Sometimes It’s Okay to Consolidate Your Narrative

Apologies for the late post today. I was helping a friend move some very heavy, very unwieldy couches across town. Although, I’m sure it will be Saturday by the time anyone reads this anyway.

I had a bit of a revelation recently regarding my first draft of The Warden of Everfeld: Legacy, and it’s really helped me focus my writing and plotting efforts, hopefully for the foreseeable future.

Driving home from the family lake house on Tuesday, I realized that my plot for my second novel was too ambitious.

I had Arden as my primary character, Orel, Everstrong, and a heretofore unknown diplomat as my secondaries, and ideas for about eight tertiary characters, some with only one point-of-view section each.

It has felt like too much for a while, but I justified it to myself by saying, “I need Character J here, because Event M is going to happen.”

What I didn’t consider was: Why does Event M need to happen in this place? Why shouldn’t it happen somewhere else, somewhere that two of my main characters are already heading, that also fits in with a budding narrative.

I know, I’m speaking in vague terms. Basically, I had this whole subplot planned out, which necessitated at least two tertiary POV characters. But it was weighing down my own outlines. 40,0000+ words into my draft, I still hadn’t introduced these characters. Could I really justify adding yet another set of personalities when I’m already expecting the reader to keep up with six?

So I thought about it on my long drive and realized I could fulfill the overall narrative I wanted without having so many points of view. I consolidated my story to those six characters, and eliminated the need for the others.

What makes this really exciting for me is that one of those characters who has been ripped from the comfy confines of WoEL just may end up being a centerpiece in another future novel, or perhaps a short story.

When Consolidating Your Narrative Can Be a Good Idea

Ultimately, by cutting out these characters and shifting their intended plots to existing characters, I’ve removed some of the mental hurdles from my drafting. By consolidating my narrative, I’m achieving a number of shorter and longer term advantages:

  1. My first draft will run more smoothly, because I have fewer characters to introduce and develop (and provide background on).
  2. Readers will have fewer narratives to follow. Sometimes having a lot of inter-weaving narrative threads can be exciting (like in The Wheel of Time). But other times, it can be cumbersome and confusing. I think my example belongs in the latter.
  3. I have future story ideas! I’ve always known in the back of my mind that The Warden of Everfeld could (and probably should) be a continual series of loosely interconnected stories and characters. Well, I now have a solid foundation for a third set of stories.

That’s it for now. How have you dealt with overly complicated plots in your writing?

Steve D

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