1. slmurphy

    slmurphy New Member

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    Sprawling Fantasy - Need some help with book 1

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by slmurphy, Jul 25, 2017.

    I am in the process of finishing my first book. The issue is that what is now one book used to be two books.

    Both books initially follow two characters, Luxes and Andrew (placeholder names), who know nothing about each other and both find themselves swept up in something bigger than themselves.

    I decided to combine the two books into one when I realized that Book 2 not only took place at the same time chronologically as Book 1, but also that Book 2 doesn't advance the plot of the overall story.

    Originally planning on a five book series, I now have plans for a trilogy.

    Anyway, I have 2 major concerns about the story being combined.

    1. The reader may be confused about who the main character is. Luxes' story is told in the first person while Andrew's is in the third person. Luxes is the narrator, looking back and telling his and Andrew's stories together. However, Andrew's story dominates the book.

    Andrew is given 70,000 words, while Luxes is given only 50,000. I'm currently finding ways to shorten Andrew's story a bit, but it won't be by much. I've opted for aligning their stories so that they are relatively parallel in tone (putting the dark chapters back to back, revealing information back to back, etc.).

    Basically, you start the book in Luxes' perspective and then switch to Andrews', switching almost every other chapter.

    2. Neither character meets in the first book. That happens halfway through the second book, acting as a midpoint for the entire trilogy. That may sound disappointing, which is exactly what I'm afraid of.

    Does this premise sound interesting or confusing? Should I post some examples or give more detail of the individual stories?

    Any other notes or recommendations would be welcomed as well.
     
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  2. C.F. Boehlke

    C.F. Boehlke Member

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    Hi @slmurphy! It sounds like you have a good reason for having combined the two books. As for my personal tastes, and this comment should be taken with that in mind (that it's based on personal preferences), I don't like books that bounce back and forth between perspectives that frequently. Maybe I haven't read one that does it well enough. I'm sure there are some good ones out there, and yours very well could be one of them.

    As a reader, I might be confused about or frustrated about the characters never meeting in this book. If you're concerned that your readers might feel that way, you might ask yourself:

    Is there a good reason for keeping "the meet" in the second book of what will now be a trilogy, or could these characters really meet during the first book without compromising the integrity of the story?

    It's hard for me to say much more without knowing your story, but I hope sharing some of my personal preferences and thoughts based on what you've divulged proves to be helpful in some way!
     
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  3. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

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    Game of Thrones has a buttload of characters that don't meet for several books, so I wouldn't sweat that on a structural level. If there's nothing at all to connect their plots, that would obviously be more problematic. The 1st vs. 3rd person POVs can work but can also be off-putting... it all depends on how it's done. As for the issue of the reader being unsure as to who the MC is, I don't think you necessarily need to worry about it so long as both characters are compelling.
     
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  4. Fiender_

    Fiender_ Active Member

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    Hello!

    With number 1, I would have advised against switching POV styles between books in the same series, let alone in the same book. If Luxes is the narrator the whole way through, the Andrew chapters could sound very weird, since Luxes wouldn't know all of Andrew's experiences or emotions. Even if the two became close friends later in the series and Andrew told Luxes everything about his story that he remembers, there's no way Luxes would have the information and perspective to give us most of a novel's worth of detail, internal monologue, etc, from someone elses POV.

    As for number 2, I think it is possible you could get away with never having the characters meet, but the events of their respective stories would have to be very intertwined (because otherwise, why on Earth are these the same books, the reader may ask). Even if it's brief, maybe they could have a pivotal encounter with each other in this book. Maybe they see each other as enemies, begrudging allies, or just "who is that, and why are they talking with this person I know". Maybe there's a big battle or chaotic scene near the end where they meet and aid one another, or hurt one another, but anything is better than nothing. You could save their "proper" meeting for a later book. No meeting at all is... far more difficult to pull off.
     
