December 18, 2018, 03:33:00 PM

Author Topic: How to Write Epic Style Novels  (Read 393 times)

Offline NedMarcus

How to Write Epic Style Novels
« on: December 07, 2018, 03:21:19 AM »
I'm writing my third novel, and for the first time I have my characters pursuing different goals throughout the story, before coming together at the end. I did this a little in my first novel, but in my second, the heroes formed a tight group, always together.

My question what is the best or most efficient way of writing a novel like this? Is it better to write the complete story of one character, and then the next, and so on? Or is it better to switch between the different characters as you're writing—as the reader will encounter them?

I feel it would be faster to finish one character's story at a time, but then there would be the need for some cleaning up to integrate them. On the other hand it might be more interesting to switch.

I'm really not sure on this one. Any tips would be appreciated, especially if you have experienced this in your own writing.

Offline Justan Henner

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Re: How to Write Epic Style Novels
« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2018, 01:46:21 PM »
My first book has about 5-6 major PoV's and like 13 total.

From my experience, the biggest tip I can give on writing multiple PoV's is to make sure that every character reinforces the main story in some way. Even if their immediate character arcs don't have anything to do with one another, they should each provide details that support the promise of the story and lead into the climax.

As far as writing order, I think you could do it in any order, (one character at a time, chronologically, by specific events, whatever). Personally, I try to write in chapter order (which is near chronological) because I don't plot and knowing what info the reader has already, helps me to know what elements need to be reinforced in the next chapter I write. It still results in a lot of backfilling during the editing process, but that's my preference.

Offline Not Lu

Re: How to Write Epic Style Novels
« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2018, 05:06:55 PM »
I prefer chronological order where you tell a little of one person's story, then a little of the next. Basically switching POVs as the story progresses. If you write one whole character arc then start another the reader will have forgot the first arc by the time he's read the 3rd or 4th. So, you end up at the climax where you have to start switching POVs in every scene or chapter and the reader is left asking, "Who's this guy? What was he doing before?"

Another danger in writing a complete character arc then starting another is the reader will be very attached to the first character, then will have a huge hill to climb when the POV switches. If you switch POVs with each chapter (or two or three) it'll will only be a minor speed bump. This also sets the reader's expectation of knowing there will be multiple POVs.

One way to overcome reader resistance to POV switching is to connect each POV in some way to a character/story they already know. If your characters know each other then have the first scene of a new character reference another POV in some way. If your characters don't know each other then have the first scene of a new character reference the larger plot early in the scene (basically how the new POV fits in the story the reader knows up to this point).

Another way to overcome the problem is to write exceptional scenes where you introduce a new character. Give the reader a reason to care about the new character quickly.

One more thing, I'll second Justan's advice that every character, every storyline, every scene needs to point to the major plot (promise of the story). Basically, you need to set expectations about how the book might end with every POV so the reader doesn't get lost in the individual story arcs and miss the point of the book. If the reader misses the point of the book they'll be very disappointed in the climax/ending.

Offline cupiscent

Re: How to Write Epic Style Novels
« Reply #3 on: December 07, 2018, 10:43:45 PM »
Unhelpfully, my advice is: do what works for you. :)

And bear in mind that that may change throughout the writing. I wrote a book that was three storylines with interlinking characters that bind tighter. I wrote the first third of it straight, jumping from character to character with each chapter. But in the middle third, I found that jumping stalled me every time as I tried to get back into that character's mindset and happenings, possibly because things were getting more involved. I stopped writing chronologically, and wrote each character's story separate from there, until the final third where they were more intermingled and I went back to chronological.

I wrote another novel with two characters who separated at the start, pursued basically unrelated stories, and then came back together at the end, and I just wrote it straight start to finish, swapping viewpoints per chapter. No worries, no fuss.

So, stay flexible, stay aware of when you're working well and when you're getting stuck, and do what you need to.

Offline NedMarcus

Re: How to Write Epic Style Novels
« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2018, 02:17:57 AM »
If you write one whole character arc then start another the reader will have forgot the first arc by the time he's read the 3rd or 4th. So, you end up at the climax where you have to start switching POVs in every scene or chapter and the reader is left asking, "Who's this guy? What was he doing before?"
Thanks and apologies for not making myself clearer. What I was trying to ask was about the order of writing writers here prefer.

For example, is it better for the writer to write each character story arc separately (assuming the characters are in physically different locations during the story), or is it better to write the novel chronologically, as the reader would read it. Obviously, I'd edit the story lines, merging them together, if I chose the first approach. So from a readers perspective, it would be impossible to know how the writer actually wrote it.

I can see advantages to both and wondered how others approached this. Also, it might not be either/or approach.




Offline NedMarcus

Re: How to Write Epic Style Novels
« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2018, 02:22:06 AM »
I've decided to write each of the story arcs separately, and then combine them when I begin editing. I think this might work best for me. The characters have no interaction, apart from limited communication by non physical means, apart from at the beginning and end.

I think getting into the flow with one character will be smoother and faster. But I'll find out for sure when I come to edit and merge them together into chapters for readers to read.

Offline Not Lu

Re: How to Write Epic Style Novels
« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2018, 08:37:23 PM »
If you write one whole character arc then start another the reader will have forgot the first arc by the time he's read the 3rd or 4th. So, you end up at the climax where you have to start switching POVs in every scene or chapter and the reader is left asking, "Who's this guy? What was he doing before?"
Thanks and apologies for not making myself clearer. What I was trying to ask was about the order of writing writers here prefer.

