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How much do you tell?

StarFleet Carl

This is a bit of a different question, mostly because of how personal the whole story is for me.

I've finished a short story, only a couple of chapters, about 9,700 words total. It's a story of a young mans first sexual encounter. My debate with myself is two-fold. First, simply because of the small size, do I shrink it down to only one, larger chapter? (Although because of how and what happens, there's a natural break - the first chapter is background, second chapter are the acts themselves, just to make it flow.) Second is, I've written a little bit of an epilogue chapter which is very short, but gives a little bit of explanation as to what happens afterwards. Should that be included or not is what I'm wondering.

The reason I ask is pretty simple. It's pretty damned much a true story of what happened to me. First sexual encounter, and it ended up involving my sister-in-law, her best friend, and me. The way I've written it, the story is a bit of a stroke story, but not a regular masturbatory delight like so many on here are. (Of course, writing it brought back a lot of memories and I personally had to stop a few times and ... think about it, yeah, that's it.)

The only thing I've changed in the story are the names and locations involved. So while I KNOW what happened to everyone afterwards, do you think it's relevant to include it? How much do you tell? (Or should I even post it at all?)

Ernest Bywater

@StarFleet Carl

First, simply because of the small size, do I shrink it down to only one, larger chapter? (Although because of how and what happens, there's a natural break - the first chapter is background, second chapter are the acts themselves, just to make it flow.)


There's no reason why you can't have a heading in the middle of the story to break it up, and still post it as one SoL Chapter. I do that all the time as I use Chapters, sub-chapters, and section headings, but the Sol Chapter breaks rarely match the story content breaks, so I pick an existing break and break there, while having the other headings show within the story.

Replies:   StarFleet Carl
StarFleet Carl

@Ernest Bywater

as one SoL Chapter


Yes, you do, and that actually makes perfect sense, for me to do it that way. I don't know why I didn't think of doing that, it's not like I haven't read basically everything you've ever written and posted on SOL.

Unrelated to this, I'm also about done with that Winds of Change story I was working on. It's actually tougher than I thought to write, because of trying to make recorded history and then the variation I'm doing also fit into the Winds canon background.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@StarFleet Carl

Winds of Change


A public universe has been set up for the Winds stories, if you want you can link it in. If there's an issue let me know and I'll get it done.

Crumbly Writer

9,700 words is kind of long for a short story. It's not unheard of, by any stretch, but there's no reason you couldn't extend it. A short intro, the main chapter, and then the final epilogue attached at the end of the second chapter. So the choice is your, one chapter or two, though I wouldn't bother with a separate epilogue unless it's at least 1,500+ words, but that's just my particular cut off.

On the other hand, if you wanted to expand it, as you kinda suggested, you could always change some of your "tell" into show, to make the story richer (more character driven, with the character's revealing more of their emotions via dialogue, but again, that's simply a choice if you decide to expand it a bit to justify a couple extra (or longer) chapters.

robberhands

I'm amazed anyone felt enabled to answer your questions without knowing the story.

Bondi Beach
Updated:

@StarFleet Carl


The only thing I've changed in the story are the names and locations involved. So while I KNOW what happened to everyone afterwards, do you think it's relevant to include it? How much do you tell? (Or should I even post it at all?)


I'd read the story so, yes, please post it.

Should you add an epilogue? If your characters reach a resolution without it, a "what happened later" epilogue is not required. With or without is fair to the reader.

In The Count of Monte Cristo [SPOILER ALERT] the reader is left with one pair of characters on the island where the Count has his secret hideaway watching the Count and Haydee sailing off into the distance. Each pair has reached a resolution but we don't know what happened to them later.

We're at a stopping point, but we'd like to more. I would, anyway, but Dumas didn't leave us hanging. (And the attempts by others to write a sequel failed.)

Is it a stronger story with the epilogue left to the reader's imagination? If yes, skip it. If when you re-read it you think folks would like to know what happened to those characters, tell them.

ETA: Ask yourself this: Would an epilogue change the way the reader sees the characters? Would it change the meaning of the encounter in a way that would matter to the characters, or tell the reader something important about the meaning of the encounter?

If yes, add the epilogue. If no, the epilogue is not required to round the story off.

bb

KinkyWinks

It is rare that I read a story less than 50KB and I find short chapters that are really just a page to be aggravating and I ignore them for the most part. I'm sure that I miss a lot of good thoughts, but to me that is what they are, thoughts, not stories.

awnlee jawking

@StarFleet Carl

You've written the story you want to tell. Unless they have a compelling rationale behind them, I think you should avoid implementing suggestions by others which substantially change the story.

Having said that, Ernest's suggestion about a single SOL chapter with sub-headings makes sense.

AJ

Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

I find short chapters that are really just a page to be aggravating and I ignore them


I love short chapters. So did Kurt Vonnegut and many other authors. I actually hate long chapters.

What's wrong with a short chapter? The reader just goes on to the next chapter if they want to keep reading. A long chapter, on the other hand, forces a reader to keep reading or stop in the middle of something.

