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I have begun writing a story about two city-states in the year 2307 in an arms race to create a time machine. The protagonist must regain the confidence of his old "sim stealing" gang whom he sold out to a reeducation clinic to keep them out of trouble with the government to help him do a job for the government to invent a time machine.

I am a beginning writer, and I have particular style of writing that incorporates a lot of exposition and dialog. I attended a writer's group this week that gave me advice that I needed to develop my characters to give readers something more to be invested in, because the exposition and dialog gets a little long. So, I have been trying to conceptualize a project that may give me that experience. I have been doing research on the Internet.

I see that there are sites for forums, courses, prompts, exercises, and books. What I think I want is a combination of theory, shorter assignments (with feedback), and a longer project (with a character arc)that ties it all together that I can present for a half hour at my writer's group to show that I have addressed my issues in a way that would be entertain them too. In essence I am looking for structure without having to pay too much for a formal course. I am on a budget, and I want to be up to speed in a month's time if possible (but I recognize it could take longer...)

  • So what exactly are you asking for? You say the group mentions that your character development is weak, so you are looking at various ways to get feedback to improve. " I see that there are sites for forums, courses, prompts, exercises, and books..." it seems like you already know where to go to improve, so I'm not sure what you need help with. – Ethan May 12 '17 at 19:59
  • As I said above, I am looking for "a longer project (with a character arc)that ties it all together that I can present for a half hour at my writer's group to show that I have addressed my issues in a way that would be entertain them too." – user9885 May 12 '17 at 20:27
  • This isn't an appropriate answer, but it seems like what you want is "write a story showcasing character development that takes 20-25 minutes to present to a group, plus time for discussion". It sounds like you already have the setting, character, and plot points. What do you need beyond "go write it (or a sample section short enough to not take too long)"? – Ethan May 12 '17 at 21:35
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Mark Baker is exactly right. Your story needs to be about a person (who can be a human, alien, small animal, android, werewolf, sentient car, or Groot).

I needed to develop my characters to give readers something more to be invested in

This is your problem.

Never mind the exercises and projects and forums and blah blah blah cannoli. You are trying to write a story that's too complicated about a person you haven't fallen in love with.

  • Your first task is to define your character. Let's call him Bob. Who is Bob? What does he want? What's stopping him from having it? What will he do to get it? What won't he do? How does he want people to think of him? What's the one thing he doesn't ever want anyone to know? What is his biggest strength? What's his biggest weakness? Who is his best friend?
  • Then you need the basic outlines of a plot. The MacGuffin, the allies, the bad guys, if there's a love interest, any dependents.
  • Once you know what Bob wants, who will help him and who will thwart him, you map out the journey which Bob is going to take. The journey is what happens to Bob, internally, as he navigates the plot of "getting what he wants."
    • How does Bob react to obstacles? Does he give up? Get angry? Get clever? Ask for help? Does his strength or flaw play into this?
    • How does Bob react to success? Does he gloat? Acknowledge it quietly and not make a fuss? Cheer? Share the glory or hog it? Does his strength or flaw play into this?

The goal is for Bob to have changed (preferably improved, but it could be a downer) by the end, when he has the MacGuffin. The process of getting the MacGuffin will have forced Bob to do things, or think things, which he wouldn't have otherwise. This is a character arc.

  • Now go back and look at your original sketch of Bob. Does it still work?
  • Create some backstory. Is there anything in Bob's background which you could change, or add, or remove, to make the story more interesting?

These sketches and notes and discussions are what you can present to your group.

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I have begun writing a story about two city-states in the year 2307 in an arms race to create a time machine.

The essence of your difficulty is right there in your opening sentence. Stories are not about city states. Stories are always always always about a man/woman/boy/girl/small furry animal whose life is upset in some way by some thing and wants something as a result, which they will have to struggle hard to get, which will bring them at some point to a fundamental crisis that will change and/or reveal who they really are.

If if happens in two city states in the year 2307 is is only because two city states in the year 2307 are a good stage on which to play out the drama of that character.

Try to rewrite your question in these terms and see if doing so helps you see your way forward.

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