I'm running through revisions on my current manuscript (the novel I've discussed previously about the boy whose drawings come to life).
What I've noticed is that the story moves a long at a good clip until about the 60% mark where the main character, Max, is finally discovering and understanding all the things the reader has learned and discovered as the story unfolded over the course of that 60%.
Now, the remaining 40% is filled with a rehashing of the story's events as Max comes to understand the mystery surrounding him ... and it's BORING.
I think it's important for the story to unravel in the way it does ... it helps build the suspense and tension I'm looking for, but the end simply isn't working.
I was hoping someone might know of some examples off hand that handle audience superior positions well. Everything I can think of has the reader learning and unfolding the mystery with the characters.
Could it be boring because by rehashing the story as Max comes to understand the mystery you are risking spoon-feeding the understanding to the readers? (You said, I believe, that they already have the understanding.)
OSC encourages writers to ask two questions as they proceed with a story:
What does the protagonist try next?
What will go wrong (that the protagonist can learn from)?
Max may be coming to understand, but he's going to understand better if he misunderstands a little first and then learns from that.
And the readers may enjoy it more if they can see what he's getting wrong and can cheer for him as he begins to get it right.
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You could also make sure that Max starts to understand a few things earlier than 60% of the way through the story.
A "big reveal" should come closer to the end, but things that point him in the right direction (at the very least) need to come as the story goes along, and mid-size reveals should come when he begins to put this and that together.
Thanks, Kathleen. I appreciate it. I will look into your suggestions.
As for your original response, yes, the reason it's boring is because the reader is seeing again the things they've already seen as Max understands. I am aware that this is the problem I am trying to solve.
I guess what I'm getting at is that Max is replaying significant events in his mind one more time as he comes to understand what those significant events are.
Since the reader is already aware of those events, would it seem incongruous to simply have Max take the actions his revelations would have led him to without actually showing those revelations, or is it important for the reader to understand Max has had these revelations?
I thought, if I could read some examples from authors who do this well, it would help me to better understand how they handle reader superior position.
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I think I know what you're talking about in a broad sense, but more specific examples would help me figure out what you mean.
I don't know if it's a good example of reader superior position, but Terry Pratchett sometimes uses these kinds of methods in his series of novels about the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. They have a mystery-esque format.
Overall, I think the key to doing something like this well is to seed a little bit at a time, and have the revelations come a little bit at a time as well. Info-dumps are rarely a good idea. (I suppose this ties in with kdw's commentary on big/mid-size reveals.)
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Thanks Disgruntled Peony. I wish I could offer more specific examples.
The best I can offer is this ...
Throughout my own novel, the main character, Max, draws a monster who comes to life. He (and all the other characters) do not yet know the monster has come to life. However ... the reader does. The reader sees several scenes from the monster's point-of-view. There are other, smaller events, that take place which, through context, the reader understands but Max does not. (For example: he has a talisman which makes him invisible to the monster.)
Max learns the truth of his drawings coming to life slowly, but well before this 60% mark that starts the SLOW portion of the novel. It's the truth of this talisman, the truth of why the monster acts the way she does, that Max comes to discover toward the end. In my mind, based on actions and information already shown throughout the rest of the story, it should be reasonable that the reader fully understands the whys and wherefores.
However, Max doesn't. He doesn't come to understand "the truth" of events until he is faced with it, and then "all the pieces come crashing together."
I'll check out your Terry Pratchett suggestion. Thanks! :-)
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Consider the type of "audience superior" knowledge that is dramatic irony, when readers know more is going on than a viewpoint agonist is aware of or will self-admit. Also known as a pot boiler, a slow simmer subtext becomes a full boil. Since readers already know, or at least suspect something about Max initiates monsters, no great rehashing of the prior tangible events is necessary. Rather, Max could realize a new discovery in and of itself, new to some extent for readers, confirmation of suspicions at least, and with an attendant reversal consequence, too.
Readers aware Max's drawings initiate monsters might have an idea the monsters are reflections of him, his native wickedness, suspect at least, for example. The truth he then discovers could be that they result when he's out of sorts and acts wickedly through his drawings instead of himself directly doing whatever.
This is magic thinking in an opposite of its conventional usage. Max's evil eye turns to drawing, an interior wishful-wicked-magic thinking that he is unaware he truly intends and has "real-world" consequences -- the art initiates monsters to life.
The magic thinking convention is when a person sincerely wishes for some magic result and it then transpires. That's a post hoc and cum hoc, ergo, propter hoc fallacy: after this magic thought and with this magic thought, therefore, this result because of this magic thought.
Even with a weight of evidence, Max could refuse to believe he's the cause -- for a while. That could also substitute for rehashing events that lead up to the self-discovery, then denial and acquiescence at last. The realization, too, then is grounds for a profound reversal.
Reversal attends discovery and vice versa. Those are subtle causation aspects that differ somewhat from the usual action or stimulus cause and reaction or response effect. Mindful a middle suspension delay intervenes. Cause, delay, effect.
That discovery and reversal is not an end or denouement or outcome, though. That type of discovery and reversal occurs at about the 60 percent word count mark for narratives, generally. Freytag labels this the "counter-action" start or "the tragic moment or force." The next part is the action fall. The tragic moment is such a full realization on Max's part. This is also where doubt of outcome is renewed and where a major dramatic pivot begins into the action fall. Confidence of success lost and misery that will find no satisfaction of a want-problem complication until the next crisis moment, or the moment or force of the last suspense. Then the denouement, the outcome of the main dramatic complication, the real and true one of the whole, concludes the narrative, pays off.
A novella of this type of tragic force moment and counteraction is Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. I was a middle grader the first time I read that and understood it as a middle grader. Santiago was an old salt and cursed (salao) by misfortune, who could not catch fish anymore.
The redemption marlin Santiago catches in spite of himself, the climax; the tragic force(s), he realizes too late he's gone too far from land, cannot lift the fish into the skiff, and dentusos (slang-idiom, ugly teeth, Mako sharks) attack it -- he does not land more than a skeleton carcass, the tangible outcome; he's too old anymore, the intangible though overt, depicted outcome. The intangibles of the narrative were for middle-grade me mere shades of my later adult understandings.
you've lost somewhere the moral to the story. It doesn't matter if readers have insight or not. This is always given anytime a writer puts in a chapter from an antagonist's point of view or events at a different local. The reader is now privy to info the protag doesn't have. If the end is boring it is probably in your plotline.
end of the second act should be where your protag catches up with your reader. because the third act should definitely be the almighty conflict/reason your protag had to discover his ability and the outcome for good or bad in facing acceptance he has it.
