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In terms of the story, it should not matter. You might start with characters that you want to write about. And then figure out a plot to causes these characters to interact with each other. And then the requirements of the plot cause changes to the characters. And so on, and so on. You might start with the plot and only later after the flow of the plot is ...


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I believe you start with both of them together. A young warrior overthrows an oppressive regime. A fae outcast learns new magic to build the world anew. A criminal drug addict seeks redemption by turning his life to saving others. ^^ If you can identify a character goal and what your characters will do to reach it, then start writing in the 'normal ...


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I read an article by a writer once in which he said that he spent a great deal of his time putting doors in alleys. And he explained that what he meant was, if he has a scene where the hero is being chased by the villain and the hero runs into an alley and there's a convenient door that the hero can jump through and lock behind him, the reader is going to be ...


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The art of the twist is not given to every writer. Many weak writers think of the swooping dragon as a surprise twist, but their readers don't see it that way. Twists are successful when the reader is taken entirely by surprise, but then tells himself "of course, I should've seen that coming!" - but he didn't. They are failures when the reader is taken by ...


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"Too convenient" and "too inconvenient" may be polar opposites for the characters but they are both symptoms of the same problem in the writing. The author is relying on coincidence to solve writing problems. Getting the protagonists out of a difficulty is a writing problem. But getting them into a difficulty is also a writing problem. @CortAmmon ...


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Inconvenience is more realistic and hence more relatable. Think of Donald Duck cartoons--everything seems to go wrong, all the time. Many people resonate with that, although in this case exaggeration might make it more humourous. (It might be even more humourous if no exaggeration is required!) Too inconvenient is simply the admission of the existence of a ...


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For whom have my hands laboured, Urshanabi? Both temporary setbacks and unexpected failures in the end are entirely appropriate. Unexpectedly unhappy endings are as old as civilization. The best ending for the characters and the best ending for an acclaimed book are often different. This is normal. It is a hallmark of the writer's craft to make the reader ...


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Oppositely, if the characters are winning the fight, but that same dragon swoops down and makes them lose, that would be too inconvenient, at least in my opinion. It depends where in the story you are. If you're in the climax, yes it is bad writing. But if this fight happens in the early exposition stage of the story, where the purpose of the scene is to ...


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How much pain is too much? This is a highly subjective question where people will not agree. The problems you describe are painful, but are they too painful? Again, this is highly subjective. The pain comes from breaking the readers expectations. When readers are getting near the end of a story, they expect to understand the world and the conflict. ...


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I would fall back on Sanderson's First Law of Magicks Sanderson’s First Law of Magics: An author’s ability to solve conflict with magic is DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL to how well the reader understands said magic. Magic, of course, has similar writing properties as convenience might. I think the key wording is "ability to solve conflict." It doesn't matter ...


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I would say anything that seems to come out of nowhere is unrealistic fiction, unless the fact that it comes out of nowhere is fairly concealed. For example, I can make my protagonist's father a college professor, and her mother an MBA business manager, and because of that she knows some stuff critical to the plot about both academia and business that the ...


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The twin tropes you are referring to are Deus ex Machina and Diabolus es Machina. In both cases an event comes out of nowhere, not foreshadowed, to effect a drastic change. Both tropes are frowned upon. For example, Marion Dane Bauer in her book on writing, would say to her writing students "If you end your story by having your main character get hit by a ...


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I answered a very similar question recently here: How can I convert a linear narrative into a branching narrative? I tried to develop a step-by-step process through which one could convert a linear story, like yours, into a narrative with many paths. Even if you've already started on that process I think it could be helpful to you! Here are the parts most ...


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Your book is about coming of age. You can have all of that, but then everything needs to serve the coming of age. The love triangle needs to be about how your character is developing into who he will be/needs to be. The opening needs to present the challenge that he must overcome. If it's action/adventure, fine, but it's got to ultimately show where he's ...


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Find a underlying theme Just because your sections have different tones and plots doesn't mean that they have to be entirely unconnected. You say that the book is a coming of age story - what are the specific elements of coming of age that the character(s) are learning to deal with? Is it about becoming the master of your own fate? Learning to take ...


