1. QualityPen

    QualityPen Member

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    Structuring Plot in a Series

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by QualityPen, Dec 10, 2016.

    I've spent months coming up with background information and world-building. I have the characters. I have the plot. But I need a structure.

    What I am planning to write is a complex epic fantasy series covering the lives of five different main characters over a span of about two dozen years from the starting date of the series to its conclusion. I have no idea how I should gather all of these stories together.

    My original thought was a set of five separate series, with three books each.
    Northwind
    Book 1: Character A is the main character, but character B is important. Character C is character B's sister but of little relevance.
    Book 2: Character A is the main character, but the book is about character B. Character C becomes an antagonist.
    Book 3: Character A is the main character, and the book is about him. Characters B is in the background, character C is not present.

    Southwind
    All about character C, takes place at the same time as Book 3 of Northwind

    Eastwind
    All about character D, who has no connection to characters A, B, or C.

    Westwind
    All about character E, who has no connection to any characters.

    5th Series (No name as of yet)
    Characters B, C, D, and E all rule empires and all believe they are destined by a prophecy to rule the human world. Character A is a king, but the other characters dismiss him as unimportant until he interferes by turning on his longtime friend, character B, and proves them severely wrong.
    ----

    That was the original structure, but I've grown to doubt that it is the best way to relate all of these characters' stories at the same time. The pacing would also be somewhat uneven. Does it even make sense to divide stories about the same world and time period into different series?

    The alternate idea was to condense each series into a single very long book, around 1,000 pages each. I could then merge books 1 and 2 of Northwind and potentially switch the main character perspective to character B since it is about him anyways. Maybe I could make both characters A and B the main characters. Then I could expand Book 3 of Northwind and publish it separate, as Sea Wind. Granted, that disrupts the flow of direction based names. South, East, and West could remain as they are, just turned into books instead of series.
    ----

    The problem I see with both of these approaches is that each very lengthy series/book focuses on a different character, so by the point of the 5th series/book readers might have all but forgotten about characters A and B. I'm not even sure that readers would like to read a series where each book switches to a new character's perspective. That leaves the option of writing them all into the story at once, with every book focusing on each character's story at once, like A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones. But I feel like it would be difficult for me to tell all of these stories simultaneously and if I did go down this road, it would quickly start to resemble a Game of Thrones rip-off (which my story is not), just because of the way the plot is structured.

    I'm really hoping that you guys with more experience may have some insights that will help me choose the structure for the story.
     
  2. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    Okay,

    A couple things just to cover before I get into this. When I say Structure, I mean the framework of the entire story or Saga. When I say Plot, I mean the events that take place within the framework of your story.

    What it sounds like you are trying to do is have 'mini series' that deals with one main character, but somehow each mini-series tie into each other for one epic Saga. I am doing the same thing, so I understand the frustration this takes.

    For the Saga as a whole: You need to have a Saga goal. Let's look at Harry Potter, while seven books, the main goal for the series is that Harry defeat Voldemort. I understand you have multiple main characters, but the Saga still needs a 'final goal' that concludes the whole thing. So before you write this whole epic saga, just think of how you want it to end, even if it is in general terms that way you can change some things as you go along if you want.

    Next, you need to have each of the series's goal figured out, but at the same time, you need to have each series moves the saga as a whole to its glorious conclusion.

    Last, you need to know the book goal for each story figured out. The story goal might not have anything to do with the saga as a whole, but something that happens in it pushes the Sage forward. Let's take the Hobbit, Bilbo finding the one Ring is a Major Event that sets Lord of The Rings into motion but in The Hobbit, Bilbo finding the Ring was not the Story goal, it was a subplot that took place.

    Seeing how you have Five series, this is how I would break the whole thing as followed (though you can shift the structure around to better fit your needs.)

    Series 1: Act I of the Saga.
    Series 2: Start of Act II to Pinch point of the Saga.
    Series 3: Pinch point to All is Lost point of the Saga (This series will have to be dealt with carefully. The Midpoint of the series, should be the Midpoint of the Saga as a whole.)
    Series 4: All is Lost point to the end of Act II of the Saga.
    Series 5: Act III of the Saga

    What you are trying to attempt is very complex in terms of structure (but doable). It will involve planning and foresight on your part.

    There is a lot I could suggest to approach this, but my first suggestion would be to figure out how you want this Saga to end.
     
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  3. EnginEsq

    EnginEsq Member

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    This seems like a contradiction.
     
  4. QualityPen

    QualityPen Member

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    The story is told from character A's perspective, but character B is more important in this plot and is the driving force behind the main events.
     
  5. blklizard

    blklizard Member

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    Here's my opinions and recommendations since I, oddly enough, am looking at this as a potential structure for one of my WIP.

    Planning is vital to this sort of story and, honestly, I'm terrible at that. I prefer to just write out the entire novel and fix everything afterwards. My current approach is focusing on one character in one book who somehow ties everyone together. You said you have two characters who are tied to nobody. If they aren't tied at all, then you are going to have a hard time bringing them into the series. Even something small, like hearing a rumor of someone in distant land, is stronger than no ties whatsoever.

    Depending on how this first characters ties to the other characters, I then plan out the plots for the other books. Your characters are going to be different so they have different motivations in life. I feel one book is needed to flesh out their backstory and their character development. I know that it seems nice to include multiple characters in one book with weighted coverage but you are running the risk of not developing a character enough.