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  5. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    I'm a big Harry Turtledove fan, and he is known for sprawling alternative history multi-book series. He uses multiple POVs and its common for characters to take several books to meet or never meet at all. The multiple POV works in his books because it allows him to tell a big story, let's say WW2 between the U.S. and the Confederate States, through the different characters. All the POVs are pieces of the puzzle that only the reader can see being created. So, what you are thinking about doing can and does work.
    Godspeed!
     
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  6. Dracon

    Dracon Contributor Contributor

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    I agree with @Fiender_ - there ought to be some firm link established between the two characters. GRRM can get away with it, but unfortunately you are not (yet!). Not that that can't be a problem anyway. You can find that if stories aren't related in some way, that readers might only be interested in half the story (I found myself skimming many of Daenerys's chapters - I found her a bit dull, and she was severed so far away from Westeros).

    I still can't wrap my head around why mixing 1st and 3rd person POVs wouldn't be confusing, but that is down to personal preference, I think. Ive heard mention of several people doing something similar.
     
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  7. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with @Fiender_ regarding the oddness of this POV setup. How could one character know all the ins and outs of another character's story if they have never met? I think that would bother me from day one. The minute you introduce 'first person' into a story, you create a situation where the reader will know (or think they will know) the same things the character does, AND NO MORE. So, logically, Luxes can't tell a story he doesn't know anything about yet.

    I have all sorts of questions, but the main one is "why." Why is Luxes telling Andrew's story? (Or putting it another way, why are you giving Luxes a first-person POV and Andrew a third person POV?)

    If you can make that ABSOLUTELY clear right from the start—and let us in on the mechanism you're using to tell the tale—it will work. Again, like @C.F. Boehlke , I would need to read the story before making up my mind, but, "I'm Luxes and this is why I'm telling Andrew's story, and this is what our lives were like before we met" kind of thing—if given clearly at the start of the story—would probably work.

    You might even consider linking the two stories several times, using the "While I was going on my merry way, doing this, Andrew was stuck in the mud, doing THIS" approach, before or immediately after you switch POVs.

    I don't have a problem with them not meeting one another early on, provided the reader knows there are more books in the series/trilogy and that the meeting is inevitable. If both characters are interesting, we'll be looking forward to the moment they meet, and this will provide a minor story goal for us, which does not need to be reached in the first book. But I will need to know why one character is telling another character's story, and I'll need to know it right at the beginning.

    On a completely different tack, you could use the same POV type for both characters. Either two first-person narrations or two third-person narrations would remove the need to link the characters before they meet.

    But of course if you choose first person, then, presumably that person will continue to narrate the story after the two meet, so you're back to the problem of what can the character actually know. If the two meet and then separate for periods of time, how can Luxes know what's happening to Andrew when Luxes isn't present?

    However, this problem vanishes entirely if you use third person throughout. (This is what George RR Martin does.)
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2017
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  8. slmurphy

    slmurphy New Member

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    Wow! Thanks guys! This is all very helpful. Wonderful to be getting so much feedback.

    To address some questions:

    Luxes and Andrew are separated by thousands of leagues and never come near each other. To make them meet would mean rethinking and shuffling the series as a whole. However, they're stories are entwined, and it gets fairly obvious how their stories reflect each other's through the book. I will say, they both suffer from vivid dreams (which are actually visions foreshadowing later events) and I might have them see each other in their dreams.

    As far as Luxes knowing Andrew's thoughts and feelings, they DO become close friends later on, and Andrew tells him everything he can remember. Luxes also speaks with others who were around him throughout his story. Luxes, however, is not interested in a historical account as much as a true-ish story that relays historical facts while taking some liberties with the characters. He's not just saying what happened, he's trying to tell a gripping story.

    I will have more to ask and address, but gotta go right now!

    Again, thank you all!
     
  9. slmurphy

    slmurphy New Member

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    Also, this is a sample of the beginning on the book, an interlude that Luxes uses to begin the story:

    Listen, my children, and I will tell you a story.

    Harken to my words and heed my voice, for this is your story as much as mine. Our lives are inexplicably tied and interwoven throughout this tale, and our hopes and fears embodied within. The life we live, the peace we find, the darkness we battle, all shall be made known to you.

