1. ManyQuestions
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    ManyQuestions New Member

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    Multiple Storylines Running Apart

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by ManyQuestions, Mar 30, 2016.

    I need to make sure what im doing can work. I know everyone says "You can write anything you want" but i would like honest opinions

    My story follows 7 teenagers who are facing the trials and tribulations of being a freshman in high school. (Hazing, Bullying, Sex, Drugs etc)

    Now all 7 POV characters don't know each other but some have run-ins and start freindship/relationship with one another. But not all.

    The problem (well i think) is that all 7 characters POV follow separate storylines from each other. Each one as its on beginning, middle, and ending. its basically a collection of short stories with the high school being the backdrop.

    Can we this story "work" even though not all 7 characters interact with one another and all have different journeys throughout they first year in high school?

    P.S: I do not have a main character. All 7 are considered Main characters
     
  2. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    Hmm, is it the same school? You could perhaps have a single event that happens for the entire school, so the perspectives are unrelated, but you'll get the sense of plot movement from that linking narrative.

    For example, it might be, say, a big charity concert - and while Jessie plans to get Emma to notice her by having her band perform in the concert, David's drug problem has led him to steal and sell a big chunk of the lighting rig - causing a big problem for Advika, who was hoping to convince her parents of her decision to go into stage management instead of medical school. Meanwhile, Suzy knows that Caleb is on the verge of suicide, and worries that Kerry and Rosalita embarrassing him on stage might just push him over the edge.

    Just a rough idea, but you see how that could work. The viewpoints needn't necessarily be connected to one another, but they would each involve the same event happening in the school.
     
  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    @terobi is right, you need something that ties the stories together.
     
  4. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    There's nothing wrong with a collection of shorts within a single world. It sounds like you've written them like this and it's ok to just leave them that way. If they aren't designed to be one single story then trying to force them to become one isn't a great idea IMHO. Just let them be their own stories.
     
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  5. ManyQuestions
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    ManyQuestions New Member

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    its like a soap opera. I hope nobody thinks i plan to write the story like:

    Matt drug storyline starts and ends then i move on to Sam pregnancy storyline and start and end that and then move on to the next.

    Its more like everyone storyline is hapening at the same time. The pov switches back and forth from one character to another.

    Its basically like a teen-soap opera.
     
  6. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    I assumed that would be your structure , yes. While it's not exactly necessary that you need to tie your storylines together, I think your readers may get a sense of "is this building to anything?" if there's not a central event, if you understand my meaning.

    That's not to say your storylines wouldn't each work fine on their own, but I think if you structure them the way you intend, it may be in danger of feeling like there are half a dozen subplots, but no main feature.
     
  7. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    You already have a central theme of teenagers going through their freshman year. This has been done many times so I'm sure you can make yours work. I like the idea of having major events happen during the school year so you can show how each person or group reacts to those things. It could be something as benign as an upcoming school dance or something major like a student dying in a drunk driving accident.
     
  8. ManyQuestions
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    ManyQuestions New Member

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    yes its the same school.

    If you dont mind, based on your example, who would be the main characters? cuz i cant tell.
    And based on that example it seems like everyones storylines revolve around the charity event.

    My story is basically sumn like, i hope this is a good example. Arrow, Flash and Supergirl. (Tv shows)....All 3 are in the same universe and the storylines are happening at the same time (Hence why the shows are able to do Cross-Over episodes).

    That is how im writing these 7 POV characters stories. ALl 7 storylines are happening at the same time. Some intervene with others (Cross-Over) and some don't. But instead of me writing 7 different books, i write them all in one.

    Hoep that makes sense. Kinda like how Wonder Woman, Batman V Superman, Flash (Upcoming movie), Aquaman (Upcoming mvie) all the movies are in the same universe, taking place at the same time but in separate films.
     
  9. ManyQuestions
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    ManyQuestions New Member

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    i see what you mean when you "Is this building to anything" like is the Charity event the Gran Finale for everyones storyline.

    yeah, i kinda want everyone storyline to stand on its own. By the story having a open-ending narrative, its like when one character stoy ends, it just falls into another storyline. Like drug addiction might end in rehab. Then the character next storyline would be Rehab and finding themselves. So you see how the stoylines continue on and on
     
  10. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    None of them would be the main character, that's what I'm saying - though I think I may have been unclear; their entire stories wouldn't "revolve around" the charity event, they would each have their own individual story, but the charity event would have an impact on every one of them in different ways. In my example, the only connection David's drug abuse storyline would have with it is that at one point he steals some expensive equipment - beyond that he might be off having his own story with a completely unrelated set of characters and locations for the remainder of his tale, but the fact that he's stolen some equipment gives the collection a sense of progress as it has an effect on someone else's story.

