Post Reply Literary works and plots; a change to the typical plot and setting
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22 / M / A world of my own...
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Posted 10/11/13
Though it's a tad redundant to announce this here but I'm a fan of Anime. I also enjoy reading Light novels but I'm a little reluctant to start reading Manga (literary bias, no offence). When it comes right down to it, I enjoy a good story, especially when the medium in which the story is expressed is utilized to it's fullest potential.

I think I will always be a fan of Anime and Light Novels but I would like to see a change to the use of High School and High School Students as the scene setting and characters. I understand that Anime and Light Novels are meant to target a younger demographic but I feel this theme has been a little overused. Even though I enjoy many a series which incorporate these themes, but I still feel a little frustrated and slightly dissatisfied by the end of the novel or anime. How many of you are with me on this on?

I enjoy a story that has the following elements: Action, Fantasy, Romance,
Drama, strong character development, strong plot development, a strong introduction, an excellent crescendo, a conclusive ending, and many other elements. As of late, I have been hard pressed to find all of these elements. Maybe I'm excepting too much, maybe my long history of literary enjoyment (I have been reading at the college level since third grade) has caused me to form unrealistic expectations.

Because of my frustration, I have started to consider writing my own book, so I can finally create my ideal story. I have always wanted to be an author but writing has always been a struggle for me. I have even gone as far as actually writing a prologue and first chapter (both rough drafts and uncompleted). I would love to give a brief description but I hope I don't see a bestselling Title with this premise in the upcoming years (unless it came about because I published my finished works). Though I cannot complain because this is a public forum. Here is the basic outline:

As society advanced, technology became more sophisticated, and the population expanded tremendously, the demand for natural resources greatly increased and resources like agricultural land, water, fossil fuels and minerals (metal ores, etc.) could not keep up with this demand. In an effort to gain resources and maintain the prosperity of their respective countries, governments began to wage war and take what they needed by force. This blatant self-interest lead to 300 years of worldwide conflict and further degradation of the already extremely fragile earth. With conflict, decease, and poverty rampant throughout the world, we began to realize we need to change our behavior or face extinction but it seems we have past the point of no return. The earth is degraded to the point where we cannot even predict when it might recover, if it even will. In desperation, everyone turns to an antiquated system, one which was considered to only exist in the stories and myths of our unsophisticated ancestors -- magic. By combining magic and technology, the race for resources has ended and the depleted environment has began to recover. The world economy has recovered and peace encompasses the globe. After several hundred years, the peace begins to fade. Because of the "new" system of magic, individuals and countries could achieve prosperity with relative ease. While this seems ideal, the time that was once spent towards survival became a time of contemplation and societies around the world experienced a paradigm shift. As the years advance, the world becomes split into two different factions, each with opposing political ideologies; one expressing the importance of self-governance and the other wanting to "unite the world" under the "true theology". Now a young man, bearing a curse from the spirits, fights to end this senseless war born of human stupidity. He will experience political and personal drama, fall into and out of love, be betrayed and betray the people he loves.


I know, this is far from original but I think true originality in this day and age is a pipe-dream. Would any of you find this book interesting? What elements do you think are interesting or could make the story better? What type of elements do you like in a novel or anime series? I would like to have a discussion on this matter and get a better understand of the interests of this community. Please give me your true thoughts!

Respectfully,

Jesse Alexander
Bavalt 
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25 / M / Canada
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Posted 10/11/13
Regarding your outline, I think you've got some pretty neat ideas setting-wise. I personally haven't seen a 'the apocalypse happened, so we desperately resort to trying magic--and it worked' setup before, so it struck me as a pretty novel treatment. You should be a little clearer though. How was magic rediscovered? How does it actually work? (If humanity can use it, it can study and systematize it--magic isn't impervious to science.) Where do these 'spirits' that have curse the protagonist fit into everything? How have these two factions come to be, and what caused them to be at odds with one another rather than just leaving each other alone?

I realize, of course, that all you've posted here is a teaser blurb of sorts, and you may well have the answers to all those ideas thought out already, in which case, awesome. If not, then definitely give it some thought. Your description is very setting-heavy, so I get the feeling you're the type of person who enjoys world-building and coming up with novel sci-fi/fantasy type ideas. The deeper you delve into the setting, the more unified it will be, and the easier it will be to make your characters' motivations believable.

