May 20, 2011

Too Much, Too Soon?

Lately I've been somewhat intimidated by the amount of stuff that looks set to happen in my current WIP. It got me thinking about complexity creep in an ongoing series, and how a writer can know if there's just too much going on.

I have my external conflict for Nathan to face; a new villain to take on, as well as the internal conflict he has to overcome by the time the book ends; finding a proper place for himself following the events of the first book. There are also new revelations as part of the ongoing storyline, showing more of the world Nathan has entered and the role he has played in it in past lives. So I have my three core plot elements. It's just the dressing that's making me squirm.

As it stands, I have major and minor characters from book 1 returning, as well as maybe half a dozen new characters of varying degrees of importance. I know that not all of the characters from book 1 need to return. In fact one won't be featured as more than a phone conversation until the next book beyond this, and some won't even return until book 4 in the series (really hope I'm not too presumptuous in planning ahead this much).

I think the key to returning characters is ensuring that, if they're there featured for more than just keeping the plot moving by providing assistance, or to serve as a simple obstacle, then they really should show something new of themselves and contribute to the hero's journey on a personal level. The same should go for new characters. They're either there to service the plot or there to help the protagonist grow.

I'm hoping that's what the other plot elements will do as well. This is still Nathan's story, after all, and while other characters can share his experiences and the themes can relate to them, it's Nathan's show. His continuing development needs to be what keeps the reader coming back. Of course, that's tough too since he hasn't quite yet become the hero he's meant to be. He's still got some hard lessons coming.

Where book 1 was about the sacrifices people make, book 2 is really about loss, and the acceptance of that loss, turning pain into the desire to become something better than you are right now.

I like to plan ahead. I have Nathan's story planned out in loose, changeable terms. It's going to be a hell of a ride. I just need to make sure I don't saturate the reader with too much all at once.


  1. This is where an editor's help will be invaluable. Sometimes that outside eye is just the thing.

  2. I think that's my favourite part about traditional publishing, having a professional perspective on what works and what needs to change.

    That's also why, though I'm planning ahead, I'm making sure that what I have planned can work in a variety of different ways, so the story can adapt and bend as needed.

  3. Oh how I wish I could be writing my novel this way, knowing what the conflicts are ahead of time. But mine is just not happening that way. Sigh!

  4. I think it's just because I have trouble doing anything other than thinking about what needs to be done next for one book or another. Even if I'm not actually sitting down to write, my mind tends to wander.

  5. I really like that lesson about turning pain into becoming something better than what you are. Maybe because it resonates with me rather well as that's how my writing journey began in full earnest.

  6. Thanks, Jeffrey. I've made no secret that my MC gets put through some rough stuff in my first book. But I much prefer seeing characters rise above hardships than becoming swallowed by them, even if it means they have to learn a little humility along the way.

  7. I like the way the themes connect from book one to two. Not so sure I agree that returning minor characters need to reveal themselves - if they are indeed who you meant. Unless we see them through their actions in helping Nathan, of course. Sometimes continuity can be a perfectly good purpose - especially as a counterpoint to the main character's desire to move on. Hope you solve your dilemma, though it sounds to me you have a great control (something I'm sadly lacking at the moment in my wip).

  8. Thanks Dorothy. You make a good point about continuity. Must keep that in mind.