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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » When what's a stake is the character's life

   
Author Topic: When what's a stake is the character's life
Captain of my Sheep
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I've been writing a short story since December. (I'm slow, yes.)

I found many problems with it, and I've fixed them to the best of my ability. I'm on my second draft right now.

I read or heard somewhere that having the life of your character at stake is...lazy.

I feel like an idiot now because that's what's a stake in my story. My character does the impossible or dies. It's that simple. I've changed a hundred things about the story as I wrote it but the stake has always been the same.

I could change the stake but instead of dying, my MC would be put to sleep, thus losing her life without dying. Feels like I'd be cheating at Solitaire by doing that.

It's still death, but with a hat on.

I know there's no point in asking if my story is bad because of this, I've learned that's a pointless question. It can be bad for a ton of other aspects. I don't want to quit, either. I'm going to finish this beast.

However, I could stand hearing about stories you've written where the character either wins or dies.

It would help me a lot.

A lot.

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Meredith
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I don't know where you read or heard that, but . . . well, don't believe everything you read or hear. Write your story, the way you think it needs to be, and only then worry about what to do with it.

Let's see, seems to me Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" and Frank R. Stockton's "The Lady or the Tiger" are both about the life--or death--of the character. Granted those are classics and they both give the life-or-death struggle a major twist.

ETA: There are whole subgenres in which it's normal for the MC's life to be at stake, like sword and sorcery. Or, for that matter, epic fantasy.

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extrinsic
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Life or death stakes is also known as dramatic conflict, or simply "conflict," and motivations and outcomes, which, if artfully managed, doubt of outcomes remains open until the bitter end. E.M. Forester asserts a death or a marriage or the like or both are trite outcomes when they are ends that wrap up an action and are random coincidences: also known as "deus ex machina." Laurence Sterne and Henry James earlier expressed similar sentiments, Freytag and many others too. "Coincidence," that's a consideration of substance, perhaps the only noteworthy consideration.

Death is inevitable as well as death happens to otherwise innocent or noble persons; therefore, a life and death stakes is natural and necessary outcomes. In real life, though, death is too often a random coincidence, of no overtly discernible cause.

If premature death only happened to wicked, ignoble individuals, as just punishment for their deserving wickedness, and noble individuals live, they would be too absolute of outcomes for the human right to exercise free will. Life and death would be certain from Poetic Justice's outcomes: fated, destined, predetermined, and thinking beings mere automatons to a puppet master's capricious whim. Humanity earned the right to exercise free will by Eve and Adam partaking from the Fruit of the Forbidden Tree. Socially responsible exercise of free will, that's the matter: the meaning of life. Also of note: Life and death stakes is a heady tension engine, probably the strongest of all.

If life and death is set up from the outset as the stakes and motivations and probable outcomes due to a natural and necessary first cause, and that conflict remains congruent to the action throughout, a life and death conflict and outcome carries the superficial (tangible) action of a work, so long as the congruent overt and covert actions keep outcomes in doubt until the bitter end. "Bitter" to mean the loose end of a working rope: the working end lashed to a fixture, the bitter end held in the hand where it inflicts damage or benefit or both.

What, though, constitutes an artful first cause is, to me and writers named above and others, the matter of substance. An artful first cause is one of a central agonist's own creation; that is, a self-involved cause that develops from want and problem in opposition and congruent compulsions; a free will exercise, in other words.

An ignoble person's self-involved vice is such a first cause. A noble person's virtue is as well such a first cause. Social beings are not naturally exclusively noble or ignoble, though; humans are complexly both to varied degrees. Vice and virtue moral complication naturally parallels an overt, superficial, tangible, concrete action. The vice and virtue contest, though covert, immaterial, intangible, abstract, is the action of substance.

Forester's other objection to life and death stakes, and successful and unsuccessful suitor (acceptance and rejection conflict), is where a conflict too overtly preaches Poetic Justice's moral values: nobleness rewarded, ignoble-ness punished. Any conflict, for that matter.