Unless you want to wait to the very end like elvestones of shanara in which throughout the book the protag has to wrestle with acceptance of his unsure ability till the very ending climax and I won't tell you how that ends up because that's half the surprise that makes the book worth reading. And in the book there a serveral deadly circumstances you are privy to before the protag but terry brooks still throws in a few surprises for the reader that advance knowledge can lead to misleading outcomes.
In rosencrantz and guildenstern are dead everyone knows what's coming because it is just a different pov of hamlet. It's all in the unique humor of the writer's concept that makes knowing a known tragedy a humorous story at the same time. There needs to be a reason why you want the reader to know first and it has to be clever. Whether to mislead or amuse, but first and foremost -- to entertain.
That Max differs with his father and the monster is female implies an inferable moral of the novel's story, to me. Fantasy's fable and folk tale convention for morals entail kinder und hausmärchen's (child and housewife folk tales) and free-person function of moral adjustment toward responsible and mature adult conduct, of a patriarchal emphasis.
The monster is inferable as a mother hag type. Grimms brothers folk tale collection came from polygenesis tales part of ancient German oral traditions. Wicked stepmothers and fairy godmothers were originally mothers, which raised publication concerns.
Thirteen years old is an age of teenage rebellion onset. The want behind the rebellion is to be treated as the age, a mile taken for a given inch, not as a child, despite that full physical maturity is yet twelve years away. Mental, emotional, and moral maturity can arrest development at any age, at thirteen as easily as any other age.
Max's want for study at a faraway fantasy art school despite Dad's cruel dissent and that the monster is a female hag are mirrors of Mom and Dad's assumed adult wisdom that he's unprepared for unsupervised activity. As well, the female monster is Max's want to separate his feminine nature, a Mom's upbringing of a child, from his masculine identity and become a manly man now.
The outcome would then be of full personality integration: child, masculine, feminine, and adolescent. Moral of the story -- Honor thy father and they mother, or . . . become an immoral monster. Or be mindful what you wish for, or you will get more than you bargained for. Meantime, by self-trial and error, Max learns to be self-reliant, self-governed, and self-responsible to an apt maturation development degree for a thirteen-year-old. True moral of the story, then, is a child needs apt independent activity in order to learn how to self-behave responsibly and resiliently in the adult world. That's a more timely, relevant, and profound moral than meets the eye, one suitable for youth literature.
To me, Max thinks his parents are helicopter hoverers, and he really wants more independence. A corollary for teenage rebellion is it advances natural and necessary family detachment processes so a child can be a responsible and independent adult. It is a time to let loose somewhat Mom's apron and purse strings and Dad's wallet and belt.
Barry Longyear called the "discovery and reversal" part of the story the "dark moment" - when the protagonist thinks he's figured everything out and does what he thinks needs to be done to solve the problem - and everything goes wrong/gets much, much worse.
You see this quite often in adventure movies when the hero does what he or she believes is the last, best effort to defeat the enemy, and after turning away in relief, realizes that the enemy has risen yet again. And there is nothing more the hero can think of to do.
And that's when the PRICE has to be paid - the hero has to give up something or someone, a sacrifice has to be made, a way of thinking about the world has to be destroyed and truth accepted.
And only then is the enemy defeated (or absorbed or reconciled with).
I don't know if any of this will fit with what you are trying to do, Ryan, but I offer it as a little more to think about for your last 40% of the story.
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This has actually become kind of an interesting subject on foreknowledge of the reader, and I realized it primarily deals with building tension. By giving the reader a glimpse of a major conflict to come, it creates an excitement about that future event. Whether it is a volcano or darth vader, the hero must inevitably face his/her fate as the paths cross.
The more hints that are dropped that the clash is going to be bigger than ever, and the more doubt the reader has of the heroes survival, helps keep the pace moving forward.
I've really been thinking about pacing a lot lately, and how each chapter is really it's own story and their arrangement or necessity to keep the pace. The subject of foreknowledge plays a big part in that -- how as a writer do you keep the tension building? How much information is too much information? How much detail is too much detail?
In Ryan's case, it sounds like he's working on the tension of whether his protag comes to grips with this unknown magic and it's potential while giving hints of its dangers before use, or something. But the question becomes what is the core of the plot. Is it, like the star wars prequels -- he is fated to become Darth Vader? Or to use such magic is to destroy oneself. Or you lose your humanity. Or to face the ultimate evil. Or he who has the magic must marry the gorlog? Whatever it is, this is where his story seems to have gotten lost. . . I think.
W, you are right. This is quite the interesting conversation. I always appreciate everyone's input. Each of you bring something different to the table and make me stretch my way of thinking in the process. You are also right that building and maintaining proper tension is my primary focus at the moment.
extrinsic, in all his wonderful verbosity, left a wonderful nugget for me to mull over: "Rather, Max could realize a new discovery in and of itself, new to some extent for readers, confirmation of suspicions at least, and with an attendant reversal consequence, too."
Kathleen, you are right in that there is a need for a "Dark Night" (as it were), and I do have that built into the plot.
I didn't want to bog everyone down with specifics right of the bat, but if it helps, I can outline some of the most important elements of the story as I have them now. Boiled down to this level, I'm certain each of you will see the basic elements of myth in the plot, so stick with me:
1.) Max wants to attend The Apogee Art Academy (an out-of-state boarding school for artistic prodigies). Max also wants to draw fantasy art.
2.) Max's father, David, does not want Max to attend this school. David forbids fantasy and make-believe. Period. (It's a waste of time).
3.) Max has one opportunity to finish a new portfolio to prove to the school he is technically capable of fitting in with the other students (a test), and he has only the week of his family's vacation at Bear Tooth Point Resort to finish it.
4.) Max receives a talisman and is told a story about said talisman being a protective charm against evil at the resort (it's a sales ploy from the Native American who sells him the talisman).
5.) Max hears "The Legend of Inini-Makwa", a story of a woman who transformed into a monster after eating her own child and who now (allegedly) haunts the resort grounds stealing anything left out overnight. (Leave a sandal on the beach yesterday? It's gone today.)
6.) Captivated by the story (and with all the other crap building in his head), Max breaks his father's "no fantasy" rule and draws Inini-Makwa.