    The difficulty with trying to base your narrative style around superhero joint universes, is that they are ongoing projects. When was the last time you saw a single movie whose plot operated the way you wish yours to? Aside from anything else, the crossover events that you point to generally are effectively nexus points; what happened in The Avengers impacted the next Iron Man movie, the next Captain America movie, the next Thor movie, but that doesn't necessarily mean their storylines must necessarily revolve around that event forever.
     
  11. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    I think the problem here is that putting seven stories in one book either means very little development of each one or a very long book. You'll be struggling to make each voice unique and jumping between the story strands is going to leave people unable to follow what's happening. Unlike your example of a single big cannon universe a singular book doesn't give the reader the choice of what to be interested in. With superhero stuff if all I care about is watching Jessica Jones then I can do that. It's presented as a stand alone story and it's only if I start looking at the other connected properties that I see all this stuff is there.

    When you have a book all of the separate stuff is smooshed together. I don't get to choose the story about the goth kids or the sporty kids or whatever; I don't get to stay with a character I like. I have to constantly jump to someone new and keep reading them just in case something important happens to my guy. Imagine trying to watch a Marvel show where you only get five minutes with the character you like; that's not something that'll be successful in the same way. Super heros need to space to be a bad ass on their own terms. Contrast that with soap characters who need very little explanation or characterization; they are broadly written melodramas that don't require the same emotional investment.
     
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  12. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I agree with Terobi in fact I read a few books like this in the 80s. The very cool Caroline B Cooney wrote a loose series I always dubbed the Dance books because it featured about seven characters - Kit, Anne, Beth, Emily, Molly, and their boyfriends going to some dance. Each book featured a different dance throughout the school year. And the characters storylines were interspaced throughout the night, starting with problems and ending with revelations. I remember one got into a car accident and they cut from that scene back to some minor happening at the dance to keep the suspense. And another character Anne had to tell her boyfriend she was pregnant while he was annoyed that she was so withdrawn. The dance helped organize the action but sometimes the storylines were more about what was going on before the dance even happened.
     
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  13. ManyQuestions
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    "Contrast that with soap characters who need very little explanation or characterization; they are broadly written melodramas that don't require the same emotional investment"---- Soap Operas require audience to get emotionally invested into the characters. If not, then the audience wouldnt care if the women baby turns out to be her ex boyfriend or that she is marrying Joe or that Adam tried to commit suicide.

    "Imagine trying to watch a Marvel show where you only get five minutes with the character you like"---this is how many fans of soap opera shows feel when they give audience characters they care more about than others. This also can be said about Game Of Thrones books where certain fan favorite characters get less chapters than less likeabale characters or when Fan fav characters not even in the same book as the less likeable ones.

    " I don't get to choose the story about the goth kids or the sporty kids or whatever; I don't get to stay with a character I like. I have to constantly jump to someone new and keep reading them just in case something important happens to my guy."--- This is why whoever create a multi-character show/book has to make sure each character storyline is compelling. Game of thrones books and show follows several characters, some of whom many people dont even care to read or watch on tv. But no matter what, readers and viewers always going to have they favorite character who storyline they rather follow more than others. Its normal.
     
  14. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you can make it work

    My WIP (finished) is 250K words/800 pages, with about ten major characters and several more mid-level characters. One of my readers pointed out why, despite its length, it doesn't seem long. Basically it is, as you said, a connected series of short stories, each several chapters long, with its own crisis, protagonist for that scenario, resolution and then on to the next crunch. So while it is a story about Romans going to China, then escaping and getting back to Rome alive, it begins with the two soldiers being detached from the legion to join the mission in Alexandria, and the importance of their trip, then in Alexandria the emerging conspiracy between the pirate and his accomplice, their shipping master; then to Myos Hormos and the final outfitting of the three ships, and the shipping master in fear that the centurion will recognize him as the pirate's accomplice from a chance meeting in Alexandria. Then it is off to sea, uneventful cruise down the Red Sea under galley escort, to Aden for the final jumping off to India, with the first hint of friendship between the female translator and the centurion. Off Socotra, the pirate hijacks the soldiers' ship, but the shipping master has double-crossed his partner in crime and leaves him in a difficult situation with no safe place to go. A storm brings the beginning of a courteous, then friendly relationship between the pirate and the soldiers, and they negotiate a deal to continue on to China, ransoming themselves with enough money for the pirate to start a new life in China.

