Plotting for Multiple Character Arcs | #AmWriting

writinghead710In my last #amwriting post (I Am A Weary World-Builder), I had just finished plotting the entire novel from MC’s perspective. But I’ve quickly realized that there are three other characters with separate agendas whose actions during the same novel span will be important to know just as thoroughly so that when they appear at pivotal plot points they’re actions don’t just seem to come out of nowhere.

These characters include my MC’s mysterious frenemy with whom she makes a deal, a female mentor whose motivations are ambiguous, and her grandfather who she learns is a part of a conspiracy she didn’t know existed.

I was quite intimidated about how to go about doing this plotting. I had plotted the MC’s story in 27 notecards that comprised the manuscript in the Scrivener doc where I’d decided to keep everything, so I didn’t immediately know how to integrate the other plot lines into it. Inspiration hit as I realized I could make a table in Word with 27 rows for each chapter and four columns to designate each of the different characters’ journeys. Looking at my MC’s storyline, I could mark where the side characters appear in her story and then fill in the blanks in their individual storylines!

New Developments

From this new plotting I’ve been working on, I’ve learned a few new things about the world. I’ve also been inspired by my recent reading for my German Literature & Ideas class in which I’ve read All Quiet on the Western Front and some historical accounts that explain Germany’s behavior during WWI. Note: My novel is not historical fiction, but I’m taking inspiration from the societal tensions of real European history around WWI & WWII for the world conflict my alternative-universe-steampunk fantasy.

I’ve also made some potentially final decisions about the novel’s form! I’ve long imagined having each chapter start with a poem or fictional excerpt of a folk tale or historical commentary on the events of the story as if the story (or the novel) is itself narrative account of history in the world. Kind of like what Erika Johansen does in The Queen of the Tearling. But I’ve also struggled with what perspective to write in.

I want this book and series to be really engaging and for readers to put themselves in the place of the protagonist (which is generally done by writing in the 1st person POV), but I also want to be able to give as full a picture of the story as possible by showing what other characters are also up to. I know I don’t want to write from the 1st person for multiple characters, so the only option I appear to have is to write from the 3rd person limited POV of multiple characters. Limited so that I can dive into their thoughts and readers are able to have that closeness of understanding the characters.

After making this decision I realized that I might want to add the villain’s perspective, which is a bit of a terrifying prospect as I’ve not read any fantasy recently that closely depicts the villain’s activity. I think it’s unpopular because it can take away some of the surprise in sneak attacks on the MCs.

sneakattack1

I think I do not think I will directly dive into the head of the villain though, I think I will narrate about them through the eyes of a subordinate, because if I am thinking about my book as a piece of fantastical historical fiction, then the villain probably would not have a say in the way they are portrayed in history. (“History is written by the victors.”)

End Note

I am still working on the plot lines of characters I mention at the beginning of this post, but I’ve not decided on all the characters from whose POVs I will be writing. I like the idea of actually integrating some of the action in the plot lines of the side characters into the novel as a whole, but perhaps not directly through their eyes. So that’s something I’ll probably decide and shift as I write.

I’m also beginning to think I may not be writing the first draft of this novel directly into the Scrivener document, but using it more after the fact to organize the story as I’m editing and adding more details. Does anyone else feel a need to do this? I just feel like there’s something inflexible about the way sections of text in Scrivener are separated that make it harder to write freely.

Next week I will be posting my October writing plans in the form of a Pre-NaNoWriMo Goals checklist inspired by Ely’s “Pre-NaNoWriMo Goals | 2016 Edition“! I feel like I’m really close to being able to write and can’t wait to have no excuses to start. I can’t believe it’s almost October! I’m sure I’ll encounter new problems and roadblocks as I write (which I’ll talk about in these blog posts obviously), but I feel like I’m ready for them!

Thank you for reading!
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4 Comments

  1. Sounds like you have a good handle on where you’re going with this project. Personally, I love 3rd person limited, and there’s nothing wrong with slipping a little more toward omniscient if you want to write from your villain’s perspective.

    1. I think I love 3rd person limited. Particularly when it’s done really well. I hope I’m up to the task! I usually forget to think about tenses and POV when I’m writing, so it might also become more of a task when I’m in the editing stage. But it’s useful to think about now.

      Thanks for commenting ^_^

  2. I’ve been doing this exact thing recently, and your tip about the chart with columns is really helpful!

    If you’re looking for villain help (especially if you’re trying to make them pitiable or likable), I’d definitely recommend reading Truthwitch by Susan Dennard. She writes from the POV of her villain, Aeduan, extremely well. You definitely get to understand his motives and thought process, but at the same time she doesn’t take away any surprises! She also shows his flaws and good traits just the same as the other characters, which makes him very multi-dimensional.

    Ellie | On the Other Side of Reality

    1. I’m glad that the chart idea has helped! Helping others is a big part of why I love blogging about writing.

      I tried to read Truthwitch earlier this year and unfortunately had to DNF it (I wasn’t feeling the worldbuilding or the main characters), but I may look into it again if it can help with writing villains. I’m not sure how likable I want the true villain to be and reading how others write villains might help inspire.

      Thanks for commenting! ^_^

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