7.) Inini-Makwa comes to life, unbeknownst to anyone, and abducts a young adult boy in the forest because, at first, she believes this boy is the one responsible for bringing her back from the dead, and only he can send her back to her family in the spirit world. (This is told from Inini-Makwa's perspective.)
--Another girl is taken between the above plot point and the midpoint below; she is Max's cousin, Mandy ... a Medium and a Shaman (but she's a white girl)--
8.) Near the midpoint, Max is annoyed with his brother Ben who insists on pestering him to swim in the lake and launch him off the swim raft in the middle of the lake. Irritated, Max takes his frustrations out on the page and draws a tentacle creature to grab Ben and throw him into the lake. The tentacles come to life and grab and throw Ben just like in the drawing. (This is Max's first direct contact with the magic he didn't know he was wielding.)
9.) Max and Ben test the magic by having Max draw something to see if it comes to life. (This is a try/fail cycle that utilizes one drawing and lasts all of a page-and-a-half.)
10.) Ella (the girl Max has a crush on) begs Max to draw her portrait, but drawing they are lured toward the woods by, what sounds to be, someone injured. When they get there, Inini-Makwa attacks. Here Max is assaulted by the truth of Inini-Makwa (she looks just like his drawing -- and he has the evidence of his drawings coming to life), and he tries to fight back but is useless against her and Inini-Makwa takes Ella away.
11.) From Inini-Makwa's perspective we learn that she is hunting by scent only, and that the people she is taking she does so based on how strongly they smell like Max. When she discovers none of the people she has taken are actually Max, she decides to use them as bait to lure him to her. Also during this moment we discover that, to Inini-Makwa, she could sense someone other than Ella in the woods (someone else shouted, someone else attacked, she could smell Max) ... but she couldn't see said person.
--Max's brother, Ben, and his father, David, are both taken before the above plot point and the following--
12.) Max chooses to take it upon himself to rescue those who have been taken. He tracks into the woods and finds Inini-Makwa's cave.
-- Here's where things start to fall apart for me for a short while. --
Max spends a lot of time in introspection, replaying in his mind the events leading up to this moment, understanding some of them, but not understanding others. He has some information: his drawings are coming to life, the Native American salesman from the beginning of the book (acting as the mentor) has informed Max that Ashotii magic (the Ashotii are the fictional Native American tribe I've created) deals solely with intention, both conscious and subconscious. Inini-Makwa acted strange when she took Ben, almost as though she were taunting him but couldn't see him, looking the wrong direction.
13.) Max tries to understand why Inini-Makwa acted as though she can't see him. It's the talisman he received in the beginning of the story (which he doesn't know, but the reader should by this point ... so is it necessary).
Max also doesn't know what Inini-Makwa wants from him, but the reader does (because we've seen it from Inini-Makwa's point of view ... she wants the curse of being trapped in a monster's body broken and to be reunited with her family in the spirit world). So he has to work this out. Even without seeing it from Inini-Makwa's perspective, there are (I think) enough clues for the reader to make this leap (though I haven't shared all of those with you here).
14.) Max's goal is to free his family and friends and stop Inini-Makwa. Through a crap-ton of introspection, Max comes to understand he must sacrifice himself to the monster (again, something the reader should be able to infer through context clues ... the Native American mentor talking about other Ashotii shaman who have had to sacrifice themselves to stop magic too powerful for them to control), and he's prepared for that, but before he can make his move, Inini-Makwa murders his brother, Ben. (Here's the end of the second act ... the Dark Night.)
15.) Max attacks Inini-Makwa, but she gets the upper hand. He is ready to sacrifice himself to her to end her curse and (he hopes) save his family, but Ben (from the Ashotii spirit world) gets word to Max (by possessing their cousing, Mandy) that Inini-Makwa's son is there with him in the spirit world. Max know understands he can't simply sacrifice himself, he must reunited them ... and he has an idea that if he does it just right, he may still be able to save Ben.
16.) Ella rescues Max from Inini-Makwa, is overpowered herself, and Max dives in just as it appears that Inini-Makwa is going to murder Ella. Max's drawing arm is eviscerated in the process. This is all the sacrifice Inini-Makwa needs to break the curse keeping her in her monstrous form (she "morphs" back into a human). Now all Max has to do is get her back to the spirit world and bring Ben's spirit out so Mandy (the shaman) can reunite Ben's spirit with his body.
17.) Max draws a portal to the spirit world -- with his off hand, difficult -- while Mandy performs the ritual to call Ben's spirit closer to the portal.
Ah! There's so much that happens at the climax it's hard to detail it in such scant text here. Needless to say, Max has to enter the spirit world with the now-human Inini-Makwa, find her son (who is holding Ben hostage until his mother returns) and return Ben to cave so Mandy can do her shaman thing and return Ben to life. It all works. Everyone is alive (so, happy) but they've all suffered greatly.
The resolution is simple. David agrees that Max has proved to him he can behave like an adult and not only allows him to attend the school but tells Max he can make his own decisions over what he draws.
So ... all of that (it's a lot -- and there is a lot more I haven't even mentioned) moves along at a great pace until Max runs off to find Inini-Makwa's cave. Then he spends pages and pages in introspection (between moments of action) digesting all the information parceled out over the book to come to a conclusion the reader should have already made.
This is the reason the tension lags during those pages. I see it. I've analyzed it. I've diagnosed it.
Now, how do I treat it?
Have Max simply take the actions he would take if he had the knowledge the reader possesses without showing him coming to those conclusions? Have him talk it out with the other hostages before he acts so at least the conclusions come as dialogue instead of introspection? Eliminate the chapters from Inini-Makwa's perspective so the reader and Max get the same information at the same time? (This seems the most obvious, though I don't know if Inini-Makwa's motives would be clear under this format ... maybe they don't need to be.)
Again, thanks so much everyone. These revisions are killing me, but it's great to have support from others. I truly appreciate it.
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Okay, I have a book suggestion for you. It doesn't handle reader knowledge vs protagonist knowledge, but it does a wonderful job of interspersing protagonist introspection with action and forward plot movement.
The book is THE GHOST WAY by Tony Hillerman. In it, Jim Chee goes to Los Angeles for a case, and while he is working on the case, he does a lot of thinking about a non-Navajo woman he has been dating and who wants him to give up the Navajo way and come live in her world in Wisconsin.
