1. Greenwood
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    Greenwood Active Member

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    Taking short side roads

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Greenwood, Sep 27, 2015.

    I am not sure if this fits completely into the "plot development" subforum, but since it is about the pacing and story of my book I figured this would be the best forum to post it. If I am wrong, mods, do feel free to whoop it into another section.

    I was wondering if it is acceptable, especially in in modern novels , to take short side roads from the main plot and insert stories in between. These stories do not follow the main plot line but are somewhat like short stories about the size of a regular chapter, that adhere to the theme, time/setting of the book but feature characters that are not included in the main storyline (Although references to the main plot, and vice versa are included). Since it is a fantasy novel, I thought it a good idea to feature these stories in between, so as to clarify some more on the setting and world in which it takes place. Most of these are about legends and history. Note; these are not infodumps, and all of them have a small plot of their own, but they more like illuminate a side of the world that does not get too much attention in the main storyline (which is more about politics, the now-and-here and character development of the MC's.)

    In a bout of inspiration I started this project writing some of these and I feel they capture the essence of the world and setting perfectly. Would feel terrible to have them scrapped.

    Now, I don't want to overdo this so as not to interfere with the main story too much, so I had a buildup of something like this in mind;

    Chapter 1
    Chapter 2
    Chapter 3
    Story 1
    Chapter 4
    Chapter 5
    Chapter 6
    Story 2
    etc...

    What do you think about this? Is it acceptable? Would it ruin the pace and draw readers out too much? I think they are certainly worthy of including, so if this layout would lead to people putting the book down I could always add them as some kind of addendums, or a seperate bundle of stories.
     
  2. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    If I'm reading a story that follows separate characters, I expect them to come together in the end. If they didn't it would feel like a loose end and I'd wonder what the point of the 'side roads' was.

    If the history and legend information is important to know then I would find a way to weave it into the main plot, even if it's something as contrived as your MC overhearing a conversation in an inn or reading a newspaper article. If it's not important to know then why include it at all?
     
  3. rainy_summerday
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    rainy_summerday Active Member

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    Wow, this is the first time that I actually disagree with Tenderiser!

    I think your idea is certainly worth exploring as long as the reader is getting the impression that these separate stories have a point, that these events happen in a fixed timeline so that they can process them better. It's not the characters that have to come together, but their worlds. Maybe in your second story, character 4 presses the red button. And in story four, your character 1 experiences the aftermath of a nuclear war. As long as I feel like all these stories have some sort of lasting influence, or even none but they could have (e.g. a failed assassination), then this would keep me interested. The characters themselves would not have to meet, or to know of each other.

    I once read a story about three separate couples, and all they ever did was spot another character down the road, in a café, or one of the couples moved in next-door to the other. But their stories never truly overlapped. That's experimental, daring, certainly. But I loved it.
    The characters all had their different life styles, smaller and larger problems, and the reader was able to dip into their heads for long enough to care about them, but not too much to have these issues overwhelm the reading experience. It wasn't about somebody getting fired, or somebody suffering from a chronic illness. It was about people. The novel was very versatile. My positive reaction to your idea is probably influenced by this novel.
     
  4. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Just to make it simple (for people like me to understand) are you kind of meaning that, the side stories would offer an explanation to the way a certain part of your fictional world works, but without those workings being shown as effects on the main characters?

    I think it's an idea you must explore. It might not work but if you don't try it, you'll never know.

    On the flip side, it could be the next big thing.

    But don't just listen to a few people on this forum, give it a go, try it out and see how it fits with your test readers.
     
  5. Greenwood
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    Greenwood Active Member

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    Yeah. This is kind of the point. In the main story, the legends and folklore are indeed presented in that way. A troubadour singing a song about a folkloric entity he claims to have had an encounter with. Rumors circulating around town speaking of these. "Superstitious" townsfolk making offerings to creatures living in the woods and rivers. Now, in this novel these creatures do actually exist, but in the main story it's presented vague, since the MS is more about the characters and their own struggles and stories. I'll explain why I think it is important in reply to rainy_summerday and cutecat22:)


    Thanks! That really upped my confidence on this. :)

    There is indeed a set timeline, so there will be no side stories that take place 100 years prior to the main line or something. And the effects of the side stories often have quite some effects on the MC's as well. A good example would be this;

    In the main story, war breaks out in the land because of religious strife and brewing political problems. At the same time however, there is a race of beings that is very powerful but rarely seen. They can curse or bless people they encounter, or feel like, but they rarely show themselves and will not actively engage the humans. They are revered by the peasants for example because if they do not give them the proper offerings their cows may go sick and their harvest might fail. The "elite" however, have little business with them and either think it is mere superstition, or don't really care about them because they have their own problems and ambitions. Now, while this conflict breaks out and more and more destruction comes over the land, these beings are becoming more and more annoyed at the humans, until it reaches a point were "BAM" they are pretty fed up and start interfering with the lives of humans on a basis that cannot be neglected by anyone.

    My idea is to let the MC's, who are mostly lords and/or minor nobility, and who carry the main story, have their own stories, not focusing on these beings. One sidestory I intend to put into it is about a peasant boy from the village of one of the MC's, who thus makes a one-time appearance in his story only, have an encounter with these beings. This story makes it clear that the underlying threat of these beings is there and is serious, but the MC's are still quite unaware of the threat they are creating by their own bickering. It's like two countries fighting each other on the ground, both sides unaware that there is a ticking nuke underneath the soil that could obliterate them both. That's just one example of what I intend to do.



    Thanks for the reply guys!
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2015
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  6. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Sounds like a good idea. Just be careful of two things:

    1- don't confuse the reader by making the side stories more interesting than the main story.
    2- damn, can't remember the second one. Stupid writer's brain ... it will come back to me
     
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