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Writing a book for the first time...[Input Appreciated]

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout' started by London'sBurning, Aug 11, 2011.

  1. London'sBurning

    London'sBurning Contributing Member

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    Hey all, I've been thinking about writing a book for about a year now. I get bored going to and from work and have had random ideas while in the middle of traffic hour. I've always liked writing but have no formal experience in it besides taking English Comp 1 and 2 when I was 18.

    I wrote a chapter summary of what I have so far but it's partly inspired in a superhero setting and also inspired by old Greek and Roman Mythology. I read Ovid's Metamorphoses and kept reading parts where the gods would come down to earth and mess with humans.

    This story is sort of inspired that way. It would detail two creators, Life and Death. Both would come down to earth as humans under two conditions. 1) They don't know who they are when they transform, and 2) They somehow have to fulfill their obligations in the universe despite not knowing who they are.

    The story would then split into two parts. One to detail the story of a teenager named Robert Caravrint and another to detail the story of a teenage girl named Petra Ofostae. Both would come from fairly horrible families and the first part of the book would detail their origins and how the two eventually reunite as humans on earth. I've written a chapter summary of Robert's origins and would appreciate your input whether you think its good or not.

    Warning its a long read and not edited as I'm just brainstorming so far.


    I know its a long read for chapter summaries but I am looking for input on how to write a fictional novel. If there's anything missing in the chapter summaries that raises a question, I'll be happy to answer. I know, actually writing is good practice but I guess I'm looking for a critique whether the story is good or not, and suggestions on how I can go about completing this novel without it coming off too amateurish. I have tried writing it already and writing dialogue is the toughest part by far. Thanks for any input offered.
     
  2. Dairy Ashford

    Dairy Ashford Member

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    I think the "readies" might push you to do a better job describing what types of metaphors or symbolism you might have in the text. Also at some point I guess this stuff needs to be outlined. Right now this just reads like talking points for a pitch meeting about a movie concept. You may just want to bite the bullet and get an English degree, just to force yourself to read more and get the stamina necessary to write a book.
     
  3. London'sBurning

    London'sBurning Contributing Member

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    It's not easy to convey in a chapter summary but if there's a philosophy behind the story its that life can quite literally be a random series of events. In Greek and Roman Mythology when the gods would come down, they were relatively omniscient and could always revert back to Olympus or wherever their domain was. In this story, both Life and Death are born into relatively bad families and are subjected to the life they're dealt and both end up making the most of it.

    There's a lot more to it than just the chapter summary I wrote as I would need to share Death's origin and how Death reunites with Life.

    Once they're reunited as humans, I would write about their day to day activities together. They would solve cases and beat up bad guys, but the heart of the story would be their own human development and their eventual demise where they would revert back to creators with greater knowledge of human experiences.
     
  4. iconoclastic

    iconoclastic Member

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    Your screenname is apt.
     
  5. liljojo

    liljojo Member

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    Surprised it hasn't been said: Cool story, bro!

    But seriously, the premise so far sounds really interesting. I'm not one to be giving tips, as I'm probably the worst writer you will ever encounter, but this definitely an intriguing story, right up my alley.

    Will be checking in periodically for updates.
     
  6. michecon

    michecon Contributing Member

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    The book is not about your screen name. I'm disappointed. ;)
     
  7. TreeRollins

    TreeRollins Contributing Member

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  8. HI Mana

    HI Mana Member

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    <iframe width="425" height="349" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/D2MWRb4Dq7w" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

    Seriously though, good luck. Definitely respect the effort of getting it down on paper; hell, I have a hard time putting down my ideas for articles and topics here in the forum.

    With the understanding that this is coming from a scientist with no English or writing degree, here are my thoughts:

    One thing that I do wonder about from reading your basic pitch is whether you're positioning it as a "gods learn a lesson and deal with overarching threat without the use of omnipotence", or "ordinary human grows through the use of superpowers". It seems like you want a little of the second on the day to day stuff, and have your denouement be mostly the first. I wonder if that's going to be emotionally satisfying?

    Have you considered possibly changing your narrative structure? Going back to back on origin stories seems very strange for a single continuous novel; might you be better served to intertwine the origins, emphasizing the differences in your characters and the duality of their powers (presumably)? I would think that once you have the team up, you'll pretty much need to revert to this kind of structure anyway if you want to show individual growth.
     