This happened to be the first Jim Chee book I read, though not the first one published. And this was my introduction to this woman (she never appears in the actual book). I found it masterfully done, and the introspection did not interfere at all with the case Chee was working on.
I hope it can help you with Max's introspection.
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Max's want to study fantasy art disconnects from the main action. That and Dad's later approval bookend the main action. The bookends are unnecessary to the main action.
The main action plot synopsis more or less resembles a family vacation horror depicted in summer camp horror conventions. Middle grade's singular convention is an unsupervised child independently interacts with age peers for the most part; adults, erratically and episodically, if at all. Unsure that horror of those types suits middle grade audiences. They do suit later age young adult.
Now so what? I wonder why I should care; oh yeah? I don't believe, and huh? I'm confused Max summons a monster on family vacation when the action I'm prepared for is his efforts to enroll in art school. So what? Oh yeah? And huh? are three questions readers ask while they read according to our host Orson Scott Card in Characters and Viewpoint.
This bookend action and nested main action also is a Bait and Switch: "When an author encourages the reader to invest attention in a developing emotional or suspenseful situation (‘bait’), only to substitute (‘switch’) a high-action payoff which has nothing to do with the previous development, or a POV cut so that the expected climax is unresolved but instead left to the reader’s imagination. A bad habit because it leaves the reader feeling vaguely unfulfilled and unwilling to invest energy in future setups, because the reader doubts that paying attention will be rewarded. (CSFW: Alex Jablokov.)" (David Smith "Being a Glossary of Terms Useful in Critiquing Science Fiction")
Plus, any action that might relate to Max's art study want cannot be onstaged throughout the vacation as is. It can only be destaged, happen behind the scenes and off the stage.
One action per narrative is a best practice. The family vacation or Max's efforts to become an art student, not both. The former, though, leaves Max without a personal want-problem complication. Teenagers on family vacation often don't want to be and, for family vacation horror, that's a cause of the horror's incitement.
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the ghost way, Hillerman, good mystery/thriller series. I agree KDW, he is worth the read for any would-be writer.
ryan, there is a lot that could be commented on but I will just pick one about your ending since that was your original question. I don't like the switch hand scenario. Any real artist would know this is an impossibility without extreme training. It has to be clever. Like another artist guides his left hand to draw -- a new arm -- Himself whole -- the gate. If this magic is a truly rare gift the loss of the arm has to be an extreme price. It should not be solved so easily as switch hands because every artist knows you suc* with your off hand, even if ambidex. I can write also with my left but do my art? not without a ton of retraining, and it would never be the same as with my right. Or maybe your hero discovers the art originates within the mind and it's from there not the hand that the magic is born. The hand is just a catalyst, a bridge between which mind and magic can merge and manifest. Leading the hero to ask himself -- does the magic originate from the hand first, the mind first, or the soul first?
To overcome the loss there has to be a masterful answer. Don't cheat the reader.
Thanks W. This was also a concern. It did seem too easy and seemed a cheat. I'll come up with something. I appreciate your feedback. I also understand how difficult it is to draw or paint with your off hand. It's possible, but the images look like crap.
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A few nota benes, NB. The "Being a Glossary of Terms Useful in Critiquing Science Fiction" abbreviation "CSFW" attribution is for the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Workshop. Most of the items covered in the Glossary apply to all creative writing.
For this novel, that Inini-Makwa eats her children is a polygenesis motif from across global cultures. An ancient example is Medea, granddaughter of the Sun god Helios from Greek mythology, developed in a play by Euripides, an examination of women's unique lives in a dominant patriarchal society, the common folk tale meaning intent behind mothers who eat their children.
Not that mothers actually devour children, that the consumption symbolizes a mother's withdrawal of her children from an untenable family father situation and the devouring a folk motif true intent to discourage and disparage independent mothers.
Grimms brothers' "Hansel and Gretel" is a similar folk tale and design. Native Nation cultures, too, told and still tell similar tales: "Cannibal Woman" also "Micu'x," Seneca myths; "Basket Ogress," Samish myth; "Red Woman," Crow myth; "Makah" and "Sxwaysh'klu," Quinault and Queets myths; "Wendigo", shapeshifter cannibal, Algic myth; to identify a few. Each myth resembles similar Grimms' folk tales and Aesop's Fables, same design and intents and narrative methods, indirect discourse as oral tradition -- storyteller oration.
Point being, the tale type and intent to discourage independent women is common across neolithic cultures and derives from ancient paleolithic traditions. The genesis likely occurred when a nomadic culture somewhat settled into fixed abodes, at the start time of agriculture, the distinction between paleolithic and neolithic cultures. Through folk tales, the "wisdom of the ages" is handed down through generations.
Frankly, I am unfond of tales that diminish independent women's social roles. However, mothers who eat their children tales do express a social value, as objectionable or persuasive or desirable as that may be. Such a "correlative objective" -- see the Glossary -- design is an essential part of such a narrative, regardless of the target audience's age.
That Max wants to study at an art school out of the blue lacks a motivation mechanism. Where does he get that from? Could he read, say, a graphic novel and be inspired? Maybe he also finds a classified ad for the art school in the publication. Plus, why does that inspire Max? Perhaps he's been drawing all his young life, only the drawings are copywork of, say, Sunday funny pages and comic books. His first original drawing for the portfolio is his imagination of what Inini-Makwa looks like? Those are motivation's want aspect, why a want most of all. Like Max wants independence from a, to him, untenable family situation.
If that problem developed first, that could tie the family vacation horror to Max's art school want. However, that problem then warrants one of the child torments, devours, or destroys parents motifs from folk culture. The Greek Titans destroy Cronos's offspring myth recorded by Hesiod is one such example.
Also, then, Max must make progress on the portfolio, how many items? Probably about ten for a high school art program. For prose purposes, a focus on about three pieces and the rest paraphrased is artful. If Inini-Makwa is the more dramatic one, hers is third in sequence. Plus, a few rough drafts Max rejects of each is indicated. That offers opportunity for the monsters the art initiates to fade on their own. Then, too, ones that show Max as noble self-sacrificer for others' benefits early on, if not first, then he is conflicted by wickedness and nobleness's roundness of character though likeable because he can be noble.
Let me offer some clarity, extrinsic. Max's backstory is that he's been an artist his entire life, and not just any old artist but a phenomenal artist. His pencil drawings aren't just Sunday morning comics, but rival the work of artists like Diego Fazio.
