1. TemporalV01D
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    TemporalV01D Member

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    Single story, multiple story lines. How does one tell a massively intricate story?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by TemporalV01D, Jan 12, 2013.

    At the moment I'm working on a science fiction novel series I'll probably spend a few decades of writing on, called The Alterverse Saga. Originally I had a number of ideas for various story arcs planned (each a trilogy, and each intricate in their own right), which I eventually grouped together in the same fictional multiverse (I say "multiverse" instead of "universe", because some of the stories take place in parallel timelines). Recently I was inspired to do something slightly insane and most like incredibly challenging: writing all six story arcs as a single novel series.

    The Alterverse Saga will consist of 12 books (in my current planning), and is divided as such:
    -Books I - III will form what would have been the first books of five of the story arcs.
    -Books IV - VI will form the second books of said story arcs.
    -Books VII - IX will form the third books.
    -Books X - XII will be the sixth originally planned trilogy, written basically as originally planned.

    On top of that, each book will contain one of 12 short stories that take place in the same universe, to provide background.

    Although each story has shares some common elements with some of the other stories, I thought they needed a much better connection. So, I've introduced another story, which will be central to the whole series, but take up a proportionally tiny bit of each book. The story is that of a novelist who writes each of the stories semi-simultaneously, based on dreams she has. She will be the main character of the story and will reflect on the stories as they come to her, and eventually make emotional investments with some of the characters (this will better connect her with the other stories and, I hope, make it easier for the reader to keep track of what's going on in each story).

    As each story is fairly intricate in their own right, I've divided each book of the original trilogies (excluding the sixth) into three parts so that the stories in each Alterverse book are (in theory) less intricate and easier for the reader to follow.

    I imagine many would object to the series spanning 12 books, each book containing multiple stories and the general complexity of it all, but I'm honestly not willing to change any of that. Instead, all I want to do is make the read easier, while still gripping for the reader.

    In the books, the stories are gonna jump around quite a bit. To make it clear which story the reader has switched too, I'll add the story title as a heading at the start of every story segment, as well as a "timeline key", which is a symbol showing the story's position in regard to the other stories in the multiverse. Hopefully, readers will be able to attach each story its corresponding symbol when reading the book.

    What I'm most worried about is how well the reader will be able to keep track of the various characters in each story.

    So, am I going about this right? Any ideas on how I can make the books easier on the reader (as I'm stubbornly going to continue working on this series as multiple story lines)? How can I make the characters easier to identify for the reader (I don't want them to go "Who's that again?")? Anything else you'd like to suggest or comment on? Is this even the right forum for this topic? Answers to these questions would be much appreciated. :)
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You aren't ready. By the questions you are posing, I'm pretty sure you have not yet published anything.

    No new writer should tackle a series before he or she has at least one published novel that has turned a profit. Not only does an unpublished writer lack the experience for managing the simultaneous needs of each individual novel and the series, publishers don't want to take a chance on an unknown writer for a multi-book project. It's too big a risk for them. Even a single novel by an untried writer is going out on a limb.

    So shelve this project for now. Work on a single novel, and put your very best into it. Be assured, that is quite a challenge in itself. By the time you knock that single novel into publishable shape, you'll already be a better writer, and you'll undoubtedly want to start over with your grand opus. Also, you'll have a much clearer insight into how much you still have to learn.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto that!!!
     
  4. TemporalV01D
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    TemporalV01D Member

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    Well, I may not be published, but I have completed one novel (though it's only the first of what was originally going to be a trilogy), and I have a very good idea what I'm up against (which is not to say I'm prepared for it, though).

    Each of the five stories can function as their own novel trilogies, so if this doesn't work out, I could simply dissect the book into its respective stories and complete them separately. I was writing them as if they were separate anyway.

    However, I get what you're saying, Cogito, but I'm very shaky about shelving a project, as projects I've shelved in the past end up abandoned because I fail to recall what I wanted to do with them (despite making notes). I've also started gaining some momentum with this, so stopping now will be difficult.

    Perhaps, for publication's sake, I'll conjure up some or other single novel independent story (and put my best into it) before attempting to get the Alterverse books published, but I honestly don't have any motivation for doing that now.
     
