1. Flying Geese
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    Flying Geese Contributing Member

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    Do Side Quests turn you away from a novel you are reading?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Flying Geese, Mar 27, 2015.

    Do side quests turn you away from a novel? In and of themselves?

    I have been wrestling with this for months now, and I have decided to add it into my own.

    Basically, the MC will get into a fight with some petty thieves guild (that operates locally) and take care of them. One reason I'm adding it in is to allow for some relationship building between the MC and his partner. And really just to see what happens.

    The reason I'm wrestling with this is because compared to almost everything else in the story, this part seems not to weigh as heavily.

    Have you ever read through side quests in a great novel? If so, which ones? And what did you like about them? Have you written any side quests in your own stories?
     
  2. DeadMoon
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    DeadMoon Contributing Member Contributor

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    As long as it reads well I don't mind side quests at all.
     
  3. Flying Geese
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    Flying Geese Contributing Member

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    When you say "reads well" , do you mean it being interesting or fitting well into the story?
     
  4. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is Tyrion's love for Shay a side quest? Or just another means of adding depth to his character?

    Was (bearing in mind his demise) Rob Stark's quest for the throne a side quest?
     
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  5. Frankovitch
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    Frankovitch Member

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    It only annoys me if it's one of those "collect 10 tufts of fur from the wolves to the north and return to me" sidequests.
     
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  6. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    But if, in return for those 10 tufts of fur, the mage gives you the magic key that will let you into fortress of Aznavour, where you will find the elixir of flying which will transport you to the magic kingdom of Insomnia, where you will try to win the heart of Princess Phwoar by slaying a dozen endangered species with the enchanted sword Exponential, which you bought with the petrified heart of the dragon Boulder which you got in exchange for the nail clippings of...
     
  7. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    It depends. If it's furthering the story/plot development/character development, then yes, let them veer off to a side quest. If it's just for the sake of padding out the story, then no. And now you've got me imagining one of my characters saying, "Come, let's put the fate of the world on hold so we can help some old witch get ten fur pelts from the ice wolves! I'm sure nothing bad will happen." :p
     
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  8. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    The moment someone is going on a"quest", I'm already annoyed.
     
  9. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I actually don't mind side-quests. Not everything has to be about the main plot. Yes, it should take first priority, but the characters presumably have other things to worry about including the main deal.
     
  10. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    For me it's only annoying if the chapter ends on a cliff-hanger and then in the next chapter, suddenly it follows someone else's story. I feel it's a pretty cheap way of holding the reader's attention and making sure they read through the book. When this happens, I tend to feel frustrated and unable to concentrate on the storyline of the new chapter because I'm too impatient to get back to the previous one.

    But in your case, the side quest still follows the same characters, so I'd say you're fine.
     
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  11. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am not sure if I understand this. Many of the novels I read seem to do exactly that, each chapter ends on a cliffhanger event and then jump to another character's story. Eventually the multiple story lines merge to resolve the various issues and in some cases revealing how a particular cliff hanger is resolved without showing the simultaneous events occurring first would simply spoil the story in my opinion. Am I misunderstanding your post?
     
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  12. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    It sounds like it did its job pretty well.
     
  13. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    If the writing is engaging and what is happening is interesting, I'm fine with it. Sometimes I may have an initial adverse reaction, but I'm open to letting the author change my mind. For example, I just recently read the Stormlight Archive books by Brandon Sanderson. I normally hate flashbacks, and things like his interludes, which take me away from the primary story. The first handful of times, I kind of groaned inwardly but read them anyway. He handled them well enough, though, that after the first few I was more than happy to go along with them. Actually, I was pleasantly surprised by the series, since I tried to start Mistborn a few times and didn't like it.
     
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  14. Flying Geese
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    Flying Geese Contributing Member

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    I used the term "side quest" fairly loosely. I consider a side quest to be any quest that does not blatantly or directly contribute toward the progression of the MCs main goal
     
  15. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The cliffhanger, yes - I'm not saying the quality of writing on such occasions is at fault. I just find it a cheap trick to keep the reader. Clearly the writer's skilled enough, so why pull a trick like that!?

    Also, if you can't make your subplot/side quest equally interesting as your main (the one that ended the chapter on a cliffhanger), then there's clearly a flaw in your story. And most of the time that's the case.

    I remember I was particularly impressed with Brandon Sanderson's debut Elantris for that reason - the chapters alternated between 3 characters, all with slightly different stories that are obviously related. Not once did I feel annoyed or impatient to get back to the character of the previous chapter. I was as thrilled to read the next character as I was to read the previous, and always satisfied. Now that's done right.
     
