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I've Made A Huge Newbie Mistake With The Sixth Chamber (1 Viewer)

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TheMightyAz

Mentor
This novel is going to be my first and honest attempt at actually finishing a novel. I've attempted it three times previously and all three crashed and burned, largely because I don't plan and let side quests and added lore get out of control. This leads to me not knowing which way is up.

I don't expect this novel to be published even if I do complete it. All I want is to give it the best possible chance I can. But what do I do with the very first novel I intend on completing? I make the protagonist have amnesia. I've now got the first four chapters worked out in my head and the flow is good, but the fact my protagonist has amnesia means I can't draw on all his history/events to build his character and broaden/deepen the prose. How can I give an overview of the world if my protagonist barely knows where he is? I even gave the desert a name today but immediately removed it because Yarrod wouldn't know. This is all he knows:

He has a crow companion called Stitch (who he will eventually find out is a familiar) and a Remington handgun called Sorrow (which is a Riftshifter's artefact). He also carries a red handkerchief that means something to him but he doesn't know what (his mother's). He is pursued by a storm. It's this storm that resets him, although he never remembers he's been caught by the storm or reset. His built in imperative is to hunt and kill. Let's call him a cross between the Terminator and the Witcher for argument's sake. In this particular cycle, he has no horse but he usually does. This is why his journey across the desert is different and the extra time taken leads him into his adventure.

That's it though. There's not much there really. He doesn't know this and he doesn't know that ... This is a nightmare.

I have no idea how to introduce new information when I can't do it through the protagonist's eyes. This is third person limited too, although I do intend to switch between three characters all being said. It's not until I sat down today and started yet another revision that I realised the problem. Has anyone got any ideas on what I could do to build this world, give him some history but keep him in the dark until he begins recalling some events?
 

Ajoy

Senior Member
It sounds like your MC has enough knowledge for a few solid opening chapters, allowing you to set up some basic elements of the world while you get your plot rolling. Could you start inserting the other to POVs at that point to round the world out as you continue moving the plot forward? It sounds like you only need to get from your opening chapters to when your MC starts recalling events.

I also think it's okay for your reader to have more limited knowledge for a while, as long as things keep coming clearer and the plot keeps pulling them along. I enjoy that kind of journey as a reader. What you've been working on sounds like an interesting story with an interesting character, and the curiosity around that will be the draw that keeps a reader invested until things become clearer, I think.
 

robertn51

Friends of WF
Has anyone got any ideas on what I could do to build this world, give him some history but keep him in the dark until he begins recalling some events?
Yeah that is a puzzle.

Like @Ajoy suggested, the engaged and curious reader will enjoy the unfolding as things move along.

But I have some questions. Let's consider them rhetorical, for now. Because they might seem crunchy and prickly. But might they still be asked?

1. Why does the Main need to have amnesia? How does this characteristic drive the plot or harmonize the theme?

I mean it is interesting, especially having it be recurrent. Sort of a bizarre Sunshine of the Spotless Mind sort of thing. But if it is in there just to simplify things in the writing department, well it might be a critically vicious hobble, too.

2. Why does the 3rd Person Narrator need to be so limited? What tonal goal is being achieved by this decision?

What is gained by the Narrator being oblivious to the world except through the Main's experience? What would be lost or corrupted if the Narrator fully knew the world and just didn't have to talk about all of it at once? What in the reader's experience would be diminished?

And then maybe some suggestions about history?

Through other characters...
1. The other characters know him. They tell him things.
2. His targets know him. They really tell him things -- at their last moments.

(And this next with sincere apologies for intrusion...) The things he carries in that soft skin bag dangling from the cord around his neck, talismans he does not understand, can't quite recall...
1. The lock of hair
2. The cameo
3. The bit of paper unfolded and refolded nearly to fuzz, writing obliterated
4. The cartridge that does not fit his pistol
5. The partially carved chunk of soapstone
6. The red pill (just kidding)
7. The medicine bag itself, what language is that writing?

Have him carry some cryptic clues to his history. The storm can't change or remove those. Confronting the talismans he can, like Phil in Groundhog Day, eventually break the loop of amnesia?

Thoughts abound...

(and again, sorry if I crossed too many lines...?)

Thanks for asking.

[2021-07-07 2316]
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
2. Why does the 3rd Person Narrator need to be so limited? What tonal goal is being achieved by this decision?
This is a very good point, because most of the time I recall reading an MC with amnesia, it's been in first person.
 

JBF

Staff member
Board Moderator
I have no idea how to introduce new information when I can't do it through the protagonist's eyes. This is third person limited too, although I do intend to switch between three characters all being said. It's not until I sat down today and started yet another revision that I realised the problem. Has anyone got any ideas on what I could do to build this world, give him some history but keep him in the dark until he begins recalling some events?