  5. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    I think you're trying to tackle too big a project at once and you're getting in over your head. Just reading about what you plan is daunting and leaves me feeling lost. If you don't want to shelf this project, maybe you should try focusing on one story, one character at a time? Maybe by focusing on a sing character's story you'll be able to achieve what you wish with the entire series in a different, and maybe less daunting, task.
     
  6. FirstTimeNovelist91
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    FirstTimeNovelist91 Senior Member

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    I'm sorry, but what you plan on doing sounds way too complicated and over-the-top for even the most experienced and skilled of writers. Unless you have the skills of George R.R. Martin, I would focus on a simpler novel. If that novel turns out to be a success, THEN continue with the series.
     
  7. BallerGamer
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    BallerGamer Active Member

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    I'll have to repeat the sentiments of most here. You're shooting for the stars, aim for the moon first.
     
  8. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    I would agree with Maia and Cog. Worry about one novel, make sure it's a stand alone and then polish it to the best it can be. I'm writing a second novel with my main characters while the first rests, but it's 99.5% complete stand alone. While there are references to the previous and some of the villains are the same, the story itself can purely stand on it's own.

    Shoot for earth orbit first, then the moon and then the stars. All things in a logical progression.
     
  9. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    01234
     
  10. sylvertech
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    sylvertech Active Member

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    You need to take better notes; the ones I have capture exactly what I had in that mind frame.

    I had planned a cyber-punk and a high-fantasy arc in the same series,
    the latter splitting into factions and species and different government systems.

    Just don't ask me how they're related; it takes me an average of one to two hours to explain it.

    Having the arcs converge into one, or at least meet and the split again,
    really depends on, well, everything.

    If the characters can reach each other with travel, then the problem is simplified.
    You can add an ambassador visiting a kingdom/planet/multiverse, a minstrel recording events on his travels, or a historian documenting the events.

    Would be so kind as to tell use what gossamer thread there is between the arcs?
     
  11. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    TemporalV01D, you are obviously a bright and creative kid, but you're still a kid. Your bio says you're seventeen. I love your ambition, but you have to realize that seventeen is not the age at which you should be committing yourself to a lifetime of work, and that's kind of what it looks like you're doing. You might not realize it right now, but you're still learning, and learning LOTS, and by the time you're, say, twenty-eight or so, you'll probably be on to some totally different thing. Don't force yourself to finish a project you'll mentally and emotionally outgrow long before you can get it done.

    I think, at this point, you should focus on projects you can complete in a reasonable time frame. Develop one novel, work on it until it's as good as you can make it, and get it published. Sure, keep your dream project in mind, but don't spend your writing hours on it at this stage. I bet, by the time you get one good novel written and published, you'll be re-evaluating your "dream" project and dreaming of something bigger. Only by then, you'll have a far better idea of the work involved in getting it done, and that will inform the way you think about it.

    Give yourself time. You have a whole life ahead of you. Don't start by biting off more than you can chew, or publish, or find readers for.
     
  12. TemporalV01D
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    TemporalV01D Member

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    Thanks for the feedback and all your best intention. However:

    I write as a hobby. It's not what I plan on doing for a living (I'm going into theoretical physics for that).

    I've been working on this project going on four years now. One of the five stories, The Peoples of Algol, already has one finished novel (and therefor its bits for the first three Alterverse books relatively sorted). This novel, by the way, has nine characters' points of view. As for the other stories, I've fleshed out two of them well enough to write without interruption.

    Whoever said I may outgrow my ambition for this project is likely right. However, that's something I dread. I want to have picked up unstoppable momentum with this project before that happens. I've put too much work into this to loose it to a shift in interest.

    Someone mentioned writing the stories separately, and that's pretty much what I've been doing. This thread is about how I'll glue them together for the greater project - and I might add - regardless of whether or not I'll focus on something considerably less daunting first.

    When I asked "Am I going about this right?", it wasn't my writing career I was talking about, it was the project in question - The Alterverse Saga. Please leave my age, experience and publication history or lack thereof out of this. I did not ask whether or not I should go through with this, I simply want thoughts on how to do so. I truly appreciate your best intentions in telling me to crawl before I walk before I run, but being morbidly stubborn, such sentiments frankly aren't likely to change my mind or dampen my apparently unhealthy ambition.