    For this is a story of two lands separated by time, a tale of two men whose stories are entwined, though they knew it not, a story of distance and separation.

    May the veil lift a little from your gaze as you listen. May the wind carry you forward as you fly to your inevitable destination. May revelation bring wisdom to your heart, and life to your bones.

    I write these things to be remembered. To forget is to deny truth, and to deny truth is death. Do not forget your hope, shining like a glimmer of light through the green, forest roof. Do not forget your strength, holding fast as a great rock rests unmoved beneath the waves.

    Accenoah, this land of ours, has seen many sons turn to death. Do not let your hearts follow evil in its folly. Heed my words and know that life resides in them.

    A great turmoil has passed from the land, but a time lived when that turmoil did not even exist. Evil wears many faces, but all point to the same void: An emptiness greater than the vast wilderness that once separated our people.

    So listen, little ones, and know of Sithril, and the Prophecy, and of the Champion, whose story is our story. Hear of the Four Kingdoms, two separated from two. Hear of Luxes, one of the Six, and Andrew of Farel. Listen and know that life awaits those who hear my voice.


    Forgive any poor structure, this was written very recently.
     
  10. Fiender_

    Fiender_ Active Member

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    If they never come near each other, I assume the events of their stories never directly influence each other. Even if their stories deal with similar issues at similar times, at this point they would be separate stories. No need to have them in the same book.

    Personally, I feel like having one character narrate the story of another, when they were not present for the events (but even if they were side by side, actually) creates a lesser experience. If Andrew is going through an incredible tale, I want it from Andrew's perspective. Even if Luxes is ultimately "the main character", I don't care about that while I'm reading Andrew's story. It's important to keep in mind: It does not matter what great epic tale you are building up to, it does not matter what your payoff is, if the reader doesn't enjoy the process of getting there. We already know that we're reading a story, but when it's a character reading us a story within your story, then the non-existent people and their non-existent emotions feel even more fake.

    If Andrew is the character whose plot matters in the beginning, I'd suggest just following Andrew. To be blunt, if you wrote all of Luxes' book and realized it wasn't important enough to be its own book, maybe it's not important enough to be included in your series at all. Maybe he just shows up in book 2 with his own backstory that we occasionally get flashbacks of, or dialogue about. We don't need to know everything about every major character before they finally take the stage in the main story.
     
  11. mashers

    mashers Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I have a question. Is there a reason why you wrote Andrew’s story as being narrated by Luxes? I understand the pragmatic explanations you have given (the visions, their later friendship, the intertwining of their stories), but none of that matters to the reader in terms of their experience of actually reading it. It matters to the plot, but not to the POV you take when writing it.

    As others have said, I think it will really be unsatisfying for the reader to hear a main character being narrated by another character. I fear this will result in a very tell-y style (Luxes cannot show Andrew’s thoughts and feelings, only tell them). Even then, you won’t be able to tell everything, because Andrew won’t have told everything to Luxes. And remember, if Luxes is retelling Andrew’s perspective, he can only retell what Andrew has told him about that. As soon as you start introducing Luxes’ thoughts and interpretations (like, “he seemed distraught as he told me...”) then you have switched POV to Luxes, which is confusing for the reader. Furthermore, you won’t be able to show sufficient detail, as it would be unrealistic for Luxes to recall it (such as detailing the important aspects of non-verbal communication which can show feelings and intentions beyond dialogue).

    To illustrate this, think back to a time when someone told you an emotive tale about something they had experienced themselves. Think about how they were able to tell you how they felt, what they thought, how they interpreted what was happening, and all the other things that allowed you to empathise with their situation. Now recall a time when you heard a story third hand, and consider the differences.
     
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  12. slmurphy

    slmurphy New Member

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    The reason for this POV choice is that Andrew technically is the main character (or primary protagonist). The reader can gain a much more intimate perspective of the character through a third person narration. It's a common mistake to believe that a first person narration it more intimate. In fact, a first person narration can sometimes be less intimate than a third person. 'Andrew's perspective' does not necessarily mean 'first person narration'. Andrew's story is told from his perspective.

