Author Topic: Questions About Writing (Sci-fi/Fantasy)  (Read 14142 times)  

Offline JHall

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Questions About Writing (Sci-fi/Fantasy)
« on: March 08, 2013, 12:04:22 AM »
I am new to fiction writing, and I am looking for some advice/opinions on about how I should go about this. I am working on writing a a full-length sci-fi/fantasy novel mix. It is aimed at gamers (I am Game Journalist/Reviewer), so there is the "out-of-game" side of things(Sci-fi), and the "in-game" side(Fantasy). So far I have written four chapters (plus a very bad prologue), which comes out to around 22,000 words.

Right now, my biggest questions are: There is basically no conflict until the very end of the third chapter, and that conflict consist of the protagonist being mugged. Is this OK for a sci-fi/fantasy novel?

Other than that, is it alright if my protagonist starts out as someone that the reader wont like? I've shown the story to someone I know, and some of the feedback he gave me said he thought that the protagonist wasn't a very good character. Sense then, I have tried to expand his 'personality' a bit so that the reader can get to know him better, but he's still the same guy.

And my last question (for now) has to do with formatting. I enjoy reading books that have spaces between paragraphs. Because of this, when I write, I have spaces between my paragraphs. Is this something I should change? I am aware that the "traditional" way to do it is to have no spacing between paragraphs. To clarify, I have indention's and spaces between paragraphs.

If you would be willing to provide feedback, please feel free to visit the blog that I created for the sole purpose of getting feedback. Please be aware that the formatting used on the blog is lacking indention as they wont carry over when I copy/paste the writing from my Word doc. Also, this probably isn't the place to ask for advice on writing (or is it?), but I have been searching high and low and have yet to find a decent, active forum where people can post their stuff and get feedback.

Offline Patty Jansen

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Re: Questions About Writing (Sci-fi/Fantasy)
« Reply #1 on: March 08, 2013, 12:18:31 AM »
Conflict should always be introduced as quickly as possible.

If your first three chapters are backstory and other throat-clearing, delete them. Readers "need" to know a lot less before the story starts than you think they do.

Fiction does not use empty lines between paragraphs, but indents the first line of the paragraph by about 5mm. This is a pretty non-flexible rule.

Offline kurzon

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Re: Questions About Writing (Sci-fi/Fantasy)
« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2013, 12:28:14 AM »
If nothing much happens in the first four chapters, maybe you're starting your book in the wrong place.  I try to start my books when "something changes".

But, frankly, this is the first novel you've ever written.  Stop stressing over it.  Write whatever you damn well want, put it in a drawer for a few months, and then re-read it.  You'll learn more from doing that than you ever will agonising over whether you're starting it correctly.

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Offline JHall

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Re: Questions About Writing (Sci-fi/Fantasy)
« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2013, 12:36:14 AM »
Ah, I don't mean to give the impression I'm stressing over it. I plan to write this how I please no matter what feedback I get (if it's something that makes sense to me and fits with the image I have in my head of what this novel will be like, I will use the feedback).

I just enjoy collecting opinions. It helps motivate me to continue writing, even if the opinion goes against what I am doing, or completely agrees with it. And the purpose of format question is to figure out how I should format it when/if I decide to publish.

Edit: To clarify, this novel is a learning experience for me, which is why I am absolutely writing it the way I enjoy the story, rather than the way that a majority of readers would.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2013, 12:43:08 AM by JHall »

Offline Ell

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Re: Questions About Writing (Sci-fi/Fantasy)
« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2013, 01:15:22 AM »
 I would say go back to the books you really like and try figure why do you like them. That could be biased because you already know the story and you might not see the thing that kept you reading in the first place. Instead, I would go on Amazon and abuse the "Look inside" function. Which one would you keep reading after the first couple of pages? Why?

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Re: Questions About Writing (Sci-fi/Fantasy)
« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2013, 02:38:44 AM »
The conflict should at least be hinted at. I've got no idea what the story is about, but say you've got political thriller elements, then a good way to bridge that tension gap would be to have him walk by a newsfeed talking about the worsening crisis, have his TV run in the background talking about clashes, maybe have a note arrive in his mail to receive a physical examination (for the draft), something like that. You don't have to start with a nuclear explosion, but the reader should get a hint that something big and potentially very bad is going on.

