Tags:
  1. vcarson
    Offline

    vcarson Member

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2013
    Messages:
    14
    Likes Received:
    1

    Should I Get Rid of a Chapter

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by vcarson, Nov 15, 2013.

    So, I have been writing a 14 chapter novel for a few months now and I'm very excited about it. However, now I'm having second thoughts about keeping the last chapter. Here's the plot:

    On September 6, 1906 Evangeline Bachman; the body of Evangeline Margaret Bachman was discovered in a deep lake. The twenty six year old heiress was the daughter of one of the wealthiest men in the country. His company, Bachman Co. controlled much of the infrastructure industry in the Northeastern and Midwestern United States. Evangeline's sudden and tragic death was a shock to many Americans who admired Evangeline's charitable and philanthropic work. Authorities were unable to conclude the events that led to her eventual death. Evidence of a possible assault was not found, as her body had no visible signs of trauma. The expensive clothes and jewels she wore when she was alive were not missing, and Evangeline had been physically healthy at the time of her death. The case was closed and ruled "inconclusive" by authorities. Her six siblings, however believed that they were each responsible for her death. Evangeline's funeral was on the 10th of September, and her siblings were still very guilty at the thought of possibly causing their sister's death. More that one thousand people came to mourn the death of the beautiful and beloved heiress. After the ceremony, the Bachman family met at the family's Newport summer home to grieve, privately. They shared fond memories and reminisced about the past. After James and his wife, Maria retired for the evening, the siblings eventually found each other in the sitting room. There, they each shared their stories of what they believed was the cause of Evangeline's death. For the most part, they were all supportive of each other while the stories were being told, possibly out of their own guilt. When the stories were finished, they began to question each other and slowly began to lose their guilt. A once supportive tone is now accusatory and aggressive. An intense argument began where all of the siblings attacked each other. At first, they blamed each other for Evangeline's death, then the argument turned personal. They began attacking each others' personalities, beliefs, and ideals. They all went to sleep angry. In the morning, they all met in the sitting room again and attempted to move past the argument. Unfortunately, they were unable to agree on anything and began arguing again. Eventually, the siblings agreed to break all ties, because things that had been said could not be taken back. Eventually, the siblings each told someone else about the argument and the destruction of their family. People reacted differently. Some were completely surprised, and others were surprised the separation hadn't happened sooner. The final chapter takes place in 1926, twenty years after the argument. The siblings meet again because of their father's death. There is a lot of tension, but they eventually begin speaking with each other. They are still very cold and distant. By the end of the book, the cause of Evangeline's death remains unknown to the reader.

    So my question is if I should leave the chapter that takes place in 1926. I want the novel to be tragic, because it symbolizes a possible destruction of society. Without the chapter, it leaves readers wondering what will happen in the future and seems very bleak. This makes it a definite tragedy. If I leave the chapter the way it is, the tragic feel of the plot (meaning the destruction of a family) is sort of resolved and it defeats the purpose of being a drama. I need do hear some ideas other than my own, because I can't really make up my mind and am second guessing myself about leaving the chapter the way it is. Thanks for any input!
     
  2. L.T.
    Offline

    L.T. Member

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2013
    Messages:
    67
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Georgia
    My suggestion would be to leave the last chapter out. It may be different if somehow the reason behind Evangeline's death was explained in it as that is the original problem presented in the story. I realize though that your story is a lot more than just that. As it symbolizes a possible end to society, I don't think the last chapter would fit in the scheme of things. That's just my opinion. Interested to see how others feel about this.
     
  3. vcarson
    Offline

    vcarson Member

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2013
    Messages:
    14
    Likes Received:
    1
    Thanks for your reply. The main characters are all supposed to symbolize certain aspects of society (like greed, romanticism, selfishness, naiveté, etc.). I was really interested to see what other people thought, so your opinion was very helpful.
     
  4. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    My usual inclination is to recommend, "If in doubt, leave it out." But I think what may be happening is that you have a book that leaves the reader feeling cheated.

