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Stumped by the Story Question

June 25, 2010

Which Way?

Randy answered my question about placing the story question in the novel. My question was:

I followed the Writing Fiction for Dummies book to the letter after I wrote my novel, all except the part about a scene list. I thought it would take too much effort. I realized yesterday that I need to shift the scenes around, and I so regret not writing that list.

I’m going mad with trying to figure out how it all connects if I move two of my scenes earlier (so that the REAL story question of the book is in the first quarter, and not closer to the middle). There’s ton of things happening in the first 1/3 to keep the reader occupied, and I’ve been dropping clues left and right, all carefully concealed to the best of my ability.

The real story question is basically if the kids should choose between good or evil, but up until then the reader will have thought that the story question is how to get home, since that’s what the kids have been doing up until about 1/3 of the story.

How to get home is the ultimate goal, and the story question of the whole trilogy (this is book one).

How important is it to have the true story question of the book in the first quarter as opposed to nearer to 1/3 of the book?

Thanks in advance. I’ll appreciate help with this.

He gave me a very long, elaborate answer with examples of the five pillars of fiction; Storyworld, Characters, Plot, Theme, and Style.

Basically he said that if the story is plot-driven, as mine is, the story question should be clear very early in the manuscript. This had me sighing a little, but then I figured that I’m introducing a whole new world, and I felt that I couldn’t go right into the story question (good or evil) until after I’d done some fair introduction. One of Randy’s readers, Timothy R. Greene, commented and said that he likes to push the story question back for as long as he can. He thinks that it makes the story more of a mystery and keeps the reader interested.

I checked my manuscript and the story question is literally spelled out on page 112 of a 254 paged story. That’s more than 1/3’d way through; it’s closer to the middle. I honestly don’t think that moving it forward will improve the story, since the ultimate goal is to get home and that’s clearly obvious in the first 30 pages, but in order to get home they have to choose a path. They only get that information after having traveled the land, seen the evil race, and discovered and trained their different abilities. I tried moving the question closer to the beginning, but it just didn’t work and didn’t feel right, so I think I’m going to listen to my gut on this one.

I think that if I were to try again, I’d have to rewrite the whole thing from start. I’ll have that as a backup plan if I only get rejections from both agents and publishers.

Task for the day: Read two chapters and fix in the document.

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