plot questions

Dragonlady

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So i've just rewritten the first chapter of my WIP ( hit a crisis at 25000 words and have returned to the beginning). I'm really pleased with it. It depicts a social occasion where the interactions help you get to know the main character and her society and introduce key relationships and themes with just the right amount of foreshadowing. It's 2915 words, and I feel like it works, but I can't get my head around the second chapter.

The first time around I was using it to depict more every day scenes to introduce a certain element of their society that is a large part of the theme, but it now feels a bit flat. Do you spend time getting to know your characters and world before plunging head first into the action?


Also, when I tried to write an adventure fantasy, it ended up with a murder in it. Now I'm trying to write a romance, it's also developed a murder. What to do with said murder is part of what drove my 25k word crisis). I read a lot of detective fiction, but the thought of trying to write a murder mystery is quite overwhelming - I don't really know where to begin with plotting it and doing it well. Do I give in and try?
 

sule

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If it interests you, I would say to go ahead and try it. If it works, great! If it doesn't, you can always go back in revision and either try to fix what didn't work or cut it out completely. If it helps, maybe you could outline your murder "backwards" by figuring out who did it and how and then laying in clues among the scenes that point to the solution.

As for your second chapter conundrum: Have you tried to weave the background information into the action? If the reader needs this information to understand the upcoming plot, maybe you could experiment with different ways of dispensing the information: dialogue, character interaction, action, etc.
 

sknox

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Mysteries overwhelm me as well, so you're not alone on that. I think, without having much in the way of evidence, that mystery stories require a good deal of plotting and planning. There are a good many books on how to write mysteries, though. Maybe have a look at a few and maybe that helps?

Getting from Chapter One to Chapter Two is also not trivial. What I look for in my own writing is this: what in One causes me to read Two? The usual advice is to raise a question in Chapter One, advice I find only helpful after I've got everything sorted out. Another thing I look for is going to sleep. That's my general term for resolving tension. If I'm having my MC go to sleep at the end of a chapter, I give it a long hard look. Most times, what it really signifies is that I'd run out of things to say about the current chapter and was sort of done. Symbolically, it was myself going to sleep. Most times, I'm able to shake things up and find an end of chapter that does a better job of leaning forward into the next chapter. A ham-handed way of doing that is to have my MC consider the events of the current chapter and raise his own questions about what to do next. And then go to sleep. <g>

So, establish a chain. Don't break the chain. The big exception there, of course, is in a novel with multiple points of view. Even there you can raise a question for the reader in One that maybe doesn't get addressed until Three or Four. But the more of that sort of juggling one does, the more likely are dropped balls.
 

DLCroix

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Perhaps the problem lies in the creative procedure rather than the writing procedure. As sknox says, a good trick is to ask yourself questions. That gives directives to the brain, which basically works like a blender. In the creative process it is important to "scratch the field", to delimit the physical margin of the work. That creates, in effect, a frame of mind. But it must be done in writing, because the brain also has its ways of understanding things; for example, such as in school work, when one sees the requirements, although what I say sounds a little obvious, "the brain also sees them": 10,000 words, double space, the subject to write, some specific limitation, etc.

The brain works like a reflex camera: it needs to see things to fix them in the unconscious. This is actually the blender.
I was using neuroprogramming with my student trainees: within a week I had them shipped to print, and they didn't even know how I had managed to instill graphic design patterns in such a short time.

At this point, the brain has a first directive that allows it to activate the blender. But the materials are missing. These have different sources:
1-. Formation theorists: Writer's Decalogue, E. A. Poe's Decalogue on Mystery Stories, Chandler's Advice, On Writing, etc. That is a guide. More or less is everything one understands about the art of writing. It reads. It is fixed, unchanging material. Includes what was learned in school.

2-. Documentation theorists: the place and time, year, season of the year, where the work takes place, which are the main characters (some use cards with an outline of age, physical description, personality, etc.). This is variable material. It must be within reach for any query. Sometimes I have had to look for novels from years ago to remember place names or what the eye color of a character was, so as not to get into contradictions.
 

HareBrain

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Do you spend time getting to know your characters and world before plunging head first into the action?
There are good reasons not to plunge head-first into action, but I don't think getting to know the characters and world, by itself, is one, unless they are particularly interesting.

"All" you need to do is keep the reader's interest up. That's it. As long as you do that, you can have ch2 be anything you like.
 

.matthew.

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A lot of good advice already but I'll add that even if there is a murder, it doesn't need to become a murder mystery. I'm fairly sure most go unsolved anyway and you could get just as much content out of the aftermath of a death than the death itself if you wanted to go that way.
 

Don

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As an aside, the Columbo TV show's formulaic inverted murder mystery was popular with me and a lot of other people.
 

Dragonlady

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@sknox thanks for the reminder, I do have a nasty habit of resolving things at the end of a chapter, I need to find some tension to keep.

I will have a go at plotting a mystery, it won't be fully resolved as the murderer has a position of power whereas the detective becomes more vulnerable, but it could create her a powerful enemy for the sequel.

It is an interesting situation as everyone knows there's been a death and who killed them but most people don't believe it's a murder, the joys of fantasy
 
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