1. ElijahMaddoxx
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    ElijahMaddoxx New Member

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    Novel vs. Series?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by ElijahMaddoxx, Feb 22, 2013.

    I'm kinda working on this story that I've had cooking in my head for about 5 years now, which has molded in a plethora of ways due to the people who have come and gone in my life in that time period, as well as the experiences I've had in that time period.

    My biggest thing is that I enjoy characters when I read or watch a piece of work. I enjoy learning about them, what they do, how they interact, who they know, what they've been through, etc.

    At the same time, I enjoy a good plot. A good plot can keep me hooked to the point of addiction. I feel like the TV Series Scandal has both because it's very fast paced, yet, I'm constantly introduced to new characters while learning more about the old ones and seeing what happens to them in the plot, which is what entices me to the idea of a series.

    I feel like with just one novel, I have to have a beginning, middle, and end, and I'd feel like I have to unravel this big plot and make it small enough to just throw together in one book, possibly neglecting the character development I'd want to do, which the part of me that enjoys an epic plot is fine with that.

    On the other hand, I've created some very interesting characters with very interesting back-stories that I want to see interact, I want their stories to be told, I want to show what they go through, and whatnot, and I feel to do that as well as create a decent plot, I'd have to drag things out and do a series in order to just reveal and reveal and reveal what there is to know about these characters to the point where I feel like they're actual people I know.

    My question is how do I find that balance? Do I do one or the other, or is there some middle ground I can reach? If I were to do a series, how would I go about dragging out a story for the sake of all this character development I want to do?
     
  2. GhostWolfe
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    GhostWolfe Member

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    Unless you're George R.R. Martin, I would suggest parcelling up complete stories & see what you have. Writing a series does not excuse you from having a middle, beginning, & end - quite the opposite. Each book in the series must be a story in its own right, a reader should be able to pick up the last book & still enjoy the story for what it is, without needing the cliff's notes for the previous books.

    If your ideas can support multiple books, by all means, you should write a series :)
     
  3. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    A story does what a story wants. If your story wants to be a series then it will. I suggest you not worrying about that and just start writing, if you turn out to have written 90000 pages then by all means, make it a series. Otherwise, make it what it becomes.

    The novel I am writing looked like a trilogy from the beginning even though I have no idea what main conflicts it will contain in each book. The possibility still exists though that it will end up only one book. What I am trying to say is, what's in it is more important than how many books it becomes.
     
  4. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The very fact that you're using the term "dragging out the story" is a red flag - trust me, your readers will got so bored of all your padding that they'd stop reading long before they get round to your interesting character expositions. Readers can tell when something's just padding, and if readers can see this, agents and publishers certainly would, which means you're ruining your own chance of ever getting published in the first place.

    You reveal what you need about each character only if what you reveal serves the plot. Otherwise it is irrelevant.

    What you should rather do is think up how your characters' backstories can serve the plot, and then create a plot centred around your characters' histories. That way, every back story becomes relevant and there's no "dragging". As soon as you need to "drag" a story out, you're doing something very, very wrong.

    And what's to stop you from writing a series of stand-alone novels? Like the Wallander novels or Jack Reacher, where every book has its own story, but you follow the same character each time. You can play with the reveal all you like and will have more flexibility with what to reveal, since each plot is different and therefore the relevant back story would also be different. You also wouldn't be "dragging" anything out.
     
  5. Oswiecenie
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    Oswiecenie Active Member

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    Go for a single novel, otherwise you might end up with a lot of completely unnecessary filler material no one cares about. The shorter, the better. A good writer can tell everything necessary in a couple hundred pages anyway.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    unless you plan on self-publishing the series, you need to concentrate only on the first book for now... making sure it will stand alone and be highly marketable...

    because no agent or publisher is going to take on a series from a new and unknown writer... and only AFTER your first book is a runaway bestseller [if you're that good a writer and that lucky], will they consider your series...
     
  7. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Ow!

    Tell this to Tolstoy, Proust, Pynchon, Michener, Franzen, David Foster Wallace, etc.