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  9. what

    what Member

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    The very first thing you should do is strike the word "explain" from your vocabulary. Fiction is a chronicling of what a character does, not his past history, not some metaphysical, contrived back story that bores most readers--you need a clear protagonist that has a real problem that he attempts to solve. If you have to explain a bunch of stuff, then you probably need to rethink your entire approach to the story.

    Secondly, you mentioned that you have two characters life and death, which means that you are going to have to write the story from an extreme omniscient point of view, which also means that you will have to take care to not violate point of view by hoping around the heads of your characters which will guarantee that your story won't be published or read. Readers like a strong point of view character that they can root for. Besides life and death aren't characters anyway, what they should be is fodder for a well fleshed out scene. That's like saying love and hate are characters. No, they are emotions and their are thousands of ways that a character can interpret love and/or hate, just like their are thousands of ways that a character can interpret life or death.

    Until you find a focal character that you can bring alive your story will not work.

    There is a book called techniques of a selling writer. If you are serious, buy the book and study it. If you aren't then go it the way you are going, just don't expect that your writing will ever see the light of day.
     
  10. what

    what Member

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    One other thing you might have a problem with and it is something that takes a long while to realize that you are doing it.

    Say, for example, that Clutch happened to ask you to write a piece on the rockets upcoming season. So you sit down to write, thinking I have to impress Clutch. After all, you take the responsibly very seriously. Your head sorta swells, and before you know it you are writing in a heighten language, referencing Hemingway and Salinger.

    Good writing is plain language writing. What creates important writing is not a bunch of allusions and references, but your turn of mind. Ogden Nash once wrote a poem very like a whale about the tendency of writers to embellish their sentences with simile and metaphor. Don't make the same mistake. The hardest thing in writing is accepting who you are.

    PS, I hope you realize I'm giving you very valuable advice here.
     
  11. London'sBurning

    London'sBurning Contributing Member

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    I do. I appreciate the advice offered in this thread.
     
  12. London'sBurning

    London'sBurning Contributing Member

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    My idea started out with two superheroes. However I didn't want them to be in a world where there were superheroes all over like a DC or Marvel universe. I wanted these two characters to be unique in that they would be the only ones that had such power.

    I figured the best way to allow these two characters to perform supernatural acts is to have them start out omniscient. If they were omniscient throughout the whole book though, then it would be rather boring. So I set up the two conditions that they wouldn't know who they were as Life and Death, but that they still had to fulfill their role in the universe.

    These characters would still be fallible. In the prologue I've written so far, Life is the sole creator but isn't very good at it. It's sort of a retelling of the Big Bang Theory, where Life creates a ton of hydrogen and helium but can't get the elements to do anything. Instead of starting over, Life creates Death to recycle for him. Death takes over and sets up a hierarchy of rules and gets all the elements in motion. Death takes the hydrogen and helium and turns them into galaxies. Once Death completes her task, both creators stand and watch the universe's evolution. When humans come into existence, Life becomes enamored with them and decides he wants to become one too. Death follows.

    Yadda yadda yadda, they become human. :grin: Life, can create anything after drawing it. He uses his creations to fight and crack cases for him. He becomes the Pastel Assassin. Death, is pretty self explanatory. She can kill anything almost effortlessly, but there would be limitations and an evolution to her abilities. There's a lot more to the story than just that, but Life and Death aren't really meant to be fleshed out. They're used more as an excuse to explain why the two main characters can perform supernatural feats and why no one else can.
     
  13. what

    what Member

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    You might have written the greatest creation myth of all-time, but unless it affects a focal character and complicates his goal of achieving something, it gets real boring real quick.

    The problem that you aren't aware of at the moment is that this prologue, because of the amount of backstory there is, stops your narrative clean. There is a reason why many writing books encourage writers to establish a point of view as soon as possible.

    Also establishing character traits, and you are doing this when you personify life as a bumbling fool, for the sole purpose of a prologue could confuse the reader if they are not the focus of seceding chapters. My first impression, knowing what I know about writing, is that your point of view is a mess right now.

    Even Lord of the Rings had a goal, a destination, a focal character and a conclusion.

    True, some sci-fi/fantasy novels get away with a huge amount of poor storytelling because their readers are extremely patient, but all readers EXPECT a story, and the sooner you get to one the better.
     