    Since you are using the same timeline (I'm assuming that is the case), avoid using the same setting (location) for your characters if you can avoid it. Maybe break a continent into five separate regions and let each region be the primary focus of each character. You mentioned five empires so this is perfect since they won't come in conflict until later in time. In addition, never think of yourself ripping off another book's overall structure because the author likely got inspiration somewhere else. Let your characters and story make this unique because they are what readers look at when they pick a book.

    Take notes of what you see as good ideas. The ideas might not fit for one character but could work perfectly for someone else.
     
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  6. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    This is a Subtext problem, not a structure problem. Let me explain. The reason The Great Gatsby and Moby Dick are not told from the Main Character's P.O.V (just like how you are suggesting for this story of yours.) is that Gatsby and the Captain both have Manias and Obsessions (In the form of Daisy and The Whale respectfully.) What this means is they would have been unreliable narrators and is the reason why the Authors choose to tell their story from someone else's perspective.

    I know you are asking about just structure right now, but I thought I would point out that you need to approach that problem not with structure in mind, but with subtext in mind.
     
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  7. QualityPen

    QualityPen Member

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    Indeed. This is my exact concern with trying to write all of the characters at the same time.

    The mini-series names are an indication of where the story takes place. There is a central ocean and a ring-like Pangaea of four major landmasses connected by land bridges. Northwind takes place on the northern landmass, etc. Character C would appear as the main character of Southwind because she flees across the ocean due to the events of Northwind. The other two come to power on their own "continents" and have their own stories. The premise is that in the fifth and final mini-series/book all of the characters and their armies coalesce from the different parts of the world for an epic conclusion (still working out what that will be).

    Thank you, this is helpful advice.

    I see. I always thought that this was simply done as a stylistic choice, so thank you for correcting my previous notions. I will definitely take a good look at making character B the MC for Northwind.

    I'm sorry, I don't mean to take any more of your time than I have already, but could you please clarify what you mean by Act, Pinch Point, and All is Lost? I know the terms, I'm just a little confused by the usage.

    The thing is that I currently don't have an entity that is the single threat to every character throughout the saga. I intend to "tease" a great evil in Northwind and Southwind. In Northwind characters A and B unleash the greatest servant of the god of corruption and fire and he immediately annihilates a major city by himself, then takes over the minds of the residents. He is stopped, or I should say contained, in the same book by character C. The events of their interaction are what causes her to then flee south and sets up Southwind. But after Northwind, the main antagonist from the point of view of C, D, and E (and later A) is character B. However, I still want some of the audience to continue to view character B as the protagonist.

    I will definitely do so!
     
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  8. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    Certainly,

    An Act Break is where the character makes a decision that either will start the adventure (as in where the Character decides to go their adventure) or will drive the story towards its conclusion (This is where the MC decides to face the final Villian.)

    Pinch point and The All is Lost Moment are related to your Midpoint. Traditionally, A midpoint of your Story is a positive event, while The Pinch point and The All is lost Moment are negative events in the story (- + -), however, you can design the story to do the opposite in where the pinch point and The All is lost moments are Positive, and the midpoint is Negative (+ - +). Last, while the event(s) can be positive, they must be hollow Victories, this means that yes the Hero accomplished their goal, but it did not achieve the effect they were hoping to have.

    Pinch point and The all is Lost Moment have a little bit of a different function.

    Pinch point: Raises the stakes by putting the Character in a bind.

    All is Lost moment: A tragedy occurs that forces your character to decide to face the final (villain) of the story.

    I want to use The fellowship of The Ring to illustrate what I just said up above (since it is an epic Fantasy like your own.)

    Break into Act II: When Frodo decides to go to Rivendale, this is the decision that breaks the story into Act II (Frodo decides to go on to the adventure.)

    Pinch point: When Frodo Gets stabbed at Weather Top by the Wraith (The Nazgul) this is the pinch point, as it raises the Stakes. Now Frodo MUST get to Rivendale or he will Die.

    Midpoint: Frodo gets to Rivendell. This is a Hollow Victory though, yes Frodo has gotten the ring to Rivendell but the One Ring still has to be dealt with. Also in terms on Council of Elrond, While that might take place after the Midpoint of the Fellowship of the Ring, it is the Last Chapter in ACT I of the whole Trilogy. That is where the Heroes of the story decide what to do with the One Ring, the Fellowship is Born, and the set off on their adventure. (This is a great example of what is means to have a story event move events forward within the saga structure.)

    All is Lost moment: Gandalf's Fall. We will know he fights the Balrog, and we all know how that battle ends. This is the Tragic event of The Fellowship of the Ring that sets the whole Act III into motion. (If Gandolf had lived would Boromir still had betrayed the Fellowship? Would Frodo, heartbroken over Gandalf's death, have left the fellowship? Not really sure, but I can see the story taking some drastic turns had this event not happened.)

    I hope my explanation and illustration helps you see the events in the story that I am referring to.

    I wish you the best of luck.
     
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  9. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    I'm using a First Person Peripheral Narrator in my WIP too: Alec is the first-person narrator, but Charlie is the main character.

    @QualityPen In addition to OJB's reading list, have you ever read the original Sherlock Holmes canon (Holmes is the main character, Watson is the first-person narrator)?
     
  10. QualityPen

    QualityPen Member

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    I have indeed. It was fairly interesting to meet Holmes, with all of his unforgettable quirks, from Watson's perspective. It leaves the audience wondering not only how the mystery will unfold but how Sherlock will solve it.
     

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