On the other hand, Wayne Booth (The Rhetoric of Fiction) asserts that a preachy action accords naturally with an audience's moral values and struggles; not too preachy nor unnatural nor unnecessary nor coincidental a Poetic Justice, and to each narrative its own proportion of morals and Poetic Justice. Postmodernism, though, self-awarely questions and challenges presupposed notions of Poetic Justice's moral propriety. Mention need not be made about the risks of blindly joining a bandwagon, either the Postmodern one or any of its predecessors or followers.

What a narrative expresses about the moral human condition is the function of narrative expression: how moral contests define our lives. Many readers will refuse to read a narrative that is preachy, though not a narrative that accords with such readers' moral values. Readers expect their moral values to be affirmed. On the other hand, narrative's congruent if subversive function is moral adjustment.

That latter is a tough and bitter pill to consume. No one likes their noses rubbed in their messes and will obstinately refuse persuasive adjustment, which Bertolt Brecht's "Distancing Effect" cautions about. Therefore, as Emily Dickinson suggests: "Tell all the truth but tell it slant." Persuasive and satisfying narratives covertly deliver moral adjustment in an overt package.

Forester, Sterne, James, Booth, moi -- we are contemporary or neo-Platonic Cynics and Sophists, in the classic sense of the terms; that is, social beings contest with vice and virtue and the clash and argument satisfaction outcomes define our lives and our villages and villagers' lives. We choose our fates and destinies by exercises of free will. I don't know of a contemporary philosophy that's not Platonically, Cynically, and Sophistically construed, except Nihilism: the toxic cynicism expression.

What is the vice-virtue complication clash that causes the life and death conflict? Know that, express that slanted, and misgivings about life and death stakes evaporate.

[ February 16, 2015, 03:51 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Damon Knight had a favorite approach to any "rule" of writing he heard about. I offer it to you, Captain of my Sheep.

Go look at a bunch of successful stories and see if they follow that "rule."

Meredith has mentioned a couple that don't obey that "rule," and there are surely others. Maybe we can use this topic for posts that list other examples.

By the way, one of the ways to build suspense in a story is something called the "or else factor" which basically means, "the hero has to do thus and such OR ELSE something awful will happen (such as someone dying)."

So life or death will work, as long as you can get the reader to believe that it really is an OR ELSE situation.

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Captain of my Sheep
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quote:
Let's see, seems to me Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" and Frank R. Stockton's "The Lady or the Tiger" are both about the life--or death--of the character. Granted those are classics and they both give the life-or-death struggle a major twist.
Meredith, thank you for those examples. [Smile] I'm a newbie, I don't think I can structure a story properly yet so major, or minor, twists are out of the question. Hehe. Maybe in a few years...

quote:
ETA: There are whole subgenres in which it's normal for the MC's life to be at stake, like sword and sorcery. Or, for that matter, epic fantasy.
That observation, Meredith, went along really well with what Kathleen said here:

quote:
Go look at a bunch of successful stories and see if they follow that "rule."
Kathleen, I liked Damon Knight's approach to rules, thank you. I looked at the books I had near me as examples. I'm going to keep it simple, and focus on whether or not the character faces death if they fail to do X.

Contact by Carl Sagan. MC doesn't face death.

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. MC/MCs face death --during half the book, even. (Also, Ian Malcom makes some death-defying infodumps.)

Sphere by Michael Crichton. MCs face death.

The Better Part of Darkness (Charlie Madigan #1) by Kelly Gay. (I hated the second half of this book.) MC faces death.

Magic Bites (Kate Daniels #1) by Ilona Andews. MC faces death.

Magic Burns (Kate Daniels #2) by Ilona Andews. MC doesn't face death.

Magic Strikes (Kate Daniels #3) by Ilona Andews. MC faces death.

(I just discovered the Kate Daniels series, as you can well see.)

Looking for the Mahdi by N. Lee Wood. MC faces death.

I remember the first three Elizabeth George novels --from the Detective Lynley Series-- didn't have the MC facing death.
Like Meredith said, some genres or subgenres seem use the threat of death more often than others.

