Pacing, power balance, description

#1
Hey there. I'm new as a writer to this site. I've read a few fictions here as well as quite a few light novels and webnovels. Now as I write my own I feel like I'm having a hard time balancing the descriptions, world building, and balance of power for the characters. I'm a big fan of the strong leads but I also would like to not make them so strong that it becomes boring and effortless. I'm really just looking for some general tips. I have a 5-6 chapters written at the moment but not well enough that i want to present it (don't even have the title decided yet..). Any advice is welcome. Specific advice like how quickly events should progress, how much I should describe scenery, and advice for a good ending point are especially welcome. I could send you what I have so far if you would like to give it a quick over.

RE: Pacing, power balance, description

#2
3/11/2018 5:57:51 PMImryx Wrote: [ -> ]When I started my novel I rushed into it and tried to progress the story too fast so that I could showcase all of the cool features of the world I created and unfortunately I messed up and created characters that people were unfamiliar with and just moved on. So you don't make the same mistake I have a few things I recommend from my own experience:

[1] Take your time
Don't rush anything like I did, try to introduce a basic plot and what the reader can expect so that they won't be flipping pages unsure of why the characters are doing whatever they're doing. Spend some time describing them so that your audience can get familiar with them (Speech, Looks, Powers, Goals).

[2] Power balance
Since you create the characters, you can make them as powerful or as weak as you want as long as it makes sense in the plot. Personally, I enjoy characters that start off weak and then become stronger later on in the story and I'm currently doing that in my own fiction. If you go this way, then make sure you go at a normal pace meaning 
1) Don't make the character go from level 1 to level 100 within 7 chapters.
2) Don't drag it on unless you are able to back it up with other features in the story.

[3] Description
I personally like to visualize the scene that the characters are in when reading a book or at least know their whereabouts. If they are in a cave describe the lighting, atmosphere, and maybe some textures or objects and then don't write anything else throughout the chapter or even after it if they are still in the cave. As long as I know where they are I am satisfied and if you keep telling me it becomes annoying.
[N.B.] Make sure to re-read whatever you're describing and ask yourself if it seems too long or too short.

[4] Ending point? 
When finishing a chapter make sure you keep the reader interested. Cliffhangers are good for ending chapters because usually, it keeps the reader interested. Personally again, I find 'Upcoming Events' fun to read because I want to know what is going to happen when the MC meets an opponent or attends an event after a long time training. 

In conclusion, you write what you want and whatever you consider is 'good enough'. Mention the important parts of the plot without skipping chunks of it and make sure filler chapters (Not/a bit relevant to the plot) are for describing characters or progress.
Hope this helped! :)


Wow that was fantastic thanks. The description was something i was really worried about so thats reassuring. Info dump has always been a concern when I'm writing scenes.

RE: Pacing, power balance, description

#3
Info dumps or expositions normally happens to new writers; myself included. Even seasoned writers suffered from it too.

My word of advice is (which others had advice me before) in addition to Imryx excellent post is this, 

If its not helping you to progress further in your plot, you could always opt it out. Is the description or the world-building at that time important, or just to showcase your 'coolness' or 'eagerness'? I did a lot of mistakes when starting out and still learning how to balance things out. It comes with time, practice and more practice.

RE: Pacing, power balance, description

#4


This is a list of some typical novice mistakes that haven't been mentioned yet






  • Whatever you write, your protagonist needs to be part of your world in some way. If he isn't at the start, make it so that changes gradually.

  • Instil a sense of direction, belonging or urgency.

  • Try to think about your characters in excruciating detail.

  • Plot and story should be present from chapter one onwards! If you write a chapter, and it doesn't do anything to advance a crucial character and the underlying story, you need to change it.

  • Don't dramatise every trivial bit that happens. Some things need to be written; that doesn't mean they need to happen with lightning raining down on the wailing protagonist.

  • When in doubt, shorten your sentences. The real difficulty with depicting the scenery is that most authors (even better ones) lose control. Just a short scene of a character crossing the street suddenly takes a dozen lines. Try to be graphic but aim to be short.



Try to think about your protagonist's past and future:

Past: What did he do before? What is he proud of? What did he fail at? Does he have some regrets? Special friends? A lover he parted with involuntarily? Parents? Friends? What kind of education did he have?

Present: Does he have a tick? What food does he like? Any language quirks? Does he like strangers? Is he adventurous? Sarcastic? What about his humour? How exactly does he look? (As a general rule, NO character except the goddess of beauty should be perfect - period!) Is he good with practical work? How ruthless is he? Is he single-minded?