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I tend to write my novels as way more episodic than this (to the point that they are episodic short stories with connected characters... and the antagonist of the final couple of chapters is nominally present in chapters where they aren't the villain of that chapter). There are some books that are even less connected than that, such as the Encyclopedia ...


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Is it uncompelling to continue the story with lower stakes? It depends on the type of story you are telling. If you are telling a character-driven story, one in which the reader becomes heavily invested in the MC (for convenience, that can stand for "Main Character" or "Main Crew"), their emotional journey in life, then an event which lowers the stakes can ...


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As Pat Rothfuss said on Writing Excuses, there are things that can happen to characters that are "worse than death". The "existential threats", especially because they are such a cliché, are also just one "type" of threat. A character losing a loved one, or their honour or dignity, or their sanity--these are not lesser stakes to character death. So, a ...


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The most important rule is to match the stakes with the promises you've made to the reader You most emphatically do not have to constantly raise the stakes to make a compelling story. As your instincts suggest, switching to more personal stakes can create the same amount of reader investment as higher stakes would have. For example, Star Wars opened ...


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My issue is that you seem to be suggesting that "everyone dies" is worse than "you only get to live if you agree with me", that doesn't necessarily follow, "better to die free than live as a slave" and all that. For this reason world conquering evil is potentially worse than world destroying evil, the stakes aren't automatically higher or lower but they are ...


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In Game of Thrones there were two sets of stakes: the magical Night King, and the mundane power struggle for the Iron Throne. The characters reasonably decided they had to deal with the magical, more immediately existential threat before handling the mundane one. Honestly I agree with you, and I also think that visual stories in general are escalating the ...


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These kinds of seemingly contradictory responses make me really love humans. To understand how you can get these kinds of responses, ask yourself how often do my eyes started elide of text. Maybe the beta readers skimmed across different lines of text. For my writing, I try to understand the interpretation of my work that allowed the critic to arrive at ...


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It simply depends whether you want to publish for the market or write real literature. For good- or best-selling: Keep it simple and stupid. For real literature, don’t be afraid of the extremes! Remind the great Swiss dramatist Friedrich Dürrenmatt. He explained (my wording): The classical Greek tragedy involves well meaning heroes fighting for the good ...


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Beta readers are excellent at identifying problems. They're not as good at identifying solutions. Think of yourself like a doctor with a patient. The patient can describe their symptoms. They can even tell you what they think the cause is. But you are the expert here - the ultimate diagnosis and treatment are in your hands. Consider how your readers ...


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What you can make out from these two contradictory statements is that the description of the progression of events from the present to the point where the story takes place might not be described well enough. You might leave too many events open to interpretation or expect the reader to take certain developments as self-evident when they are not. So each ...


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This is a common enough experience. Anyone familiar with writers' groups will be aware this happens all the time. Every beta reader has their own criteria for how they evaluate any story. You should be more worried, or perhaps more elated, if they all gave the same responses and comments. So getting contradictory comments is normal. It's not your role as ...


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Every reader comes at a work with a different perspective. One reader may not even notice the elements that are central for another. The only way to find out if your two beta readers were focusing on different things is to ask them. When a society changes fundamentally, especially when leading to dystopia, it will change multiple elements and all to ...


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you are weakening your argument by presenting the extreme edge of the phenomenon you wish to engage with rather than its mainstream. That can be true, at one extreme (IRL) people get out and picket a studio for canceling a favorite series, calling for boycotts. The mainstream says, "Damn, I liked that show. Too bad," and moves on. But once in a while the 1% ...


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Answer #1 is a comment/question: Can you ask them the sorts of books/stories they'd each recommend to help you calibrate your extremity? that might be the sort of info that can point you in the direction you should go, because it may tell you which reader is naturally in tune with your intent. Answer #2: I think your experience is common. Science ...


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Most attempts at classifying things like this are completely arbitrary. Different writers will come up with different lists, and it's not like you could somehow prove that one is right and the others are wrong. This reminds me ... nothing about writing, but about classifying. A friend of mine who had not gone to college as a young person decided to go when ...


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