Riding that segue, you've been quite opaque about the characters themselves. While a well-built setting is a very strong backdrop for any story, it's hard to get most people interested in reading it without a personal element. I'd want to know more about this protagonist: is he sided with one of the two factions, or neutral towards the conflict? What kind of person is he: does he 'jump at the call' and willingly involve himself, or does he try to seek outside interests and end up dragged into it against his will? Who does he know, who does he meet, who does he love, and how do these people interact with him? Your setting has a strong foundation, but drama and romance rely almost entirely on character, so if you want to draw attention to the story's more personal subject matter, you ought to try and delve into your characters a little more: characters are what get people excited.

tl;dr: I think your idea is promising, and I'd give it a look, but it doesn't tell me everything I want to know. If you haven't already, sit down and ponder out some more details, especially regarding the major characters.
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Posted 10/11/13
I'd say Nix the post apocalyptica, and the curse, and try writing a straight hero. Itll be your basic fantasy, which will make it unique. Everyone's an antihero these days.

More importantly when you start dont quit no matter how bad you think it is. I think a persons best work comes out in the editing.


Good luck!

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26 / M / Alaska
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Posted 10/11/13
Best thing to do is not focus on it becoming the best seller but rather your best expression of your story. Don't worry about getting it 100% final draft on the first draft, hell, not even 50%, just write for the sake of it, get as much as you can down, flesh it out, alter it as you go along as you see fit.

Though there are few things to keep in mind while you near the final draft stage, some people are vocal readers, and some are speed readers.
I like to read things slowly, about vocal pace, since at that pace I can lose myself and watch the book as a movie in my head, I can hear different voices of the characters, and even feel the scenery (descriptive words are your best friend!!!) and the book is enjoyable.
I have talked to a few speed readers 900-1.2k words speed and almost all tell me they don't get that experience, but can tell me what occurred.
They did how ever tell me that when books are not set up for speed reading, it becomes painful to read it, since it doesn't "flow" well.

So you will have to decide which style you will write to, but that can come or go when you please. Though it makes things easier if you decide from the start.

-Avid Reader
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Posted 10/12/13
My first thought: You should read the manga Nausicaa of The Valley of the Wind by Hayao Miyazaki, because for starters it has a masterfully crafted story and characters. But more importantly, it deals with some of the same themes you'd be dealing with in the story your proposing. So I think that would help you determine what would work in the course of planning this. In fact the movie Princess Mononoke would probably be helpful also.
Second: It's important to remember that sometimes it is not so much the concept you have that matters but how well you develop and execute it, is more vital; If that makes some sense. I see some ideas that could turn out great or be the bane of the story, let me elaborate:
A ) Future Earth combining magic and tech; it has definite potential but this means you'll have to really develop the why/how it works, to make it "believable" or give the reader enough reason to suspend disbelief.
B ) The two factions, I would be very cautious with how you approach the set-up you've described. It can degrade it to a very simplistic these are the good guys, these are the bad guys; type of scenario, which is not so cut and dry. There are "good guys" and there are "bad guys", but they will often be present in both groups. E.G. In WW2 (which the whole war leaves a bad taste in my mouth just thinking about it) on the side of the Axis you have Erwin Rommel, who was respected by even the Allies for his chivalrous behavior, and later on was involved in a plot to kill Hitler, which failed so he was forced to kill himself. On the side of the Allies we have Stalin, aka Hitler lite. And I could go on but you get my point. You should have heroes, villains, and the occasional anti-hero on both sides of the conflict. And maybe the protagonist finds out that both sides were wrong (maybe the leaders of one side are more misguided or are motivated by personal scars than anything; and the other side just sounds egalitarian but is secretly quite selfish and just hides it well). Miyazaki is a pro at doing this, so let me reaffirm my suggestion to look into the manga and the movie I mentioned.
Thirdly: If your goal is to write a book you yourself like, you might want to start with something on a much smaller scale at the moment. I'm not trying to discourage you, but rather help you in the long run. The story you proposed will require a lot of "foundation building" or to put it another way, you need to create a believable world ( complete with it's own history, politics, science, culture, and etc.) to support the type of story your seeming to indicate you want to tell. This will require time, just look-up how long it took Tolkien to create the world that he needed to support the story of LOTR. Granted your project isn't that ambitious (although it could become like that if you wanted to really go for it), but you'll still need at least a couple years maybe for just the world you want your protagonist to live in to really flesh itself out.
So my advice at the moment boils down to this, take the suggestions I've made with a grain of salt, work on building up this world you want to create, and in the mean time maybe try to write some simpler stories. There are plenty of great works of literature that take place in "smaller" settings, and it's good when your starting out to start small and really get used to knowing how to make stories that are well crafted. I myself would like at some point to maybe publish some works of fiction and I have a bunch of very ambitious ideas; but I know I need to write smaller stuff first, to learn for myself what I can make work.
I hope I didn't go overboard there , and I hope you found at least a few pieces of what I wrote useful. I wish you the best of luck, and if you want further input from me don't hesitate to ask.
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22 / M / A world of my own...
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Posted 10/12/13
Bavalt,