Edit: You don't necessarily have to introduce the main conflict right away, but there should be some form of conflict early on.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2013, 03:05:03 AM by SPBreit »

Offline D.A. Boulter

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Re: Questions About Writing (Sci-fi/Fantasy)
« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2013, 02:40:13 AM »
Just write the story how you want to. It's a learning process and you learn by doing. Absolutely write the story the way you like to have a story told, and write the story that you want to tell. Simply be aware that readers expect certain conventions to be followed and if you want to sell the story, you have to take that into account.

You can have an exciting Science Fiction story with no one ever becoming physical with someone else. Conflict doesn't necessarily mean a physical attack on someone -- like the mugging you mention. Conflict can be as mild as a child asking to be excused from the table to watch TV and the mother saying he has to finish his vegetables first. The kid says something like, "But Mom, I'll miss the beginning."

Kid wants to do something. Mother prevents him. Conflict. A clash of wills.

It can also reside within one character. Your protagonist sees an accident and wants to help but also wants to remain unnoticed. If he helps, he'll be noticed; if he doesn't help, he'll feel bad. Conflict. An inner clash.

The conflict makes the reader want to go on: Will the child get his way, or will the mother? What will be the result in either case? Will the child learn to hate the mother, grow up spoiled and self-centred? In the second example: What will the protagonist do: Help or walk away? What will that cause in the future? Will he be discovered and hunted? Will his inaction eat away at him, leading him to a greater danger down the road? Read on to find out.

Conflict, as another responder told you, should begin as soon as possible.

Yes, you can have a protagonist that the reader won't particularly like. It's a more difficult process, and you'd be advised to ensure he has at least some likable characteristics. If we're not going to like him, then he'd better interest and intrigue us. But again, this is if you are writing for a wider public. If you are only writing for yourself, for practice or for joy, it doesn't matter.


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Offline Steve Vernon

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Re: Questions About Writing (Sci-fi/Fantasy)
« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2013, 02:53:57 AM »
Readers today are impatient. Cut to the chase and get on with it. Nobody ever moaned about a story that was TOO exciting.

Offline JHall

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Re: Questions About Writing (Sci-fi/Fantasy)
« Reply #8 on: March 08, 2013, 03:46:57 AM »
Just write the story how you want to. It's a learning process and you learn by doing. Absolutely write the story the way you like to have a story told, and write the story that you want to tell. Simply be aware that readers expect certain conventions to be followed and if you want to sell the story, you have to take that into account.

You can have an exciting Science Fiction story with no one ever becoming physical with someone else. Conflict doesn't necessarily mean a physical attack on someone -- like the mugging you mention. Conflict can be as mild as a child asking to be excused from the table to watch TV and the mother saying he has to finish his vegetables first. The kid says something like, "But Mom, I'll miss the beginning."

Kid wants to do something. Mother prevents him. Conflict. A clash of wills.

It can also reside within one character. Your protagonist sees an accident and wants to help but also wants to remain unnoticed. If he helps, he'll be noticed; if he doesn't help, he'll feel bad. Conflict. An inner clash.

The conflict makes the reader want to go on: Will the child get his way, or will the mother? What will be the result in either case? Will the child learn to hate the mother, grow up spoiled and self-centred? In the second example: What will the protagonist do: Help or walk away? What will that cause in the future? Will he be discovered and hunted? Will his inaction eat away at him, leading him to a greater danger down the road? Read on to find out.

Conflict, as another responder told you, should begin as soon as possible.

Yes, you can have a protagonist that the reader won't particularly like. It's a more difficult process, and you'd be advised to ensure he has at least some likable characteristics. If we're not going to like him, then he'd better interest and intrigue us. But again, this is if you are writing for a wider public. If you are only writing for yourself, for practice or for joy, it doesn't matter.

Well, perhaps I have some sort of conflict right away. In the first chapter, the protagonist pre-orders his NID (the device that allows him to enter the virtual game world) so that he would be guaranteed to have it on time for the launch of Forever Realms (the flagship title of the NID). Unfortunately, something goes wrong and he does not get in time. In fact, it is not until a week later (after having contacted the customer support) that he gets the NID. So, instead of getting a headstart like he had wanted, he gets a late start. And then, not a week after he has been able to play the game, he gets mugged. In the fourth chapter, it is explained that the mugging has made it impossible for him to play the game for more than tiny sessions each day (for reasons also explained in that chapter).

