I’ve been reading much more than writing in recent weeks. Now I’m starting to realize that my extensive reading was too deeply affecting how I was thinking about my writing.
Take my story-in-progress as an example — I’ll refer to it as “Jaed and Aston” for now. This is a coming-of-age story, principally following two young lovers (Jaed and Aston) as they come to terms with their changing society and each others’ views on that society. My initial idea was to focus the narrative solely on their perspectives, alternating first-person point-of-view chapters or sections between the two.
Then, after getting caught up in the multifaceted universes of Warhammer 40,000, The Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire, and The Mongoliad, I started to think that I was limiting the narrative too much. Each of these series features chapters or sections which jump back and forth between various characters’ points of view, providing a necessary context and perspective on circumstances or knowledge to which not every character is privy.
My protagonists are not all-knowing, and thus cannot provide all of the necessary context to build their world — the world is built around them. So I figured, why not build up a few other characters and have them do other cool stuff, separate from the main protagonists. This would only add more depth to the story.
So I built more characters and outlined plots for them to follow which would bolster the main story arc. However, all of this extra attention on various side characters made me lose focus on the real purpose of the story — the reason I began writing it. I had lost sight of Jaed and Aston and the important challenges they are faced with. I had come up with some great ideas to build their world a little further out than their limited perspectives, but in doing so I had also forgotten that it’s their story that should drive the narrative.
I tried to break down the narrative limits I had set on the story, and ended up going too far. So I went back, built a new outline to bolster the respective narratives of my Jaed and Aston, while maintaining some of the ideas I had brainstormed for peripheral characters. I had to remind myself that the peripheral characters are there to serve the main characters’ narrative
And that’s how I learned that narrative must have limits.