    Not everybody is a minimalist. Some of the best writers need space. I wouldn't ask Beethoven to cut the Ninth Symphony down to a three-minute radio-friendly pop song.

    And what is this obsession some people seem to have with brevity? Saying "The shorter, the better" implies that reading a novel is an onerous chore and we should get it done as quickly as possible so as to save ourselves unnecessary pain and suffering. I don't understand that.
     
  8. ElijahMaddoxx
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    ElijahMaddoxx New Member

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    I guess maybe dragging it out wasn't what I exactly meant.

    My problem is more me creating so many interesting and unique characters and trying to find a way to fit them all in and still tell a story with all of them as they develop, while using what's known about them to still help tell the story.

    To me, writing a standard limited novel would seem to just scrunch them all up, wouldn't it?

    That's really my quandary.
     
  9. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Is there any particular reason all these characters have to be in the same story? If you have many interesting characters, it would seem you have many interesting stories. This could be, not a series, but a set of independent novels.
     
  10. Bimber
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    Bimber Contributing Member

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    While i agree on you that "the shorter the better" is not true (personally i love long well written epic stories), but i agree with what Mammamia said for a first time writer its hard to publish bigger novels.

    Personally my advice is not to take a big project unless you have some experience with smaller ones, epic stories need tones of work and experience and you might not do your story justice by tackling it so early, try and finish couple of short stories,edit them, polish them as if you gonna publish it as all that will give you experience when you write the next one.
     
  11. ElijahMaddoxx
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    ElijahMaddoxx New Member

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    Delete post
     
  12. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Ditto what Minstrel said above me. But also, don't fall into the trap of loving your characters so much that you assume the whole wide world would be equally fascinated by them. You're the author, your characters are your babies - your passion for them is natural and very good. But as readers, they don't care, sorry to say. You need a good story to make them interested in the good character. It's like showing baby pictures. It is endlessly fascinating for the mother, but after the first 10min or so, it is endlessly dull for the friend who's too polite to say so.

    I don't doubt that your characters are very interesting - but don't indulge so much that you lose sight of what your reader wants. Unless, of course, you're writing for pure enjoyment and have no need to get it published - and that's fine too - and if that's the case then write whatever you like :) If you must indulge, write everything you want to get it out of your system - it doesn't mean it has to be all in the actual book.
     
  13. ElijahMaddoxx
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    ElijahMaddoxx New Member

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    EDIT: Sorry, there were a few responses ahead of this one, which threw me off a bit. lol.

    I would absolutely agree that just because the characters are interesting to me, doesn't necessarily mean that they're interesting to all.

    The story is a political thriller, so you have the main character and his father who is the President of the United States. You have his mother, his brother, his best friend, his father's arch rival, the son of his father's arch rival who plays an integral role in the plot, you have the Vice President who also plays an integral role in the plot, you have the best friend of his best friend, his grandmother (on his dad's side) his great-grandmother (on his mom's side), Secret Service Agents (a few who also play an integral role in the story), an intern (who also could play an integral role in the story) his uncle (who is the President's Chief of Staff), Congressmen (one of whom is his best friend's father), Senators (one of whom is another uncle of his).

    Seems like alot of people for one story, but all of them appeal to me and are of great interest to the plot itself, as well as their dynamics and interactions with each other, which is what has my mind shooting ideas left and right for even mini plots for each story, while focusing on one huge plot that kind of continues on through each volume or part or what have you.

    But as a novice, I felt it might help to seek various opinions and experiences from other experienced writers such as yourselves on a forum like this to help me paint a clearer picture.
     
  14. Oswiecenie
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    Oswiecenie Active Member

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    I don't know about the rest, but Tolstoy certainly was a minimalist. His plots are that complex, any other less skilled writer would have turned each of his longest novels into a (minimum) 10-piece series.

    Music is something entirely different. Many radio-friendly three-minute songs still seem far too long and outstretched, but on the other hand there are masterpieces which could go on forever.

    Nope. It just means that whatever you write shouldn't contain a single unnecessary word.
     
  15. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Of course, we could spend the rest of our lives debating the meaning of "unnecessary" in that sentence, couldn't we? ;)
     
  16. Oswiecenie
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    Oswiecenie Active Member

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    Not necessary, it's quite simple: everything that doesn't advance the story.
     