Would that be considered conflict? And in the story, the character is reading forum post (essentially the news) about building tensions between the the Lyhytkansa (the player race that the North Americans are locked in to player, basically halflings who inhabit a plains-type area) and the Korkeakansa (South Koreans, who inhabit a great forest). Essentially, a warmonger came in to power over the largest guild in the North American side of things, and sees this as an opportunity to get much needed lumber (the NA players had obliterated almost all of the tiny bit of wood that was available in their plains). So, he convinces the North Americans that they need to attack the South Koreans because the South Koreans had been raiding North American player settlements.

All of the above is happening in the background and the character does not get involved until later on in the story (not to much later, but I am not sure which chapter yet. Probably fifth or sixth). He pieces together what is happening by reading these forum post.

Would this kind of stuff be seen as conflict?

Offline Patty Jansen

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Re: Questions About Writing (Sci-fi/Fantasy)
« Reply #9 on: March 08, 2013, 03:50:47 AM »
Tension does not equate action.

Without reading the story, I would say that it *could* be considered conflict provided that the reader knows and understands that the main character will die if he does not get to play this game (or something equivalent). We need to understand the stakes before we can care about the character's success or failure.

Offline JHall

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Re: Questions About Writing (Sci-fi/Fantasy)
« Reply #10 on: March 08, 2013, 03:59:40 AM »
Tension does not equate action.

Without reading the story, I would say that it *could* be considered conflict provided that the reader knows and understands that the main character will die if he does not get to play this game (or something equivalent). We need to understand the stakes before we can care about the character's success or failure.

Ah, I see. Well, there is no conflict where anything major is at stake in the story, yet. The keeping him from entering the game just impedes on his virtual self's progress, which to a gamer is usually important. The development and experiencing of the game. The story is, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your view) is aimed at gamers, so there are some things that may not be immediately relevant to some readers. Such as the need for a gamer to play their game.

I actually came across a funny video that kind of expresses this. This is a parody of reality, of course. But it can give you an idea of how a gamer can feel when they are unable to play their game, especially when it's the developers/publishers fault. (Warning, there may be some foul language.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCAz8hfTX-s

Offline Brad__W

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Re: Questions About Writing (Sci-fi/Fantasy)
« Reply #11 on: March 08, 2013, 04:33:24 AM »
I'm of the school of thought that having action or conflict in place as early as possible maintains the reader's attention and keeps them moving from chapter to chapter... not every chapter may need it, but certainly at or near the start you should have something to grab their attention and build the compelling curiosity/urgent need to keep turning the pages. The longer you keep them hooked, the more chance you have of winning them over and getting them to finish your book instead of discarding it for something more exciting/interesting/with a brighter cover/etc...

For my works I always try to have an action sequence in the Prologue or First Chapter, and when I've written something without it I'd always go back and rewrite based on the beta readers experience. However, it's all a learning process and as each book (or chapter) is written you do gain deeper understanding in refining the craft and style required to make a book compelling.

(DISCLAIMER: I've been writing books for the last ten or so years, but have only just started publishing in the last six months -- so my advice should be taken with a grain of salt!)

Edited to Add:
As one of the posters said above, some of the best advice you can get is to go back and look at your favourite books and study how the author made it compelling for you to keep turning the page. Read a few more books in your genre and get a feel for the different approaches used by those authors to kick off the book.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2013, 04:35:41 AM by Brad__W »

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Offline RM Prioleau

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Re: Questions About Writing (Sci-fi/Fantasy)
« Reply #12 on: March 08, 2013, 04:42:40 AM »
I don't know about sci-fi, but I definitely know in fantasy, you need to draw the reader into your world and its characters as soon as possible. It doesn't have to be some uber battle or anything. It needs to be something that will make the reader want to keep turning the page to see what happens next. The first chapter is critical in getting the reader's attention.

Too much buildup and it loses its power to capture a reader, and the story gets long, drawn-out and boring.

