An integral part in creating a story is figuring out the overall structure for the narrative, and how that narrative will fit within the confines of a series and/or saga (unless the story about which you are writing is intended to be a stand-alone novel – in that case, it’s the narrative structure of that single novel is of paramount concern). As stated (briefly) in previous entries, I’ve committed myself to writing an Epic Saga (and yes, the capital letters is warranted, as the scope of the MASC Chronicles, the chosen name for intended Epic Saga, extends across a vast amount of time, touches upon multiple genres, and features a very large cast of characters) and pinpointing the exact narrative structure and sequence of events has been a challenging endeavor. one that I relish in figuring out – at some point there will be index cards stuck on a cork board, with notes and musings written in a vast array of colors, which will (hopefully) provide a visual layout of the intricate ties the characters and plot points that will occur within each series, and how everything will make sense within the entire saga. I probably should invest in a whiteboard to map out the sequence of events with the same zeal as a football coach who charts out game plans (or whatever the correct terminology is – I’m not much of a sports fan).
While I still struggle with figuring out the sequence of events throughout the series/saga, I have (tentatively) figured out how each novel is to be structured (technically speaking of course – the actual sequence of events within the story is still under construction, as it were), and it alludes to my other great passion in life: theatre. I am quite an avid theatergoer, and overall theatre nerd/geek/dork – I have a great love for musicals and plays, amassing a good amount of (quasi-useless) knowledge about various shows, composers, playwrights and actors associated with any given production. I count among my acquaintances a number of theater actors (many of whom have acted on Broadway and off), and also count among my good friends composers and playwrights (some of whom have had their work performed off-off Broadway). If I could get over my quasi-inability to write plausible, non-melodramatic dialogue, I could be a playwright myself (of course, I do hope to adapt my own novels to the stage and/of screen one day).
But I digress (slightly).
A musical or a play is usually structured with two acts, and an intermission in between – there are some plays/musicals that only have one-act, and then there are others that have multiple acts/intermissions. More times than not, the action in a play/musical introduces a problem, task or other undertaking for which the characters need to resolve,overcome, or accomplish – obstacles are strewn along the way, and there is a build up to a dramatic high point by the end of the first act, sometimes a startling revelation, or cataclysmic event or, in the case of some musicals, a rousing, self-affirming anthem. Regardless of which device is used, it’s something that almost requires the need for an intermission, so that the audience can process what has transpired on stage (and a time to stretch one’s legs, make a restroom run or to buy merchandise and/or drinks). The second act picks up the action left off from the first act and progresses to the next dramatic high point wherein loose ends are tied, problems are resolved, and/or a task has been achieved (or not, depending on how the play/musical is structured). The aforementioned is only a vastly general outline of what plays/musicals are (and one I’ve just thought up from my experiences in seeing plays and musicals).
OK. the point of all that was to quasi-illustrate how I plan to structure my novels – that there will be essentially three parts: two acts and an intermission (though in the case of my novel(s), this will technically be more an interlude than an intermission). Each chapter will be a rough equivalent to a scene and will build up to a high point, wherein the interlude will impart other relevant information independent (maybe) to the narrative flow. Per my (intended) narrative structure, each “act” will be imparted in 1st person perspective (one I have only recently explored, as I have always tended to write in 3rd person omnipresent, which will the perspective used in the interlude/intermission). The actual details on how each scene/chapter will unfold is among the next set of tasks I will undertake.
What I (somewhat) know is that each novel will be a (quasi) self-contained story, and will be one aspect of a larger narrative – akin to a massive play cycle such as The Coast of Utopia trilogy, or perhaps as epic as Wagner’s Ring Cycle [at the rate I’m plotting out the Epic Saga, the latter might be a better comparison]. Of course, structuring my novels in this fashion is a bit forward thinking on my part in anticipation of the possibility of adapting these stories into plays (maybe a musical), television series or film series. (Wishful thinking, perhaps, but one needs dreams).
Figuring out the structure of a novel (or several) is essential to the writing process, the rest is in the details (and figuring out who goes where and when and how and why is an interesting challenge). Time travel may be involved somehow and…