This school he wants to attend, part of his want is because he loves art and wants to create art for a living, but part of it also has to do with wanting to leave a (in his eyes) dysfunctional family setting. His father not only disapproves of Max's want to be an artist, but disapproves so strongly of the content of Max's art he forbids Max to draw that type of art ... only realistic portraits and landscapes. Things that are real.
Max's art teacher is the person who discovers the school and prompts Max to want to attend.
The thing is ... this is all backstory. The story, as it is currently written, deals with Max's relationship with his father. Dad wants Max to grow up, to put away childhood toys, "be a man already," but his vision of what a man should be differs from Max's vision. Dad wants to control and Max wants to not be controlled.
The struggle between these two takes place over the course of a week, while the family is on vacation. Max had a portfolio ready to deliver for review to the school, but it was not "father-approved," and so he must create a new portfolio this week. That's the deadline. Meanwhile, he needs to prove to himself he can "be a man" if his father is going to give him the freedom to attend this out-of-state boarding school.
It is the actions Max takes, once he discovers the drawings he creates (while in this specific place, in this specific time) that prove to his father (and to Max) what kind of adult he can be. One who disobeys his father's directive to not draw fantasy art (and, of course, the fantasy art he draws comes to life and wreaks havoc), but one who, ultimately, takes responsibility for his actions and works hard to "clean up his own mess."
Basically, Max's want to attend art school is concentrated into, and represented by, his need to create a portfolio that will get him accepted (and one his father will approve of). He spends the entire week working toward this goal, and failing because ... well ... monsters.
Again, however, the history of why his want is what it is and how he discovered this want is backstory to the current tale and something only hinted at. (Honestly, I get so excited about the draft I have and the story as a whole I feel like it's an amazing book, but when I talk about it here in these short snippets it sounds terrible.)
Anyway, Inini-Makwa is modeled after the Wendigo (though I never state that in the book), and I, too, am not a fan of tales that diminish independent women's social roles, but what should I do? Change Inini-Makwa to a man? The original tale of Inini-Makwa told within the novel takes place in 1400s America where a family of three is cut off from the rest of their tribe and takes shelter from a horrible winter storm. The husband goes hunting and perishes. The wife stays with the child. Is it historically accurate for those roles to be reversed? (Does it matter?)
To clarify, in story time, Max's want for art school, the novel actually opens on with Max's initial portfolio review and he is asked to create something new and come back the following week. So it's there immediately, and the only reason he's given a week is because his father refuses to interrupt their vacation for "a bunch of nonsense." So, it's there right away ... first thing, in fact, and is used (as far as I can tell since I'm immersed in it and have yet review the whole from a distance) as a motivator for the rest of the story ... it's just, other things get in the way.
Does this clarify things? Make the bookend story of the art school better or worse (it really does play a role throughout the story)? Does it still seem a Bait and Switch climax? It's difficult to discuss it parceled out the way we do in this format, but all of it helps.
I love this conversation. Keep it coming. It does me good to hear rational arguments from those who have an understanding of the craft and the genre. (My writing group is lacking.)
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A proactive agonist means Max discovers the art school on his own initiative. If that is his tangible want, and his father's opposition to it a problem that both motivates and resists its satisfaction, then that is a single action complication incitement. And Max proactive in all things; he does, sometimes fallibly, he isn't done to? (Victimism that compels proactive action is the feminine variant of masculine proactivism action, feminine and masculine, not per se female and male).
The family vacation is a detour from that overt want-problem complication. A dysfunctional father who opposes Max's want is an intangible complication, not intangible to Max, rather, what its true meaning is is intangible. Codependence is an intangible phenomena. Of course, Max blames his father for his problems, the caretaker and enabler victimize and persecute codependence cycles. Perhaps blames rightly so; however, their clash of wills is that Max wants and knows his own mind, wants and knows his own definition of a mature man, and Dad differs.
The Scriptures comparative, 1 Corinthians 13:11-12, "11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known."
The traditional social notion of art school opposition is its non-manual labor nature, non-manly, dependent on others' beneficence. Contemporary acceptance of art careers, though, is due to art's commodification and potential profits. Fantasy of late booms. Money anymore is its own independent masculine identity notion, regardless of whether from masculine manual or feminine aesthetic labors.
That Max-father clash, though, warrants a different motif than a cannibal mother monster. A cannibal father monster maybe, maybe a succession tableau instead. The classic folk one is a young buck and an old stag duel for supremacy, often, the old stag wins for now. Rocky Balboa films patterned after Rocky Marciano stage that buck and stag duel motif. Likewise, the Greek Olympians upstage the Titans is another. Shakespeare's Hamlet is a similar tale. "The Jealous Father" from a Cree myth is similar.
Father-son relationship myths, though, are generally of a more inspirational nature than interpersonal clashes. Sons who clash with fathers are especially few in Grimms' tales and Aesop's Fables. One in Grimms altogether, "The Old Grandfather and the Grandson." The father in the tale mistreats the grandfather and the grandson mimics the grandfather's mistreatment in child play that forehadows how the son will treat the father when he grows up. No fantasy motif in that tale, though, and few fantasy motifs for the story type overall across the literary opus.
Maybe this novel calls for an original fantasy motif, through a mirror, darkly, suited to this age's thought that perhaps fathers are fallible. Huh, unheard of, unconscionable, and ripe for dissent from all comers -- not. Maybe now is a timely and relevant time to carry that subversive thought into fantasy, where it falls short.
It seems to me that you're too focused on Story, at the expense of story. The reader isn't interested in learning all the details and the backstory. That all factual, and as entertaining to read as any other history book.
Keep in mind that your reader expects to be entertained by being made to live the story. If you relate the story from the viewpoint of an external observer, reporting and explaining, there's no uncertainty, just a flow of, "This happened...then that happened...and you need to know this..." delivered in an emotion free voice because only you know what emotion to place into the voice doing that explaining.
But place your reader into the moment your protagonist calls now and the future becomes uncertain. Make the reader know what the character knows, instead of the narrator, and the reader will view the scene as your protagonist does, complete with that character's misconceptions. In practical terms it means that reader will be as surprised to learn the truth as is the protagonist.