Offline Quiss

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Re: Questions About Writing (Sci-fi/Fantasy)
« Reply #13 on: March 08, 2013, 05:06:41 AM »
Fiction does not use empty lines between paragraphs, but indents the first line of the paragraph by about 5mm. This is a pretty non-flexible rule.

Can I pick up on this, since it is also part of the OP's question.

I am aware of this, and that is how I format, but the last few fiction ebooks I've read had both spaces as well as indents. I find that horribly distracting, especially when the paragraphs are short, but I've started to wonder if this was a new trend. Is this, indeed, a "rule"? I know Smashwords makes a point of noting it somewhere.
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Offline Patty Jansen

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Re: Questions About Writing (Sci-fi/Fantasy)
« Reply #14 on: March 08, 2013, 05:10:26 AM »
Can I pick up on this, since it is also part of the OP's question.

I am aware of this, and that is how I format, but the last few fiction ebooks I've read had both spaces as well as indents. I find that horribly distracting, especially when the paragraphs are short, but I've started to wonder if this was a new trend. Is this, indeed, a "rule"? I know Smashwords makes a point of noting it somewhere.

Nope.

It's a goof-up.

There should be either empty lines (non-fiction) or indents (fiction).


Offline vrabinec

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Re: Questions About Writing (Sci-fi/Fantasy)
« Reply #15 on: March 08, 2013, 05:11:10 AM »
I think people worry too much about forcing ACTION to the front of the book. It just has to be interesting in some way. Now, typically, backstory isn't all that interesting, even when it's interesting. As long as the character is doing something, trying to acomplish something that's interesting, then most readers will give it a chance. So, it's simple, just be interesting.

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Offline D.A. Boulter

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Re: Questions About Writing (Sci-fi/Fantasy)
« Reply #16 on: March 08, 2013, 05:54:04 AM »
Well, perhaps I have some sort of conflict right away. In the first chapter, the protagonist pre-orders his NID (the device that allows him to enter the virtual game world) so that he would be guaranteed to have it on time for the launch of Forever Realms (the flagship title of the NID). Unfortunately, something goes wrong and he does not get in time. In fact, it is not until a week later (after having contacted the customer support) that he gets the NID. So, instead of getting a headstart like he had wanted, he gets a late start. And then, not a week after he has been able to play the game, he gets mugged. In the fourth chapter, it is explained that the mugging has made it impossible for him to play the game for more than tiny sessions each day (for reasons also explained in that chapter).

Would that be considered conflict? And in the story, the character is reading forum post (essentially the news) about building tensions between the the Lyhytkansa (the player race that the North Americans are locked in to player, basically halflings who inhabit a plains-type area) and the Korkeakansa (South Koreans, who inhabit a great forest). Essentially, a warmonger came in to power over the largest guild in the North American side of things, and sees this as an opportunity to get much needed lumber (the NA players had obliterated almost all of the tiny bit of wood that was available in their plains). So, he convinces the North Americans that they need to attack the South Koreans because the South Koreans had been raiding North American player settlements.

All of the above is happening in the background and the character does not get involved until later on in the story (not to much later, but I am not sure which chapter yet. Probably fifth or sixth). He pieces together what is happening by reading these forum post.

Would this kind of stuff be seen as conflict?

What you are describing is plot. Right now, it makes no difference to me what happens. I'm not a gamer and the following facts mean little to me: 1. he orders something for gaming; 2. It comes late; 3. He gets mugged 4. the result of the mugging means that he can't play much.

Why should I care? To make me care about something that I have little basic interest in, you have to give me a character I can relate to, make me empathize with him or her. Then I can accept his/her interests as valid.

So ask yourself the following questions: Why does your character want to play this game? What rewards are in it for him? How can someone who doesn't play these games relate? What is the result if he is unable to play? [What are the stakes?]

* * *
example: John is in a wheelchair. He sees others doing things that he can't do, will probably never be able to do. Every day he sees people looking at him with pity, or avoiding him because of his handicap. He hates the pity, and the prejudging of who he is by his situation angers him. Life, he thinks, just isn't fair. But today none of that bothers him. He wheels down the sidewalk, not noticing what he usually notices about the looks others give him. He has just received word that the launch date for Forever Realms has been posted and that, better, he can order his NID, get it early and thus be prepared for the launch.