This was fun! And quite informative. I don't feel so bad now. Thank you all! [Big Grin]

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extrinsic
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Mark Richard, "Her Favorite Story," has a life and death conflict. A tragically beautiful narrative. The death is incidental and random and coincidental; the life is the "or else" outcome. Death's relevance to the narrative is pivotal for its random coincidence.

Richard (Ray-chard is a bayou beau) uses foreshadowing and artful misdirection to develop the plot and the pivotal dramatic turn, also known as "twist," as does Shirley Jackson for "The Lottery," which arguably artfully, vigorously innovates the "or else" concept.

Not to mention, each narrative involves a moral human condition crisis.

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Grumpy old guy
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The main character dying, either metaphorically or actually, is at the heart of tragedy. The hero, despite their struggles, falls at the last hurdle. Or, the heroic tragedy, wherein the hero dies, but in doing so wins.

For a literary example, why not Romeo and Juliet. Can't get more tragic, both main characters kill themselves instead of being killed. The or else is a life lived in misery.

Phil.

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Robert Nowall
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What is the point of endangering a character's life if the possibility of the character dying isn't on the table?

As for what happens to, what can happen to characters, I'll throw Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd on the table.

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extrinsic
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Damon Knight "To Serve Man."

Knight uses his "or else" theory in unexpected ways. The life and death conflict is unaffirmed until the last sentence. "Or else" is made clear by that last sentence. Foreshadowing, implication, and artful misdirection power the puzzle mystery story's drama; and, the puzzle, joke and punchline, and revelation-type story and outcome exactly accord with Knight's narrative categorization-type theory presented in Creating Short Fiction. Three types in one narrative.

An observation can be made that narratives, like Knight's, Richard's above, and a significant fraction of others, which artfully, appealingly evade rigid conventions of conventional wisdom, are all the more appealing for their unconventionality. Variety is the spice of narrative and life.

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JSchuler
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I think the problem is when the only thing at stake is your character's life. Then you're dealing with a failure of imagination to connect it to anything bigger.

Even if the plot is as simple as the character being stalked by a serial killer, there are more things at stake than just his life. There's his daughter, who was just born three days ago and will grow up never knowing her father. His wife, who he married right out of high school and never had a chance or desire to make a career. Of course, the character is rather young. He never thought of purchasing a life insurance plan. They were barely making ends meet as it was. If he dies, there will be nothing for her or their daughter. And the hospital bills have put them into debt. It wasn't an easy pregnancy, after all. Human-Azerci hybrids are notoriously prone to auto-immune disorders under the best of medical circumstances, which this wasn't. It had been a surprise. They hadn't even taken gene therapy treatments to become more compatible. The odds placed this just a smidge to the right of impossible.

Now we have a reason to care about the survival of this individual beyond "dieing is bad." We can empathize with him and feel sorrow for those he leaves behind should he fail.

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Captain of my Sheep
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First, thank you extrinsic, Grumpy old guy and Robert Nowall for your examples.

quote:
What is the point of endangering a character's life if the possibility of the character dying isn't on the table?
Robert, I'm not sure I understand the question. I don't see how I could endanger a life without death being on the table since I'm...putting a life in danger? Maybe I'm missing something? I could be missing something.
What I wondered about in my original post, which maybe I didn't make clear, was if using the threat of death was too "easy". The rule I'd read about implied that I could've used a more creative option, one that didn't involve a physical threat. Like the "death" of the characters identity or somesuch.


quote:
I think the problem is when the only thing at stake is your character's life.Then you're dealing with a failure of imagination to connect it to anything bigger.
JSchuler, I very much agree with all the external pressures you put on the character in order to "connect it to anything bigger". The family, the debts and the half-breed kid are all great.

However, I don't believe any one of those would make me care about the death of the character. They would make me care about the baby and the wife, but not your character. Having a family doesn't mean your character deserves a happy ending. Plenty of serial killers had families.


quote:
Now we have a reason to care about the survival of this individual beyond "dieing is bad." We can empathize with him and feel sorrow for those he leaves behind should he fail.
I will respectfully disagree with this. [Smile]

I've cared about the death of many protagonists that were single and childless. I didn't want Kate Daniels from Magic Bites to survive because Such or Such were going to be sad if she died --I wanted Kate to survive because she freaking deserved to.

