1. michaelj
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    michaelj Senior Member

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    Is it possible to have a decent story with the "main plot" in the shadows?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by michaelj, Mar 20, 2012.

    Greetings, I am doing a dark fantasy story. I have done a prologue and 2 chapters at the moment and its recieved mainly high praise from critics for having a good storyline and good characters. However I am thinking about having the main story in the shadows a bit and exploring other characters through "POV chapters" and exploring the world they live in... The chapters won't be pointless short storys, they'll all link in with each other in some way, like trying to gain power in the world (for example I want a few chapters for this soldier character I have, so the reader learns how corrupt his country is and how evil it is). In the background theres a plot to assassinate nobility and set the world into chaos though... But the POV chapters explore characters and other unique storylines (which of course aren't pointless storylines). If I do this correctly will it work out? Even though I said it wasn't happening, does a characters storyline have to be moving in the direction of the main storyline to be any good?
     
  2. MeganHeld
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    MeganHeld Senior Member

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    Your story can work out if you do it properly. If these characters are important, having some back-story is fine. Look at the Game of Thrones series. You can have the plot go away for a bit to make the characters have more life in a sense. As long as it intertwines like the way you plan to make it, I think it will work. Just make sure to have hints of the plot come up between the characters stories so that the reader keeps wanting to read.
     
  3. michaelj
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    michaelj Senior Member

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    The only other worry I have is; I don't wanna dramatise the storys too much and have too many twists in the early pages...
     
  4. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Write it. You have a delete key if it doesn't work and you will have the advantage of knowing your characters and understanding your story better at the end of it. It won't be a wasted exercise if it doesn't work. Can it be made to work? Yes it can, although it is done less frequently in modern fiction. Victor Hugo, Herman Melville, Oscar Wilde all did similar things. JK Rowling did it in shorter splices. Have you read David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas ? it may give you ideas.
     
  5. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    as for myself I wouldn't want to read chapter after chapter without even knowing the story question/why am I reading this book?/What is it going to be about? even if you write about things concerning the eventual story and write it well, the reader isn't capable to put it in relationship to your story. i don't understand why you want to waste precious time in the beginning where you should worry about getting the reader 'hooked', on writing about things that you have the entire novel to explore. to me it sounds suspisciously a lot like an info dump.
     
  6. Metus
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    Metus Senior Member

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    It's critical that you have good pacing. You can't go too long without a main plot development, or people will lose interest. You can't just pile on the dramatic scenes either, because they get repetitive after a while. There has to be rising action with information revealed throughout, or you dilute the meaning of the scene asnd confuse the reader with rapid-fire, lackluster plot developments. Still, a complex idea like this could be great if you do it well.

    It's also vital that your characters have different, unique personalities, as if you switch between them, readers will easily be able to tell if they are too similar.
     
  7. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    The main plot for the story doesn't have to be what's most significant to the surrounding world, only to your characters. For example, you could have a setting where an evil overlord is getting overthrown by a young hero, but have the main plot be an insignificant stable boy wooing the girl of his dreams. (After all, His Dark Materials had killing God as a background to the real plot - Lyra and Will discovering Dust.)
     
  8. Erato
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    Erato Contributing Member

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    So... correct me if I'm wrong but you want to lay aside the main plot for several chapters and talk about minor things which are intended to broaden the audience's perception of the setting and be loosely tied in with the important events? I don't suggest it. If you take that to the extreme I'm seeing, you'll lose countless readers as soon as the action drops off. I think you need to spread out the main plot more evenly and pursue the minor things you mentioned as short short scenes simultaneous with the main action. You've got a really complicated world there, which is great and full of rich possibilities.

    Canned response: It depends on how well you write it. ;)
     
  9. Endovert
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    Endovert Member

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    I'm intrigued by the idea of a story where the narrator/character notices the important plot elements around him or her, but fails to understand their importance. Seems like if it was written well, it would be both humorous, and it would also be an opportunity for the reader to feel like they are putting the pieces together. However, it also seems like it would be better suited to a short story rather than being carried out over a whole book.
     
  10. Foxe
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    Foxe Active Member

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    I agree with some of the posters here that you can't afford to introduce your main plot much later in the book. If you take the Game of Thrones (really, A Song of Ice and Fire series) the story is very long, but there are so many interwoven subplots that link in to the main plot. I would recommend you intertwine your substories into the main plot; I think most would agree.

    But, you do have the delete key and there's no harm in trying
     
  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    This worries me. If this soldier is one of your main characters, and these chapters are showing a critically important plot in _his life_, that's one thing - to me, the plot is about the characters, and the big "setting" level plots exist purely as a way to interact with those characters, so smaller plots are fine if they do the same thing. But if the chapters are intended to teach the reader something, that sounds like backstory, even if it is in the middle of the story, and backstory is risky.

    ChickenFreak
     
  12. Jowettc
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    Jowettc Contributing Member

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    This statement worries me. The 'main plot' is the main thrust of the story - the major events that lead the characters along a progression through conflict, climax ,and resolution either intentionally, unintentionally or coincidentally. If you are 'exploring characters' then your plot has dissapeared.

    You follow that worrying statement up by reassuring us that the sub-plots will have a context.
    I guess your original question is too vague for me to be specific.

    I prefer the main plot to be the driver of the characters, and have the sub-plots come in as minor conflicts which move the major plot rather than stand alone items. If a sub-plot stands alone, could one argue that it is irrelevant to the major plot, for example?
    I think that all branches make the tree, but without a trunk its just a bunch of sticks.
     
  13. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    Yes, you can. Nothing to worry about if you are writing in close third person. If you can manage a smooth and clear transition of POVs, you can even have multiple POVs in a chapter. This is nothing new in fiction writing. In fact, the readers expect such POV shifts in third person writing. However, if you are writing in first person the clarity of POV shift should be spot on, no room for even the slightest confusion. POV is some kind of a contract with the readers and the writer wherein it is understood from whose viewpoint (who is going to see, smell, hear, feel etc.) the story is going to be told. Shift in POV in first person writing means you are going to defy the contract. You should have a pretty good reason for doing so.
     
  14. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    This concerns me too. It sounds like the main plot is just a vehicle for introducing your characters, who then go off and do their own thing while you explore how interesting they are in their own right. You say the chapters won't be 'pointless backstories' by which I assume you mean they will be RELEVANT backstories. But the key here is BACKSTORIES. You want to leave the plot for several chapters at a time just to establish how evil and corrupt a character's world is - I would recommend you don't do this. If that information is really necessary to the plot, fnid a more subtle way to weave it into the story as and when it becmoes relevant.

    You say the plot to assassinate nobility and set the world to chaos is all just background while your characters act out their own storylines. This is fine, as long as those individual storylines intersect with the main plot in a significant and meaningful way. Just look at any sprawling epic with an ensemble cast - Game of Thrones etc. Note how each character has their own backstory, goal and motivation, but see how those relate to the main plot. So YES, a character's storyline has to be moving in sync with the main storyline for it to work, otherwise it's a subplot with no main plot to hang upon.
     
  15. marcuslam
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    marcuslam Senior Member

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    Everything is impossible until somebody does it. It never hurts to give it a go. Good luck!
     
  16. shangrila
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    shangrila Member

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    I agree with the others, it's worth a try. But I doubt it would work.

    The problem is that something has to be driving your main character/s forward and that's the main plot. If its not there, then what do you have? A bunch of minor plots wouldn't get it done. So you'd probably end up writing something similar to a main plotline to keep your story going, and then what's to stop THAT from being your main one?
     

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