In virtual games, no one knows of his lack of mobility. He is who he dreams he can be. People react to him for what's in his brain, what he types in the forums, his expression of his being, not the physical limitations the [accident/birth defect/disease] has placed on his body. In the Virtual Reality of games like Forever Realm he can LIVE!

* * *

See, in this example, I can get interested in John. He has limitations -- as do we all. His manifest in a more pronounced way, as he's confined to a wheelchair and he can only dream of doing things beyond what his body is capable of. I can relate because although I have no such impairment, I might have dreams of being a top athlete, which I know I'll never be. I, too, have dreams which will never come about.

The fact that he hates the pity -- and that the avoidance by others angers him -- shows that he has not accepted what he is, that he has low self esteem. If he knew his own worth, then he'd have pity for those that avoided him, and just shrug off the pity of those who are ignorant. We all have self-esteem issues of one sort or another, so I can relate.

The gaming world allows him to bypass all this. Now I wonder who the 'unleashed' John will be? What does he really think of himself/dream of himself? I can understand his wanting to be prepared to show 'his best face', when the launch comes, for who among us doesn't want that? Thus, I can get interested in the game for the effect it will have on the character I've come to have interest in. Every obstacle that comes his way will affect him negatively, and I'll feel for him. And thus you'll suck me into a gaming world that I really have no interest in, because the character I like has interest in the game. I'm interested in how the game will change him, allow him to realize in his 'real life' he has worth and thus allow him to regain his self-esteem.

Now you say your character is unlikeable. We can play it that way, too.  He wants the extra time for the purpose of lording it over others (kinda cheating), instead of building a shattered self-esteem. Now, I'll be happy when each of these obstacles come up and will be interested in how he overcomes these obstacles, and whether he'll learn from them and become a better person.

BUT I'm interested in the characters, not the plot as such. I want to know how they react, their emotions. The plot provides a vehicle for the characters to change or not change.

When you say your guy is only able to play a little at a time due to the mugging, that really means little without the motives behind playing and what he's willing to do get around the problem. Let's say that a doctor warns him that due to injury to his neck he can't sit and stare at a computer screen for long periods of time without risking further damage/longer healing time/pain. He has to keep moving -- physical therapy. Now you have the conflict between him wanting to sit down and play the game and wanting to regain his mobility. That's good conflict. Will his desire to play the game win out over his health and, if so, what will it cost him. Is he willing to pay the cost? If he decides to follow the doctor's orders, what will THAT cost him. How necessary is it for him to play the game? What damage will he incur to his hopes/dreams/other if he doesn't put in the requisite time in front of the screen?

Does he have friends/parents/girlfriend who argue with him about the screen time -- in what they consider to be his best interest? That's conflict. What they believe his best interest may not be what he believes it to be. What are the costs in this conflict? Will his girlfriend leave him? Will he lose his friends, alienate his parents? If they do stop him, will that alienate his on-line friends/colleagues/fellow players? Will they -- if they are part of a team -- be pushing him to play longer, arguing with him over his commitment. That's conflict. He's in the middle, with some pushing and some pulling at him.

What you've described to us is generic. Anyone could fill the role of protagonist. If anyone can fill the role, it's not really interesting. With respect to the plot of the North Americans, Koreans, etc. that's not conflict. It is if he sees something, wants one group to do something, and others in the that group disagree with his analysis/idea and try to prevent him from carrying out his plan.

You can put conflict into almost anything, but almost anything isn't conflict. I want to cross the street. No conflict. I'm going to jaywalk to cross the street. No conflict. My friend says we should cross at the crosswalk instead. Now we have conflict. I want to do something and someone is trying to prevent me from attaining my goal.

Me crossing the street isn't interesting to anyone. Me arguing with a friend about jaywalking can be interesting. What will happen to our relationship if I win the argument, if I lose? [What are the stakes?] So, what happens to your character if he convinces the NA players to do as he suggests? What will happen if he's wrong in his suggestion -- in other words, what are the stakes? Is he gambling on being correct? What could go wrong? These things raise the tension, but conflict is basically a disagreement between two sides (which could be incorporated in one person).
« Last Edit: March 08, 2013, 06:12:34 AM by D.A. Boulter »


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Offline Weirdling

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Re: Questions About Writing (Sci-fi/Fantasy)
« Reply #17 on: March 08, 2013, 06:12:43 AM »
My best suggestion is to look for some free resources about fiction writing.  Here is one I used when I was just starting out over a decade ago: http://www.fictionfactor.com/articles.html.  But there are others out there, too.   

