1. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    How should I construct the chapters? Would it be bad if I did it this way?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Link the Writer, Feb 17, 2012.

    In my Western involving the outlaw, Mike Wolfletter, and the Irish kid he finds (they're both on a 'revenge' quest of sorts), I figured I could set a dividing line from where one POV ends and another begins.

    Basically, it could work like this. 10 or 20 chapters total. The first 5 or 10 deals with Mike where we see the world from his POV, his issues, and his goal. At the end of the 5th or 10th chapter, he dies in a scene involving a train that becomes derailed. The last half of the book, the other 5 to 10 chapters would be from the perspective of the Irish boy, when he takes what he's learnt from Mike and completes the journey and becomes the hero of the town.

    Would that be a good idea or no? Too cliched? I mean, the whole 'cowboy dies and tagalong companion avenges him and becomes the hero' sounds like it's been done before.
     
  2. AMA
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    AMA New Member

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    Sounds like a definite possibility. Have you ever read 'Beloved' by Toni Morrison? She does a POV change that might interest you, where different characters get to tell their side of the story, but it's less abrupt. One of the persons providing their POV is dead, and yet, the way that each character tells their story is weaved so that it's not a choppy rendition but rather a fluid, consistent, forward motion. You might want to consider such a 'weaving effect' of the two characters rather than one POV to death and then another beginning where the last left off. It may keep you away from that companion tag-along cliche... Just a thought...
     
  3. Dubya
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    Dubya Member

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    I would agree with AMA, better to mix chapters/scenes than have an abrupt change. Have you thought of the dead guy narrating the story? His POV in first person, Irish kid's POV in third person.
     
  4. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Well, I've read a book where it switched from first to third constantly and...it was a bit jarring. Then again, the writer may not have done it well. It did a "what happened afterward" and "how we got here" thing and it switched from chapter to chapter. (that and the 'how we got here' started DECADES before the first book took place.)

    How does this sound:

    Chapter One
    Takes place after the incident with the train. The boy wakes up in a hospital wounded and confused, but he clearly remembers what had happened. He screams for this 'Mike' character. A woman gently helps him to a room containing the deceased of the train accident, and there is Mike's body; badly mangled and burnt. The boy cries, asking Mike why he had to do what he did, etc.

    Chapter Two
    We're now in the POV of Mike's ghost. We know this because he's staring at his own body, shocked and horrified that he's actually dead. He looks at his hands to see that they are translucent.

    I thought of having Mike be a ghost because a) I'm fascinated with ghosts, and b) there's a theory that ghosts come about after a violent and horrific death, and/or having unfinished buisness. In this case, Mike's ghost would have both. He was assigned to bring a vicious gang to justice and to piece together the connection between the gang and the railroad company burning down settlements, and his death came so sudden that he doesn't want to accept it. He also made a promise to the boy that he'd help find the men responsible for the destruction of the boy's ranch home, etc.

    Because he cannot speak, he doesn't have dialogue. The only dialouge we hear are from the living. He enters a room where the boy and woman are now sitting, and the boy begins to recount how he met him. Mike follows along, his thoughts giving us his views of the whole thing.

    The chapter ends with the boy and the survivors burying Mike and the other deceased, and the boy begins his quest for vengance.

    The next chapter picks up with the boy, with Mike's spirit silently following him. The chapter after that is back to Mike, etc.

    How does that sound?
     
  5. Dante Dases
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    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

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    Link, you know what my advice will be: do what you want with it! Write it, then if it doesn't work write it another way. The only way to really know is to give it a go!
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    everything's been done before, but not by you yet, so yours won't be the same and it's not worth worrying about...

    as for the pov change and the 'two book' structure, since the irish lad's part doesn't take place till after the cowboy's death, what you propose is entirely logical and should work well enough... i don't see how interweaving the two pov's that are taking part in subsequent time frames would make any sense... and, as noted above, that method can be quite annoying to the reader... i know it has been for me, when i've encountered it...

    i'd say go ahead with your plan and see how it turns out...
     
  7. Dubya
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    Dubya Member

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    Excuse the delay, I had to go sleep! (different timezone from yourself) Sounds intriguing, I would give it a go. You will probably know after a few chapters whether it is working or not. (BTW, I don't pretend to be any kind of expert, I hadn't written a single thing until about a year ago.)
     
  8. MrTillinghast
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    MrTillinghast New Member

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    It definitely sounds like an interesting way of structuring your book in my opinion, perhaps you could post an excerpt or two of your proposed method? I'd like to see it personally. I don't think I can say too much unless I can see it for myself I'm afraid.
     
  9. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    All righty. Let's start at the tail end of the boy's chapter.