  17. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    That's subjective and depends a lot on interpretation.
     
  18. Oswiecenie
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    Oswiecenie Active Member

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    The reader will notice whether that detailed description of the protagonist's shoelaces is really crucial to the story or merely a waste of ink and paper which adds precisely nothing (just as an example). Getting caught up in silly little details that may seem important to you as the writer but do nothing for the story and thus nothing for the reader, that's what I'm talking about.
     
  19. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Telling a story is only one thing a novel does, and, in many novels, it's not even the most important thing. Novels also give us characters we can respond to emotionally, they can instruct us on subjects we may never have heard of, they can make us laugh or cry. Most of all, they can present us with a vision of life we may find compelling and convincing.

    You can give the same story, the same plot, to three different writers and they will give you back three different novels. The novels will relate the same events, but the interpretations of the characters will be different, the mood will be different (one may write a tragedy, one a farce, one a romance), the theme and meaning will be different. But you are basically saying the shortest one will be the best.

    Why bother writing the novel in the first place? Just leave it as an outline, or a newspaper report. Those tell the story very concisely. No, you say? That isn't what you meant? Of course it isn't. But the thing you haven't yet realized is that the reason for writing the novel is everything but the story. The story is just a sequence of events. The novel is everything else.
     
  20. Bimber
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    Bimber Contributing Member

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    What sort of "silly little details" do you mean?

    Some details that have nothing to do with the plot or the characters are needed as they give the story more depth and show more the world the story takes place in, its like when an artist paints a picture and adds shadows to some places to add depth to it, it is just a small detail but yet makes the picture more real
     
  21. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    huh!?... did you accidentally leave out 'not' there?
     
  22. ElijahMaddoxx
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    ElijahMaddoxx New Member

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    Can anyone offer a rebuttal to my latest post in this thread rather than continuing this digressive side argument that seems to have materialized out of nowhere? lol.
     
  23. Phoenix Hikari
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    lol, not all of us are experienced writers but I suppose we can still help. I still stand by my suggestion of just starting to write and see how long it could become. Sometimes a story with complex characters might look like it will be long when written but then it's not. It all depends on what happens and how deep the issues are and how long it takes these characters to solve these issues.

    Just write and see what the story decides or what looks best for it when it is in full form.
     
  24. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Frankly, it strikes me that you have far too many characters for a political thriller, at least for a first novel. Do you really need them all? I mean, a best friend's best friend? A great-grandmother? Various secret service agents, Congressmen, Senators? Your list of characters looks like the cast of a huge, sprawling thousand-page political epic. As a first-time writer, you're probably not ready to take that on, even if you could find a publisher.

    If your characters are really that interesting to you, then once again I suggest you write separate novels about them. Not a series, but separate novels. They can take place in the same world, if you like, but a reader should not have to read them in sequence to understand what's going on.
     
  25. Sirrius618
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    Sirrius618 New Member

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    All the points you have raised are good and valid points, maybe I can advise some of the technicals, In the movie world they often say start with the ending, or at least know your ending, once you know your ending, you then write a path to work towards the end.

    Usually a script only need to be 120 pages with an estimate of 1 minute per page, page 1 - 30 is considered the beginning, this is where you have to setup your characters, who they are where they live and so on. In most films after around 30 minutes or so something major happens to start the real story.

    Pages 30 -90 are normally considered the middle of the story, this is where your characters experiences the problems and challenges preventing them from getting what they want, normally where the bad guy has control.

    Pages 90 - 120 is the conclusion, the big showdown between the characters done in the biggest most entertaining way.

    Just a couple of rules start your story as fast as possible, not by rushing it but getting into your story or getting to the point of your story quickly.
    The second rule Exposition try to control the way information is conveyed to the viewer or reader.

    The most important thing for you to do right now is just to start writing, if it's a novel or film, one off or series doesn't really matter, it's all good anyway.

    Hope this helps, for more tips on writing,writing screen plays etc, http://www.howtowriteascreenplayonline.com
     

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