar
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    Post Some Further Information

    This story originally started as my NaNo project, but I didn't finish it in time. However, it's taken on a life of its own and I just stick the pen to the paper as I mostly write when I am on campus and I don't own a laptop.

    As much as this story has evolved from my original idea, I am not sure which direction it is going to head. It's been like reading a book in my head, and I just copy the words to paper. I rarely think really hard about it, its just there. I write the scene and then ask myself, "What happens next?" It's analogous to flipping the page.

    Of course, it's the first time the above has happened, so perhaps I am just uncomfortable with it and thinking too much. I could get psychological with this for days. My husband gives me a hard time for over-analyzing everything.

    As for option 2 leading back to option 1, it's possible. I am not sure. It's possible with the 2nd, or really either, that everything could change and the solution could present itself.

    I am leaning toward option 2, but I value a lot of the input from here and thought other people might have experienced similar situations.

    I had considered putting up a more specific summary of the story here that might make it clearer. It lists the basic premise and a few details, and I don't believe it to be too revealing. If anyone wants to see, I will add it.

  5. #5
    excessively spartan preyer's Avatar
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    how you described the way it's getting written is the way i like to write. so, maybe i'm just used to it and don't think it's any worse of a way to go than anyone else's. however... i retract 100% if you're doing a trilogy. you're better off knowing how deep the waters are before jumping in if there's the possibility that your story gets out of hand. how i write is pretty loose, but i also know whether or not it's going to be a normal book or just a huge story or a trilogy. even for the trilogy i'd started i only outlined the first bit just to kind of set the stage for most of the rest of it. my biggest problem *was* knowing i wanted a trilogy, so i started adding *too* much stuff, especially characters and side-plots because i was thinking, 'crap, how am i going to filll 1200 pages of story with just these few people?' before the first book became even halfway done, unbelievably i wrote the end, lol. i did that, though, for the specific reason of seeing if all these little ideas, sub-plots and side-characters i had could be wrapped up in an entertaining way. i feel it worked out pretty well, so when i return to that story, i'll be using most of those ideas, discarding others.

    i just don't want to see anyone writing a set of books for the next year and getting to the end and having to redo most of it over something silly. it's been awhile since reading much fantasy, but do people really want to know the author's definition of how magick works anymore than they want to know how a new vampire society functions? maybe, i don't know, that's why i ask. i just think with such an ambitious project, it's going to be easier removing than adding to it once the first draft is done. and, really, can what you want be accomplished concisely without huge sub-plots and adding in tons of characters and scenes? i hate suggesting ways on how to do these things because i'm a hack and you don't want to take *my* advice on how a story should progress unless you're writing a porn script, but you've got a lot of options open to you... which doesn't necessarily equate to a good thing, lol.

    i'd whined once that i was having trouble deciding which of a thousand paths to go down in my trilogy. i say whined because i think i harped about it, heh heh. so, what i did was just wrote a lot of middle scenes hoping it'd work itself out. never having a problem with it before, i was confident that would be the case. well, that was my last WIP, if that tells you anything. i also made the mistake of approaching it like a regular story where i put in a bunch of stuff that i do to challenge myself, which just promptly overwhelmed me. i don't start off with a theme, focus, or specific direction... that comes later for me as i think about the story. i found that in this case that was detrimental which lead to it not being fun which lead to it being set aside, and that's not something i want to see happen here.

    i guess my best advice here is to have a strong focus on what the story is and where it's going. yeah, i know, that's kinda vague advice, so i'm sorry about that. if you want, put it up in share your work. if you ask specifically for that kind of help, i (and a lot of others there, too) am pretty good at narrowing things down and opening up some options. but, since i try to steer away from that type of 'advice,' i pretty much have to be asked to do that. i've helped a few others (so they claim) with large stories that have gone fuzzy at some point, but since it's usually a rather labour-intensive task, i don't get involved in them too often anymore unless goaded very nicely, lol. (for some reason it's always females writing a fantasy story who i seem to 'help' like this. i wonder why that is?) if you want that from me, it's there for the asking, but i'm otherwise reluctant to tell someone how i think their story should go unless it's just completely out-of-whack. if you're like me, though, you *like* wrestling with the story a little bit.

  6. #6
    A Work in Progress aadams73's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tjosban

    The MC is a specific class that is rare and the only one able to wield the weapon to defeat the evil, yet with the right tools the evil can wield the weapon as well. The weapon has been used before by an ancestor of MC.

    You could always reveal that the weapon was created by the MC ancestors and that somewhere along the way "the evil" and the MC had enough in common that the evil too might be able to use the weapon. Perhaps a common ancestor?

  7. #7
    I really do look like this. azbikergirl's Avatar
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    I had a similar dilemma in my current novel WIP. The reason for the MC to be where he is depends heavily on something that happened roughly 200 years earlier, but he doesn't know that until near the end. I had hoped to have it "come to me" by the time I got to where I needed to know the details of the previous incident, but it didn't.

    When I got to that point, I had to stop the current story to work out those details. Once I had it all decided, I could tweak parts of the novel and continue on. I found it distressing because I had so much of the current story worked out, leaving few options for the backstory part. I'd sort of pidgeonholed myself by waiting. If I had it to do over, I would work the backstory stuff out early on.
    Karen
    writing as KC May


  8. #8
    practical experience, FTW Nateskate's Avatar
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    Simple suggestions. Write a one paragraph beginning, middle and ending. It's important that you have an idea where you are going.

