1. RachHP
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    RachHP Contributing Member

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    Using 'mini chapters'

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by RachHP, Jan 22, 2015.

    Hi everyone,

    My WIP is written around one character (there is a supporting cast, but she's the central focus). The book is written in third person but every chapter, scene etc is in written on the basis that my MC is at the heart of what's happening. I observe and imply things from other character's point of view, but I try not to jump around people's heads and keep things within arms reach of her at all times.
    So, generally, the reader doesn't hear other character's thought processes and only knows about events etc that occur with the MC in attendance, or when she hears about them.

    I decided to take that tac as I like the idea of drip feeding information/keeping things from the reader and MC to build climaxes etc, and I think it's working okay...
    But, it occurs to me that interspersing with select (much shorter) chapters that don't involve the MC would really flesh out the reader's experience and offer opportunity to a better perspective on things that happen.

    For example:
    MC's brother is murdered and part of the plot hinges on the fact she suspects, but doesn't know for sure, who killed him.
    I plan to leave the question unanswered for my MC because it's more psychologically devastating for her (and thus, more fun to read about), but I like the idea of the readers knowing and waiting to see if the killer gets their comeuppance/feeling the tension as things remain unsaid and unresolved etc.

    What I'm asking is:
    Are 'mini chapters' a useful way to offer particular insights/plot reveals at certain intervals during the book?
    Or, would [you/the reader] find them distracting/is it a 'faux pas' if I'm writing in a particular style for the rest of the book?

    All thoughts welcome

    Thanks,
    Rach x
     
  2. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The two common points of view (POV abbrev.) where you only present one perspective is generally either third person limited, or first person. If you googled these terms, you'll easily find out what they mean.

    Anyway, whether interspersing your book with chapters of other POVs is a good idea depends on whether you're doing third or first person. In first person it's traditionally not done, though there are exceptions, but some see it as bad practice, because the whole point of choosing first person is that it should be entirely from the perspective of the narrating character.

    If you're doing third person, then having other chapters that include other characters' POVs is fine - but if you're gonna have a different POV character, then the character should better be important to the plot that readers follow. It's usually bad practice to throw in a random character willy-nilly for the sake of giving information and then for the character to disappear afterwards, because the reader will have invested emotionally in this character and will want to know what happens to them.

    Regarding your planned ending of not letting the MC find out who murdered her brother - that may or may not work depending entirely on what your story actually is. If your driving, main plot of the whole book is the MC looking for the murderer, trying to resolve the case, then for the ending to be that the MC never does resolve the case seems very pointless to me. It's not "cool" or "clever" as you might think - it's certainly surprising but not in a good way. You'll leave your readers feeling utterly dissastisfied and like they've wasted their time. There's a reason why certain things don't normally get done in books.

    However, if your story isn't really about the MC finding the murderer but something else entirely, but that the murder is just another facet of her life and perhaps it's more to do with getting closure, finding peace, or whatever else your theme may be, then her not finding the murderer at the end could potentially work.

    But whatever you do, if you don't plan on letting the MC find who the murderer is at the end, then definitely don't make that your main, driving plot. The MC should have a different, bigger goal than finding the murderer if that's the case.
     
  3. RachHP
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    RachHP Contributing Member

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    Hi @Mckk , I'm writing in third person so glad to hear it's not an abominable practise!

    Totally understand about not just throwing in random characters, I hate that as a reader so will definitely endeavour not to lure you in with a character I have no intention of cultivating/drawing a satisfying conclusion with.

    The murder isn't part of the main goal/main plot, but thank you for the warning - I appreciate it would be very unsatisfying to have such a huge loose end (which is why I want the readers to know exactly what happened), but it's just a particularly heinous footnote in the grand scheme of things for my MC.

    Particularly enjoyed your pov that leaving such a cliffhanger isn't 'cool or clever' - we are in agreement! Have you read books where something like that happened?
    I particularly remember reading 'Exodus' - the whole plot was (in theory) about the fact she was forced out of her home and was looking for a permanent place to live. The ending was poetic but didn't resolve the crucial key points, so I wound up throwing the damn thing at a wall thinking, why make me read the whole book if you never intended to finish the story???

    Thanks for the feedback,
    x R
     
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  4. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, third person is probably the most standard practice, so you're definitely fine going ahead with it! :D

    Nah, I don't remember reading a book with such an unsatisfying ending - there was only once I was really disappointed and it was because this character I really liked turned out to be the murderer lol. However, I guess I mentioned what I did as what I know to be standard good practice, as well as the fact that when I started writing my first novel, I decided it would be really clever to mislead the reader into thinking someone who's not the MC is the MC lol. For no reason other than that I thought it'd be so clever. Needless to say, it became a bit of a disaster hahaha!
     
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  5. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Non MC focused chapters are fine and need not be "mini" at all. If there is a human antagonist(s) then glimpsing some of their actions or strategy would make them more real and more of a threat, as well as building tension if you then see the MC falling into (or seeming to) the antagonist's snares. Such chapters can also bring in what games call NPCs, basically bystanders, who are going to be affected by one or other party's actions.
     
  6. RachHP
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    RachHP Contributing Member

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    @Bryan Romer, love the insight - thank you. The minichapters I've written so far have only been about a page in length (at most), but you've inspired me to go back and consider playing things out a little more.
    You've also inadvertently settled another issue I was having - justifying my use of an unknown/seemingly insignificant character. Now I can put her in the NPC box, I feel a bit more able to keep her!
    Thanks x
     
  7. Void
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    Void Contributing Member

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    Would it really improve the experience if the reader knew who the murderer was, but the MC doesn't? Personally, unless they both have interesting interactions that would gain additional meaning with the knowledge of the murder, it seems like you would simply be robbing the reader of a decent unsolved mystery. Perhaps it would be better to leave subtle clues as to who it was, rather than just tell the reader and leave the MC searching.
     
  8. RachHP
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    RachHP Contributing Member

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    I think the issue I have with shrouding it in mystery, is that it's so obvious... The killer is someone she's been having 'run ins' with throughout the book, so the 'we all know, but can't prove' element seemed the only way to go. I don't want to put my MC in a position where she has to kill the murderer, and if she knew without doubt who it was, honour might dictate she had to...
    The compromise I made, is that she doesn't spend the rest of the book trying to prove it. The murder goes on the back-burner almost right away, and only really comes to a head during a fight relating to something else. So, I don't think it will frustrate anyone - if I write it well enough, it should just be an extra layer of depth in their battle/general hatred for each other.

    But, I totally see your point and I appreciate the challenge x
     

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