    However, you have made me consider writing a strand-alone novel to attempt publication with first. I'll definitely still work on the Alterverse Saga, though - just at a slower pace. Despite this, I would still like a response to this thread other than "work on something smaller first", as that has been established. Thank you.
     
  13. Teodor Pravický
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    Teodor Pravický Senior Member

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    I think writing series or saga, is about the choice if you want every detail fits in the enviroment. It might be done really extremely like daughter of the warrior one day come to the pub for him and say that she want a pony or something. At the fourth book, she suddenly appears 14 years old, riding a pony. And you didn't mention her in between in any way.

    That is a mind blower for people that remember things. But you have to keep a card about everyone that appears in the story and write down everything you might use somehow in the future.

    I personally try to keep things easy, having only 4-5 active persons in the story, the rest just won't appear, but its your choice if you enjoy hard tasks
     
  14. spartan928
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    spartan928 Member

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    Temporal..if getting published isn't your concern, then do what makes you happy. If writing is a hobby and your not interested in a larger audience for your work, go for it. But in your original post you mention the word "reader" in most of your paragraphs. If you have no true aim to pubish who are these readers? You? Your friends? Your family? They're going to love it no matter what you do. Your stories could be pure genius but who can tell. Your asking experienced writers what their opinions are, who assume that most people write with the intention of reaching a broader audience than their writing desk. So again, if you really don't care about publication then explore your universe and characters for the personal fullfillment it has for you. That's all that matters. If you want your stories to be publishable then the advice here has a lot of merit. As a reader, when I delve into a book and things get overly complicated and I begin drowning in exposition I have a surefire way to save myself. Close the book.
     
  15. radnommandess
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    radnommandess Member

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    Take one of your storylines and write a stand alone novel. Or create a new storyline that fits with the theme, world or characters of your series and write a stand alone novel. Write another novel that hs nothing to do with your series, then offer these two novels up to publishers. That is what i have decided to do as I have a series that I am working on. I have finished most of the structure of my first and it stands alone. I am waiting till I have finished the second before I go back and flesh it out, so I have a better feel for the characters. Then I am going to write my unconnected story.
     
  16. BallerGamer
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    BallerGamer Active Member

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    If all you're looking for is an answer to your ambitious project then you're not going to get one. Making them all connect somehow is up to the author, and it probably won't come right away. The only way we'll be able to help is if you posted your blueprints to all of your stories and we would be able to help web out some connections.
     
  17. TemporalV01D
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    TemporalV01D Member

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    @Teodor: If I want the reader to remember a detail in something this complex, I'll point it out or reflect back to it at a later point. The stories aren't particularly intricate on that level either.


    @spartan: I say "reader" because I'm writing as if people are going to read it - by extension, as if it's going to get published. All I'm saying is publication is not a priority. I'll definitely still try to get it published, but it won't be a big deal if I can't get that to happen.


    I already know exactly how the stories are connected. Mostly, I want to know how I can make each of the stories easier for the reader to follow. For instance, I don't want readers to become confused between the stories or forget key aspects of the various stories every time the book switches to another story line.
     
  18. Teodor Pravický
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    Teodor Pravický Senior Member

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    OK, then you should choose 1-3 protagonists, interacting with things around them, 1 world with understandable mechanics, not some scientific bullshit, not jerking of on words. If you don't have an simply understandable idea, just don't write and do something else. Personally I like to do that remembering thing without pointing it out later (if its not necessary). Readers are different and while one can enjoy simplicity, the other one can notice these little things.

    This way hollywood scripts works!

    And what about that style? Is it funny that during a battle fat opponent shit himselves? Or that you described his proud manners and fancy armour?
     
  19. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is the point of tying all the different storylines and universes to tell a better story to the reader? What is the purpose of attempting to do it, and how prevalent/important is it to the individual storylines?

    The best way to figure out how to accomplish this is to study the works of writers who have successfully accomplished what you hope to. I do not know any writers off the top of my head that have published anything really close to what you're attempting (planning), but consider reading Michael Moorcock's works, which include the Eternal Champion, be they Elric, or Hawkmoon, Erekose, etc.