My MC is 16-years old. I aim to make the reader care about her because of how she behaves during the story, not because of how many people depend on her for any reason. She protects innocent people, worries about her loved ones and is willing to die for them.

To me, a character proves themselves worthy of rooting for because of who they are and do.

If the actions of my character aren't enough for readers to care then I'm either making a massive newbie mistake or I missed the point you were trying to make. Both are equally possible in my experience.

quote:
The hero, despite their struggles, falls at the last hurdle. Or, the heroic tragedy, wherein the hero dies, but in doing so wins.
Grumpy old guy, I've experienced both of these in fiction: The first one in books and the second one only in a game. I must admit that the second one was the most powerful experience I've ever had with a game, or a book, or a movie. I want to never repeat it again. It made me too sad.
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kmsf
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Good topic Captain. I'm guessing you never shot that Hind down either.

With regard to my current WIP, I am struggling with whether or not work toward an ending where the MC survives. If I do, I have to revise my opening. And that would be because the story's initial promise is that the MC gave his life for others. He is in mortal danger through much of Acts 2 and 3. Such stories give life meaning despite death. So, I think that rule is bogus.

Some additional examples where the MC is in mortal danger:

The Road
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Cold Mountain
Lord of the Rings
Dune

extrinsic: as always, you make some illuminating points, but I think you've got the story of the fall of man completely on its head. Whether you accept scripture as God's Word or not, the story goes thus: Adam and Eve used their gift of free will incorrectly to try to become like God, to usurp Him. They sought omnipotence and omniscience. They did not earn for humanity the right to exercise free will. They already had it as a free gift. Instead, they brought an end to immortality. The consequence of their actions was that humanity would thereafter suffer death. Of course, God loves them and humanity and had another plan ready.

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extrinsic
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Writers manage life and death conflict differently from each other and within each narrative. In stakes terms, life and death risks lend a narrative dramatic antagonism, causation, and tension. Tension is both emotional and curiosity appeals. Though simplistic on its face, development of tension is a highly complex process.

Emotional appeals orient around empathy or sympathy readers develop for an agonist's antagonal and causal circumstances, though as well rapport with the agonist's values. Nobly construed characters appeal; ignobly construed characters also appeal, though from readers love to despise their ignoble values.

Curiosity appeals orient around both emotional appeals and suspense. Damon Knight uses an anecdote to illustrate suspense. A man every night removes his shoes before bedtime. He drops the shoes onto his floor. The downstairs neighbor complains about the noise. One night, the man drops the first shoe and recalls the complaints. He gently sets the second shoe down. After a time, the neighbor yells let the other shoe drop, (interjection deleted). That's suspense in a shoe drop. The neighbor's curiosity is passionately aroused to what happened with the second shoe. Readers are likely more empathetic or sympathetic toward the neighbor than the man in the middle of the anecdote, emotionally oriented on the man first. The man's courtesy and the punchline shift tension back onto the man.

Fully rounded characters exhibit a weighted proportion of noble and ignoble values. Noble values proportioned to ignoble values favor greater nobility degrees for heroes and heroines and greater ignoble values for villains and nemeses. Proportions vary according to audience values. Values need not, and best practice, be overt; simple covert cues, hints, and clues reveal values through artful implication.

An illustration: a suitor approaches a love interest cold -- as in a first, unprompted encounter. They meet at a doorway. The suitor opens the door and invites the love interest to pass through ahead of the suitor. That's an overtly noble act, from the trivial sacrifices of making the physical effort for another's benefit, courtesy, and allowing the love interest to pass ahead. Covert intents are to "break the ice," surreptitiously observe the love interest closely, the suitor display more than background indifferent recognition of the love interest, and gauge social interest of each toward the other. From such simple overtly noble, covertly self-involved acts, character and tension develop.

Readers emotionally care about ("root") and care what will happen to characters whose values they relate to and share and whose covert motivations they respect. Or despise those whose covert motivations they reject.