Too often, I find long chapters to have a lot in them that should have been edited out. A scene is typically a chapter and there's a saying about scenes: "Arrive late and leave early." Basically, it says skip the boring stuff before the meat of the scene starts and stop before the boring stuff starts.

Replies:   sunkuwan  awnlee jawking
sunkuwan

@Switch Blayde

depends if the author uses chapters as Story-cuts or location-cuts.

If every chapter is a different part of the story or location and not an overarching storyline, I will not bother with

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@sunkuwan

If every chapter is a different part of the story or location


I don't know what the quoted phrase means.

I agree that every chapter/scene needs to be part of the storyline. People say all the time that if a scene doesn't move the plot forward or develop a character, delete it.

But what's wrong with starting a new chapter when the location or time changes? Those are reasons for starting a new chapter. The scene ends and the next one begins a new chapter.

Replies:   robberhands  robberhands
robberhands
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

But what's wrong with starting a new chapter when the location or time changes? Those are reasons for starting a new chapter. The scene ends and the next one begins a new chapter.

My currently posted story is at chapter 48. If every new scene would mean a new chapter, the story would be around chapter 500. Such a number would ideed feel wrong to me.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@robberhands

If every new scene would mean a new chapter, the story would be around chapter 500


You can have multiple scenes within a chapter. Dan Brown does it all the time ("The da Vinci Code)". In a printed book you show it with a blank line. In an ebook or on SOL you show it with a divider.

But a chapter is typically a scene change. Starting a new chapter in the middle of a scene is done when the POV character changes, but other than that it's a forced new chapter.

Replies:   Dominions Son  sunkuwan
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

Starting a new chapter in the middle of a scene is done when the POV character changes


I've seen chapter breaks in the middle of a scene without a change in POV, just to create a cliffhanger effect.

sunkuwan

@Switch Blayde

I agree that every chapter/scene needs to be part of the storyline. People say all the time that if a scene doesn't move the plot forward or develop a character, delete it.


And that is wrong. That is dead-tree space considerations and old-school thinking. We live in the digital age, we have the place to just immerse ourselves in the setting and not go from one crisis to another.

But a chapter is typically a scene change. Starting a new chapter in the middle of a scene is done when the POV character changes, but other than that it's a forced new chapter.


And what would it say about your writing if you only write 500-word scenes?
I would be ok with it when there are also 10k word scenes/chapters. But experience tells me that all chapters would be short.

That's why "if a scene doesn't move the plot forward or develop a character, delete it" is bullshit.

Switch Blayde

@sunkuwan

And what would it say about your writing if you only write 500-word scenes?


I don't believe there are many scenes that would be under 500 words. It's hard to develop anything in so few words. I think I have scenes under a 1,000 words, though.

That's why "if a scene doesn't move the plot forward or develop a character, delete it" is bullshit.


Why?

Why have a bunch of filler that isn't part of the story?

Replies:   Dominions Son
Switch Blayde

@sunkuwan

And what would it say about your writing if you only write 500-word scenes?


In my first novel, my first chapter has 3 scenes. The first is from the hero's POV setting up the mystery and the encounter with the heroine. The 2nd scene switches from the hero's POV to the heroine's (the encounter). But there's also a short scene at the end of the 1st chapter that's only 566 words. It's from the POV of the heroine's husband and really adds to the mystery. So that scene (IMO) is powerful, but only 566 words. It's not a separate chapter, though.

Replies:   sunkuwan
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

Why have a bunch of filler that isn't part of the story?


There's more to a story than just the plot.

If you don't want two dimensional characters, you need to develop your characters beyond just their interaction with the plot line.

A story also needs a setting, a place where it happens.

Even if the story takes pace in a real location, to have a well rounded story, the setting needs to be established and developed every bit as much as the plot and the characters.

Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

If you don't want two dimensional characters, you need to develop your characters beyond just their interaction with the plot line.

A story also needs a setting, a place where it happens.


Move the plot forward AND develop the character.

Setting is part of the plot.

Replies:   Dominions Son
sunkuwan

@Switch Blayde

So that scene (IMO) is powerful, but only 566 words. It's not a separate chapter, though.


And that's fine. I have no problems with scenes that are even shorter. But I have a problem with it when the author has the need to make every scene a chapter.
The author will have to either pad his current short scene with more things or has to cut things from a longer scene so that the chapter falls into his preferred chapter length.

Why have a bunch of filler that isn't part of the story?

because you will have either a checkpoint story or a constant flow of things happening without a break and to appreciate what happened. Why care about characters if you only see them in crisis'.
That's why I can't finish some old dead-tree series like Vorkosigan Saga. There were several abrupt endings and cold openings to the next scene that left me asking. "Wait, what happened in-between? I want to know the aftermath of scene xyz and how character abc reacted to it, but suddenly we are even on a different ship!

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

I think you got the wrong attribution there ;)

I personally prefer chapters that fit into a single SOL page, although I also prefer that they more-or-less fill the page. Hypocritically, I sometimes violate that guideline in my own stories.

Aj

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

Setting is part of the plot.