    And so forth... Each of the short stories has its own buildup, crisis, resolution and denouement, and MCs take turns with POV. For instance the entrapment of the shipping master is told from the senator/ambassador's POV, because he was there. The hijacking is told from the centurion's point of view, as well as the rescue of the pirate during the storm, because he was, for that interval, the protagonist. The negotiating phase with the pirate is told from the senior officer's POV, because he was doing the negotiating to get the ship back on its way to China and its mission, threading that needle.

    Being a pantser, I never planned it this way, and since I never took a creative writing class in my life, I don't know what this is called, or even if this has a name. But it works for my readers, and it keeps everyone's attention. It was not until I finished that I figured out who my overall protag was... the Senator, because despite being in the background a lot, he was the one making the really hard decisions. Everyone was reacting or supporting what he had chosen, even if it put them all in peril.
     
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  15. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    All of which is true - the difference is, soap operas run for hundreds of episodes. The audience is already heavily invested in those characters because they've spent hundreds of hours with them. Do you think the very first episode of a soap opera would have the same story structure as an episode ten years in? The answer is no, simply because the first episode has the added job of introducing all of these characters to your audience.

    The same is true of something like Game of Thrones; the Song of Ice and Fire book series is very long, and while it does indeed have numerous characters, in most cases they are in fact following a fairly limited number of story strands that intertwine. Not only that, but if you read (or watch) the very first book, it's a very stripped down version of that format, following only two main plot threads; that of the Stark family in King's Landing, and of the exiled Targaryans in Essos. Getting to know and care about those characters with a simpler story later allowed for more elaborate stories, and to take audience identification for granted.

    In both cases, though, the narratives will not be completely separated. They will have events that have knock-on effects for multiple characters' subplots, and so on.
     
  16. ManyQuestions
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    ManyQuestions New Member

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    1st Paragraph: I see what you mean. Because ive seen it happen in many tv shows like 90210 and gossip girl.

    2nd paragraph: Basically this is what kinda story im creating. im going to use superhero characters lol. Im creating a soap opera, I'll title it "DC" and it will follow Wonderwoman, Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Flash, Arrow, and Green Lantern. They all live in the same city "Gotham". The show will follow these characters relationships/friendships and family while being superheroes. Many villians will pop in for example like The Joker. He will be seen in Batman stroyline.... and if i wanted to, maybe at wonderwoman and superman wedding, the joker pops up and ruins it. All while Flash is facing his villian who kidnapped his girlfriend for revenge. While Spiderman is still trying to win Mary Jane heart after he was caught cheating with The Black Cat. Green Lantern is still trying to get the hang of being a father and teaching his son how to use his lantern ring.

    lol do you see where im going with it? How they all have different storylines happening at the same time with villian from each characters comic book series turn up?
     
  17. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    I know what you mean, but I don't think you're thinking in the right terms for a book's storyline.

    You seem to be taking as your inspiration things that run for hundreds of issues/episodes, each following an individual character, with occasional link-ups.

    This is not something that can be done well in a single book, which is what you seem to be suggesting.

    In order to do that, you would either need half a dozen books each following a different character, or you can have half a dozen discrete stories in your book, each of which only have room for fairly shallow character development, and a fairly simple storyline. You simply wouldn't have room for anything else.

    Edit: Not that it's really relevant, but Spiderman is a Marvel property ;)
     
  18. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    Have you considered making the unifying element a school shooting?

    So; for most of the way it's just usual high school drama, all these cliques and POVs having their usual lives. And off in the background somewhere is a guy they all ignore and bully and he's the real focus. And these seven different POVs tell us the story of a school shooting in real time from seven different locations hearing gunshots and seeing blood in the corridors. And none of them even noticed this kid was right on the edge.

    DO IT.
     
  19. JD Anders
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    JD Anders Member

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    While I get what you're saying, I do want to disagree on semantics- it CAN be done well in a single book, but it is very difficult. I think that is a small yet vital distinction- while it's probably not advisable to pursue such a storyline mashup, it isn't impossible. And if done well, I think it could be quite compelling.

    So, I agree with your arguments, but not your seemingly absolute view that it cannot be done properly.
     
  20. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    Fair enough, perhaps I was a bit absolutist.
     

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