    There are multiple ways to introduce a bit of backstory, or ways to make something relevent. Bring the protagonist to a place where he has a dream or vision. Most myths presume a supernatural-unseen realm where this is possible. A second way is to bring them in contact with a "Seer"-prophet. In this way, you can introduce something out of the blue without a major re-write.

    In a sense, it's the way Tolkien did it. In the Hobbit, the ring had little relevence except as a magic ring to forward what was a chidlren's story. Suddenly, Tolkien was compelled by demand for a sequel to find something relevent in the first story. So, he chose the "Ring". The Lord of the Ring is not really a sequel. He uses Gandalf, making him more of a prophetic figure in the second book, who in one sitting explains to Frodo how the ring is relevant.

    You have the out of the blue meeting. The prophet (even in Sci Fi you have prophets-deep space nine anyone) comes by, introduces a twist. You have a destiny. And as was said already, use a "Sword in the stone" twist; only the chosen can weild this weapon.

  9. #9
    Emerging Anew tjwriter's Avatar
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    Another update

    I posted a similar but slightly more detailed description of my story on my blog. If anyone was confused due to lack of more information, it might be helpful. I figure I will be deciding on Tuesday what I will be doing with this and get to work on it.

    I really value the opinions here and appreciate everyone that has thus far given input. I always like to see the direction others take because it can lead to new ideas for me. In fact, I have a few things rolling around the space between the ears now. So thanks to all of you, and hopefully a few more can give some input.

  10. #10
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    I recommend giving yourself half an hour or so and just brainstorming on the nature and background of the weapon and the main character. No pressure, no thoughts of making this into something you'll include in the book. Just -- notes. See what kind of answers your brain throws out when you've got your undivided attention on the problem at hand.

    Half an hour isn't a large investment of time, and if it gets you moving again it's well worth the side trip.

    I did this several times during the first draft of my WIP (also fantasy). I ended up not using a lot of what I came up with, but it generally gave me the courage to continue.

    Except when it showed me that I had a deeper problem that I had to go back and fix, of course. But at least then I knew what the underlying problem was.

    (I'd also recommend thinking about it in terms of the relationship between main character, villain, and weapon... I think you'll get more satisfying results that way.)

  11. #11
    Registered curmudgeon katdad's Avatar
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    Why are there classes?

    Is there some logical reason for why there are different classes in this society? Are the people forced to become a member of a particular class from birth, or do they gravitate toward that class as a profession?

    And this weapon. If only a certain class of individual has operated it, why? Is there some genetic code that enables only this type to use it? Or is the reason "spiritual" and governed by custom alone. In other words, can a person of a different class actually use the weapon if he/she had the gumption and training.

    These question go to a central image in your "creation" -- are the classes genetically (or maybe magically) predisposed, or could an iconoclastic member of one class cross over to another role?

    How you structure this at the beginning will determine much of the plot flow thereafter.

    But you must be consistent, and it all has to make sense within the framework of the universe you've created.

    If it's only tradition that prevents class cross-over, then maybe that can be a "hero" theme -- how the hero changes things by becoming a totally new class member. Or, if it's fixed either by science (genetics) or by magic (which may be as immutable as science in your "universe") then the thrust of the story may differ, and become a search for some hidden hero who finally recognizes his class and where he/she belongs.

    So, if there are inconsistencies in your story, you may have to go back and tweak them so that it all fits.
    Ineluctable modality of the visible...

  12. #12
    Living Life In The Sandbox
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    The first rule of story telling is not to give a piece of information until the audience wants to hear it.

    The fact you are just now beginning to wonder why things have to be this way is a good indication your readers will begin to wonder the same thing at about the same time in the story. So now is probably the time to start doling out the information, slowly and carefully, blended into the story itself.


  13. #13
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    When I first read your post, I read "M.C." not at "Main Character" but as "Master of Ceremonies."

    This put me instantly in mind of Joel Grey as the MC in Cabaret.

    Who needs one more Heroic Quest Fantasy set in a mock-medieval world, populated by Dugeons&Dragons character classes?

    Take your story and make it into a modern fantasy, with the heroic Master of Ceremonies facing off against the villains. The weapon that none but he can wield is his microphone (because he's a really good public speaker). The bad guys can use the microphone as well, because while they are evil, they are expert propagandists. Maybe it's the microphone at a coast-to-coast broadcasting studio with a top-rated show that everyone listens to.

    The hero's companions, rather than being a druid and a ranger ... make them a seminarian and a biker. (Imagine how they got together, how they interact, and why they're both following the hero. Also, imagine how the Bad Guys can menace them.)

    It all falls neatly into place, and you'll have a book that isn't like every other one in the slush pile.

  14. #14
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Sunny7L's Avatar
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    As an avid reader I would suggest that you determine the exact nature and history of all of the important elements of the story now. Please don't just let it come to you, or work itself out in book 2 or 3. I've read series like that and felt cheated.

    The reader will naturally wonder why only a particular class of person can wield the thing and how the "evil man" can, assuming he's not also a member of the MC class.

    But, an elaboration can be made later, especially if an ancient/rare race is a part of the equation -- that might be more interestingly conveyed in more than a brief background paragraph about the weapon. Especially since your lead, Pippa, is a descendent of the MC.

    Since her family apparently inherited this weapon, perhaps an older relative can provide the facts about their true heritage and the weapon's nature.

    Anyways, sounds like a very good story.

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