Future: What does he plan to do? What does he want to do? Does he have a hobby? Does he have a vice that needs sating? How good is he with people (remember, that's a skill)? Ambitious? Is he willing to make sacrifices for his aims? Is he looking for something immaterial?

There are literally dozens of questions like these that you need to have answered for every primary character. Why? Because they force you to think about your characters. The more you think about your characters, the more their backstory comes alive. That doesn't mean you need to put all that into writing, but it will help you personally.

An example. When I do it, I try to build a train of thought - literally:

So he does have a long lost love. Why did they part? Maybe they had a fight about their priorities; he didn't want to quit his work, she felt like he was choosing money over her. Did she move? Did he keep track of her? Did they keep contact? Maybe he still has contact with her parents? Did they like him? Maybe the parents are trying to keep some connection? Maybe he's given her a gift via her parents - and she unknowingly cherishes it? What kind of gift is it? Maybe something related to their fight? Maybe you could use that gift as an instrument to force something dramatic? Maybe she realises it's his? Or maybe she doesn't - what then? What if she actually dies, and the parents tell him she realised it was his and still treasured it. Would he feel regret? What would it change in him?

Now, the advantage of doing this kind of thing is that you can use any bit of information you thought up to build the plot. Also, the more thought out your characters are, the more interesting is the dialogue. You'll feel it - trust me!

RE: Pacing, power balance, description

#5
3/13/2018 7:13:54 AMacederequiza Wrote: [ -> ]Info dumps or expositions normally happens to new writers; myself included. Even seasoned writers suffered from it too.

My word of advice is (which others had advice me before) in addition to Imryx excellent post is this, 

If its not helping you to progress further in your plot, you could always opt it out. Is the description or the world-building at that time important, or just to showcase your 'coolness' or 'eagerness'? I did a lot of mistakes when starting out and still learning how to balance things out. It comes with time, practice and more practice.



Thank you for your insight :grin: . I definitely need to smooth out my details. I'll try to focus on more relevance to the plot and remove the extraneous explanation. Do you think when it comes to web novels people want you to paint a picture for them or would you say a basic description that leaves it open to their imagination is better?


3/15/2018 7:22:11 AMTheAgeOfTheYak Wrote: [ -> ]


This is a list of some typical novice mistakes that haven't been mentioned yet






  • Whatever you write, your protagonist needs to be part of your world in some way. If he isn't at the start, make it so that changes gradually.

  • Instil a sense of direction, belonging or urgency.

  • Try to think about your characters in excruciating detail.

  • Plot and story should be present from chapter one onwards! If you write a chapter, and it doesn't do anything to advance a crucial character and the underlying story, you need to change it.

  • Don't dramatise every trivial bit that happens. Some things need to be written; that doesn't mean they need to happen with lightning raining down on the wailing protagonist.

  • When in doubt, shorten your sentences. The real difficulty with depicting the scenery is that most authors (even better ones) lose control. Just a short scene of a character crossing the street suddenly takes a dozen lines. Try to be graphic but aim to be short.



Try to think about your protagonist's past and future:

Past: What did he do before? What is he proud of? What did he fail at? Does he have some regrets? Special friends? A lover he parted with involuntarily? Parents? Friends? What kind of education did he have?

Present: Does he have a tick? What food does he like? Any language quirks? Does he like strangers? Is he adventurous? Sarcastic? What about his humour? How exactly does he look? (As a general rule, NO character except the goddess of beauty should be perfect - period!) Is he good with practical work? How ruthless is he? Is he single-minded?

Future: What does he plan to do? What does he want to do? Does he have a hobby? Does he have a vice that needs sating? How good is he with people (remember, that's a skill)? Ambitious? Is he willing to make sacrifices for his aims? Is he looking for something immaterial?

There are literally dozens of questions like these that you need to have answered for every primary character. Why? Because they force you to think about your characters. The more you think about your characters, the more their backstory comes alive. That doesn't mean you need to put all that into writing, but it will help you personally.

An example. When I do it, I try to build a train of thought - literally:

So he does have a long lost love. Why did they part? Maybe they had a fight about their priorities; he didn't want to quit his work, she felt like he was choosing money over her. Did she move? Did he keep track of her? Did they keep contact? Maybe he still has contact with her parents? Did they like him? Maybe the parents are trying to keep some connection? Maybe he's given her a gift via her parents - and she unknowingly cherishes it? What kind of gift is it? Maybe something related to their fight? Maybe you could use that gift as an instrument to force something dramatic? Maybe she realises it's his? Or maybe she doesn't - what then? What if she actually dies, and the parents tell him she realised it was his and still treasured it. Would he feel regret? What would it change in him?