That way, instead of being told how your artist feels, they will feel the same emotion, for the same reason. When your protagonist reaches a decision to do or say something, the reader, knowing why, and sharing the protagonist's beliefs, desires, and emotion will want to know if the result will be what's hoped. And isn't that emotional involvement why we read? A reader who's worried about the protagonist is a happy, and hooked, reader. If you can make that reader say, "Oh...my...god, what do we do now?" you have a happy reader.
Your protagonist, in any given moment, is focused on what matters to him/her. Their actions are driven by the sum total of their life experience, yes, but in that moment the protagonist is focused on the product of that experience, not what it was. And if that backstory doesn't matter to the protagonist why stop the scene clock, kill the momentum the scene has built, and launch into an info-dump the reader hasn't demanded.
Yes, you can provide backstory, and it's often needed, but we must either slip it in unnoticed or make the reader want it.
Another thing we often lose track of: your reader may only open the book for a few minutes at lunchtime, or when they have a break. So any data you feed them that's not relevant to the situation in progress may well be forgotten by the time it's needed. Better, then, to make them know what they need, when they need it, by making the protagonist need it, too.
Thanks for your input, Jay. I totally appreciate it. While you are totally correct about backstory being a problem and the need for "in the moment" narration from the point-of-view character (and I will continue to reference this thread as I review to ensure your suggestions stay fresh in my mind), I believe we've veered a great distance from my original intended question.
I've been thinking about the original question myself for some time. (For Kathleen ... I have gone out and purchased the book you recommended, but have not had a chance to delve into it yet.)
The original question deals with the best way to handle Audience Superior Position. Most examples you can find online discuss the audience reading about the villain putting a bomb in a car intended for Certain Victim, and then watch as the hero or protagonist enters the car. It's about handling tension. The audience knows something at least one of the characters do not and it is supposed to be their concern for the unknowing character that ramps up the tension.
A bomb is an easy example. It's physical and something the protagonist could discover in order to save himself.
What if it isn't a bomb, though? What if it isn't anything physical at all? What if the thing the character must discover to save himself (or everyone else) is a kind of knowledge or truth?
Let's leave my story aside for a moment and let me offer a hypothetical story. (It will, hopefully, keep things simpler -- less confusing.)
Say we have a character: Esteban Jimenez. Let's say Esteban has some kind of magical ability to summon creatures to do his bidding. (Think Cinderella calling to the woodland creatures to help her clean the dwarfs' cottage.) Only, Esteban doesn't know he can do this. Things just seem to happen around him with no real explanation and he believes he has a strong connection to animals and the like, but he doesn't believe in magic.
One day, while Esteban is at work, the grocery store he works for is a bystander casualty in a drive-by shooting. The gang members were aiming for some kid on the sidewalk in front of the store, but it's a drive by and there isn't a lot of aim involved, and a lot of innocent people are injured and killed ... and Esteban is the only person who witnessed any real information about the killers. Sure they wore masks, but he had a good look at the car. Without a plate number, though, or a description of the shooters there's nothing the police can do. They're useless.
The thing is, in order for Esteban to use his power correctly (a power he doesn't know he has), he must have a clear mind and an intentional focus (intention is the key here). If he wants to summon rodents to clean his house, he must clear his mind and focus on only rodents and only on the task he needs them to accomplish. So, when rodents come to clean his house, maybe as he's leaving for the day the wishes he had a clean house and thinks, "Wouldn't it be funny if rodents did it. The irony." Then, while he's gone, it happens.
So, with this drive by and the impotent police, Esteban wishes there was some way for these gangbangers to see their comeuppance and daydreams of some Conan-style barbarian sweeping the city streets clean of all the trash (i.e., criminals) in the city. It's a daydream so he sees himself in the role, a vigilante who is ultimately praised for his do-goodery.
Esteban has this daydream and goes about his life as usual. Maybe he gets a promotion at work. Maybe he finds a girlfriend who thinks he's funny and cute. Maybe he finally reconciles with his estranged brother.
Meanwhile, the reader witnesses a Conan-style barbarian cleaning up the streets. He's murdering people left and right for even the slightest infraction and we see, from his perspective, not only why it's right, but also that he hates it ... that he feels a slave to an unseen power driving him to commit these murders and he wishes it would stop. We see, from his perspective, the only way he knows to make it stop is to sever the magical bond connecting him to the person who called him to this duty (Esteban) by murdering that person ... if he could only find said person.
During this time, while Esteban's life is flourishing and Conan is murdering, Esteban finally discovers his magical ability and studies how to control it ... a little. He comes to understand the power of intention in his magic, the need to have strict concentration and focus on his desire ... but he's forgotten all about the drive by shooting and his daydream of himself as a criminal-killing Conan
But now ... Esteban sees his picture plastered all over the news. He's wanted for questioning in at least three-dozen murder cases, and the Conan is finally tracking him down.
Esteban's in deep with everyone. His new girlfriend has left him because she can't be with a murderer. His brother said goodbye because what he's seeing of Esteban now makes Esteban a total hypocrite. He's lost his job because no one wants a murderer working for them. The police are closing in and Conan has already made an attempt on his life.
How is Esteban going to stop it and make everything right again? The key is that Esteban must understand the intentions he had in his mind during that daydream. What was he thinking? What influenced his magic when he created this criminal-basing Conan who could be his twin? Only in those intentions will he be able to find a source to end all the trouble it's caused.
Now, in a film it's easy enough to run a series of smash cuts reflecting on the day. Maybe there was one specific moment -- a though as significant as a grain of sand -- relating to a way to stop Conan. Maybe it was as simple as Esteban thinking the checkout girl was cute and introducing her to Conan would break the murderous spell. (I'm just spit-balling here.)
Whatever it is, Esteban needs to discover it, but it was something that already happened in the story, something the reader already experienced. (If the author is doing his/her job right -- and I don't know that I am -- whatever it is should have been at least mentioned on the day of the drive by shooting ... a Chekhov's Gun of magical thought, for example.)
In a novel, however, you can't have the point-of-view character rehash the events of that day in his mind ... it's too introspective and slows the narration WAY down right when everything needs to be building to a climax.
This is the problem I'm having. The reader has seen all the events leading up to this moment. Esteban has lost everything and is boxed in by Conan on one side and the police on the other. The reader has seen what the police need to do to stop it. The reader has seen what Conan needs to do to stop it. The reader has even seen (both at the beginning of the story during the drive by scene, and in the middle when Esteban was learning to understand and control his magic) what Esteban needs to do to stop it.
