1. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    Generational jumps

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Rumwriter, Jul 13, 2012.

    What are your opinions on the different ways to view multiple generations of characters within a series?

    The book I was writing involved a lot of...what's the opposite of flashbacks and the like to give the past generation, while I did the narrative present. Now I've changed my mind and have been writing the past generation as the present, and will late write the later generation as a sequel.

    That sounds confusing. So think about it like this:

    Star Wars, we start out with the original trilogy, which hints at things that happened in the past: Vader killed Anakin, the jedi died, Obi was a great warrior, etc etc. Then we eventually get to the prequels which spell it out.

    Alternatively, what if a person were to see the prequels, and then see the original trilogy?

    The last airbender is another example of generational difference:
    They started with the Aang generation, and then move way ahead to the Korra generation.

    One of my bigger fears is that by starting with one generation and then skipping ahead to the next, the audience will invest a lot in all of these characters and hopefully fall in love with them, but then I'll just say their story is (for the most part) over, and they have to learn about a whole new character base. It's true that the old characters will be involved, but not in the same way. I really got annoyed with the original Ender series that Speaker for the Dead is all new characters in an all new world. But maybe if it's done well?

    Ideas?
     
  2. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    This could work really well - have you ever seen the movie East of Eden with James Dean?
    The movie is based on the last part of Steinbeck's book.
    The beginning of the book is actually based on James Dean's destructive mother. But she practically disappears for the second half of the
    novel while her sons take over the story.
     
  3. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    So, originally the plan was for a kid to go off on his own adventure, while simultaneously I would show the story of his grandfather's past adventures that the kid reads about in a journal. But now I thought I would just show the grandfather's story on it's own, and then later do the kid's story.

    I guess I'm trying to get a good blend of the audience wanting to know "what has happened" and "what will happen." The Handmaid's Tale does a pretty good job of that with the flashbacks, but I'm talking about something on a much bigger scale.

    There seem to be a lot of pros/cons to each, and it's driving me crazy.

    Final Fantasy 7 is another example. It starts with Cloud's story, but really, the entire backstory of Cloud/Zack was enough of a story that they later made that prequel.
     
  4. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Oh , like the Handmaid's Tale - that could get complicated for two books.
     
  5. Steph4136
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    Steph4136 Senior Member

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    Wally Lamb does this in I Know This Much Is True and I really liked it. Done right, I think it'd be great in your book. :)
     
  6. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    done which way?
     
  7. Steph4136
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    Steph4136 Senior Member

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    Sorry, it was written as a book within a book. The MC found a handwritten manuscript his grandfather had written about immigrating from Italy to the States and had it typed up and bound for his mother. The grandfather's story was just as good and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The author added it into the main story here and there, and it wasn't as long as the main story, but still fairly long.
     
  8. jane elliot
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    jane elliot Member

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    I think that jumping generations is fascinating if done correctly, and crucial to the right story. In stories written like that, what keeps me from despairing over loved and lost characters is a thread of their influence, or of their world. They might be gone, but what they stood for, and what they started, is still potent. The companion novels to Lois Lowry's The Giver, for example, don't really feature any of the same characters (at least not the same main characters), but their themes are very similar, and clear connections to the past are referenced in a way that makes you excited to hear an old name again. Wuthering Heights also does cross-generation stuff in the most confusing way ever, but it works, and the book will be a classic forever, probably. Like every person in the world, every character has to matter, and if they do matter, even as a fond memory, then I think your readers will be satisfied. Life goes on in the story, but hopefully on a grander, more knowledgable scale.
     
  9. Iron Orchid
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    Iron Orchid Member

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    There are many examples of cross generation stories and I would just go with the way you are most comfortable with. I tried to write a story once that spanned two parts of the main characters' lives, their adult and school days, simultaneously and it ended up a bit of a mess. People who read it had trouble distinguishing between the two different times but I think that was definitely my failure as an author.

    Taking Aang and Korra as an example (I know it's not a book, but it is a story), you can see the connections between the two very different worlds and I think that is the important thing when writing for cross generations. So long as there is a good connection between the two generations I don't think most readers would lose interest because as has been said, it's an evolution of the same world.

    Another example of a pretty complicated series spanning several generations is Terry Brooks' Void books. I even read them out of chronological order according to their universe and they still made perfect sense. There were plenty references to the rest of the series and other parts of the universe, but they had a little explanation with them in the later books, acting as a reminder to people who had read the previous books and for me they were enough to explain connections without spoiling the rest of the series. I think it was nice to read the end of the series and then find out everything behind it, sort of similar to Star Wars in that sense.

    You challenge, I think, comes in deciding how much to link between the generations. What are the similarities and differences between the older and younger heroes? Do they share skills or powers? Will the younger learn from the elder or go along a different path? There will have to be something that ties them together, but also things that make them different. Sounds like a promising concept, I like stories that span a good length of time in their universe.
     

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