Saturday, March 07, 2009

Story Wrangling

image I’m of the wrangle-a-story-until-it-works school, but I’m certainly not saying it’s the best way to go about things.

I’ve been wrangling with one story for a year, in between writing other stuff. I’m only a couple thousand away from the end, but it still needs some wrangling.

When a story isn’t working, I start asking questions. Right now, I’ve got two interweaving plots that share the same climax.

”Why” is a particular good question. First up: why not just write two stories if I have two story lines? Why should they both share the same book? Why are they equal?

What is each story line trying to say? If they’re saying the same thing, is one redundant? Should they say the same thing? Or should they say different things? Should they say different things that make the same point?

And what about the characters? Often, with multiple story lines, readers put up with the other characters for the sake of their favorite character. Are my two characters and storylines equally interesting?

image We have four character journeys and five character relationships to deal with. That’s… nine arcs. (Yeah, I’m skipping one.)

Nine arcs. That’s a whole lot more questions.

How do you wrangle a story into working? And what do you think of stories with more than one main character and storyline? Ever try one?

22 bonus scribbles:

G 3/07/2009 01:28:00 PM  

I had such a problem with one particular story that I left it alone for about a year.

Finally, after doing the simple act of writing a four sentence outline, it gave me just enough motivation to chug along and come to about the last six pages in only about a month and half of writing.

As for writing with multiple characters and multiple story lines, I do it all the time. I like a challenge, and for me, doing two distinctive plotlines and melding them together at the very end is the only way to go.

Travis Erwin 3/07/2009 02:17:00 PM  

I like novels with two stories but by the end they need to interweave somehow so that one needed the pother for the whole thing to work.

spyscribbler 3/07/2009 02:23:00 PM  

G, it is fun! I've been wrestling this one all over the place. I keep adding words, which means I'll have to cut scenes, later. That's cool!

I'm hoping to finish it this weekend. Okay, next week at the very latest!

spyscribbler 3/07/2009 02:24:00 PM  

Travis, that's IT! That's it exactly! That's what's been holding me up! I just need a little tweak, and it will make the end more of an end for the both of them.

Oh cool! Thanks, Travis!

Christina 3/07/2009 03:10:00 PM  

lol. I saw my name on your Twitter. I'm actually enjoying this Internet function. Walmart! That's where those girl scouts hang out at. I think I might go stalk me some cookies and quit eating everyone elses.

I feel like I'm wrangling a lot of stories lately. *le sigh*

Edie 3/07/2009 04:54:00 PM  

My last book had four women protagonists and they each had a story. My wip has one main romance, one subplot romance, and a bunch of other secondary characters. It's fun but a mess. I need to do a lot of wrangling.

Richmond Writer 3/07/2009 08:08:00 PM  

What's the verdict with the red hair. I want to see!

Lisa 3/07/2009 08:30:00 PM  

Did you ever read Shadows of the wind- it had a story within a story.
As travis said, as long as they connect, although I prefer to see them connect as you go.

Charles Gramlich 3/07/2009 09:40:00 PM  

Cold in the Light had multiple main characters and multiple plot lines. Man it was a choir but it was also very satisfying work.

Josephine Damian 3/08/2009 11:02:00 AM  

One word. Simplify.

Three words: Less is more.

BTW, absolutely fabu blog design -I just love The Reading Woman calendar/images.

spyscribbler 3/08/2009 03:15:00 PM  

Christina, Twitter is more fun once you figure out how to do the replying and direct messaging. You should check out Tweetdeck! :-)

spyscribbler 3/08/2009 03:16:00 PM  

Edie, that makes me shake my head in amazement! FOUR?! Whew! I'm having enough trouble handling two women! I think it's one of the hardest things I've ever written.

spyscribbler 3/08/2009 03:16:00 PM  

LOL, Richmond! I'm getting a haircut next week, and I can't find the shade I want. I'm going to Sally's Beauty Supply. I want copper!

spyscribbler 3/08/2009 03:17:00 PM  

Lisa, I'm actually in the middle of it! It's a WONDERFUL story! I'm enjoying the layers. I love layers!

spyscribbler 3/08/2009 03:18:00 PM  

Charles, I hope this ends up being satisfying. It is, sorta, but right now it's more in the chore stage! :-)

spyscribbler 3/08/2009 03:19:00 PM  

Josephine, thanks! I actually didn't get the images from the Reading Calendar, but I have always wanted one of them! No one around here sells them. Just a silly thing I've always wanted but never got. It would be so easy to order it, LOL!

Barbara Martin 3/09/2009 12:18:00 AM  

In my first manuscript I have two main plots and two sub-plots, plus four main characters and six sub-characters that have important roles and inter-relate with the others.

Question for Spy: I have heard that having two characters with names beginning with the same initials is bad for a reader to wrangle their memory with. Is this true? I have accidently provided two characters with names where this occurs, and I love their names.

spyscribbler 3/09/2009 12:07:00 PM  

Wow, that's a handful to deal with, Barbara! About your question, I'm no expert, LOL. I'm one of those people who have trouble remembering names, so I'm probably a bad person to ask. I do get confused with same letter names, but that's just me! Like I said, I'm bad with names. :-)

Melanie Avila 3/10/2009 04:04:00 PM  

My nano novel has multiple things going on, but they're all closely related and I while they have their own arcs, the storylines aren't independent of each other.

Your comment about when you like one more character than the other is so true for me - I hate when I'm loving a book but wishing the author had dumped the other character. And I'm really hoping people won't think that about the subplot I'm currently writing!

spyscribbler 3/10/2009 04:10:00 PM  

Aw, Melanie, I know that fear well! I know sometimes I skim the other character's bits so I can find out what happened to another.

I really wouldn't to have me as a reader.

Carolyn 3/11/2009 05:52:00 PM  

I wrote the first chapter of "Prima" years before I finished it. I just didn't know where to go with it when I started (this is well before I became such a linear writer).
Sometimes it works best to just tuck it away for a while, and come back to it when you feel more inspired (if you have that luxury!)


spyscribbler 3/11/2009 06:51:00 PM  

Carolyn! My friend Carolyn! It is SO COOL to see you here! :-) I'm so excited!

I picked up the linear writing from you. Heck, I picked up almost everything about writing from you!