PDA

View Full Version : New story type



AuthorGuy
12-13-2008, 05:40 PM
I asked this elsewhere (lots of places, actually, including this another forum here) among a bunch of writers' groups and got mainly negative replies, in the sense that no one who responded knew of any books quite like what I describe here. I asked because I can't use any of the story structures I know to summarize the story (for querying).

What do you think of the idea, of a new type of novel, not a different genre, in which the main character does what he does, but also and more importantly causes all the characters around him to react in a variety of ways and resolve the conflicts of the story in a rather more non-deterministic way? I'm not thinking of an ensemble story, but rather a story which has one main conflict, and all the characters are held in a relation to that conflict. The story involves the introduction of one character, the Catalyst, to whose sudden presence all the other characters react, and the resolution comes from all these reactions occurring in the same limited space. The Catalyst himself need not even know what is happening around him, although he probably will. I've never read a book of this type before, although I think I wrote one, and I'm trying to come up with a useful category - a Catalyst story - to put it into, since none of the others that I know of seem to work. I can think of several examples in comedy, but I'm not talking here about comic stories.

I'm hoping someone can advise me on how to summarize this type of story, which no one character responsible for the resolution.

Thanks.

RobJ
12-13-2008, 05:48 PM
Almost any idea can work if you write it well enough. You have to engage the reader, make the story interesting enough for the reader to be entertained and to want to keep reading. Most traditional stories work around a catalyst of some kind. I suggest you go ahead and write it and see what happens. Only then will you know whether your idea has worked. In the end it'll be what you do with it that matters, not whether it fits into an already defined category.

Good luck with your idea.

Cheers,
Rob

Danthia
12-13-2008, 06:10 PM
RobJ is right. Unless you have obvious genre elements, chances are that type of story would be mainstream, or perhaps literary depending on the plot. Oddly, the first thing that pops into my head about this type of story is Forrest Gump. He lived his live and affected all sorts of things around him without ever knowing it. But Forrest still had his own story arc and problems to solve, so don't forget to build a solid plot around this idea.

CrankItTo11
12-13-2008, 10:11 PM
Forest Gump is definitely the first thing that popped into my head too - although it may not be exactly what you have in mind. Also, there are a lot of stories where no single character is responsible for the resolution - but there is usually one character that is central to the story who is critical to the resolution.

As for your question about querying... I know that summarizing a story can be difficult, even if you have a more 'standard' type of storytelling. But there must be a story in there. Don't get hung in up describing 'how' you told the story in your query letter... instead focus on the story itself.

A query letter should spark interest, it doesn't need to get into the details of your storytelling or give away the ending. (Although you do have to give away the ending in a synopsis.) The last thing you want is for the query letter to seem confusing because the agent will assume your novel is confusing - which I assume it is not! :)

You may want to check out the query section of Share Your Work. They are so so helpful in offering advice on your specific query letter.

AuthorGuy
12-13-2008, 10:31 PM
The story is already written, called St. Martin's Moon. I would call it a futuristic paranormal with romantic elements. I can try to describe it as a set of dramatis personae and an outline, but making that sexy enough for an agent is beyond me. I managed to write one, but it's kind of involved and has lots of details that you may not want to hear.

ezc_19
12-22-2008, 10:20 AM
I think the style you are speaking about (though I may very well be wrong) is similar to Ivo Andric's "The Bridge On The Drina," which won him the Nobel Prize. The story takes place in Eastern Europe where a Christian-born son is taken by the Turks for a blood tax. His mother chases after his kidnappers until she reaches a river she cannot cross. The boy grows up to be a high ranking Turk general and, remembering this childhood event, constructs a bridge on the very same river. The remainder of the novel is a number of stories that happen around the bridge over the next few hundred years.

So, the bridge essentially becomes the element that ties a number of unrelated stories together. Great novel that I would recomment to everyone.

kropedykrop
12-22-2008, 08:05 PM
I know that it may seem distateful for many authors to box their work into specific categories and subcategories, but on the other hand, agents and editors often want quick comparisons of manuscript to existing novels. They may want to get a general picture of the project, assess the market, and get a snapshot to determine whether they could back the work.

To that end, I would say that you need several broad parallels to works that may have done well in different markets. With such an approach, you would be specific by providing examples, yet remain general enough so as not to limit yourself to one style.

The first book I thought of was, "Marley & Me: Life and Love With the World's Worst Dog." Obviously, the dog would be the catalyst there. I think that this book was fantastically successful, so that any reference to it and its structure should be met with enthusiasm.

If what you seek is the resolution of conflicts where the characters are confined to a small space, consider "Gerald's Game" by Stephen King. This isn't exactly in the style that you mentioned because there really is just one character and her memories, but other characters come from her remembrances, and the situation provides the impetus for her to become a catalyst for herself.

Another angle to take is by referencing what I will term as the "Hero Novel," where one character has the power within them to change the world and the lives of people they care about. What's unusual in the structure that you proposed is that the hero is not necessarily the protagonist. I think that this structure resonates especially well with kids and that many young adult novels are written this way. I'll mention Charlotte's Web but you can probably find your own favorite. Incidentally, I think that the loss of a central character can often impart a deep sense of tragedy in a book, so that in their death, the reader sees them as a catalyst and appreciates how much of an affect their lives had on everyone else (reader included). I'm thinking here of "Bridge to Tarabithia."

Also, consider Khaled Hosseini's "Kite Runner." I'm thinking of Hassan as the catalyst here.

Hope that this is helpful--sorry I couldn't think of many other books for you, but I'm sure they're out there.

Best wishes,

-K

AdamH
12-22-2008, 09:56 PM
What do you think of the idea, of a new type of novel, not a different genre, in which the main character does what he does, but also and more importantly causes all the characters around him to react in a variety of ways and resolve the conflicts of the story in a rather more non-deterministic way? I'm not thinking of an ensemble story, but rather a story which has one main conflict, and all the characters are held in a relation to that conflict. The story involves the introduction of one character, the Catalyst, to whose sudden presence all the other characters react, and the resolution comes from all these reactions occurring in the same limited space. The Catalyst himself need not even know what is happening around him, although he probably will. I've never read a book of this type before, although I think I wrote one, and I'm trying to come up with a useful category - a Catalyst story - to put it into, since none of the others that I know of seem to work. I can think of several examples in comedy, but I'm not talking here about comic stories.

I'm hoping someone can advise me on how to summarize this type of story, which no one character responsible for the resolution.

Thanks.

Stephen King's The Stand is an ensemble piece involving a multitude of characters all affected by the same catalyst (the deadly Superflu).

trickywoo
12-22-2008, 10:01 PM
This makes me think of the movie "The Red Violin"

I agree with the other posts. Query the story itself - you'd have to pick one main plot line to focus on and then you could hint at the other significant implications.

Sounds interesting.