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Author Topic: Where to from here?
Grumpy old guy
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So, I've written a short story -- and fallen in love with two of the characters. I really want to explore each of them more deeply an intimately. But, the problem is that I don't think I can do it in a 'novel' format.

extrinsic, if you're lurking about I'd like your input on this. While I might vehemently disagree with you on some things, I bow to your superior knowledge of the technicalities of writing. Your ability to 'spin a yarn' is another matter; never having read one of your stories.

I really want to explore their past and their future. I doubt they would ever 'become an item'. One is human, the other alien, with a completely different social organisation and 'mindset'.

So, the question really is: how do I handle this desire of mine to explore these two characters lives? Simply write multiple short stories about each of them, or try the novella/novel approach and see if I can make it work.

Desperately seeking an answer.

Phil.

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MartinV
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Write another short story.
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Meredith
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Well, IMO, it really depends on the stories you want to explore. I don't decide, first, how long a story is going to be (though I've gotten to the point where I usually have a fair idea of how long it will be). The story is as long as it takes to tell it.

If the story warrants it, there's nothing wrong with trying a novella or a novel. I've written four and a half novels that aren't going anywhere (at least in their current form). There's no such thing as wasted writing.

Edited to add: Yes, four and a half novels that, for one reason or another, don't work. But I learned something from each of them that made writing the next and the next both easier and better.

[ January 01, 2013, 02:12 PM: Message edited by: Meredith ]

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Grumpy old guy:
So, I've written a short story -- and fallen in love with two of the characters. I really want to explore each of them more deeply an intimately. But, the problem is that I don't think I can do it in a 'novel' format.

A distinguishing feature for long fiction is greater scope, mostly of a central dramatic complication, which reveals character. Set a goal of, say, a dozen short stories, each leading on to the next, with escalating dramatic complication. Then consider whether the result is linked short stories or rework transitions so that the collection becomes a novel.
quote:
Originally posted by Grumpy old guy:
extrinsic, if you're lurking about I'd like your input on this. While I might vehemently disagree with you on some things, I bow to your superior knowledge of the technicalities of writing. Your ability to 'spin a yarn' is another matter; never having read one of your stories.

I won't connect my Hatrack identity to my private or public personas. So you may never know if you've read my work. Suffice to say I've published fiction, nonfiction, essay, and journalism pieces here and there for a lifetime writing income in five figures, writing related income in six figures.
quote:
Originally posted by Grumpy old guy:
I really want to explore their past and their future. I doubt they would ever 'become an item'. One is human, the other alien, with a completely different social organisation and 'mindset'.

That seems to me a basis for a dramatic complication. Social science fiction orients on fantastical social sciences and complications thereof. But a thematic core is critical, essential, informative. Develop a theme for the sake of unity. Two individuals, each with agendas, motives, stakes, wants and problems wanting satisfaction, a general theme of an individual and society is patent. Narrower theme generalizations within that category:
  • Society and a person's inner nature are always at war.
  • Social influences determine a person's final destiny.
  • Social influences can only complete inclinations formed by Nature.
  • A person's identity is determined by place in society.
  • In spite of the pressure to be among people, an individual is essentially alone and frightened.
    From http://theliterarylink.com/theme.html
Narrower yet theme is also critical. A novel let alone an epic saga cannot contain the entirety of World War II or a single life. A writing principle worthy of consideration is: 365 days in a year, the one that's different is a story, or a week out of fifty-two, a month out of twelve, a year out of a lifetime. Keep in mind that a core feature of fiction works opens with isolating individuals from their comfort-zone identity support networks. A human and an alien sharing a personal relationship set themselves up for alienation and animosity, isolation, albeit platonic. That's a beginning. A middle portrays the occurrence of the isolation. An ending portrays the final outcome of the isolation. The isolation being a contributing dramatic complication. Underlying or overriding the isolation is a causal complication, say, these two are compelled to cooperate at first. They come to respect each other over time. Their readiness to support each other causes problems with others. And so on.
quote:
Originally posted by Grumpy old guy:
So, the question really is: how do I handle this desire of mine to explore these two characters lives? Simply write multiple short stories about each of them, or try the novella/novel approach and see if I can make it work.

Desperately seeking an answer.

Phil.

Underlying the question, another question asks, what will come of fulfilling the desire to explore these two characters' lives. Personal satisfaction. Writing growth. Personal growth. Perhaps financial growth. On the flip side, sneaking up on the goal by increments will carry the project over the goal line.

[ January 01, 2013, 11:29 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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genevive42
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Write whatever comes to mind for them. If that's another short story, great. If it's something longer, let it be longer. If it feels like it's turning into a novel, don't let novel-length scare you. When you love your characters they will usually indicate to you what's needed. Trust your instincts.

Quote from Meredith:
quote:
There's no such thing as wasted writing.
Heartily seconded.
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Pyre Dynasty
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I've always been a fan of the "novel as short story compilation" form. My advice is to keep writing stories about them of whatever length, and submit them, then down the line put them all together.
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Reziac
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I'm with genevive42. But my natural writing method is the jigsaw puzzle: I start with isolated scenes involving some distant extrapolation of my characters' present (which usually winds up falling in the middle of that book's timeline), and eventually glue it all together.