I have a quasi-plotted short that may be applicable here, though it's not roughed out enough to be of any real use at the moment. Even so it has the same obstacle of building a world which is both familiar to the protagonist and unfamiliar, at once immediate and remote. It ties together places and people who seem to be running parallel with one side aware of the other but never quite making contact; characters in the present don't see the action taking place, but in time they feel the echo. I think it may be about the past, our connection to it, and the interconnected nature of living in the shadow of people long gone....but I really don't know yet. I'm not sure it's even feasible from where I stand now.

But were I to take a crack at it....

The world has a history, right? So people living there will have cultures, stories, myths, legends, sayings...what have you.

Backstory in a nutshell? Put him in a tavern next to a drunken scholar. Have him pass a graveyard where a preacher (or equivalent) is talking fire and brimstone over a burial. Over the bar is a painting. Of what? Creation myth? Legendary battle? Historical catastrophe? People in remote places sometimes like to talk to travelers (some, admittedly, will not).

I mean, you probably don't want to go full Cormac McCarthy and have illiterate Mexican peasants speaking in collegiate-level dissertations on Greek philosophy, but there's still quite a bit you can pass on in normal conversations and conventions of the setting. Let him hear offhand phrases that seem curiously familiar. Have him understand something that he'd have no business knowing as an outsider. Maybe people think they recognize him...maybe some do.

The lullaby his mother sang to him as an infant played by a blind mute on a dilapidated piano in the burned ruins of a church. A thousand year old rock painting suspiciously like his childhood home. A fight in which he was an active participant, now told to children as a generations-old legend. A secret sign between himself and a long-departed friend freshly scratched in the bark of a tree.

Places where the gap between worlds is thin.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
It sounds like your MC has enough knowledge for a few solid opening chapters, allowing you to set up some basic elements of the world while you get your plot rolling. Could you start inserting the other to POVs at that point to round the world out as you continue moving the plot forward? It sounds like you only need to get from your opening chapters to when your MC starts recalling events.

I also think it's okay for your reader to have more limited knowledge for a while, as long as things keep coming clearer and the plot keeps pulling them along. I enjoy that kind of journey as a reader. What you've been working on sounds like an interesting story with an interesting character, and the curiosity around that will be the draw that keeps a reader invested until things become clearer, I think.
That is the idea. This cycle he has no horse. Because of that, he takes much longer crossing the desert. This leads to him getting heat stroke and collapsing. While he's collapsed, he sees an identical copy of his red handkerchief. It blows away and in his delirium, he follows, taking him off course. Because he's gone off course, he finally passes out and is rescued by a Boneman. This boneman knows a decent amount about Riftshifters and recognises an insignia on Shadow's grip. And so forth. Each event is linked logically but fate is at the heart of it.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
Yeah that is a puzzle.

Like @Ajoy suggested, the engaged and curious reader will enjoy the unfolding as things move along.

But I have some questions. Let's consider them rhetorical, for now. Because they might seem crunchy and prickly. But might they still be asked?

1. Why does the Main need to have amnesia? How does this characteristic drive the plot or harmonize the theme?

The decision was an organic one. He's being protected by his mother. His mother, who we think is dead, is actually hidden in the world Yarrod inhabits in this cycle. But, if Yarrod finds her, those seeking her will find her too. It's her who sent the storm after him. It's a cruel fate to keep him cycling but it's all she could do to protect him. As long as he doesn't remember each cycle. Those seeking Yarrod's mother want him to continue cycling without interruption. So, the bad guys are rooting for the story to evolve (what the reader wants) and his mother is rooting for the story to cycle (what the reader doesn't want). A huge portion of the story is going to be about the reader inadvertently rooting for that which kills his mother and the hero Yarrod, but of course they don't know that. That's why I decided upon complete amnesia. If he could remember, I couldn't play this dirty trick on the reader.

I mean it is interesting, especially having it be recurrent. Sort of a bizarre Sunshine of the Spotless Mind sort of thing. But if it is in there just to simplify things in the writing department, well it might be a critically vicious hobble, too.

2. Why does the 3rd Person Narrator need to be so limited? What tonal goal is being achieved by this decision?

This is up for debate. I've always used 3rd person limited. In all honesty, having to deal with anything else could be beyond my ability, although it does play perfectly into my need to keep aces up my sleeve.

What is gained by the Narrator being oblivious to the world except through the Main's experience? What would be lost or corrupted if the Narrator fully knew the world and just didn't have to talk about all of it at once? What in the reader's experience would be diminished?

And then maybe some suggestions about history?

Through other characters...
1. The other characters know him. They tell him things.
2. His targets know him. They really tell him things -- at their last moments.