    Allegory is one thing. Leaving a central plot element unresolved is quite another. Leaving the cause of Evangeline's death unanswered seems a poor idea, and I think your last chapter may be to fulfill your own need to provide some kind of closure. However, it's a disconnected fragment that also doesn't really resolve anything.

    It might be better to wrap up with an answer to her death, but one that doesn't heal the shattered family. It could be a senseless death, but it's purpose is narrative closure, not a release of tensions. You could still show that, down the road, the family continues to disintegrate, and the implication is that Evangeline's death is merely the catalyst that happened to trigger the inevitable.

    It feels, in a way, like The Fall of the House of Usher.
     
    jannert and L.T. like this.
  5. JayG
    Offline

    JayG Banned Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2013
    Messages:
    642
    Likes Received:
    358
    Location:
    Philadelphia PA
    Okay, I'm lost. Where's the story? Someone dies and we never find out why. But given that she's dead, why do I want to know what she was like when she was alive?

    The relatives relate anecdotes about the dead women—short stories that have be able to stand alone as such, and have all the elements and drama to reader expect to make them compelling reads.

    Yes we get to know her better, but so what? She's dead. Then the relatives sit around arguing get angry at each other as families often do, and resolve nothing important. Then many years later they meet and make up. It sounds as if there's a lot of talking head scenes, where two people talk about a third party who's not in the conversation. I hope not, because that's the kiss of death.

    I know this isn't the question you asked to have answered, but I'm stuck on the basic question of what the story's compelling problem is, and why the reader should care deeply that the family members no longer want to be friends. Unless you can answer that, them getting together again, or not doing, it is unimportant.
     
  6. Okon
    Offline

    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2013
    Messages:
    694
    Likes Received:
    389
    The synopsis didn't exactly grab me, but that doesn't mean it's not interesting; reading just the summary of the story is like reading song lyrics without having heard the song.

    I think that the last chapter is important. After the storm of emotional conversations, character development, and sibling plot twists: "I'm the one that crashed your tricycle, damn it. I told Dan it would be 'cool' to take the blame on behalf of his older brother. How was I supposed to know that he'd get hooked on crack because of it?"

    Because we want to know what happens to the family. Did Jenny ever marry that lawyer? Maybe Dan checked into rehab, or he overdosed in the time gap? That stuff is going to be important to me if I've spent that much time with the characters. I don't think it's necessary for them to start to overcome their differences, though.
     
  7. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,809
    Likes Received:
    7,333
    Location:
    Scotland
    It's really impossible to decide here and now about that last chapter, because we haven't read your story! However, I do agree with @Cogito, that as it stands, leaving the cause of Evangeline's death unresolved is a big mistake. It's the one question readers will want the answer to, given what you've told us.

    If it were me, I'd write a shudder short Prologue, letting us see Evangeline die, so we KNOW how she died (whatever the reason) and make it clear that none of the siblings are responsible. If that overriding concern is dealt with at the beginning, we will know that's not what the story will be about, and we won't be annoyed when the mystery is never solved.

    Another bonus. If you start like that, you won't need to go into a lot of detail about how/when the body was found, police investigation, etc—what the body was wearing, was anything stolen, or anything like that—because we've already seen her die and we know what happened. So you can get straight into her relatives' reaction in the 'first' chapter.

    I think your idea of family disintigration, which implies lots of unfinished business between them, is a rich seam to mine. Whether or not it's a success, will be down to how it's structured and written.

    I'm reminded of the short novel "The Bridge Over San Luis Rey" which I read back in high school. It concerns a bridge in Mexico (if memory serves me right) that collapses, killing all the people on it. That's the 'Prologue.' The main story is a named chapter about each of the people who got killed, and gives each of them a cosmic reason for being on the bridge at that time. Of course the theme is different (God's Plan and all that) but the structure sounds as if it's similar to yours. I do remember that story as being very thought-provoking.

    It also has similarities to one of my favourite movies of all time (for many reasons) The Big Chill, which has a group of people interacting, being supportive, argumentative, etc, and finally resolving issues from the past and moving on.

    Good luck with your story. Focus hard on what you want to leave the reader with, and don't allow distractions or red herrings like 'whodunit,' to lead them off in the wrong direction.
     

Share This Page