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Linear vs. Non-linear

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by T.Allen.Smith, Apr 22, 2015.

  1. ArenRax

    ArenRax Sage

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    Heh. In the series im writing this is exactly what I was gonna do because I didn't want the outcome to be predictable or certain events. I remember playing Army of two Devils Cartel and in the first mission/chapter Salem "dies" but I didn't believe and I just knew he would come back to haunt the MC's in some way, and at the end sure enough Salem is killing off the MC's fellow operatives and then tries to kill his old partner but sadly Instead of executing him Bravo leaves him for the police.
    now I don't know if its because I've read lots of books and watched lots of DVDs but some things are just predictable for no reason or you get inkling that something will happen.
     
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  2. AndrewMelvin

    AndrewMelvin Scribe

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    I agree. Flashbacks and non-linear storytelling are two different things and both can be very effective (or detrimental, depending on the author and story). If I was really happy with my story and the way I had presented it, I think it would take a lot more than "this is too linear" to make me reconsider it.
     
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  3. Fyle

    Fyle Inkling

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    You can add me to the list of having no preferance. If the story is good, it is irrelevant to me whether it is linear or not.

    X Equestris's comment is more of an issue with being clear, not being confusing, rather than an issue specific to flashbacks. I guess flashbacks can natuarally run the risk of being confusing. Having to puzzle out anything that is meant to come off clear isn't fun.
     
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  4. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    I'm not sure why everyone, with one or two exceptions, keeps coming to the flashback conclusion. It's pretty obvious to me that what your friend is really talking about is that your plot is unsurprising, without deviations, or in other words, logical. Given what I've read of your posts, you strike me as a logical sort of person. And logical sorts of people tend to write logical sorts of plots. The kind that essentially boil down to a long chain of causes and effects, like toppling dominoes. I know this because I think and write in the exact same way: get from A to B, with minimal distractions or inconveniences, fluff or filigree. And for one reason or another, some readers just don't find that satisfying.

    I can't really speculate on why you might be writing this way, aside from your cool, logical temperament. I know I write this way because often I find that plot twists and turns depend on the protagonist doing something dumb or being unfairly obstructed or inconvenienced in ways I find frustrating to read (in one instance I ragequit the book when something like this happened and still haven't picked it up again). When an author raises a character up only to suddenly snatch away their accomplishments and make them essentially start over, I feel cheated. So I don't write things like that. Not to say that my characters are never obstructed, but only ever in ways I deem fair and that I can engineer a victory or at least a relatively swift recovery from. But some readers find those moments of disempowerment satisfying. Just look at the masochists who read A Song of Ice and Fire.

    Anyway, I digress. Definitely clarify what your friend means by "linear", because I think he's talking about the plot rather than the structure of the work itself. And if that is the case, look for ways you can shake things up and make your plots less logical. It's something I'm currently wrestling with, so I don't have many answers. But the first step to a solution is identifying the problem.
     
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  5. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

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    I also would not assume a criticism of linearity meant chronological linearity, unless that was what he said? I'd think that meant there aren't enough subplots, pauses, or digressions to make the world feel real and the characters feel alive, rather than everything existing only in the narrow hallway of the plot, and if you were to open a door and look through it, there would be nothing in there, no hidden character depths or corners of the setting that the story doesn't parade through... Of course I can't say whether this applies to your story, but it is something I've noticed in a few books, and I think that'd be a more common complaint than straightforward timeline progression.
     
  6. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    @MindFire & Nimue,

    I agree that could be what he meant, and I'm certainly going to clarify at the next live meeting.

    The reason the comment perplexes me so much is because it came from review of my short story from Iron Pen 15 titled "Benediction". I thought that story did have twists, foreshadowing, & a surprise ending. Maybe there was too much foreshadowing for a 5k story & he guessed the ending. If that's the case though, it wouldn't bother me too much. Writers are harder to mislead than the average reader.

    Well, either way.... Thanks for all the replies. I'll just have to ask him in a couple weeks.
     
  7. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

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    I didn't realize this was only a 5k story, which makes a criticism of linearity seem a little unfair?? I mean, there's only so many knots you can put in a short story. I'd agree that he may be saying it was too easy to guess the ending, from that context. (Foreshadowing is hard. I don't like writing twist endings much, and I try to tell myself it's not just because I'm lazy...but the difficulty has a lot to do with it.)
     
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  8. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    Cosigning Nimue's post. Although I do try my hand at foreshadowing (Do I succeed? YMMV.), it's mostly more straightforward Chekov's Gun stuff than genuine twists.
     
  9. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    @T.Allen, I want to echo this interpretation. Straightforward, without deviations. That strikes me as the most likely interpretation.

    It's still weird. You mentioned he was reviewing a short story and a first chapter? Has he read any of your other work? Given the lack of specifics, maybe he's extrapolating from a general style that you have rather than critiquing these stories directly. I could see that becoming a worthwhile criticism.

    But if all he's seen of yours is a short story and a chapter, then it's just weird.
     
  10. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    Yeah, it's only been the two pieces.

    There's 8 people in the group. Most loved the short story.

    That being said, he's on of the better writers, which is why I'm paying attention to the comment.

    I'll get some clarification and come back with more info.
     
  11. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    T. Allen, please do let us know what he meant by that. His response may be more enlightening than we think. Also, maybe he's the type of reader that prefers meandering stories that all return to the main goal at the end. Who knows. But one thing I've learned from having critique partners is that even the smallest, most confusing things that they point out end up being helpful. For example, I had one of my writing buddies tell me that my current story is too "moralistic". It annoyed me but asked him to elaborate, which he did, and now I understand what he meant and am using it to the story's benefit. As with all things, if it applies to the story (to help improve it) and vibes with your writing style, then use the suggestion to your advantage. And if not, well then, you know where to stick it. :D
     
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