Also go to your library and see what writing books they have. If they have few or none, look online for some (like at Amazon) and take in your list.  They can look into ordering a library book for you.

You don't have to stop writing to study, though.  But just be prepared, though, that if this is more than a hobby, you will put in a lot of work.  That may equate to a lot of years, too (especially if you subscribe to the belief that 10,000 hours = professional/expert).  But if the writing bug has bitten you, it will be worth it.

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Offline Lisa Grace

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Re: Questions About Writing (Sci-fi/Fantasy)
« Reply #18 on: March 08, 2013, 06:22:11 AM »
Ah, I don't mean to give the impression I'm stressing over it. I plan to write this how I please no matter what feedback I get (if it's something that makes sense to me and fits with the image I have in my head of what this novel will be like, I will use the feedback).



Books are not games. You should start with the mugging, that's where your story starts. A common mistake beginning novelists make is not recognizing they may need to write themselves into the story, but the reader will not appreciate that info dump, it's not the story.

If you do, you'll get plenty of one star reviews such as "this sucks" "I got up to chapter three and nothing happens." You said you feel this way, so your readers will too. They're not dumb, they pick up on this stuff.

The biggest mistake I've seen from gamers that try write books, is they write it like a game. They introduce characters that are not necessary to the plot and will never be heard from again, go off on too many red herrings, have way too many sub plots so the "story" gets lost, leaving the reader unsatisfied and confused.

Make sure you have an over riding story arc and every scene drives the story forward. Throw out those first three chapters and start with the mugging find your conflict. It doesn't have to be action, it can be emotional, but it has to be there. Intersperse back story as needed, sprinkled in lightly. Good luck.
 
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Re: Questions About Writing (Sci-fi/Fantasy)
« Reply #19 on: March 08, 2013, 06:29:15 AM »
I'm of the school of thought that having action or conflict in place as early as possible maintains the reader's attention and keeps them moving from chapter to chapter... not every chapter may need it, but certainly at or near the start you should have something to grab their attention and build the compelling curiosity/urgent need to keep turning the pages.

To add to this point: According to Donald Maass, a literary agent and an author of writing books, tension needs to be in every page.  But that does not mean action as the action movie or books define it (though it can be that).  Maass says it best.  Google his name and the concept.  Here are a few articles that bring it up: 


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Offline Jonathan C. Gillespie

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Re: Questions About Writing (Sci-fi/Fantasy)
« Reply #20 on: March 08, 2013, 06:34:27 AM »
I am new to fiction writing, and I am looking for some advice/opinions on about how I should go about this.

Welcome to the jungle. We have fun and games.  ;D

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I am working on writing a a full-length sci-fi/fantasy novel mix. It is aimed at gamers (I am Game Journalist/Reviewer), so there is the "out-of-game" side of things(Sci-fi), and the "in-game" side(Fantasy). So far I have written four chapters (plus a very bad prologue), which comes out to around 22,000 words.

Kill the prologue. They're generally not needed and often cause more problems than they are worth. "Cold starts" don't work in fiction, or at least not often.

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Right now, my biggest questions are: There is basically no conflict until the very end of the third chapter, and that conflict consist of the protagonist being mugged. Is this OK for a sci-fi/fantasy novel?

No. It's a common mistake of beginners. Start things blazing. You have absolutely got to grab your reader's attention right now. This doesn't have to be something as overt as a street fight or alien invasion, but in spec fiction you need something to grab the reader's attention quickly. This can be as simple as intriguing them; giving them the impression that something is profoundly different in the book's universe, and they are going to have to keep reading to find out why.

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Other than that, is it alright if my protagonist starts out as someone that the reader wont like? I've shown the story to someone I know, and some of the feedback he gave me said he thought that the protagonist wasn't a very good character. Sense then, I have tried to expand his 'personality' a bit so that the reader can get to know him better, but he's still the same guy.