Perhaps stronger values signals are warranted up front or while a narrative unfolds: self-sacrificingly rescue a sufferer from harm, amend an ignoble person's harmful, misguided attitude, self-realize an ignoble act is selfish, or strain noble values such that an ignoble act is in actuality a noble act, etc., and the obverse: self-servingly rescue a sufferer from danger, etc.

The noble-ignoble values axis is a continuum, heroes on one side of a tipping point, villains on the opposite side of the teeter-totter. Younger and otherwise polar opposite value system audiences (good and evil, noble and ignoble, and self-sacrificing and selfish as polar opposites) favor a greater weight of noble for heroes and ignoble for villains, respectively, and clearly and strongly demarcated values.

Savvy audiences, however, are amenable to less value demarcation -- shades of gray, so to speak, rather than clear black and white values.

A pivotal gray axis realizes one person's noble value is another person's ignoble value and, as well, that if a person is purely self-sacrificing, the person will not long have an aptitude for further self-sacrifice. A proverb expresses that concept: You can't do for others if you don't do for self as well. Reconciling self-sacrifice to and with self-involvement is a strong dissonance and complication satisfaction, an ideal outcome (denouement), for example, of a life and death conflict.

[ February 18, 2015, 07:29 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Kent_A_Jones
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Hi Cap,
I wrote a story last year in which the MC had to win or die. The MC won, and it was obvious that he would; too obvious. The Opponent was very powerful and exceedingly difficult to get to, let alone overcome, so that wasn't the problem. The situations leading to the final confrontation were fraught with believable danger, check that one off. The MC was a cool guy, interesting, caring except when it came to bad guys, so he should have had reader sympathy, check that one off.

Why was it obvious that he'd win? Ah, that's the crux. He was intelligent, powerful, and had to be one step ahead of the opponent or he'd be dead in a second. He had too much knowledge and too much ability. I had created an opponent who was nigh invulnerable and had to create a character powerful enough to beat him. In his head, the MC couldn't lose, and was always thinking ahead. Problem, I had created Superman; no drama, no suspense. But I liked the story!

Problem, I was telling the wrong story. Third Person limited tells one character's story. I liked the overall story, but it didn't have the impact on readers that I wanted. Another character was privy to all of the scenes, so I did a major rewrite from that character's POV. Less intelligent, less powerful, far more vulnerable, working like hell just to survive within the framework of the original story. His fate was at risk at all times because he THOUGHT he was at risk, and the reader was only privy to his thoughts.

I was satisfied enough after the rewrite to send it off to WotF and received a Q3 Honorable Mention last year.

BTW The first iteration of the story was a flash piece that I worked through three drafts and never saw the light of day. The second iteration from Superman's point of view went through six drafts. The last iteration went through two drafts and three separate endings. Nine months total time on all iterations. My point is that I knew I had a good story idea, so I stuck with it, kept working it.

It sounds like you believe in your live-or-die story, stick with it. Tell it from a different POV. Play with the narrative point of view, First Person, Third Person, Limited, Omniscient. Do character studies to better familiarize yourself with the backgrounds that make your characters who they are. Read similar stories. This is all research that may be necessary to achieving the effect you want for your story. None of it sounds like laziness to me!

Crossing the street can kill you. But crossing the street is easy and uneventful. Unless you're blind, and have bad knees, and have a medical condition that requires medicine right now or you'll die, and nobody will give you a lift, and watch out, there's a crazy chick in a car who's out to get you.

I've researched any number of different methods and rewritten a story several times. Then suddenly an idea fits with the story and clicks into place.

Good luck with your sheep,
Kent

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by kmsf:
extrinsic: as always, you make some illuminating points, but I think you've got the story of the fall of man completely on its head.

I can discuss religion here at Hatrack, on a different -- its own thread, only as pertains to writing theories.

Edited to add: On second thought, religion is too contentious a subject for Hatrack writing discussions.

[ February 18, 2015, 11:40 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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JSchuler
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quote:
If the actions of my character aren't enough for readers to care then I'm either making a massive newbie mistake or I missed the point you were trying to make.
You missed the point by mistaking the tree for the forest. Let me rephrase the issue:

What makes your character get up when anyone else would stay down?

