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Author Topic: Growing Up Monster - Horror Fantasy
T. K. Bounds
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A child in peril horror novel. Rewriting from 3rd-person close to 1st-person. Would like to know if it's working. About 30k words written so far. Shooting for 70k. The first lines, please.

I became a monster for the first time at seven. My insistent need to know was my undoing. The terror it brought, Iím convinced, summoned Mr. Shady.

In my home, late at night, eerie musical notes groaned and piped from the living room up the stairwell to my room. Drawn by them, I stole from my bed and crouched on a stair. I snuck a look below. Against my motherís orders, I was determined to watch what she forbade me to see. Nosferatu, a scary old black and white movie, played on the television, and other than the organ music, it was silent. Hands clenched on the banister, I gaped at the gray-washed flickering images. A man crept to a door and recoiled from it. Terror etched his face and he backed away.

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Jay Greenstein
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You're 100% explaining and reportingópresnting the events from the viewpoint of an external observer. There's no difference between a narrator explaining the story and a narraror claiming to be the one who had the events happen to them. Changing personal pronouns from third to first person does not change the fact that someone who is not on the scene is talking about it.

Because of the outside-in approach, the reader has details on what happened, true. And were this a report, it would be fine. But telling the reader that someone we know nothing about "became a monster" is meaningful only if we know what's going on and why as the one living the events knows them.

For example, my granddaughter is two and she became a monster today. I asked her what sound a monster makes and, as usual, she responded with, "Raaarrrr!" And that fits this story, based on what we know when we read the first line. Problem is, there are too many possible meanings to the line to make it meaningful. Context would change that.

My point is that you need to involve the reader and give them a reason to care what happens happened by making it seem real. One of the ways to tell if you're doing that is to identify the lines that are presented in overview. The only viewpoint that line can be in is that of the narrator, because the protagonist lives in real-time. And if everything is in the viewpoint of the storyteller...

Take a look at this article on one very powerful way to place the reader into the protagonist's viewpoint.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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A possible start to your story:

quote:
The eerie musical notes groaning up from the living room told me that mom was watching monsters on tv again. I stole from my bed and crouched part way down the stairs. If I could be quiet enough, she wouldn't know I was also watching. Hands clenched on the railings, I gaped at the gray-washed flickering images....
Do you see the difference? This attempt is more from the child's point of view.

Would the child know the title of the movie? Only include things that the child would know IN the time of the event. Don't TELL us what you as narrator know now, looking back, if you really want us to experience the event WITH the child.

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EmmaSohan
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Nice idea. Nice picture.

I am sympathetic to Jay and Kathleen's suggestions, and had the same thoughts, though I am not sure that eliminating your initial sentence is a good idea. But neither do you want to be giving away what's going to happen.

There is a quirky trick, which I call, well, no one likes my name. Something like:

I was at home, lying in my bed, and I had never turned into a monster. I heard music . . .

Stole? Who thinks that? You were writing like an author, especially the informative introductory phrases (like "Against my motherís orders")

Again, potentially interesting story.

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T. K. Bounds
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Thank you all for your help. Good points. Among other flaws, I see I need to define some things in the story.

a) The narrator is an adult and thus uses adult words as he tells of his experiences while growing up.

b) The narrator is well read and thus uses a vocabulary a child would not.

My failings.

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Jay Greenstein
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quote:
The narrator is an adult and thus uses adult words as he tells of his experiences while growing up.
You miss the point. The job of the narrator isn't to tell the story, but to work in support of the protagonist from the prompter's booth, where they can't be seen.

Is there really a difference between the author as narrator and the author changing the personal pronouns from "he" to "I," so as to pretend to be the one who lived the story? Telling is telling.

True, your POV, as defined by pronoun usage is first person, but the viewpoint is that of an external narrator, talking about the events.

That narrator can stop speaking and go to the bathroom, make coffee, and come back to telling the story, so there can be no urgency or immediacy, making the telling dispassionate. The protagonist is living it and can't stop. Sure you're using first person, but the one living the events and the narrator live at different times, so they can't be onstage together.

Think in terms of a horror story. Do you want the narrator to mention that the protagonist is feeling terror? Or do you want them to make you feel as if you're experience the story in real time? In other words, terrorize you?

Look at the example that Kathleen gave, and how it flows:

"The eerie musical notes groaning up from the living room told me that mom was watching monsters on tv again."

This is the protagonist reacting to the sound of the TV in real-time, as against a narrator explaining. This is what will motivate the protagonist to act.

"I stole from my bed and crouched part way down the stairs.

Here, based on the motivation produced by hearing the TV, the protagonist reacts in a way that's natural. It feels real because instead of simply talking about the situation, the action flows logically and naturally from what the child notices. It's worth noting that the narrator cannot view this as an adult without taking the reader out of the scene and moving them to the author's study.

"If I could be quiet enough, she wouldn't know I was also watching."

Here, the protagonist is evaluating the situation as it seems in the moment that character calls "now." Again, a logical progression from the response of moving to the stair. Notice that each thing is a tick of the protagonist's clock that gives the feeling that time is passing for the protagonist, our avatar. It's also worth noting that because the reader knows that do to the nature of fiction, things go wrong, this acts as foreshadowing.

"Hands clenched on the railings, I gaped at the gray-washed flickering images...."

The logical next step is for the protagonist to focus on the screen, so he does. The reader is now there, crouched on the stair, wanting to know what's going to happen that will introduce tension.

Worth noting: Kathleen is a very good writer. Take advantage of that, and look carefully at such examples. The thing to focus on is the fact that the original writing didn't work as well as you hoped. Had it, we would all have been captured by the prose and loved it. So everything else aside, when you get any critique, try to understand why the writing didn't work, and perhaps, why the example given, does.
- - - -
Notice that the narrator doesn't talk to the reader about anything the protagonist isn't actively focused on or stop the action to explain anything. Instead, the narrator focuses on what matters to the protagonist enough to notice and act on.

When she wrote this example she used what's often called Motivation/Response units, or M/RU's. It's a very powerful way of placing the reader into the scene on an emotional level. We make the reader take part in the decision-making and so give them need to see if what the protagonist wants to happen actually does.

For a good condensation of the technique, this article is useful.

Hope this clarifies. Sorry it's so long, but what can I say? I write novels, so, I can't say hello on less than 10,000 words. 🤪

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T. K. Bounds
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quote:
Originally posted by Jay Greenstein:
quote:
The narrator is an adult and thus uses adult words as he tells of his experiences while growing up.
You miss the point. The job of the narrator isn't to tell the story, but to work in support of the protagonist from the prompter's booth, where they can't be seen.
Ahhh ... . A dim-bulb brightens. I understand. Thank you, Jay.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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T. K. Bound, you can still tell the story as an adult looking back (a wonderful example is TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee), but you need to get the reader to forget that they are not looking back with you.

You want the reader to experience the story with your younger self (Harper Lee was very good at this).

A seven-year-old child would not use the words I put in my example, but a seven-year-old child would experience the story as a seven-year-old child, regardless of the words.

It's a fine line, but it helps to focus on what the child is experiencing, even if an adult is describing that experience in more adult-like words.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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And, thank you, Jay. Your kind words warmed the cockles of my heart.
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