No, it isn't.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

Setting is part of the plot.

No, it isn't.


Of course it is. It's world-building. It's description of the surroundings the action is taking place in. Just like a character's description adds something to the character.

Replies:   Dominions Son  sunkuwan
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

It's world-building. It's description of the surroundings the action is taking place in.


Very true, and a necessary aspect of almost any story, but that does not make it part of the plot.

sunkuwan

@Switch Blayde

If you see Worldbuilding as part of the plot, then every filler is part of the plot. because most filler can be classified as worldbuilding.

Maybe post some examples that you consider filler in a story.

Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

It's world-building. It's description of the surroundings the action is taking place in.

Very true, and a necessary aspect of almost any story, but that does not make it part of the plot.


My WIP takes place in a tiny town in Mississippi where there's a poor black neighborhood, a white neighborhood where the town's money is spent, and a white trash trailer park between the two.

That setting is critical to the plot. If the story took place in Chicago, the plot wouldn't work.

robberhands
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

People say all the time that if a scene doesn't move the plot forward or develop a character, delete it.

'Every scene should move the plot forward.'

You already added character development to that statement to make it less obvious it is just a hollow phrase like so many others. Someone tried to make a point, maybe with good intentions, but taken literally the statement is wrong. The movement of the plot is just a part of the story, more prevalent in action oriented tales than it is in charcter driven stories. The setting or worldbuilding can be a central theme as well and the plot isn't needed to justify its significance for the story.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

There's more to a story than just the plot.

Character development IS part of the plot, as you can't understand or appreciate (or care) about the plot if you don't understand why the characters respond as they do.

When we describe cutting anything that doesn't move the story forward, we aren't advising cutting necessary character development.

In my case, I often have short chapters, but I don't really drop below 1,500 words, or go above 10,000 (rarely do I even approach this upper limit). Often, if you have an action scene that ends with a cliffhanger, you don't want a lot of excess verbiage. Describing what the foliage looks like when a character is shot doesn't advance the story at all.

Crumbly Writer

@sunkuwan

And that's fine. I have no problems with scenes that are even shorter. But I have a problem with it when the author has the need to make every scene a chapter.

General rule of thumb, each chapter should focus on a specific 'theme'. Some (mostly novice writers) use a 'day-in-the-life' theme, where the single chapters covers an entire day in the character's life (these tend to have a LOT of useless filler in them), but otherwise the theme will revolve around a particular conflict, introducing new characters, interviewing witnesses, meeting the parents, etc.

As long as various 'scenes' fit within that general chapter theme (ex: a chapter on "meeting the parents" could show the couple discussing their parents on the way, the actual meeting, any knock-down, drag-out fights, and then a follow-up discussion as the couple leaves), it's legit to keep it within the chapter.

These are known as 'Episodic' chapter, as each chapter focuses on a single episode in the story, no matter how many days or scene changes they incorporate.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Very true, and a necessary aspect of almost any story, but that does not make it part of the plot.

You're seriously telling me, that when you plot out the story, you never consider the various character building scenes? If you do, then the character building (which is part of the larger 'setting') are part of the plot.

I suspect what you are objecting to is the literal definition of 'setting', where an author describes the fall foliage. However, NO ONE is suggesting those are plot points, they simply 'flesh out' each given scene.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

That setting is critical to the plot. If the story took place in Chicago, the plot wouldn't work.


1. Just because you have one plot where the setting it self is relevant to the plot, that does not mean thatsetting is always critical to the plot.

There are other plots, locked room murder mystery for example, where the setting is irrelevant to the plot, but a setting is still required for a well rounded story.

2. I disagree that the setting at the level you specify is critical to the plot. While the plot may not work in a major urban area, there are a lot of small towns in every state where your plot would work. Here you have created a plot where aspects of the setting are critical to the plot, but the totality of the setting is not.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

You're seriously telling me, that when you plot out the story, you never consider the various character building scenes?


No, I will consider some of them, but not all of them.
Some of the character building is essential to the plot, but not all of it is. For a well rounded story the characters should be fleshed out beyond that.

The same thing applies to setting. Aspects of the setting may be critical to the plot, but the totality of the setting in a well rounded story rarely is critical to the plot.

However, NO ONE is suggesting those are plot points, they simply 'flesh out' each given scene.


But I am suggesting that they are necessary to a well rounded story.

StarFleet Carl

@Switch Blayde

My WIP takes place in a tiny town in Mississippi where there's a poor black neighborhood, a white neighborhood where the town's money is spent, and a white trash trailer park between the two.


I think I visited that town. Had the best barbecue in the south. Little tar paper shack on the outskirts, no two glasses matched, only place in town whites and blacks would mingle. (This was 40 years ago, so ... yeah.)

StarFleet Carl

@awnlee jawking

Having said that, Ernest's suggestion about a single SOL chapter with sub-headings makes sense.

Yeah, that's pretty much what I've done. I did the editing today on it so that I have (hopefully) embedded the proper codes so it reads right and I'm going to try to post it in a bit if it works properly.

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