Too much clog?

by Braden
(Traverse City)

Question: My friend and I are in the process of writing a book together. We decided at the beginning that it would take place in a different planet that was separated into four tribes. So, we made four main characters and gave them all their own chapters and sections. The thing is, they all have their own story that intertwines at some points but separates most of the time. My question is: Is the story too clogged up with four separate story lines?

Also, as we're writing, we keep getting more and more ideas of plot twists to add in, but I feel like that's just going to clog the story more if we're not careful. But I think the plot twists are good ideas. What should we do?

Answer: I would suggest you get very clear on what the overall goal of your story is. What is it that you want your characters to accomplish together by the end of the book? What is the prize they will ultimately seek, or what is the disaster they will ultimately try to avoid?

Once you are clear on that, the purpose of telling the stories of the four main characters must be to illustrate what brought them together and what happened to them to make them evolve into the type of people who are able to accomplish the story goal.

That's assuming they will be victorious. (You could have one of them evolve into a villain or into someone who hinders the effort).

Once you know what qualities, skills, or traits you want your characters to develop, and how you want their personalities to evolve, you can design their their personal stories to take them in the direction you want them to go.

If you know how you want a character to evolve, then you know whether a particular plot twist will help him/her move in the right direction. Ideally, each event will be a necessary step in the character's growth, even the ones that look at first like set-backs. The reader may not realize the significance of an event at the time, but later on the reader should be able to look back and see how everything that happened to the character contributed towards making him the kind of person who could play a valuable role in achieving the goal.

Any event that doesn't seem to be a part of such a character or plot arc can be safely cut without hurting the story. In fact, it should be cut because it will feel extraneous to the reader.

On the other hand, if a character evolves, but the reader doesn't know why he evolves, that's a plot hole that needs to be filled with an event that explains things.

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