Thank you for your commentary, it is greatly appreciated. I will start by responding to your concluding sentence; I have already started writing backstories for all of my major characters. This way I have a foundation for character development. People will behave in "set" patterns according to their past experiences and are susceptible to evolution due to internal and external forces, therefor, establishing a history of your characters makes it easier to make the "current" personality relatable and the subsequent evolution is likewise believable. Additionally, by having a backstory, it is easier to determine a character's actions without having to re-invent the wheel on a regular basis. It is also a failsafe against one of the common traps of writing (characters being reactive rather the proactive).

Well my Canadian friend, you have really inspired my yearning to share my story, so against my better judgment, I will provide more information on the story.

During the Resource War (not official title, still working on this), the public of each respective country began to search for a solution to the resource crisis, independent of their governments. Instead of relying on the current political systems and scientific technology, the respective societies (independent of government) turn to the heritage "unique" to their region. Almost all societies believed in spirits or multiple gods at one time but with the advancement of technology, these beliefs became nothing more then myths and fairytales. Because the global society became increasing more anthropocentric (human centered) as time passed, the "spirits" and their magic became sealed. By returning to these former beliefs, the seal is broken and magic is released into the world once more.

Access to magic varies from person to person depending on intellectual abilities, amount of life force, and the ability to process internal and external mana (clichéd and overused I know, any suggestions?). In addition to regular magicians, there is another class of caster which I call Contractors. Contractors belong to a specific family or clan which has formed a contract with a particular group or species of spirit. By making a contract with a species of spirits, this family or clan is granted greater abilities to wield magic and is able use unique abilities related to those spirits. The contract is hereditary and each clan dedicates it's existence trying to fulfill the requirements of the contract. For example, one clan is extremely talented with magic so they specialize in magical research, another closely related clan is more combat orientated so they act as the "knights" protecting the researchers but both of the clans have a similar charge to "ensure the wellbeing and advancement of human and spirit societies". If an individual or clan disobeys the contract they will receive a curse which is unique to that species of spirit.

Magic can be broken down into two categories; Magic and Alchemy. Magic is the process of creating phenomenon by releasing mana and using it as the building block for your phenomenon, which often defies natural laws (like turning mana into lighting, without needing the natural atmospheric conditions). Conversely, Alchemy is the process of using mana to manipulate natural phenomenon (increasing friction on two surfaces to create static electricity and isolating oxygen atoms to create pure oxygen and combining the two make fire) , and this magic is often bound by natural law, so turning lead to gold is not an option in this story. Both forms of magic are dependent on knowledge and willful action. If you do not make decisive action, you cannot use magic. To wield magic, you must be to imagine the process you wish to cast and you must have the knowledge to make it happen. For example to use healing magic, you must be educated in the human or animal body and you must know exactly what part of the body you want to effect.

I hope this satisfies some of your questions.

Respectfully,

Jesse Alexander
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22 / M / A world of my own...
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Posted 10/12/13
Bablioteca,

Thank you for your helpful critique, I will take it into consideration. The whole basis to this story is rooted in my studies at an Environmental Studies Major and Environmental Policy major. Specifically, the premise is based on the heavy emphasis of natural resource development and the expansion of the human population. The story is meant to exacerbate the current societal trends and then create a "solution" albeit a fictional and implausible solution in reality. If you notice the storyline I established is almost 1000 years in length, and this is just the backstory, the actual story take place when the history mentions leaves off. I do not feel this is a post apocalyptic story line but rather a "we 'almost' did ourselves in" type story.

I also did not intend to make an anti-hero out of my protagonist. In fact, I designed the curse to create social isolation for the main character and he is desperately trying to break the curse. The "Curse of the Lone Wolf" is a curse that alters the thought and feelings of the people closest to the protagonist, making them feel distrust, anger, hatred, and ultimately cause them to betray him. Because his clan is completely killed off, the protagonist yearns to establish a family (his clan is based off the wolf, so familial relations are important). This is the main drive for the main character, even above and beyond the ending of the war.