Now, the advantage of doing this kind of thing is that you can use any bit of information you thought up to build the plot. Also, the more thought out your characters are, the more interesting is the dialogue. You'll feel it - trust me!



Thanks for taking the time to help me out. I'm going to copy this list down because its gold for thinking up ideas and guidelines for story writing. Do you think archetypes are a necessity when creating a character, or is there anything you would suggest for keeping a character's personality consistent without making them come off as boring or flat?

RE: Pacing, power balance, description

#6
3/11/2018 5:57:51 PMImryx Wrote: [ -> ]When I started my novel I rushed into it and tried to progress the story too fast so that I could showcase all of the cool features of the world I created and unfortunately I messed up and created characters that people were unfamiliar with and just moved on. So you don't make the same mistake I have a few things I recommend from my own experience:

[1] Take your time
Don't rush anything like I did, try to introduce a basic plot and what the reader can expect so that they won't be flipping pages unsure of why the characters are doing whatever they're doing. Spend some time describing them so that your audience can get familiar with them (Speech, Looks, Powers, Goals).

[2] Power balance
Since you create the characters, you can make them as powerful or as weak as you want as long as it makes sense in the plot. Personally, I enjoy characters that start off weak and then become stronger later on in the story and I'm currently doing that in my own fiction. If you go this way, then make sure you go at a normal pace meaning 
1) Don't make the character go from level 1 to level 100 within 7 chapters.
2) Don't drag it on unless you are able to back it up with other features in the story.

[3] Description
I personally like to visualize the scene that the characters are in when reading a book or at least know their whereabouts. If they are in a cave describe the lighting, atmosphere, and maybe some textures or objects and then don't write anything else throughout the chapter or even after it if they are still in the cave. As long as I know where they are I am satisfied and if you keep telling me it becomes annoying.
[N.B.] Make sure to re-read whatever you're describing and ask yourself if it seems too long or too short.

[4] Ending point? 
When finishing a chapter make sure you keep the reader interested. Cliffhangers are good for ending chapters because usually, it keeps the reader interested. Personally again, I find 'Upcoming Events' fun to read because I want to know what is going to happen when the MC meets an opponent or attends an event after a long time training. 

In conclusion, you write what you want and whatever you consider is 'good enough'. Mention the important parts of the plot without skipping chunks of it and make sure filler chapters (Not/a bit relevant to the plot) are for describing characters or progress.
Hope this helped! :)


Some extremely solid advice! 

I have to admit I'm a bit guilty of [3], in which I restate locations or conditions each chapter. Nothing too severe, but if it's cold I'll keep pointing out how their cheeks are dyed pink from the chilled air, or whatever. I'll say that once a chapter, each chapter until they're warmer. I definitely need to cut down on that sort of stuff though... one of these days. :)

RE: Pacing, power balance, description

#7
3/17/2018 4:12:58 AMleafinthebreeze Wrote: [ -> ]Thanks for taking the time to help me out. I'm going to copy this list down because its gold for thinking up ideas and guidelines for story writing. Do you think archetypes are a necessity when creating a character, or is there anything you would suggest for keeping a character's personality consistent without making them come off as boring or flat?


That depends, frankly, on you. How confident are you?
It's generally better to make up your own characters, but it's also a bit more challenging.

Either way, I'd look for inspiration and advice on the internet if you haven't done this sort of thing before. I already gave you a few hints about character background, but that's not necessarily what defines your character in your story.


Archetypes:


What you're looking for in characters to make them 'come alive' is authenticity, stringency, and friction.

Now, archetypes are a difficult topic. As a general rule, it's okay to have a few characters fall into popular character archetypes. I might have to mention that, for me, those are classical literature archetypes, not modern pop-culture equivalents (tsundere isn't an archetype - it's, in the worst of cases, a psychological disorder due to over the top these characters tend to be). A few popular choices are: Sage, Rebel, Hero, Inventor, Ruler - but also Jester or Dreamer).

The good thing about these archetypes is that they set your character up to be flawed. Jesters are popular and funny - but whimsical, unfocused. Heroes are good and just - but restless, arrogant and single-minded.

Also, in addition to their flaws, all of these archetypes have fears, goals, typical approaches etc.

In that way, archetypes only remind you to 'fill the gaps'; archetypes come in handy as the established trope steps in whenever you forgot to introduce something.