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  14. Yung-T

    Yung-T Member

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    "Firefighter Joe" had me crackin, this name is as cliché as it gets.

    [​IMG]
     
  15. London'sBurning

    London'sBurning Contributing Member

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    LOL, I know its not the best name. To be honest I'm actually in the middle of going through the hiring process with the Austin Fire Department. My name is Joe and I wanted to add a filler name for a side character. I plan on changing the name later. :D
     
  16. Deckard

    Deckard Blade Runner
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    Good advice. The less the reader knows about the back story of your characters, the more they are going to want to find it out by continuing to read. Let them discover it, as if you are discovering it yourself. Keep them wanting more. Let the history you give them be a surprise. Sure, you have to give them something, but be reticent about how much.
     
  17. Prince

    Prince Member

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    ... jst add in a little of ToyCen's stuff into your book.. it's gong to be a sellout.
     
  18. what

    what Member

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    Writing is demanding. Fortunately for you, the less you know about it the more copy you can produce, and if you have a knack for storytelling then that might be all you need to sell something.

    Most of us however struggle our whole lives on this lonely and often pointless activity of writing. Once you get to the point of feeling honestly real fear when you start out in the morning starring at your blank pages, then you might be a writer.

    London's burning, go do something fun. Don't get sucked into writing on your own whims. There is a reason for the high suicide rate when it comes to writers.
     
  19. FranchiseBlade

    FranchiseBlade Contributing Member
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    I agree with what What has said about not explaining and having focus on your character and them taking action, having a problem etc.

    I also understand your cool ideas about developing their back story and how things happened. In the end you need to get to where the story fits in with what What has described.

    But writers have different processes, and your process may be to write out the entire prologue and back story now, then edit it and change it. That's fine as long as you understand that you will eventually take those steps. It may serve you well in creating your story to have it all written out from the beginning, though it's almost like just keeping notes.

    Deckard is right in creating interest in your characters first to make the readers want to soak up that back story. Start the novel off with the characters already in action, or facing a huge problem. Have that start within the first 10 pages of your story. Then as the story develops you can work in some of the character's back story. That will be easier since you've already written that part, and it will be clear and concrete in your mind.

    On the whole the real secret to writing is re-writing. It's the hardest part and it's where you will really learn about the craft of writing. Initially you may well write five times more than you really need. That's fine to get the huge glob of ideas you have in your head out on paper. Once that's done, go back through tidy it up, condense it to it's bare essentials, and make the story something that unfolds and is full of action, and not explanation. The action and words of the characters will do the explaining for you.

    Just spend time, and keep at it. Some days you'll write and a ton, and some days nothing will come out at all even though you are trying, or you will try and create what you think is crap. But usually even on days when you only create what you think is crap, something from that writing will be worth salvaging at some point.

    I wish you all the best. It would be cool for you to keep us informed on your process. I would be very interested in following it.
     
  20. Ming Dynasty

    Ming Dynasty Member

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    I've written two unpublished novels (one represented by a literary agent) and started a third which I haven't touched in years after about 100 pages.

    So can't say I'm an expert, but I've been down this path.
    - Just write. There will be no shortage of reasons for you not to write or maybe even people to discourage you. When are you most inspired to write? Set that time aside every day, even if it is just 1-2 hours. No interruptions - no tv, no internet, nothing. Myself, I would crank out pages in small bursts between 10p and midnight, sometimes after a work day where my characters would go through the next scenes in my head.
    - I honestly never had such a fully detailed outline, and the one time I tried, I abandoned the manuscript after 100 pages. This is unique writer to writer, but I think I wrote dialogue well because it came out spontaneous and conversational, just like it happens in real life.
    - Show, don't tell. This is such cliched advice, but it is so true. Inexperienced writers and even some vets have this problem. Have your characters' actions demonstrate the story. Do not insult your readers, ever.
    - Develop believeable characters. You'll be amazed how easy it is to insert stereoptypes, probably not when you're doing it, of course. Every character should believe in their own mind that they are the main character.
    - Write the entire novel first, then edit it (I edited often during the process, though this became a procrastinating technique that kept me from writing), have others read it, etc. Enter it in contests. Don't bother trying to find an agent until you have a finished manuscript. Finding an agent is worth a whole other thread, so don't worry about it until you have at least finished and edited your manuscript.
     

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