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  3. Thoughts/recommendations on "partitioned" narrative?

User Info: CloverKitten

7 months ago#1
Please bear with me while I fumble through this explanation; I'm not arrogant/naive enough to think I've come up with a new form of writing, but I've yet to find even the basic nomenclature to quickly identify what I'm asking about.

I'm working on writing a series of novels -- please just bear with me, I'm being driven by a muse of compulsion rather than a need to get published -- and have decided that I'll be "partitioning" the narrative into several forms of chapters.

(((And for context, the series is pretty sprawling and decentralized in its presentation, with no clear singular main character. At best, you could pare it down to 3 candidates as "the mains", and even that has an extreme number of caveats. ... But that's not what this topic is about.)))

The following is a simplification, but there are four main forms of chapters, all clearly identified and interwoven in chronological order:

1. The main chapters. These are the plot movers, the pivotal events of the story, the big battles, the major character events for the central-ish cast. These are designed to be able to be read independently from the other three forms while still briskly telling a coherent story, with the end of each chapter identifying where the next main chapter starts. Since this is a gaming site, lets half-jokingly call these chapters the Chrono Trigger-pacing experience.

2. The development chapters. These delve further into the thoughts and relationships and smaller events of the central-ish cast, focusing more on who they are than on what they're doing. I could elaborate but you're already familiar with "character development" and the descriptions for the other forms should fill in any uncertainties.

3. The episodic chapters. These primarily deal with either fringe side characters (who don't fit into form 2) or "one step short of info dump" dives into other subjects and details of the setting (of an indulgence I wouldn't permit without this partitioning). An example is a chapter where a UN ambassador publicly presents his nation's recent actions in the form of a detailed description of just war theory, done both to inform/provoke the reader and to mobilize his own citizens into a "change hearts and minds" internet campaign of influencing other nations.

4. The non-canon chapters. I'll keep it brief; these are much more lighthearted than the other forms and primarily depict interactions and character dynamics that "didn't actually happen but totally would've under different circumstances". Kinda like form 2, except non-canon and a wild departure from the rules, norms and tone of all the other forms. Sometimes cartoonishly so.

From what I envision, my series is ~20% each for forms 1 and 4, and ~30% each for forms 2 and 3.

Instead of trying to explain the intended merits of this approach, I'll let my description stand for itself.

I can't be the first person to try writing this way; is there a term for it? Any examples I could read? General thoughts on it? Is this a common amateur folly?

User Info: OzymandiasIV

7 months ago#2
If there is a term for it, I don't know what it is, but I'm sure plenty of people have attempted something akin to this in spirit.

Honestly, though... it sounds like you're just partitioning off different elements that generally make a flowing narrative so you can focus on only one aspect of craft for whatever segment you're writing. It doesn't sound like the fundamental elements of the four chapter types are any different from each other. Most people don't want sections or scenes of a news reporter vomiting backstory at them. Weaving that into the narrative is simply a better experience.

The non-canon chapters sound like comic-relief, only... I don't understand why you'd have one-off chapters of events that aren't actually taking place. I could imagine that coming off as chapters from previous drafts you couldn't keep as the story developed but loved too much to get rid of. It'd be like if a blooper reel intermittently cut into the run of a movie.
Sucking at something is the first step to becoming sort of good at something.

User Info: The-Grand-Nagus

7 months ago#3
Sounds pretty transgressive to me but I'm just a recovering mendicant so I could be way off base...
War is Peace Freedom is Slavery Ignorance is Strength
Who controls the past controls the future who controls the present controls the past

User Info: OzymandiasIV

7 months ago#4
The-Grand-Nagus posted...
Sounds pretty transgressive to me but I'm just a recovering mendicant so I could be way off base...

*thumbs up* Always good to learn something new.
Sucking at something is the first step to becoming sort of good at something.

User Info: StarryKnights

7 months ago#5
Being as I don't recall ever reading something of the style you propose, Clover, I can't necessarily argue for or against its merits. I'd need to read a sample of it, first.

However! Cut the non-canon parts out. They will detract, having added nothing to the plot or characters in the canon sections.

Imagine the dream sequences in Ender's Game, minus the substance. Yeah...
"A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory." ~ Leonard Nimoy

User Info: LordQuidigibul

7 months ago#6
Trainspotting might have elements of this - it occasionally has sections that serve no purpose to the overall plot except to add character development - although I feel you'd probably find better examples in video games, rather than novels, like Fire Emblem or Tales games where you have those skits between characters that don't usually in and of themselves actually move the plot forward.

At any rate, non-canon parts would probably annoy potential readers. Hell, as the writer, it might even annoy you since you could easily get confused keeping track of what "actually happened" and what "didn't happen" within your own story. The non-canon part just sounds like an unnecessary headache and would be better served as some kind of spin-off thing on its own later, if you still wanted to write that section.
The name... As in a pound or a quid. As pronounced by a newborn.

User Info: lucthelad

6 months ago#7
I've always wondered if the Romance of the Three Kingdom book is like this, where there are tons of characters and tons stories instead of it primarily following one or even a few characters. Like at the beginning it would cover Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei only to then be covering literally the next generation of characters later (like Liu Chan, Jiang Wei, etc.).
<cite>HelpMePlox posted...</cite>
A 1:3 ratio would mean that out of a 100 RPG's, 66.6 would be J and 33.3 would be W.

User Info: CloverKitten

6 months ago#8
I've been revolving on how I want to respond to this topic, but screw it it's been a month so let's just go.

Thank you for the feedback, it pointed me toward some useful avenues of research and I may eventually give Trainspotting a read, though I'd rather not read a book centered around drug use/abuse if there are alternatives available.