Seems complicated? Let me explain! Take a popular novel of contemporary literature, for example, Harry Potter.

Dumbledore is wise, powerful, and generally benevolent. He's the typical Sage type character.
Many people have questioned why it is that Harry has to do so much, gently ushered and guided by Dumbledore. I don't want to write a few pages on character analysis, but (even though Rowling never gave an explanation for his inaction until the last book) most people silently accepted his behaviour. Why? Inaction, the tendency to ponder problems instead of actually doing anything, is the inherent weakness of the archetype Sage.

Truth is, you'll find archetypes in most literature, especially novels aimed at children or those meddling with fantasy. Even mature books such as LotR is beset by those. Gandalf, Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, Boromir, Aragorn - all of those fall into very, very apparent archetypes.

Are they, therefore, bad characters? Not at all.
Is it a flaw that they're fleshed out archetypes? Not in any way.

As I said before, you want friction, stringency, and authenticity in your characters.

  • Archetypes cheat the game because they imply authenticity even when there's none to be had. Dumbledore does literally nothing for five books. Did the general population throw down their books in disgust? They did not. Why? Because they're familiar with the trope.

  • Utilising archetypes will also help you with stringency. As you, the author, are almost subconsciously familiar with many of these types of characters from movies, novels, fairytales even, you'll have no problem reining in your characters.
    Would Sam have betrayed Frodo? Never because he's the Altruist.
    Would Harry have been able to stand up to Dumbledore, Sirius, or the Weasleys? No, because he's the Orphan.

  • Friction too is generally provided by archetypes. Would Luke Skywalker ever have joined with the Emperor? No, their archetypes are generally incompatible.

Now, all of that sounds kind of static, kind of preordained - like a match already played out.
And that is the weakness of archetypes.
Threy're a tool, a useful tool even. But very much like any tool, if you don't know how to handle them, they'll ruin your work. Archetypes can dominate your work. The reader might get the impression that they're reading roles instead of characters.
If you do decide to make use of them, you need to think of your character first and his type second. Otherwise, you're filling out a form, and the reader will notice it.


To sum it all up, archetypes are fine. They help you flesh out characters and can bridge gaps, but they also have their own set of traps to fall into. Whatever you may choose to do, it won't spare you the work of thinking up your characters' backgrounds.

RE: Pacing, power balance, description

#8
3/17/2018 11:20:03 AMTheAgeOfTheYak Wrote: [ -> ]
3/17/2018 4:12:58 AMleafinthebreeze Wrote: [ -> ]Thanks for taking the time to help me out. I'm going to copy this list down because its gold for thinking up ideas and guidelines for story writing. Do you think archetypes are a necessity when creating a character, or is there anything you would suggest for keeping a character's personality consistent without making them come off as boring or flat?


That depends, frankly, on you. How confident are you?
It's generally better to make up your own characters, but it's also a bit more challenging.

Either way, I'd look for inspiration and advice on the internet if you haven't done this sort of thing before. I already gave you a few hints about character background, but that's not necessarily what defines your character in your story.


Archetypes:


What you're looking for in characters to make them 'come alive' is authenticity, stringency, and friction.

Now, archetypes are a difficult topic. As a general rule, it's okay to have a few characters fall into popular character archetypes. I might have to mention that, for me, those are classical literature archetypes, not modern pop-culture equivalents (tsundere isn't an archetype - it's, in the worst of cases, a psychological disorder due to over the top these characters tend to be). A few popular choices are: Sage, Rebel, Hero, Inventor, Ruler - but also Jester or Dreamer).

The good thing about these archetypes is that they set your character up to be flawed. Jesters are popular and funny - but whimsical, unfocused. Heroes are good and just - but restless, arrogant and single-minded.

Also, in addition to their flaws, all of these archetypes have fears, goals, typical approaches etc.

In that way, archetypes only remind you to 'fill the gaps'; archetypes come in handy as the established trope steps in whenever you forgot to introduce something.

Seems complicated? Let me explain! Take a popular novel of contemporary literature, for example, Harry Potter.

Dumbledore is wise, powerful, and generally benevolent. He's the typical Sage type character.
Many people have questioned why it is that Harry has to do so much, gently ushered and guided by Dumbledore. I don't want to write a few pages on character analysis, but (even though Rowling never gave an explanation for his inaction until the last book) most people silently accepted his behaviour. Why? Inaction, the tendency to ponder problems instead of actually doing anything, is the inherent weakness of the archetype Sage.

