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December 20, 2012
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Story Progression Question

:iconamana07:
Amana07 Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Part of me hates to admit it, but after going through my old work I can say that i've improved. At least to a certain degree. However, I need to pick the brain of you literature professionals once more.

I'm doing some re-writing for my story here before I submit it to a person to have them look at it. One part that's sticking with me is a progression/transition for a particular scene.

Example:

1. Suspense: I've built things up to where the antagonist has trapped the main character without the protagonist knowing about it. The main character is too enthralled/obsessed with learning to realize he's been caught and starts to read some books on a nearby shelf. I don't talk about every single book mind you, only three that captured his attention since they are relevant to the story.

2. Initial Shock: This is where i'm stuck because I have the character reaching for the 3rd book and that's when he hears a screeching sound. The sound comes from his friend/companion he just met which is being tortured by the antagonist.

3. Suspense: The character gets infuriated, but has a eureka moment. This moment will be "cliche" as the protagonist finds a secret area in the bedroom he is currently in. Though it is cliche, I feel the moment is necessary because the main character learns the true depths of the antagonist's depravity when it comes to research.

4. Transition: The main character makes it out of the secret laboratory and finds the antagonist torching his new friend/companion. After a very short battle, the arch nemesis of the protagonist pins him to the wall.

Sadly the 2nd and 4th areas are where i'm having problem. I'm not sure if I should stick with my current idea where the antagonist reveals information about the protagonist's companion, infuriating the reluctant hero and causing him to fight, or if I should do some foreboding so that it can be a short battle then easily transition to the main battle phase of the story.

With the foreboding moment idea, i'm tempted to have the 3rd book be a quick journal about the protagonist's companion. The author of the journal is unknown. Instead, it lists a detailed idea of how this "unique creature" was acquired. The protagonist then hears the screaming, which causes him to drop the book, leaving off the passage about the author of said journal acquiring a "unique creature with snow white feathers."


I'm not 100% sure about the proper idea of downtime when used in transition from suspense to action. The same would be said for a quick action like a person punching someone, the other person punching the person that punched them, and then some bantering before a main fight. Sounds a bit droll, but it maybe acceptable, so i'm at a loss.

Any advice would be appreciated. :)
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Devious Comments

:iconrovanna:
Rovanna Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2012   Digital Artist
Why does the villain want the MC to find out that he is torturing his friend and for him to read his journal?
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:iconamana07:
Amana07 Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
The journal itself would be a foreboding indicator. Instead of storm clouds culminating overhead, or an eerie music playing in the background that annoys the protagonist, he finds this journal. It's not stated until the MC confronts the antagonist that it is revealed to be his journal.

On the other side of things, I would put the journal in the secluded laboratory. Seeing all of the creatures inside the cages howling and snarling in the background while he reads this journal would add a bit of tension. However, i'm hesitant to do this since the laboratory scene already has a down time moment. The protagonist is running through the lab to find an exist when a creature latches onto him. This causes the main character to look at the saddened green eyes of the creature. The creature pleads with the reluctant hero to ends its misery. Because of the harsh experiments that were performed by the antagonist, the creature can speak an understandable language to the world's sentient inhabitants. However, the side effect causes the misshapen creation to be in excruciating pain. I made this the real scene where the reluctant hero questions his motives and if there really is such a thing as "going too far" when wanting to learn about the world.

It's not so much as the villain wanting the MC to find the journal, but for it to serve as one of two/three final straws that breaks the protagonist down. He realizes what the antagonist really is which disheartens the hero. The protagonist has really been alone since he wants to learn about the world. As he finds another that is just like him, this just complicates things as he sees these extreme measure that are taken to learn about the world.
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:iconrovanna:
Rovanna Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2012   Digital Artist
Ah k. Sounds kind of complicated cos I don't know about the whole story and why this guy is trapped here and why the guy trapping him is cool with letting him wander around.

Reckon just don't worry so much about the "downtime" and "supsense" mechanical elements, and just write it in a way that makes sense based on the characters' motivations.
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:iconamana07:
Amana07 Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Will Do ;)
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:iconmerrak:
merrak Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2012  Hobbyist
This seems like the sort of question that would be easier to answer having read the entire book up to this point. Is this person you're submitting the story to an agent, or someone evaluating it - or someone who is planning to help you edit? If it's the latter, they are probably in the best position to give you specific advice.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Why can't 3 be part of the transition?