For example, is it better for the writer to write each character story arc separately (assuming the characters are in physically different locations during the story), or is it better to write the novel chronologically, as the reader would read it. Obviously, I'd edit the story lines, merging them together, if I chose the first approach. So from a readers perspective, it would be impossible to know how the writer actually wrote it.

I can see advantages to both and wondered how others approached this. Also, it might not be either/or approach.

Ah, yes. As for the writing, do it in any order that makes it easy for you to produce words on a page. You can certainly write each character arc then move the chapters around into an order that makes sense. Then make the small adjustments to each story to bind them all together.

Offline SugoiMe

Re: How to Write Epic Style Novels
« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2018, 09:49:38 PM »
I generally prefer a mix. I write chronologically most of the time, but there are chapters from one person's perspective that need to be put side by side even if it throws the chronology off a bit. I tend to put down books that switch between characters' perspectives every chapter where the storylines are very different. I like to hang out with a few characters for a few chapters, then switch to some others, then back to the first people. That kinda thing. Switch it up a bit depending on what my story demands.
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Offline NedMarcus

Re: How to Write Epic Style Novels
« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2018, 11:04:39 AM »
I tend to put down books that switch between characters' perspectives every chapter where the storylines are very different. I like to hang out with a few characters for a few chapters, then switch to some others, then back to the first people. That kinda thing.
I feel the same. Changing POV every chapter wouldn't allow me to get into the story.

Offline cupiscent

Re: How to Write Epic Style Novels
« Reply #9 on: December 11, 2018, 03:49:12 AM »
I tend to put down books that switch between characters' perspectives every chapter where the storylines are very different. I like to hang out with a few characters for a few chapters, then switch to some others, then back to the first people. That kinda thing.
I feel the same. Changing POV every chapter wouldn't allow me to get into the story.

Surely that depends on the length/scope/complexity of the "chapter"? :)

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Re: How to Write Epic Style Novels
« Reply #10 on: December 11, 2018, 08:07:12 AM »
I tend to put down books that switch between characters' perspectives every chapter where the storylines are very different. I like to hang out with a few characters for a few chapters, then switch to some others, then back to the first people. That kinda thing.
I feel the same. Changing POV every chapter wouldn't allow me to get into the story.

Surely that depends on the length/scope/complexity of the "chapter"? :)
Yes, definitely.

I'm one who doesn't really mind multiple POVs, and I particularly like those books that despite changing POV, keep the story in the same place for several chapters.

One that I feel was very badly done (I have no interest in reading the other books in the series) was Trudi Canavan's "Thief's Magic". That book is basically split in half, with the first half telling a story, on one POV, and then it changes and we're with another POV, another story, another world, for goodness sake, with zero connection to the first! Yes, I assume in later books they get together, but I wasn't interested enough to see when and how...
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Offline NedMarcus

Re: How to Write Epic Style Novels
« Reply #11 on: December 11, 2018, 09:54:25 AM »
I tend to put down books that switch between characters' perspectives every chapter where the storylines are very different. I like to hang out with a few characters for a few chapters, then switch to some others, then back to the first people. That kinda thing.
I feel the same. Changing POV every chapter wouldn't allow me to get into the story.

Surely that depends on the length/scope/complexity of the "chapter"? :)

Of course. But generally, I don't like them jumping around too much. I'd like to get into the feel of one character before switching to the next. Just a personal preference.

Scarlet Bea's example would also make me want to stop reading.

Offline SugoiMe

Re: How to Write Epic Style Novels
« Reply #12 on: December 11, 2018, 02:47:06 PM »
I tend to put down books that switch between characters' perspectives every chapter where the storylines are very different. I like to hang out with a few characters for a few chapters, then switch to some others, then back to the first people. That kinda thing.
I feel the same. Changing POV every chapter wouldn't allow me to get into the story.
Surely that depends on the length/scope/complexity of the "chapter"? :)

Of course. But generally, I don't like them jumping around too much. I'd like to get into the feel of one character before switching to the next. Just a personal preference.

Scarlet Bea's example would also make me want to stop reading.

Seconded. I don't like too much jumping around either. It's the jumping between multiple storylines every chapter I don't like so much. Different POVs work fine as long as they generally stay in the same storyline. I have never been able to get through John Gwynne's Malice. Large casts of characters are hard for me to keep track of too.
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Re: How to Write Epic Style Novels
« Reply #13 on: December 11, 2018, 02:56:15 PM »
I have never been able to get through John Gwynne's Malice. Large casts of characters are hard for me to keep track of too.
But... but... he keeps people in the same storyline for several chapters, only changing in big chunks
(I love that series!)
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Online Alex Hormann

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Re: How to Write Epic Style Novels
« Reply #14 on: December 11, 2018, 03:15:15 PM »
My current WIP has 4 POVs, with two in each chapter. I've found the biggest problem is finding something for everyone to be doing, especially when one character is in a meeting for three chapters, while another is gallivanting around in space. Granted, this is a problem I've created for myself with such a rigid story structure, but aaargh.

If you are going to alternate regularly, I'd strongly recommend plotting at least some of it out beforehand.