IOW, I think what you're doing is perfectly normal. Let it take you where it will.

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Grumpy old guy
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Thanks for all the thought. And especially to you extrinsic, you came through as I expected and managed to put my nebulous 'gut-feelings' and intuition into understandable words.

I just now need to analyse them.

I think I may have stumbled upon two completely different characters that I can use to explore that most fertile of ground -- the human condition.

And, as I thought about it today, that necessitates, in my view, the advantages of short-stories as a vehicle. I can explore one or two motifs rather than drown people with bucket loads of angst in a novel setting.

I guess now, I had better develop my characters a whole lot more. They are, at the moment almost characterisations because the story is set in a time span of four hours, although it refers back to things up to a decade old. There is some growth in the MC, but it's minimal at best at the moment.

Again, thanks to all.

Phil.

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Grumpy old guy
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quote:
Originally quoted by extrinsic:
Underlying the question, another question asks, what will come of fulfilling the desire to explore these two characters' lives. Personal satisfaction. Writing growth. Personal growth. Perhaps financial growth. On the flip side, sneaking up on the goal by increments will carry the project over the goal line.

I've had to think about this a bit, and destroy personal inhibitions with the liberal application of fermented grape juice, and, despite that, I hope I make sense now.

I would suppose, in answer to your question, extrinsic, that I seek personal understanding. 'Know thy self', as they say. I think, as a writer, I may have finally found a vehicle to explore my own journey of enlightenment. We, as writers, pour our own souls out onto the page for all of humanity to taste. Who can say, in all honesty, that the hero of our story is not the person we aspire to be?

But, who writes about a character that is who we are? With all our faults and doubts and frailties. That's what I find so compelling with these two characters I've accidentally created, extrinsinc. They'll let me explore who I am, now, not who I aspire to be. They are flawed, as I am, the have struggled, as I have, they have suffered as I have suffered.

It's not a literal transliteration, but it's real and actual, none-the-less. I just hope I'm up to the task and can do the characters justice.

Phil.

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extrinsic
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Uh-oh, waxing poetic and from more than fermentation products. A writer who doesn't experience personal growth as a consequence of writing is not, in my opinion, trying hard enough.

Having sampled your work, I'd say you're coming along rapidly. That's great. Alternatively, I feel a shortcoming of your writing is rushing through scenes. Try slowing down; linger in scenes. Develop sensations, emotions, actions, introspections, conversations. Those most of all writing modes develop character, setting, and plot. And causation's role is not to be overlooked.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Ever heard of an author named Sinclair Lewis? I understand that for at least one novel, he wrote a background for the main character that ended up being longer than the novel itself.

As Meredith says, no writing is ever wasted, so go ahead and explore the characters. As you do so, the stories will become apparent.

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Grumpy old guy
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quote:
Originally quoted by extrinsic:
Try slowing down; linger in scenes. Develop sensations, emotions, actions, introspections, conversations. Those most of all writing modes develop character, setting, and plot. And causation's role is not to be overlooked.

If you've only sampled what I've posted here,extrinsic, then I'm not surprised by that comment. I am in the process of writing two novels. One, is shelved until people forget about James Cameron's Avatar -- bugger almost stole my idea. But I'll develop that one again in a year or so. It lingers, and is an exploration of the MC's self. A requirement of the narrative line -- she IS an extinction event, she just doesn't realise it and she is about to learn that she need not cause the extinction of humankind -- it is her choice. What will she decide, and why?

My other novel deals, I suppose, with the idea of the struggle between the notion of divine fate and man's free will. but it also delves into the examination of godhood. I am omnipotent and omnipresent. I can do anything, be anything and anywhere. Why should I care about the mortal lives I have created to amuse me?

I make an attempt at answering that question -- and my take on it it may surprise the readers of my story. It is all based on a single premise that is consistent in all of the three stories that will make up the trilogy.

There's more depth to my grumpiness than meets the eye. Cheers.

Phil.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Phil, I hope you are aware that Cameron's AVATAR was basically an Andre Norton story (characters who don't fit in their respective worlds find where they can belong in various alien worlds)--she wrote that story over and over again.

Don't let AVATAR intimidate you. Write an acknowledgement to Andre Norton in the front of your book, and you're set.

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Robert Nowall
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I took "Avatar"---sight unseen, based on reviews and spoilers---as an uncredited rewrite of Poul Anderson's "Call Me Joe." Others have suggested it incorporates elements of Le Guin's "The Word for World is Forest."

But the "guy who doesn't fit in finds someplace he does" plot is simple and sturdy enough to be the plot for a thousand stories.

*****

The last time I wrote an extensive character background for a story, I wrote three drafts and more than ten thousand words of biography, which was considerably than I ever wrote of the story itself. Yes, I fell in love with the character, too. I was wondering if it was bad for business.

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