1. Mr What
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    Mr What Member

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    Juggling Multiple Story Threads, Advice Sought! :)

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Mr What, Aug 31, 2011.

    I'm 80% sure I've made up my mind on this but the 20% is reason enough for me to seek feedback! :)

    I'm dipping my toes in fantasy for the first time since I was 7. I'm working on a novel, told from an alternating, limited 3rd person pov. As the story progresses, a wide group of characters come together and get involved in the one event.

    When it comes to the story itself there are two critical sets of characters, Odo and Samus ('O&S'); and Daniel and Dustin ('D&D'). O&S and D&D start in the same location. D&D are the reader's vehicle into the world, and O&S drive the main plot. The opening chapter(s?) follows D&D and then swaps back between them and O&S via transitionary events (eg. a cart crashing, passing a sign etc [a la 'Mrs Dalloway']) as they go about their business in the same environment.

    From that introductory phase, O&S and D&D go about their own business/agendas in alternating chapters. Eventually O&S meet Susannah and Guy ('S&G'). D&D eventually meet Yael, Mark and Alexandros ('YM&A'). Due to the actions of various secondary background characters, O&S and S&G wind up needing D&D's help, and D&D wind up wanting to help YM&A. From there on the story continues largely on the same trajectory.

    Now my dilemma here is that S&G and YM&A are all fairly complicated and interesting characters; the events that lead them to encountering O&S and D&D are compelling, structured and developed stories in their own right (just as O&S and D&D's goings ons before meeting up work as their own stories). S&G and YM&A's stories show more of the world I've created, and the wider macro-social drama that is going on. As those wider scale dramas are driving the plot in their own indirect way, including these stories would provide some valuable context.

    However, it could also drag down the pacing significantly, and with a pretty tight 3rd person POV on Dustin and Samus and no clear link between these other characters at the beginning, I suspect it could leave the reader wondering where on Earth the story is going and who these other people are. I feel there's also a risk it could be as derivative, based off what I know of George R. R. Martin's work.

    So, keep the detail or keep the story tight?

    Let me know if this is too vague to follow, my intent was to spare detail in the interest of clarity.

    Cheers!
     
  2. Sketching Girl
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    Sketching Girl Member

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    Well, my advice would be to keep the beginning short where the characters are separate and eventually meet up. I think it could be confusing for the reader if you are constantly flitting between the two parties. Unless you show their journeys are linked somehow, in that they are seeking the same thing, or being drawn to the same place. I still would want this part short, so as to get the characters together for the main of the story.

    I have heard good advice saying to begin the story at the most interesting part or where the action begins. Begin at the last possible moment you can, at the very beginning of your story. However, I am not an expert, so perhaps go with what you think is best, or see what others have to say! :)
     
  3. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    If they are also compelling in their own right, why would it drag down the pacing?

    I think parallels like you describe can work nicely. Can there be some link (a character, a location) that hints at the fact that they are all going to meet/interact in the future?
     
  4. Mr What
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    Mr What Member

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    Hence my inclination to start where it does. Moving the start any further forward the plot could suffer, any further back and the characters would be shortchanged.

    A couple of reasons:

    I want the novel to be brisk and tightly plotted, the main plot itself is not that inherently complex (Samus hunting down a certain person, with the others getting caught up in it), and the conflicts in the Susannah/Guy and Yael/Mark/Alexandros backstories are too vast to totally be resolved in a satisfactory manner without it becoming some sprawling epic. In an ideal world where this gets published and is a sucess it would be something I'd consider revisiting, but for the purposes of this work, it isn't.

    Also, chronologically speaking, for the behind-the-scenes cause and effect plot mechanisms in the Dustin and Samus plot strands to be in place, the Yael and Sussanah backstories already have to have taken place. Their stories would have to start first, and as I said again, I feel Dustin and Samus are the best places to open the novel.

    Of course I could write it all and edit it out if it just doesn't work.

    There are links but they're a bit tangential. Macro and tertiary character stuff. For example, the best link from Dustin to Yael is Dustin's crime lord boss, who is reacting to the local governor's support of a contendor for the throne's reaction to the former trusted general/respected hero who betrayed the contendor to the throne's cause and seized Yael's father's city for himself.

    So yeah, bit of a stretch! haha
     

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