    Luxes is a key character, but one of the trilogy's underlying themes is that stories matter, and that they MUST be told. Luxes embodies that truth and becomes (in a sense) the author. Like I said above, Luxes is not interested in relaying facts as they happened, and he doesn't rely only on what Andrew tells him.

    Luxes' main interest is to tell a compelling story revolving around what happened. I intentionally avoid “he seemed distraught as he told me...” scenarios. Never during the narrative do we see Andrew relay the facts to Luxes. That happens after the story takes place. Luxes is looking back and telling the story to a new audience.

    This is a story about Andrew, not by Andrew. It's told by Luxes. However, Luxes' part in the story is pivotal. I don't see how I can remove his story line.

    I give it another once over. You guys have given me some excellent ideas for how to proceed, as well as many things to consider.

    Thanks again!
     
  13. mashers

    mashers Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Sorry for butchering your post, but some of your points from across it went together, so I've replied to them together.

    This is not uncommon in fiction. But it would more commonly involve the character's story being told by the narrator, not by another character, for the reasons I mentioned above. I just don't know how you can get close enough to Andrew's POV via Luxes without losing vital context which is personal to Andrew (i.e. internal states of which Luxes is not aware).


    I didn't mean to imply that first person was required. A narrator telling Andrew's story can still be third person.

    I don't want to sound like a nag, but are you certain of this? If Luxes is telling the story, then the story is either told from Luxes' perspective, or Luxes is omniscient and knows everything about Andrew. And that's a problem if Luxes is also in the story, since an omniscient perspective would impact on the plot. In short, as a reader I would be thinking "how does he know all this, and why didn't he do something about it at the time?"

    Ok, so is he telling his interpretation of Andrew's story? If so, you will probably have to make this very clear, throughout the telling of the story. So rather than "Andrew's stomach tied in knots" (Andrew's POV), you'll have to say "Andrew seemed anxious" (Luxes' POV, but from direct observation, which is a problem if he wasn't actually there when it happened), or "Andrew said his stomach tied in knots" (Luxes' POV at the time Andrew told him the story, but this could become linguistically clunky as you'll have to keep doing it in order to avoid a perceived shift in POV or omniscience).

    But the how does Luxes know about these things if he wasn't there?

    You don't have to. You can stay 3rd person, have Andrew and Luxes as POV characters, and shift POV between chapters as needed. Tell a bit of Andrew's story from his POV, and then shift and tell a bit of Luxes' from his POV.


    I think the problem you've got here is that, due to your desire for Luxes to be the storyteller, you've put him in the position of the narrator. But this is a problem, because he is also involved in the plot.
     
  14. Fernando.C

    Fernando.C Contributor Contributor

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    Hi there!
    This premise sound really interesting to me. Can it get confusing to readers? yes but it doesn't have to. It's all about the execution of it, you can totally make it work.

    1. The POV thing won't be confusing if you set it up right, I've read books with similar setup that worked great. If possible, try to make it clear from the get go that Luxes is the main narrator. Switching POVs doesn't bother me at all since I'm used to reading books with multiple POVs (though most of those stick to 3rd person). Just make sure that the transitions aren't jarring.

    Also I don't really see any issues with Andrew having more 'screen time' in the book, there's no rule that say both characters must have the exact same amount of words.

    2. The fact that the two Luxes and Andrew don't meet until midpoint book 2 could be frustrating to some readers, potentially. But then again, it depends on the story and your writing. You could make it work but since I don't know more about your story and the plot I can't really give you better advice about this particular issue.
     
  15. slmurphy

    slmurphy New Member

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    Don't worry, you don't sound like a nag. I'm loving the feedback (not used to it). I don't think I can communicate my vision without putting the whole book up here for you to read (my fault, not yours).

    I'll definitely take your suggestions into account. I'll see if changing Luxes to the third person is less confusing and doesn't hurt the readers perception of him.

    Thanks again, really appreciate it
     
  16. mashers

    mashers Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I did get the impression there as more going on than you could explain in a forum posting ;) It sounds like you’ve got a plan moving forward. I hope it turns out how you want it to :)
     

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