I hope I explained my case a little better,

Respectfully,

Jesse Alexander
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22 / M / A world of my own...
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Posted 10/12/13
Micdeath,

Thank you for your input, I will take it into consideration. I agree with you on many points. I, too, am a vocal reader. I enjoy a book that allows me to think, feel, hear, smell, taste, and see the world in which the story is taking place.

I never intended to write a "Best Seller", especially with my first novel. In fact, this project is just for my own enjoyment. If I decide to try to have it published, then I will take the steps to make it happen once the book is completely written! Right now its something I do to simply flex my underused brain cells whilst having fun at the same time. Actually, I have already thought up ideas beyond the first volume and have a basic idea for volumes 2 and 3. I do not know if I want to write it in the typical American Trilogy or do a series of Light novels (books with short to medium length and greater number of volumes in total, so rather then three long books, 5-8 volumes with greater emphasis on brevity and action)

As far as descriptive words go, all of my professors tell me I have a great grasp of descriptive writing and my vocabulary is one of my strong suits. Additionally, I have a strong aptitude for dialogue and character development. When writing conversations or internal thought monologues, I try to write them as if I was actually saying the words in a conversation and replicate a natural response. I have actually asked questions of people to capture a natural reaction for my dialogue. I also spend a some time writing character back stories, so I have a history for the characters. Of course, I write extensive histories for the main characters and basic outlines for minor characters.


Respectfully,

Jesse Alexander
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25 / M / Sydney, Australia
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Posted 10/12/13 , edited 10/12/13
It doesn't sound believable, because... I think the government would rather spend the money on researching technologies that can replace said depleting natural resources rather than spending money on military and warfare with another country.


Like if the world run out of coal, would USA wage a war on Australia? Doesn't sound believable...


But what do I know? I'm not a politician or military strategist.



If you think my point has value though, I suggest that you do some more thinking when it comes to science/politics and world affair...
Writing stories is not simple, you have to give it a really deep thought. But if it makes sense to you, you shouldn't let my opinion prevent you from writing above plot...
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Posted 10/12/13 , edited 10/12/13
I don't know if I'd find the story interesting, because I haven't read a story. What you have given here, like you said, is a basic outline of a plot (actually, more like the intro to the basic outline of the plot). There are no characters (there are people, for sure, but no characters), no events (everything you've posted seems to have already taken place before the story's events), and only a brief outline of a world. I have no idea whether I like your writing style, the characters, the story, or the world, because I've not been given those things. What I have been given is basically a Wikipedia article on a fictional history, and I'm afraid I read history for different reasons than I read novels.

So, do I find the plot interesting? No. But then again, plots rarely are interesting of themselves. Even books like 1984, which are famous for their plots and social commentary, were only made possible because the characters were deep and interesting. In books that I've really enjoyed, the plot was basically a function of the characters and the world, and right now, I have only a little information on the world. This could be a really good book, or a really bad one.

That is, your initial premise is fine. I'd concentrate on the characters at this point, and if the point of your book is to make some sort of statement about the real world, I'd also consider writing non-fiction -- it might be more suitable for getting your point across. You could very well have an interesting story, but I haven't seen it. What you've given here is probably the most I would post online though, because it has almost nothing to do with what will make the book good. Maybe I'm a little too paranoid, but I'd worry about plagiarism if you go around posting a legitimate story around the web. I'd recommend having people you know read it, or perhaps finding a book club or something near you. Best of luck.
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Posted 10/12/13 , edited 10/12/13
Most of the things I want to say have already been said, so I wont waste your time repeating other posters' sentiments. However, I'll add the following:

If you really want something original, the thing you should focus on is the characters. Almost every plot ever fits one of a handful of archetypes, and there are very few tropes that haven't been done hundreds of times before. However, when it comes to characters, things tend to be much less diversely represented. The majority of heroes in fiction are young and male, usually straight, white and able bodied. Frankly, this is repetetive, boring and a little limiting. Having a hero who doesn't fit that norm is not only unusual, and therefore something that sets you and your work apart, it also gives you the opportunity to explore social and political views in your world toward groups that are often oppressed in ours. Naturally, though, if you go down that route it is very important that you research thoroughly, to avoid misstepping or turning characters into just those traits.
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Posted 10/16/13
i like this outline, reminds me, and sounds like what a star ocean prequel game plot line (not a bad thing!!) to be honest, if you do continue with this, try to make interactions between characters sound as natural as possible, act out the dialogue if you must. characters are nothing if readers can't compare themselves to them. also, give the environment as much detail as you can to fit with the plot, what i do is to write up characters and settings first, that makes it easier to form a plot line. good luck with you work!



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