Now you see it can't be survival, because mere survival is the basic need of every creature on this planet. Might as well write a story about an earthworm if that's as far as we go.

In my original example, it was the character's new family. And yes, a serial killer likely has a family. And if you were writing a story from the POV of the serial killer, bringing that family in may be a real good way to help humanize him so the audience can relate on some level. But, maybe that's not enough. What if the real motivation is revenge? The serial killer keeps killing to torture the detective that put away his father. Sure, this sows doubt about his father's conviction, but he's putting in the extra effort to frame the detective for the murders, and with that comes extra risk.

What if it's pride? The first X to do Y, and everyone said Xs couldn't do Y. Of course, if the MC dies in the process, that just proves everyone was right and no more Xs will be allowed to attempt Y, and the MC will be damned if that's his legacy.

It's all nice to have a badass character being badass, but if the character is badass just for the sake of being badass, and gets up just because he's that badass, it's lazy.

Doesn't mean that it won't work and you can't make a good story from it. It does mean that you're leaving drama and depth on the table.

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kmsf
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extrinsic, I appreciate your intention and don't believe you intended to offend or broach the broader subject of religion. That's not your way. I mentioned it more as a point of order and confined my comment to the text itself because I agree this thread is not the place to discuss religion. All's well here:)
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Grumpy old guy
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Originally posted by Captain of my Sheep:
quote:
I want to never repeat it again. It made me too sad.
I have read a number of tragedies, and written some, but you just can't get enough of a good weep at the end. Every writer wants the reader to so identify with their main character that their death will send them screaming from the room: the reader, that is.

I can even make myself cry with a good tragedy; it's all about the build-up to that final moment. And, as she lies dying, not too quickly, milk it for every tear you can get. Catharsis is a powerful writers tool, utilise it whenever possible.

Phil.

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extrinsic
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The following is offered and intended for information purposes only; not assignment, nor caution, nor instruction, nor correction, nor castigation, nor control purposes.

From the advisors' table, so to speak -- According to parliamentary procedures and, not too coincidentally, in the spirit of Hatrack's conduct rules:

If an asserted fact is material to a discussion topic, the fact asserted is in order. "Order" to mean timely and relevant in sequence and in a cooperative manner.

A point of fact question -- otherwise known as a point of information motion -- is a point of order motion if the asserted fact being questioned and the motion are material to a discussion topic.

A point of order motion is taken up for consideration, discussion, and resolution immediately if materially in order and amenable to an immediate in or out of order determination. A point of information motion is likewise resolved immediately if amenable to immediate resolution or tabled and sent back for further clarification if an asserted fact's factuality is questionable, unresolvable, and material at the time. Or a point of information motion is refused if not material to a discussion topic.

A point of information motion is in order if an asserted fact being questioned is material to a discussion topic and the motion is raised for confirmation or refutation or elaboration of its factuality when and where material to a discussion topic.
----
Life and death conflict, narratively, and free will exercise, narratively, are materially and inextricably bound in such a narrative conflict type and in writers' decisions how or if to use that conflict type and in such a topic discussion.

I used "earned the right" emphatically and ironically to mean obtained fully, as mortally fully as possible, as a consequence of partaking in Forbidden Fruit's singular caveat: For this one area, free will shall not be exercised, or else.

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Denevius
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Any story has a chance at success. 50 SHADES OF GREY proves that. And I'm not sure if you should get too caught up with whether or not a way of writing is "lazy".

*However*, if after you've written your story and you don't get the response from readers you're comfortable with, you might want to keep JSchuler's advice in mind, who kind of hit the nail on the head with the concern of the story's stakes simply being life or death.

quote:
In my original example, it was the character's new family. And yes, a serial killer likely has a family. And if you were writing a story from the POV of the serial killer, bringing that family in may be a real good way to help humanize him so the audience can relate on some level. But, maybe that's not enough. What if the real motivation is revenge? The serial killer keeps killing to torture the detective that put away his father. Sure, this sows doubt about his father's conviction, but he's putting in the extra effort to frame the detective for the murders, and with that comes extra risk.