This will be explored. It's getting there that I'm finding problematic. We'll have the POV of the bad guys who want him to find his mother and we have the POV of a Rifshifter who breaks protocols. One is related directly to Yarrod whilst the other is related to the plot that drives him through the story and inadvertently leads to his mother for the 'showdown'.

(And this next with sincere apologies for intrusion...) The things he carries in that soft skin bag dangling from the cord around his neck, talismans he does not understand, can't quite recall...
1. The lock of hair
2. The cameo
3. The bit of paper unfolded and refolded nearly to fuzz, writing obliterated
4. The cartridge that does not fit his pistol
5. The partially carved chunk of soapstone
6. The red pill (just kidding)
7. The medicine bag itself, what language is that writing?

Have him carry some cryptic clues to his history. The storm can't change or remove those. Confronting the talismans he can, like Phil in Groundhog Day, eventually break the loop of amnesia?

He has two things: The red handkerchief and the name Annabel, his mother. Sorrow has a Rifshifter's insignia carved on the handle and the boneman recognises it. The rogue Rifshifters are responsible for almost wiping his race out.

Thoughts abound...

(and again, sorry if I crossed too many lines...?)

Thanks for asking.

[2021-07-07 2316]
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I have a quasi-plotted short that may be applicable here, though it's not roughed out enough to be of any real use at the moment. Even so it has the same obstacle of building a world which is both familiar to the protagonist and unfamiliar, at once immediate and remote. It ties together places and people who seem to be running parallel with one side aware of the other but never quite making contact; characters in the present don't see the action taking place, but in time they feel the echo. I think it may be about the past, our connection to it, and the interconnected nature of living in the shadow of people long gone....but I really don't know yet. I'm not sure it's even feasible from where I stand now.

But were I to take a crack at it....

The world has a history, right? So people living there will have cultures, stories, myths, legends, sayings...what have you.

Backstory in a nutshell? Put him in a tavern next to a drunken scholar. Have him pass a graveyard where a preacher (or equivalent) is talking fire and brimstone over a burial. Over the bar is a painting. Of what? Creation myth? Legendary battle? Historical catastrophe? People in remote places sometimes like to talk to travelers (some, admittedly, will not).

I mean, you probably don't want to go full Cormac McCarthy and have illiterate Mexican peasants speaking in collegiate-level dissertations on Greek philosophy, but there's still quite a bit you can pass on in normal conversations and conventions of the setting. Let him hear offhand phrases that seem curiously familiar. Have him understand something that he'd have no business knowing as an outsider. Maybe people think they recognize him...maybe some do.

The lullaby his mother sang to him as an infant played by a blind mute on a dilapidated piano in the burned ruins of a church. A thousand year old rock painting suspiciously like his childhood home. A fight in which he was an active participant, now told to children as a generations-old legend. A secret sign between himself and a long-departed friend freshly scratched in the bark of a tree.

Places where the gap between worlds is thin.
I do intend to do things like this. He does find out he has a Riftshifter's gun in the very next scene and does find out a little more about the people he hunts through the Boneman.
 

robertn51

Friends of WF
If he could remember, I couldn't play this dirty trick on the reader.

Ah. Thanks for the clarification.

By design and plot necessity, the world is to be inaccessible to both the reader and narrator. This is quite a pickle.

I imagine what the main (and thus the reader) must feel, never having a whole to think upon and act, or even comment.

I look forward to seeing the resolution of this writing problem.

I also look forward to seeing how the text will prevent the reader's frustration once they are allowed to know the main's (and thus the reader's) cyclical quest isn't what it appears. This isn't a Usual Suspects sort of "dirty trick". Nor a Memento one. More like a Sixth Sense one, but without the kid who, all along, has been telling us the absolute truth.

I'll stay tuned, interested.

Thanks
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
Ah. Thanks for the clarification.

By design and plot necessity, the world is to be inaccessible to both the reader and narrator. This is quite a pickle.

I imagine what the main (and thus the reader) must feel, never having a whole to think upon and act, or even comment.

I look forward to seeing the resolution of this writing problem.

I also look forward to seeing how the text will prevent the reader's frustration once they are allowed to know the main's (and thus the reader's) cyclical quest isn't what it appears. This isn't a Usual Suspects sort of "dirty trick". Nor a Memento one. More like a Sixth Sense one, but without the kid who, all along, has been telling us the absolute truth.

I'll stay tuned, interested.

