As I continue to create and develop the many characters that will feature in the first part of the Epic Saga that I have dubbed the MASC Chronicles (as most series these days are entitled as such), I’ve also been figuring out the overall narrative structure to the individual novels as well as the series itself (not to mention how the events in this first series will impact the subsequent two series and its characters). These two elements are inevitably intertwined, as the characters’ actions, personalities and personal history will affect the shape of the plot, and vice versa.
Thus far I’ve been focused on the core group of recurring characters in the first series and their general personalities, overall appearance, and a bit of their backstory (though much of it is still tentative, as random ideas pop into my head that lead me to rethink or edit characteristics or background detail). I’ve also sketched out the general narrative for the first series, though it’s very broad plot sketches for the majority of the first series – I’ve put a bit more detail in the first two novels. I do seem to do well with general plotting – I have years’ worth of scribbling in notebooks, and Word files about general ideas, general musings and general character sketches. It’s the details that keep me awake and usually perplexed.
I have (many) ideas of how I’d like the overall story arc to unfold, but it’s the details that often puzzle me – the interactions, the conversations, even the literal detail of the setting, whether it be the location or the character description. Of course, as these novels are to be mysteries (of the Golden Age kind, more cozy than hard-boiled) with splashes of steampunk, and inklings of supernatural/occult, there is only so much detail that can be revealed to the reader (and the characters). Trouble is, as the creator of this world (which will most likely be a slightly alternate universe than our own), I would need to figure out all the angles, plant the red herrings and sprinkle enough clues throughout without it being too obvious or formulaic (I’ve read several mystery novels wherein I was able to figure out who the culprit/murderer was well before the end of the novel, as well as novels in a series wherein the overall plot followed a set pattern, which brought down the suspense of the story). However, in developing the characters and mapping out the overall plots, I have adopted the private detective/sidekick format, with the sidekick as the narrator, as an homage Hercule Poirot/Captain Arthur Hastings and Sherlock Holmes/Doctor John Watson, detecting duos created by Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Such as the details with the protagonists and their quirks, equal attention must be paid to the antagonists, and other shady characters – of course with all of these characters and their motives and motivations, there are levels of complexity to be interwoven, and in turn interwoven into the plots in which the characters find themselves. Again, it’s all in the details – knowing how to plot out events, finding the right pacing and plunking in twists and turns (though not too few and not too many) – there lies the secret of a well written novel.
But then again, as the saying goes, “the devil is in the details” (and considering how this saga has changed over the years, and even over the past few months, that might also be a literally true). Time will tell how it will all turn out.