As I tried to allude to by referencing Chrono Trigger and some of you seem to've noticed, videogames are at least partially responsible for inspiring this "partitioned" narrative. My intent is to provide an unfocused, decentralized amount of story content that far exceeds the Chekhovian approach to storytelling, but clearly organizing it into different categories and presentations to allow the reader to decide for themselves what they choose to read or skip with the understanding that they won't be missing information of especial importance to the progression of the main plot.

In some ways, I feel like this approach is even more effective in the novel form, since you normally see it employed most extensively in RPGs and other genres where "missable" content is a pervasive threat and the player's current capabilities often don't match what the skippable content was intended for if they decide to return to it later, or are otherwise structured in an unwieldy way that, at best, places an extra burden on the player if they wish to visit skipped content later.

But in a novel practicing the organization I'm talking about, you immediately know what's vital and what's skippable, what general type of content and tone each chapter will present, that skipping content never runs the risk of losing timely access to it if you decide to revisit it at your own convenience, and that there will never be a disparity between your capabilities and the content.

Regarding group 3, I think the next post will emphasize the importance of why I'm placing some of the deeper subject explorations and explanations into their own chapters (to make it easier to revisit and refresh and recontextualize in a long series), but at no point do I resort to something as bland as a newscaster spouting off events; it's always presented through actual characters, saying and doing and discussing things in ways that reflect their character or promote a natural conversation or service their goals and motivations.

Take that just war theory speech I gave as an example; the ambassador presenting it may be a one-off, but he's a fleshed out character in his own right and he's "info-dumping" a fairly comprehensive summary of moral/ethical doctrine not only to inform the reader and provide them with a frame of thought relevant for contemplating many of the actions characters will take, but also to mimetically inform and persuade the general world populace/leaders in direct service to the plot and fulfill his own goals.

Another example, marked as both groups 2 and 3, would be how one main-ish character goes into a long explanation of her knowledge of neuroscience, including her preference for the memory-prediction framework, in an effort to help another main-ish socially-challenged character with an implausibly strong eidetic memory work through her issues; the explainer thinks it has to do with the co-worker's brain working by a fundamentally different principle than the auto-associative memory human brains normally use, making her adept at straightforward subjects but making it so she'll have to be much more proactively mindful of the nuances and contradictions involved in social interaction. Their conversation is littered with pieces of character development.

User Info: CloverKitten

6 months ago#9
For the off chance I do get published, please don't quote this post.

At this point, I'd like to remind you that my focus for this topic is on the "partitioned" layout, so please don't let the following context distract you too far from that.

For the sake of this topic, it was pretty misleading for me to call group 4 "non-canon", but I went with that because that's what it would initially seem like to the reader. And by "initially", I mean until the end of the 13th book, where an alert reader will notice the suggestion that those chapters weren't merely a "what if" camp beyond the 4th wall, then book 14 revises the previous books from a different perspective and the reader realizes the "non-canon" segments were perhaps the most canon.

To keep it profoundly brief, the first twelve and a half books represent a universe that is one of practically infinite simulations on a supercomputer meant to explore the relationship/attraction between intelligence/sapience and conflict/violence, but for all that computer's sophistication there are some glaring flaws in its operation (a result of the isolation of its sole user); these issues (and variables, for this one-of-many simulations) lead to much of the "supernatural" stuff in the simulated universe and, when the unique qualities of some of the characters begin to manifest in the form of internal administrative breaches, eventually to the creation of the "non-canon" chapters.

It is my intent that these chapters, upon initial depiction, provide character development between characters the plot normally would not permit to be in the same room, or to portray characters who can interact in the plot to do so in entirely different contexts (namely not fighting for survival or trying to kill each other). As some of you correctly guessed, yes these chapters provide comedic relief (and are positioned accordingly, not that the other chapters are bereft of humor and lighter moments), and yes they use "what if" material from earlier in the formation of this project of mine, but their primary purpose is to provide pertinent character and thematic development beyond the constraints of the conventional plot.

And not to get caught up in describing the end of the 13th book and beyond, these chapters reinforce the turns the story eventually takes (for example, the realization that books 5 through 13 are effectively a Bad End to book 4), as well as provide a sort of "parallel" character development (where some of the characters are subliminally growing into their roles as effectively-gods under the guise of what appears to be a quickly-forgotten shared dream to the characters and a sustained 4th wall break to the reader) that is vital to book 14 onward.

tl;dr, it simply is not possible for me to tell the story I'm envisioning without these "non-canon" chapters. Individually and sequentially, books 1-12 work just fine if you skip their "non-canon" chapters, but then book 13 will turn shark jumping into an Olympic sport and books 14 and on will seem like an entirely different series with similar characters. And yes, books 13+ come with an explicit warning that while 1-12 can be read/skipped at leisure, there's a point in book 13 which can be a satisfying conclusion in its own right but beyond which it's recommended to have read everything that came before.

Okay, I think this is enough for tonight. Thank you for the responses, they've been very helpful, and I hope my elaborations clarify some things.

User Info: Kiori Hayabusa

Kiori Hayabusa
6 months ago#10
I'd recommend looking at Rumo: and His Miraculous Adventures by Walter Moers. It's a self-contained novel, but it frequently splits off into tangential information that isn't technically plot-critical, but provides extensive background on the characters and world of the book that pays off later on.

It was done successfully enough that my brief annoyance at having the plot derailed by such a tangent was quickly overridden by the engaging nature of the tangent itself, such that when I got back to the main thread, I was initially disappointed each time to be leaving one of the tangents.

That kind of balance takes an extremely careful hand.
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