Thanks
I have actually posted the start of the story up in the Workshop section if you want to take a look to see what you think. Another problem I had but didn't mention is the fact it's not just him that resets, so other people don't remember him being there before. THIS I might take liberties with. If one or two characters remember him passing before, that would help me out no end.
 

ppsage

WF Veterans
The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana is a novel by Italian writer Umberto Eco wherein the protagonist narrator has amnesia. He eventually gets his memories restored using comic books if I'm remembering it right. Eco's always a pretty tough read, but I do recall enjoying the audio book considerably.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana is a novel by Italian writer Umberto Eco wherein the protagonist narrator has amnesia. He eventually gets his memories restored using comic books if I'm remembering it right. Eco's always a pretty tough read, but I do recall enjoying the audio book considerably.
That's set in the real world though isn't it? My problem isn't amnesia itself, it's what it means in terms of what I can write. This is a fantasy/horror story, and as such I need to add world building into it. I'm not a lover of info dumps and prefer to sprinkle what is needed, when it's needed, into the general descriptions and actions of the protag. With him having no memory, the option to broaden and deepen using lore/world building is removed ... at least for now.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I think I've solved the problem and it was looking me straight in the face. Originally, I had the imperative curse placed on Yarrod himself and it's that curse that's stopping him remembering. I also had the Rifshifters insignia engraved into Sorrow (his gun) and on the pummel of the saddle he's carrying on his shoulder (although I haven't mentioned that yet).

I've moved that curse from Yarrod himself to Sorrow and the saddle. Because each cycle always has these two things, his memory is successfully blocked. All I need to do is put distance between Yarrod, Sorrow and the saddle to justify memories returning. I still need some memories to be blocked because the whole character development is built upon his amnesia, but I can at least start bringing in more lore, background information and the such. It means rethinking the start a little but this is only practice and I'm alright with that. I already had this in mind so it's not a huge departure. Fiddlesticks throws a knife and it sticks in the air in front of Yarrod's face as if in wood. He goes to touch it:

"I wouldn't touch that, it's.--"
"Gildrin Steel," Yarrod finished. "A surgeon's blade."

In the scene, Fiddlesticks has saved him from the desert but is suspicious of Yarrod because of the insignia. He blames the Riftshifters for nearly wiping out his species. He's taken his gun and placed the saddle away from Yarrod, although it's Sorrow that is the main driving force behind the imperative curse. That 'little' distance is enough to bring back some memories. My only problem is, how do I justify him keeping those memories when he's back with his saddle and Sorrow?

Fiddlesticks does eventually take Yarrod to see someone who knows about Riftshifter curses, but that's not until much later in the story, and fast tracking that scene would ruin any intermediate events I have planned. Maybe just the fact he becomes aware of the curse and that it's Sorrow and the saddle that reinforces it is enough? Rather like Frodo's battle with the ring?
 
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JBF

Staff member
Board Moderator
My only problem is, how do I justify him keeping those memories when he's back with his saddle and Sorrow?

Easy. The two items only block memory in conjunction with a shift. He's not in the middle of the switch here, so the memory records as normal.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
Easy. The two items only block memory in conjunction with a shift. He's not in the middle of the switch here, so the memory records as normal.
Yeah, but that would only be recently gained knowledge. In order to add extra detail and depth into the story, I need him to remember memories of his past experiences too.
 

MistWolf

Senior Member
I thought his mother placed the curse on Yarrod to save him.

In any case, don't place the curse on the saddle or Sorrow. Keep the curse on Yarrod. The symbols are seals, locking the curse in place and keep the curse from fading. I also suggest entertaining the idea there's a symbol tattooed on Yarrod in some kind of magical ink invisible until it's exposed to a forge fire (or something that burns away the veil of secrecy). Put the brand on his horse. Until this cycle. This cycle he chooses a horse with no brand, a small break in the pattern.

Countering this is his mother's love. That symbol is the red kerchief. Maybe the kerchief has been slowly eroding the symbols over the centuries.

Why does Yarrod retain the fragments of the regained memories? Mom (although I think a lover would suit the story better). The red kerchief. The weakening of the symbols.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I thought his mother placed the curse on Yarrod to save him.

In any case, don't place the curse on the saddle or Sorrow. Keep the curse on Yarrod. The symbols are seals, locking the curse in place and keep the curse from fading. I also suggest entertaining the idea there's a symbol tattooed on Yarrod in some kind of magical ink invisible until it's exposed to a forge fire (or something that burns away the veil of secrecy). Put the brand on his horse. Until this cycle. This cycle he chooses a horse with no brand, a small break in the pattern.

Countering this is his mother's love. That symbol is the red kerchief. Maybe the kerchief has been slowly eroding the symbols over the centuries.

Why does Yarrod retain the fragments of the regained memories? Mom (although I think a lover would suit the story better). The red kerchief. The weakening of the symbols.
That is what it was. It was just under his hair a the nape.
 
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