The problem is ... Esteban doesn't know. He has the information, but it's buried deep in his psyche and he doesn't understand the significance ... he hasn't connected the dots yet.
So here's the question: how do you handle it for the reader? You can't have Esteban re-experience it all internally to connect the dots. Do you simply have him act as though he already has connected the dots because the reader has (i.e., the reader doesn't need to see him come to the conclusion)? That seems a cheat. Do you have him have conversations with some other character that will help lead him to the solution? Again, this seems as dull as the introspection. You could rewrite it so the reader doesn't have any of the information from the other points-of-view (the police or Conan), but that still doesn't help you get Esteban to the conclusion he needs without either introspection or conversation.
So ... how would you (anyone) handle it?
This has all been great before. I truly appreciate everyone's feedback. Thank you so much!
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Audience superior position relates to a given narrative point of view. Grammatical person and tense, degree of narrator omniscience from utter detachment to danger close, and tone's emotional-moral attitude toward a complication-conflict topic from narrator and from agonists. Those four axes are the primary matters of point of view.
One bolus on a graph of those axes might be events only unfold in the immediate now moment, third person, detached, and only agonists' speech-expressed tone, unfold for agonists and readers at the same time. In that case, reader superior position might be due part to foreknowledge of situations ripe for drama. Folk tales use stock liminality to position dramatic situations, one method: liminal times, liminal places, liminal situations. Midnight is a liminal time. Doorways are liminal places. Between here and there is a liminal situation.
Liminal: "1 of or relating to a sensory threshold, 2 barely perceptible, 3 of, relating to, or being an intermediate state, phase, or condition : IN-BETWEEN, TRANSITIONAL On the liminal state between life and death -- (Deborah Jowitt)" (Webster's 11th)
Horror flicks use overt liminal signals to foreshadow dramatic scenes: liminal events, settings, and characters -- birth, death, age phase transitional times, sweet sixteen, age of majority, retirement; approaches to basement and attic entrances, gateways into cemeteries and other sundry portals, stairways, the ecotone zone between habitats, like at the edges of forests, waterways, skies, and infernos; and mysterious personas, like tall, dark, and handsomes; short, stout, darker, and uglies; uncommon apparel and equipment; strangers generally, or persons with an inclination for obtuseness of whatever stripe. Just a few examples of liminal events, settings, and characters. In-between, transitional, unsettled from one clear circumstance to another clear circumstance. Mysteriousity.
As a matter of fact, narrative structure overall is a liminal construct. A start at the least upsets emotional equilibrium; a middle strives for emotional equilibrium restoration; an end restores emotional equilibrium to a new normal. Each part as well is liminal, and further micro liminality throughout, in-between one emotional upset extreme and the other of emotional equilibrium.
Do not horror audiences anymore know that, when an agonist group breaks out into smaller groups, they will encounter more and worse problems, oblivious to danger, nonetheless? That breakout is a liminal signal. When the teen group goes camping at Lake Hutachicaw, unaware until informed a mass serial murderer once owned the camp, is that knowledge not also a liminal signal audiences recognize? Liminal signals create dramatic irony, where readers suspect or know drama is afoot, and develop tension's empathy or sympathy, and tension's congruent, suspense's curiosity.
Not horror exclusively, either. Every genres' conventions signal liminality. Fantasy: magical doings are fraught with want-problem liminal signals. Mystery: crimes are fraught with want-problem liminal puzzle signals wanting satisfaction. Western: the rugged individual is fraught with liminal independence and dependence want-problem signals. Science fiction: fantastical physical and social technology and science are fraught with liminal want-problem signals. Thriller is fraught with liminal psychological and visceral want-problem signals. Romance: love interest and suitor are fraught with liminal want-problem signals. Literary: any of the above plus brittle-sharp and strong, deeply personal liminal want-problem subtext signals.
Complication's want-problem is itself liminal, mindful want is a problem and vice versa, too, and another space between of want as an obstacle and problem as a motivator, and a fourth space that is a synthesis of the other want-problem liminal spaces.
Conflict, obviously liminal, too, polar opposite forces in contention related to stakes and outcomes, like the in-between situations of life and death, success and failure, riches and rags, acceptance and rejection, etc. Mysteriously in-between those transitional puhsmi-pulya event, setting, and character liminal conflict forces.
Tone is liminal, too, in-between attitudes that jockey for firm settlement at one unequivocal standpoint.
In order to achieve audience superior position, lavish attention on the literal event, setting, and character existents that signal liminality, plus trust that readers' want to understand and make sense out of those liminals is part accommodated by what foreknowledge they bring to a narrative. The rest, writers provide for readers.
Liminal signals do both and more -- develop audience superior position through dramatic irony. Even a narrative that entails no intended audience superior position or dramatic irony uses liminal signals to imply dramatic situations. For example, Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Note, liminal, not subliminal. Webster's: "1 inadequate to produce a sensation or a perception, 2 below the threshold of consciousness".
THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD requires the point-of-view narrator to hide information from the reader, so the readers can not really be inside the point-of-view character's head - they can only think they are (it's a bit of a cheat itself).
What I hear you asking about, Ryan, is what I might call a "verbal Telling Detail" (in reference to how "telling details" can be used to keep description from becoming too wordy).
The Verbal Telling Detail is most often planted in the inciting incident and then, when the hero needs to figure out what to do, something someone says or does triggers that Verbal Telling Detail (in the movies, this is emphasized by the hero saying something - hence the "verbal" part) and then heading out to do what needs to be done.
The audience is left to either recognize what the Verbal Telling Detail is and then have an idea what the hero is going to do, or the audience must puzzle out what the hero has said. Not every audience member will make the connection until they watch the hero do what needs doing.
An example from a recent movie (which I finally was able to watch):
Dr. Strange hears the bad guy say "beyond time" and that triggers an idea that Dr. Strange is able to use to solve the big problem.
Dr. Strange has been learning things all along, and makes creative use of what he has learned, but the audience, for the most part, does not know what he is going to do until he does it.
One of the best parts about this solution is that the hero learned fairly early on that consequences are not warned about in the instructions until after the instructions are given (and followed), and that helps provide a weak spot that Dr. Strange is able to use against the enemy.
All of this depends on things that appear to be incidental (like Chekov's gun) being mentioned in the earlier part of the story - things that may not even be noticed by the readers (they may know it, but they do not necessarily know that they know it).
