Thoughts,  Writing Notes

The Story Serves The Reader Part 2

Yesterday we began a conversation on how the story serves the reader, let’s continue. The plot of the story should serve the reader, and it can do so in many ways. First let me mention that some plots will be simple, and some complex, but both can serve the reader in their own way.

A simple plot is both easily understandable, and explainable. After a person has read a story, and tells someone else, they may be asked what the book is about. The simpler the story, the easier to communicate. A straightforward and interesting plot will serve a large pool of readers.

A complex plot may have a narrower, but no less enthusiastic pool to choose from. There is a difference between a complex plot, and a convoluted one. For the purposes of this articles I would define complex as having multiple points which may take time to discover. However a convoluted plot, one that is still difficult to understand even after you have all the details.

Many science fiction stories will have a complex plot, but that does not mean convoluted. There may be many moving parts, but understandable. Most stories have some common points in them. There is an obstacle, there is a goal, there is a hero, and there is an antagonist.

The antagonist may or may not be a villain, but there will be basic points in all stories. Some complex plots may have multiple heroes and multiple villains. The heroes may have individual goals, but they will share an overarching theme that brings them together, if not unites them at the end. The finale will determine the future of the characters, and whether or not the reader enjoys the story.

If it’s a multiple book series, there may be a goal that is bigger than the book itself, but enough should be resolved by the end of the book to satisfy the reader. Think of it as a movie franchise, one where they wrote the story from the beginning with sequel plans. Each movie is part of a trilogy, but the film would normally have an established ending point.

Exceptions to this rule exist, but as a writer and a reader, I like my movies and my books to have both an ending and an opportunity for a possible extension of the storyline. This brings us to the matter of a second story. Even if you wrote the first story without plans to continue it in mind, there are ways of doing this successfully.

One option is to convey an overarching goal that unites the two, even if conceived later, the idea should be conceivable. For example, introduce a piece of information the first book did not share, which ties into the book enough to stay true to the original story. If done well, the reader would not guess the writer didn’t have this plan when they began the first journey. They’ll think it was all intentionally connected from the beginning.

A sequel, or any story is not a mistake if it serves the reader well. If it does not, it could very well be a problem, but you won’t know it until you write it. Once written, you can evaluate the rough draft to see if it’s the draft, or the idea that needs work. If the reader can smile at the end of the story, then you have done something right as a writer.

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