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  16. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Nope. You understood me perfectly I think. It's not a device I enjoy - also because of the kind of reader I am. I like to focus on one character or 2-3 max, and I like to know right away how they're related. It's when it's unrelated or not immediately obvious how the two stories are related that really irks me. I don't need everything explained, but I need to know how they link. I need to already be interested in the side quest or second character before it's introduced. I'm not a fan of huge casts. I don't actually mind the stories alternating between chapters as long as the previous one didn't end on a cliffhanger lol.
     
  17. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think I like them better when they DO tie in to the MC's main goal, but as an obstacle, not a solution. Like, if your guy is working toward whatever his main goal is but keeps getting attacked by these thieves and finally decides he needs to deal with them, or if the thieves are threatening someone he cares about and he realizes he has to take time off from his main job in order to save that person, and taking the time off ramps up the tension b/c now he has less time to do the big job, great.

    It comes down to characterization and realism, really. Would your character realistically decide to worry about the thieves right then, or would he stay focused on his main goal?

    I remember reading a book where a teenage girl had been kidnapped and the MC was trying to get her back, and then in the middle of everything the MC stepped into a subplot with one of her friends having trouble with his boyfriend, and it was just stupid. Why would that MC, with what we know about her, take a break from hunting for the kidnapped girl in order to become a relationship counsellor? It totally didn't work for me.

    But having lots of different obstacles getting in your MC's way? Sure, why not, in general.
     
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  18. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm echoing what others have said here: if it serves some kind of purpose, maybe develops the character or a relationship (like you said) or perhaps builds the world, it can work well. When you read the whole she-bang, you inevitably start to pay attention to pacing, so that's when you might notice, hang on, this is stretching this part of the story way too long, and even though I like it, even though it develops the character, the story will flow better without it... But for now, why don't you write it in, see how it works. :)
     
  19. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I am a bit confused as to the meaning of 'side quest.' Do you mean subplot? Or am I missing the picture?

    What I would do, if I were you in the OP, @Flying Geese , is I would find some way to tie the fight with the thieves' guild into the resolution of your main story's plot. Some success, failure, object, skill, problem or attitude that results from the fight should probably have a bearing on the resolution of your overall story problem. However, the purpose doesn't have to be blindingly obvious at the time of the 'fight.' Developing the relationship/character portion of your story can be the initial excuse, but I don't think you should stop there. Part of the fun of subplots is that the importance of a subplot often isn't evident until near the end. Rather than going off on a deliberate tangent just for fun, I'd work hard on threading into your main story. Then nobody can complain about it! :)
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2015
  20. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was wondering the same thing, a 'side quest' is something more akin to gaming.
     
  21. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It really depends on the context of your novel, first and foremost, and also on the quality of your scene. In Don Quixote, there are million tangents. The best (that I've come to so far) is confessionary letter that is found by the MC in the story, in other words a story within a story. These characters in the letter have absolutely nothing to do with the characters of the actual novel, yet the story within the letter, in my opinion, is maybe even more interesting than the story of Don quixote. Now, that story standalone is fantastic, and it's written with the same(if not more) level of irony as the rest of the novel. Also, Don Quixote, is massive and sprawling, so these sort of tangents fit.

    Aside from context, what I think you also need to consider is scene quality. Is the "side quest" as dense and as tension packed as the rest of the novel?
     
  22. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    The problem is that this forum is becoming rampant with gamers and movie watchers who lack the resources to do what they really want (make games or direct movies) so we're stuck using ridiculous terms. To be fair, "sidequest" is easily interchangeable with "tangent " or side story.
     
  23. theoriginalmonsterman
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    theoriginalmonsterman Pickle Contest Administrator Contributor

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    I don't know... does it really matter what it's called?
     
  24. Void
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    Void Contributing Member

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    I might have a slightly controversial opinion on this, but I would say that it doesn't actually matter how important a character's actions are to the overall plot, it matters how important a character's actions seem to the plot at the time of reading. If the characters go on some quest to retrieve some item, only to find out it's a trap, or a red herring or some similar circumstance that renders this diversion moot, then as long as it's interestingly written and seems important while they are doing it then I would say it's fine.
    If however, it's something blatantly unimportant, for example, your protagonist is on the way to fight the villain and save the world, only to spend several chapters looking for someone's missing socks, then it becomes a real problem.
     
  25. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oooh, I don't think I'd like that! Like, if I got to the end of the book and found out that none of it had really mattered? I think I'd feel ripped off.

    I mean, I can see it being done for effect, maybe, like as a sort of bitter-sweet (not the right word... ironic? no, not quite ironic...) twist at the end of the book? But I think it would have to be REALLY well done for me to not feel cheated.

    I think there'd have to be a lot of other stuff going on that DID get resolved. Like, if there was a coming-of-age plot and a romantic plot and a reconciling with an old friend plot and other stuff like that, and IT was all resolved, then I might be okay with the 'main' quest turning out to be unimportant. Maybe.
     

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