Honestly my solution would be to just write it, clear your mind, then go back and read it.
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:iconsaintartaud:
saintartaud Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2012  Professional General Artist
Honestly, I'm not sure there's a "proper" amount of downtime in the strictest sense. I don't think it's all that uncommon to go on feelings and hunches. Ask a comedian how timing works, and they're likely unable to break it down. A lot is learned from trial and error or by feeling the audience. Sometimes there are set beats (or pauses) in routines, but you've still gotta know how long to sustain. Obviously, as a writer, you don't have the advantage of the latter, but that's where having your work read can help.

The plot of most novels can be pictured as a set of peaks and valleys, with the size of the peaks increasing as you reach the climax. So the length of downtime is going to decrease as you near the climax, while the peaks between are going to be more extreme. I'm not entirely sure from your OP if you're working in long form or not. In short stories, the trajectory is going to be more singular and direct. You don't have as many of those peaks and valleys, or everything is kinda focused on the buildup to a single peak, if that makes sense.

Not sure any of this helps, but it might give you something to think about.
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:iconamana07:
Amana07 Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
It's hard to say in all honesty. I'm tying everything together into one larger story, but each chapter, minus a few, could count as a short story with them being between 3.5k and 7k words.

I guess either way could work. Although, I do want to maintain that smooth flow. Don't want the reader to feel like they hit a brick wall, getting dragged up said wall by a the rope connected to the harness on their back when they reach the transition phase.

Another problem maybe the transition phase being a rather long piece of exposition. It serves to give backstory to the protagonist's new companion, but does seem to ramble on the more I think about the paragraph. The main purpose of the antagonist conveying to story to the main character serves a couple of reasons. One of the large reasons is the antagonist wanting to grandstand, proving he is in control of everything no matter how the main character wants it otherwise.

Another thing is I want to antagonist to seed doubt into the protagonist since the reluctant hero can't believe a fellow mind would be so cruel to something. It's later in the story the antagonist is reference. The main character finds book in a library of a town/village that gives some information about his new companion, a rare bird. This moment later on is the shocker for the protagonist. He comes to understand that the person he wanted to respect is really his enemy, removing the last shreds out doubt that potentially lingered in his mind.
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:iconsaintartaud:
saintartaud Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2012  Professional General Artist
OK, so each chapter is treated as its own story, thus has its own arc. This is not an abnormal technique. I can't quite think of an example offhand, but I've seen it done in books before.

Might help to remember that the space between a chapter is a kind of transition as well. It's fairly common to have something important happen at the end of one chapter and then stop, pausing for the next event. Or to simply conclude an episode, implying some physical space or gap in time from that to the next episode.

I think using a scene in which less is happening in terms of plot points or actions as an opportunity for exposition or back story can be useful. The potential issue I see is being too obvious if it's framed in the dialogue, or having it feel pasted in rather than flowing organically from the narrative. The former is an issue with soap operas and that style of narrative. Everyone explains their motivations, which is not very realistic considering that most people can't articulate or sometimes fully understand what motivates them. They might not also want to reveal it, unless you've clarified the motivation in doing so. Otherwise, yeah, you get the Bond villain grandstanding when he could just be getting the whole thing over with.

With the last issue, it seems to me like you understand well enough what needs to be done. I think if the antag instills doubt, he really needs to appeal to something that matters to the protag, i.e. if he's a reasonable scholarly type, then make him question the validity of the scholarship of what he's read. Then the trick is to provide info that places the antag's claims into question.
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:iconamana07:
Amana07 Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Ya, basically each chapter forms a contained story. There are a few chapters which interlink between each other with a cliff hanger. This occurs in the first chapter where it leaves off with a cloaked figure standing above him to entice the reader to go for the second chapter. Used the cliff hanger method so readers can get the upfront meat and potatoes, so to speak. It helps to show them how the story will play out with later chapters and if they want to bow out they can. However, I leave them with unanswered questions and hesitation to really hook them in.

I'm hoping to have 4 arcs with 8 chapters per arc to set things up.

"Why can't 3 be part of the transition?

Honestly my solution would be to just write it, clear your mind, then go back and read it."

I really get the feeling it maybe best to eliminate the cliche "bond villain grandstanding" saint mentioned. Instead of the exposition section, I may just have the villain pin the protagonist to the wall. After that he gives a quick smirk/snide grin and would basically say to the reluctant hero, "did you like my journal?"

That acts as the trigger mechanism with the main character wanting to believe in his old ways, but forsakes them. He slowly accepts the fact that not everyone who wants to learn about the world has the best of intentions. There are some out there who care nothing about morality and ethics, and are willing to do whatever it takes to learn. I'll be re-writing another chapter and plan to reference the antagonist's words so that the protagonist really has it sink in that the person he thought was his equal is just an enemy with no honor.

Course I add another layer down the road as readers learn what triggers the antagonist to be this heartless monster, willing to do whatever it takes to learn.
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