    Chapter One
    ...Thomas wiped the tears from his eyes.
    Mike. Mike Wolfletter, the cowboy who saved him from the barn was dead. The man who promised to help him avenge his family...was dead. He felt a constricting pressure in his throat, as a wave of cold realization washed over him. Those men were still out there, the killers, and any allies they might have. He? He was a one-legged, fifteen year old boy.
    And he was alone against these odds.
    Clasping his hands together, Thomas lowered his head.
    "God, help me..." he prayed. "...Please...please help me..."

    Chapter Two
    No…no, I can’t be. I can’t be!
    I stared at my hands, now translucent. While they still had the same color I remembered, I could see straight past them to the floor.
    Where my body was, apparently. But it couldn’t be! How in the hell could I be dead? Yet there I was, lying on my cot, bare-chested with a blanket under my armpits. My face and arms were badly burnt, mangled, and covered in soot. I looked around the room to see more bodies in the similar condition I was in. I recognized some of them from the train wreck. Then, the memories came back:

    Unimaginable, burning pain on my body, the loud explosion of metal being crushed and twisted like paper, the blinding light.

    We were in a train wreck, and someone had dismantled our train’s breaks. We were on a collision course with another train. I suspected whoever dismantled our train's brakes also meddled with the devices that changed track lanes. Didn't matter now. We had minutes before we crashed.
    ”Get the hell out of here!” I was yelling as I shoved people toward the car behind us. “Move! Move!”
    They didn’t resist, they ran. Ran like frighten cattle. Thomas was the last to go off.
    “Mike!” he cried as I stepped down to the coupling that held their car to mine. I ignored him as I furiously worked to disconnect it. I only had two minutes before it was all over.
    “Thomas,” I said, not even looking at him, “See you later, kid. Take care.”
    The car disconnected, carrying me farther and farther away from him, to my doom. The last thing I remembered was looking up in time to see his arm sticking out, reaching for me...


    I shuddered and held my hands to my head. What an idiot I was! I had nearly a second to jump to the other cart, yet I decided to be a hero and get killed! I looked down the hallway to see Thomas sitting on the side of his bed, praying.

    I opened my mouth to shout his name, but nothing came out. I slowly walked (or was I gliding?) out of this horrible room into his. If he couldn’t hear me, maybe he could see me? The Irish seemed to be big believers of ghosts if the books told me correctly. I stood in front of him, listening to him pray silently. Then, I lifted a hand to put on his shoulder.

    Only for it to go right through.

    Damn it!

    I gritted my teeth. Great, the boy could neither hear me or see me. He couldn't even feel my hand on his shoulder!
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    That's how I figured it'd go. Mike can't physically do anything anymore, but his presence helps Thomas, acts as a support.

    Of course, one issue I have about the train wreck I envisoned: Does it make sense at all?

    1) Two trains on a collision course, because someone meddled with the track-switching devices, causing the situation in the first place.

    2) Train Mike is on has disabled brakes, so they can't stop. Mike quickly ushers everyone to the second car and uncouples the connections, sparing them. He apparently doesn't think to do this IN THE SAME CAR AS EVERYONE ELSE, thus avoiding the whole "I go to my death" thing.

    3) Second train doesn't stop either. I would think, if this actually happened in real life, the second train would IMMEDIATELY put on the breaks and get everyone off as fast as humanly possible.

    With that in mind, Mike wouldn't have to die in the most stupidest fashion possible. In fact, if everyone acted smart, there would be minimum to no casulties, no?
     
  10. Gonissa
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    Gonissa Contributing Member

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    Hmm...be careful about that. It's sort of difficult to get away with killing off your perspective character, because your readers have developed emotional attachment to him.
     
  11. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    ^ True.

    Hmmm, come to think of it, now that I've just written the excerpt, the whole Ghost!Mike thing is really jarring for me.

    I mean, when I was writing the Ghost!Mike part, I began to think, "Wait a minute, is this a Western? Or is this a story about a ghost having an existential crisis complete with ghost cliches of no one able to see or hear him, and I'm apparently channeling Faulkner as Ghost!Mike contemplates his past actions and how it lead him to this point and time? Nevermind the implications that if Mike's a ghost, are there other ghosts prowling the West? Now this is quickly turning into a psuedo-Western with the supernatural and contemplating-your-naval elements tossed in."

    I can just as easily have the kid say that he can feel that Mike's watching over him, silently rooting him on, etc. Simple, straight, and to the point while keeping the Western elements firmly intact. We learn about him and his actions from the kid and other characters throughout the story. No supernatural elements, and if there's any contemplating-your-naval, it's subtle and sweet.
     

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