What if it's pride? The first X to do Y, and everyone said Xs couldn't do Y. Of course, if the MC dies in the process, that just proves everyone was right and no more Xs will be allowed to attempt Y, and the MC will be damned if that's his legacy.

It's all nice to have a badass character being badass, but if the character is badass just for the sake of being badass, and gets up just because he's that badass, it's lazy.

If you find that readers simply aren't compelled by the narrative, or aren't engaged with your character, it could very well be because you aren't offering them enough to care about the character, or enough to want to know him/her.

Your story, from how you've described it, sounds too much like a movie, where the stakes can be life or death, but as long as there are enough cool explosions, CGI, and epic battle scenes, the target audience will be satisfied.

A written story, though, where all that's at stake is the character's life, may not be lazy writing, but it definitely sounds like underdeveloped writing. But again, it all depends on your reader response. If enough people enjoy it, and you're comfortable with the numbers of people wanting to read it, then definitely go for it.

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Captain of my Sheep
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I want to thank all of you for your valuable input and for taking the time to help me out. I'm going to focus on all the misgivings that were pointed out about the stakes just being life/death.
I'm not sure I'm guilty of not providing reasons to care about my MC, but just being aware of the possibility will help me a great deal.

kmsf: Hehe. I don't play COD. [Smile] My choices made for a rather sad end to the Mass Effect Trilogy, though. Oh, how I cried.
I want to thank you for talking about your current WIP and thank you for the book examples as well.

Kent_A_Jones: Awesome description of your process--you gave me hope. And congrats on the WotF Honorable Mention, by the way. It's always nice to hear how much work went into a story when you're in the middle of a rewrite and have at least 6 drafts to go before the story is not-so-horrible. Thank you for taking the time to relive the process. [Smile]

quote:
What makes your character get up when anyone else would stay down?
JSchuler: Ah. I see now. Yes, I definitely missed the point. Thank you for taking the time to make it clear for me.
I will keep all of this in mind when I start my third draft. Right now I can't cope with all this and getting the structure right. I think I'm overwhelming myself a bit.

quote:
If you find that readers simply aren't compelled by the narrative, or aren't engaged with your character, it could very well be because you aren't offering them enough to care about the character, or enough to want to know him/her.
Oh, I'm drafts away from calling this story ready for normal readers. I'm going to finish this second draft and have a trusted friend tell me what big problems she can spot. I'm not partial to polishing a story that isn't even mildly entertaining. I'm guessing this is when I'll know if I didn't provide enough reasons for readers to care.

quote:
And, as she lies dying, not too quickly, milk it for every tear you can get.
Grumpy old guy: Hehe. "Not too quickly" made me chuckle. She will be dying a bit slowly, but not too slow. I hope.

quote:
Your story, from how you've described it, sounds too much like a movie, where the stakes can be life or death, but as long as there are enough cool explosions, CGI, and epic battle scenes, the target audience will be satisfied.
Denevius: Ouch.
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Denevius
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Sorry, didn't mean for that to sound bad. When I read a lot of workshop fiction, though, it often feels like the writers are writing the story with a film as the template and not a written story as the template.

Either way, if your story ends up working as written, that's what matters. Getting caught up in whether or not it's lazy writing is kind of pointless.

[ February 20, 2015, 04:09 AM: Message edited by: Denevius ]

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Captain of my Sheep
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No harm done. [Wink]
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Reziac
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quote:
Originally posted by JSchuler:
I think the problem is when the only thing at stake is your character's life. Then you're dealing with a failure of imagination to connect it to anything bigger.

That's an interesting point. Tho now I feel a perverse urge toward a story where life-and-death are the ONLY stakes. No doubt some already exist.

In my Epic, right up front I damnear kill my MC, then what's at stake for him is whether he can get his life back. But further, he has to figure out how to get his life back so he can deal with other events with their own stakes. So I guess that's how it gets bigger than just life or death.

Actually, I never think about it; this is all just analysis after the fact.

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