Something your hypothetical story reminded me of:
Harry Potter uses his magic (to release the snake) very early in the first book, and he doesn't know that he was the one who did it. His uncle suspects, because he knows that Harry has magical parents, but Harry doesn't know this. He finds out soon enough, but he still has a lot to learn.
There are lots of ways for power to be demonstrated and lots of ways for wielders of power to learn that they are the ones making things happen.
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To get back to your original question, I think you are unnecessarily overcomplicating a simple variation of cause and effect. As the story unfolds the reader intuits (or you desperately hope they do) the cause of all the commotion and they then watch as Max deals with the effects. Max, on the other hand, is initially unaware of the cause of all these things that happen, but he is the one who has to deal with the effects. Simple.
Here's the real complication though: characterisation. As your synopsis reads at the moment, Max comes off as a bit of a dill (an idiot, a moron, as thick as two short planks). If Max isn't wondering about what is happening and what the real cause is from the very outset the reader is going to conclude that Max is stupid. Never a good characterisation. Best practice would be that Max works it all out gradually as the story develops, thus raising the tension and the stakes. This obviates the need for excessive navel gazing by Max in one lump.
My biggest problem with the story as outlined by you is the plot. It reads as repetitively episodic.
Kathleen, Phil, extrinsic, thank your all. This does help. Phil, you are right, the iutline, and buts of the first draft are episodic. I have diagnosed this bit already and am working in changes. Time to get to work making more. Thanks!
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"Episodic" has a negative, a neutral, and a positive connotation for prose, life probably, too. The negative connotation entails redundant repetition of circumstances, tautology like; neutral, an observation of a repetitive circumstance cycle; positive, from the picaresque, in which the adventures of a roguish protagonist in vice- and folly-ridden social circumstances are episodic.
The latter concerns the artful pass over of unnecessary interim circumstances -- like in-between non-roguish action or repetitive "Drain circling." When an action is repeated without dramatically different circumstances. First murder, second murder, third murder. Huh, someone's a serial killer with an identical modus operandi for each crime, already fully developed. Unnatural, unnecessary, dull. Instead, either dramatically different and escalated episodes, that include culprit and detective mistakes, problems, and method perfection variations and those reveal clues to identify the malefactor, is warranted or a conflation of episodes is.
The negative connotation of episodic for prose is also known as Here-to-there mistake, event to event, setting to setting's time, place, and situation, viewpoint to viewpoint here-to-there mistakes: "Over-describing interim stages because of a mistaken belief that the reader will not infer them. A writer whose character’s eyes are closed, for example, wants to describe something visually and feels compelled to say, ‘he opened his eyes’. Omitting this phrase usually works better — the reader can infer the eye-opening from the visual description. Similarly, ‘he got into the car, put the key in the ignition, started the engine and backed out of the driveway’ is too much description: ‘he got into the car and backed out of the driveway.’"
Interim stages can also be drawn-out passages, like travel from place to place, time to time, and situation to situation, that are described in detail and nothing dramatic happens, and best practice are excised altogether. Instead, they are implied in a transition lead-up; followed by a jump transition, a paragraph break, an empty line or type art marked and above and below empty-spaced lines, or a section or chapter break, etc., depending on degree of transition; followed by a transition follow-through; and finished transition by arrival at the new circumstance's circumstances.
Something as simple as a report The murders took place in the next town over, or the other side of the globe. etc., is a transition setup step. Jump space's white space signals a time lapse, the more white space, the more elapsed time, or space, a follow through step. The finish step then signals this is where now the narrative resumes.
For, say, a viewpoint agonist persona transition, a clue, or cue, might express and imply a jump that So-and-so better by now be bringing the ansible from Aldebaran. White space. So-and-so encounters problems with the ansible.
The above car examples from "Being a Glossary of Terms Useful in Critiquing Science Fiction" are both Here-to-there mistakes, the second less artless than the first by a small degree. Instead, the person going to the car, etc., could be inferably implied. If the car becomes a problem congruent to the main action, like a dead battery, a flat tire, or a broken window, or the car was stolen, etc., those are correlative objectives that imply and are inferable the person is now at the car's known location and intent on going to a wherever destination that was previously set up. The car object and destination objective are the transition and the action's correlatives implied and inferable for purposes of audience superior position success.
That Max is a child art prodigy sets him as already an accomplished artist with little latitude for transformation movement on that front. That also is a touch heavy-handed writer surrogacy: writer self-idealization and self-efficacy that intrudes into a narrative's action. The problem-less want complication of already a prodigy is the writer's daydream surrogate and less so, if at all, the agonist's complication.
Prodigies are improbable, not unnatural or impossible. The target audience might find that an unlikable trait because, by and large, they struggle with expression skill arts and sciences, like fine art drawing. However, middle grade audiences favor writer surrogacy some degree more than older ages' progressive less tolerance for it. Writer surrogacy somewhere in between is a best practice. Not a full-blown prodigy, more so one in progress, that then is problematized antagonism development which the audience can identify with, empathize at least. Tension's rapport of sympathy or empathy emotional engagement criteria, in other words.
Max wants to attend art school. In order for that want to be fully realized, an end outcome best practice poses Max at the art school, after much doubt that will, indeed, be the outcome. Dad's approval of Max's want is a And they lived happily ever after outcome and is a much deprecated end type. Instead, consider Max at the art school in a new normal emotional equilibrium state and only routinely antagonized by whatever. An advisor could say, after review of Max's permanent school record and admission and enrollment package, Read your jacket. So you're, what, a prodigy? We'll see about that. That's an end without a new action setup though implies inferable potential for a series of maturation and initiation tableaus thereafter: Art initiates life -- art initiates adulthood initiation, an apt maxim for a middle grade narrative. Max won't fully attain adulthood for another twelve years, if then.
All the above is offered for descriptive consideration, not prescriptive mandates of what must be done. An artist's creative vision is the artist's intellectual property solely. Commenters' creative visions are for consideration, not per se necessary for implementation. The worse harm a critic or editor may do to an artist's creative vision is usurp ownership of it, misapprehend and impose the commenter's creative vision upon the artist's. Readers may do that, to some degree; that's their prerogative. When they do, it is sublime and signals profound engagement.
Too right, extrinsic. Too right. Though I'm fairly certain Phil's diagnosis of episodic structure relates to the same event (an abduction of one vacationer from the resort) repeats five time over the course of the narrative without much (or any) narrative or emotional change.
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