    Google Michael Moorcock Eternal Champion, where he has a "Multiverse." There are some things that discuss his works and how they intertwine. Then, start reading and taking notes. Find other examples. Then, apply what you learned to your storyline and writing style.
     
  20. TemporalV01D
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    TemporalV01D Member

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    @TWErvin2: Oh, thanks a lot for that! Such research will most certainly be to my benefit. :)

    The reason I'm putting the stories into the same greater story is that they all lead up to the same thing, which is best understood with those stories as backdrop. Going into detail about this will probably give away spoilers, though. What I can say is that the main antagonist will be in some form incarnated in each of the stories. There's also the same protagonist-like figure present in each of the stories.
     
  21. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    If I understand you correctly, the characters are dreamed up by the writer, almost like visitations? And you want to know how to make the reader identify with the characters? I'm massively simplifying here, but in fantasy stories I've read, the characters are often linked by a portal or object accessed by different people. In other stories, different members or generations of a family are focussed on. Sometimes the location or house is the link. There is usually something which links the characters together, and also links them to the narrator. If you have, say, a fortress or site of a fortress being the link you can have several different characters through different times being connected. If you have nothing central at all to connect events, characters and the narrator/dreamer, it gets very fragmented and distancing for the reader. To have emotional involvement there ought to be something important at stake that starts the action and keeps the ball rolling through all the different stories.
     
  22. TemporalV01D
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    TemporalV01D Member

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    Well, two of the stories take place in the present (but in parallel time lines), so the narrator will be able to spot links between her world and their world (for example, specific locations she dreamed about as part of the stories, but only later discovers that it actually exists). Some of the characters (including the narrator herself) also appears in two or even all three of the "present" stories. The remaining three stories are all at various points in the future of the narrator's timeline, in the same timeline, so there will be various connective elements in those stories, such as someone in 2237 catching a glipse of a documentary about events events during the 2124 story. One of the main characters in the main story farthest in the future is also the descendant of a main character in the 2237 story. Then these stories also lead up to one another chronologically (this actually also includes the two parallel time lines in the present, as time-travel is an important part of the Alterverse universe). I'm also going to mention some the most important characters in multiple stories, as they effectively become celebrities (actually more of messiah-figures) at the ends of many of their respective stories.

    What I'm really asking is how I'll be able to really let the most important characters of each story stand out in such a way that they'll practically be the incarnations of their respective stories. In that makes any sense.
     
  23. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you want the most important characters to stand out, use their point of view consistently throughout their scenes, and have more scenes for them and considerably less for minor characters. If you use omniscient POV throughout, it sounds like it might not engage the reader and runs the risk of becoming like the Bible or a history book or something. Also, I'd recommend that you concentrate more on what makes your characters tick rather than just have loads of things happening to them.
     
  24. mbear
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    If I were attempting to do what you are doing, I would divide up each main character's story into their own separate book or books. I would treat them as separate books. They should be able to stand alone completely. That way you can make sure you are not missing any thing with each individual story. But I think you continue working with them all at the same time. When you have some element where the stories intersect or touch in some way I would have an outline that shows this and if characters meet or stories touch you write that scene and put in both books so that you know it fits. I really think you need to be able to read all stories apart from each other so there are no gaps or confusion. Then after each as been perfected, merge them. In my head I am seeing the outlines of the different books fitting together like a puzzle.

    I am a close to thirty old female with a masters degree, who has her own business, and can multitask like no ones business (actually doing so right now). And I am writing something that spans over 80 years with one main character, but there is a secondary story line that involves her child and I am getting tripped up every so often trying to make sure that ages match up with the year and the season, etc and my story line is fairly basic. I am not saying that I am any smarter than you by any means, just that we are all human and work smarter not harder. I feel that by separating them it will be easier on you but in the end will have the same conclusion.
     
  25. TemporalV01D
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    TemporalV01D Member

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    @madhoca: That sounds logical. Thanks.

    @mbear: The stories will be able to function independently, yes. What your suggesting seems like a good idea, so thanks.
     

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