Friday, 23 December 2011


The new job has interfered somewhat with my writing schedule. I find myself getting up at six and trying to put an hour in before work. Or writing for hours after I put the kids to bed. Not often though. One upside of visiting the book infrequently is that I get a clearer perspective on what's wrong with it.

One major problem, I have is that I don't spend enough time researching and planning. This week I have discovered the joy of diagrams, plot graphs and pulling apart someone else's novel (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep) to see how it ought to be done.

Something I've always wondered about is how to run two 'plotlines' parallel, then merge them. I mean, do you have alternating chapters? Do you put the same ideas in both stories, or contrasting ones? Can you have close focus POV in both, or does that make it difficult for the reader to work out whom they ought to identify with? Then how do you bring the stories together?

I can't say I found answers to all these questions. What I did do was make a list of chapters and work out which plot line they belonged to. There are twenty two chapters in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Fourteen or Fifteen belong to Richard Deckard (RD), Six/Seven to J.R. The lines are unconnected at first, except that both explore the 'world'. As the plotlines continue, it becomes clearer how the stories will merge, which they do in chapter 19, where both RD and JR appear - though they only exchange a few words. The beauty of this is that for the first time we see RD from the outside, from JR's POV.

Having two POV characters gives different points of view on the world. It isn't a bit confusing. It's brilliant.

The way Philip K. Dick does it is this:
1. RD 2. JR 3-5. RD 6-7. JR  8-12. RD 13-14 JR 15 has scenes with both JR and RD, though they don't meet. 16-17. RD  18. JR  Then in 19. told from JR's pov, RD also appears. POV shifts to RD half way through the chapter. 20-22 RD.

It needs to be totally clear which character will be the main character. RD appears first and has 2/3 of the chapters.
POVs alternate quickly at first, then there are longer sequences to develop that character's story without interruption.
The stories' themes merge first. Then it becomes clear that the story will merge. Then it does merge. Though only briefly.
RD contemplates what will happen to JR in the future, but the author doesn't show JR's story beyond the point where he meets Richard Deckard.

Once I'd broken down Androids, I decided to rebuild my own novel on similar lines. I had made a poor choice of storytelling device to skip between plotlines. It wasn't working and I needed something better.

First problem: which character should I choose to tell the story of the secondary plotline? It needed to be someone with access to major events, but not the villain.
Second problem: in its current incarnation, my secondary plotline wasn't a line, it was more of a jumble of ideas and impressions. I had to turn it into a story.

All of this is bloody technical and probably only makes sense to me, but there it is. (There's more but I've virtually written a novel on this already. More later.)

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