Villains can and do work, but they can't be one-sided. The key is that even your darkest of characters should still be sympathetic. It doesn't matter how bad--or even twisted--your protag is. As long as your audience can relate to them and put themselves into your character's shoes, you're golden. If you are writing a dark character, remember that (outside of psychopaths) people almost always believe that what they are doing is for the best. Some of history's most effective malevolent rulers believed deeply that they were simply making omelets out of all those eggs.

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And my last question (for now) has to do with formatting. I enjoy reading books that have spaces between paragraphs. Because of this, when I write, I have spaces between my paragraphs. Is this something I should change? I am aware that the "traditional" way to do it is to have no spacing between paragraphs. To clarify, I have indention's and spaces between paragraphs.

A standard hanging indent of .5" off the first line (set in Word) is fine for each paragraph. A space between paragraphs? Don't do it. That just causes problems when your editor and\or book formatter will inevitably have to fix it.

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If you would be willing to provide feedback, please feel free to visit the blog that I created for the sole purpose of getting feedback. Please be aware that the formatting used on the blog is lacking indention as they wont carry over when I copy/paste the writing from my Word doc. Also, this probably isn't the place to ask for advice on writing (or is it?), but I have been searching high and low and have yet to find a decent, active forum where people can post their stuff and get feedback.

Check out critters.org. It's great if you're starting out.

Good luck. You can do this. But prepare for the time investment. I've spent ten years on this already.

Also: read. A lot.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2013, 06:36:17 AM by Jonathan C. Gillespie »


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Offline glutton

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Re: Questions About Writing (Sci-fi/Fantasy)
« Reply #21 on: March 08, 2013, 06:42:19 AM »
A standard hanging indent of .5" off the first line (set in Word) is fine for each paragraph.

A lot of people here go by .25 or .3, at least last time I checked. I started going by .3 and it looks better to me than my old way too.

Offline JHall

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Re: Questions About Writing (Sci-fi/Fantasy)
« Reply #22 on: March 08, 2013, 06:51:10 AM »
Books are not games. You should start with the mugging, that's where your story starts. A common mistake beginning novelists make is not recognizing they may need to write themselves into the story, but the reader will not appreciate that info dump, it's not the story.

If you do, you'll get plenty of one star reviews such as "this sucks" "I got up to chapter three and nothing happens." You said you feel this way, so your readers will too. They're not dumb, they pick up on this stuff.

The biggest mistake I've seen from gamers that try write books, is they write it like a game. They introduce characters that are not necessary to the plot and will never be heard from again, go off on too many red herrings, have way too many sub plots so the "story" gets lost, leaving the reader unsatisfied and confused.

Make sure you have an over riding story arc and every scene drives the story forward. Throw out those first three chapters and start with the mugging find your conflict. It doesn't have to be action, it can be emotional, but it has to be there. Intersperse back story as needed, sprinkled in lightly. Good luck.

I am going to do just this. It makes so much sense to do it this way, and it makes for an even interesting story (for myself and for anyone that reads it). I will begin re-writing tonight, and hopefully come up with something much better this time around.


Check out critters.org. It's great if you're starting out.

Good luck. You can do this. But prepare for the time investment. I've spent ten years on this already.

Also: read. A lot.


Thank you for the link. I already read a lot. Unfortunately, I guess I've never really paid much attention to what exactly it was that made me love my favorite fiction novels. I will have to do what others have suggested and go back to my favorites and see what made them great.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2013, 06:56:23 AM by JHall »

Offline merryxmas

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Re: Questions About Writing (Sci-fi/Fantasy)
« Reply #23 on: March 08, 2013, 07:44:05 AM »
Readers today are impatient. Cut to the chase and get on with it. Nobody ever moaned about a story that was TOO exciting.



I know what you mean but that's not really true.  On an episode of Writing Excuses Howard talks about reading a Dean Koontz book called Intensity where he said the book was so non-stop full of, ...well intensity, that it was too much and he abandoned it before finishing.  Even for thrillers whose backbone is made of heart pounding excitement you need to let the tension out somewhere and sometimes before going back into the fray.

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Re: Questions About Writing (Sci-fi/Fantasy)
« Reply #24 on: March 08, 2013, 07:56:32 AM »
If the conflict comes later, make sure your setup (the first part) is engaging.  Or, if you can, hint at what's coming somehow.  Not too much, but give a sliver of "something's not right" if possible.
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seven will fight for it...
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