Monday, October 11, 2010

Fictional Spice

I'm sure you've all read a story that spans multiple books.  The kind of story I'm talking about is the kind where book 2 picks up where book 1 ends.  Harry Potter is like this; so is Lord of the Rings, to name to popular examples.

Very often this type of story is hard to write because it is usually longer and takes more time.  Additionally, you generally need more than one installment in the story completed before you can even get the first one published (unless you self-publish, of course).  This is the issue I face now, with only one novel completed and several more to go.

It would have been smarter for me to write a story about a character and then if the book was successful to write another book with the same character.  But I didn't do that mostly because I wasn't planning to write a series of books in the first place.

My original idea was one book and one story.  But what I found as a revised it and pulled it apart was that the original two chapters (40 pages) could be made into 70000+ word novel.  All I needed was a slight adjustment to the plot and avoid my tendency not to explore any given moment in a scene. 

Example:  A stranger enters town.  The main character is suspicious of him because he is a stranger and has intelligence that a precious gem will be stolen.  Putting two and two together, the stranger is suspected.

There are many ways to go from here, but I took the conventional path, as this was my first novel.  The stranger is the thief and when the gem is stolen, the protagonist pursues the thief and captures him.  Not much of a story, but then it was only meant to be part of a larger book.

But when I changed my assumptions and didn't let a proscribed plot dominant the story, the thief gets away.  Now the main character must catch him, which he does.  When he catches up to the thief, the gem has been sold to the person who hired him in the first place.  Now the hero must retrace the thief's steps to reclaim the gem.  But it's not that simple.  The new owner isn't about to let it go without a fight...

You get the idea. I complicated the plot considerably and in the process end up telling a much interesting tale.  If in fact, I'm told that you can use frustration to plot out any story.  At every turn, you can frustrate your characters so that they have some new challenge to overcome.  I'm not sure but that, although it is true that each complication I added did frustrate my main character.

So if your story is dull and needs a little flavor try adding a few complications and see what happens.

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