Truth is, you'll find archetypes in most literature, especially novels aimed at children or those meddling with fantasy. Even mature books such as LotR is beset by those. Gandalf, Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, Boromir, Aragorn - all of those fall into very, very apparent archetypes.

Are they, therefore, bad characters? Not at all.
Is it a flaw that they're fleshed out archetypes? Not in any way.

As I said before, you want friction, stringency, and authenticity in your characters.

  • Archetypes cheat the game because they imply authenticity even when there's none to be had. Dumbledore does literally nothing for five books. Did the general population throw down their books in disgust? They did not. Why? Because they're familiar with the trope.

  • Utilising archetypes will also help you with stringency. As you, the author, are almost subconsciously familiar with many of these types of characters from movies, novels, fairytales even, you'll have no problem reining in your characters.
    Would Sam have betrayed Frodo? Never because he's the Altruist.
    Would Harry have been able to stand up to Dumbledore, Sirius, or the Weasleys? No, because he's the Orphan.

  • Friction too is generally provided by archetypes. Would Luke Skywalker ever have joined with the Emperor? No, their archetypes are generally incompatible.

Now, all of that sounds kind of static, kind of preordained - like a match already played out.
And that is the weakness of archetypes.
Threy're a tool, a useful tool even. But very much like any tool, if you don't know how to handle them, they'll ruin your work. Archetypes can dominate your work. The reader might get the impression that they're reading roles instead of characters.
If you do decide to make use of them, you need to think of your character first and his type second. Otherwise, you're filling out a form, and the reader will notice it.


To sum it all up, archetypes are fine. They help you flesh out characters and can bridge gaps, but they also have their own set of traps to fall into. Whatever you may choose to do, it won't spare you the work of thinking up your characters' backgrounds.


Thats some great advice. I will be taking that into account myself. I do have a point to make. Just as you can make a character not follow any archetype or follow an arch type out of the book; you can also create a character with simply the base purpose of the archetype in mind. 

And example would be the hero archetype. The 1st option would just make a character like Reiner from The Arcane emperor (or whatever his name is) who is a combination of The Hero, The Sage and even a little bit of the rebel in him. He is Good and Just, but also is known for his seeming lack of action which is a characteristic of the Sage archetype and he doesn't do well with authority which is the weakness of the Rebel archetype. 
People that tend to make thier own characters will either make an amazing character like Reiner is or they will make a very lacklustre character that feels either weird or strangely inhuman (in a bad way cos ruthless characters are badass).

Someone who follows an archetype will make a character like Randidly Ghosthound who is imo a completely textbook Rebel Archetype given that he never bothered to rule the village he created basically. The upside to these characters is they are easier to do and easily understood  by the audience due to their common appearence in any form of media but at the same time, these characters never develope without some form of complaint from your audience. Imagine reading randidly ghosthound and seeing randidly suddenly become ruler of his village and becoming responsible for once (lol)? It would certainly ellicit a complaint from me since Randidly is not even close to the archetype that would rule.

The third option is imo the best option if you can do it right. This option is like basically taking the purpose of a particular archetype, and fullfilling that archetypes purpose in your own way, adding you own spin to it and making them different to what people expect. Its like making harry potter keep the hero archetype's weakness (Restless and lack of farsight) but making him more of a weird sagely type who is arrogant with a lack of farsight. These types of characters like every other type, if done right are some of the coolest and intriguing to read. THis is a combination of the 2 options above. I mean imagine if Harry Potter suddenly started acting ruthless and just using the "Avada Kedavara" (or whatever it is) on Draco Malfoy in book 6 when Draco and the bad guys kill dumble door? Wouldn't it be fucking cool, but at the same time, it would be so unlike harry that he would do that. So if you are ever gonna use this method on a character that is important to the storyline. Do it from the start. 

Another thing to ALWAYS REMEMBER is that CHARACTERS change and grow older and develop and get stronger. I have noticed on RRL that characters never really develop on stories written here. GO read a series like the ones by Raymond E Feist. Watch how Pug and Thomas (Mainly Pug tbh) develop and change. The Pug who was originally an orphan in the first book who, by the end of the entire series (so Magicians End not Darkness at Sethanon) becomes a flawed but ridiculously powerful and intelligent magician who manages to outsmart the most powerful being in existence. A being that could eventually eat the entire 7 levels of the universe (7 halls of Hell/7 halls of Heaven. they are the same thing you find out eventually).
LoTR is another example. Bilbo goes from a scaredy, posh little hobbit fag and grows into quite the adventurer.
It is these kind of developments which although hard to do right, are very important to the characters and the plot.
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