|So many characters and each believe they are the true hero.|
Via: Screen Rant
Multiple plot lines are common in fantasy. Anyone who's read George R R Martin's Game of Thrones (or seen the tv series) will know there are many key characters in this novel and each of them has their own story arc or plot line. If your story has many occupants, here's some tips:
- Each character has their own story. Don't just throw in characters to enhance your protagonist's story. These characters have had their own paths leading up to this point. Remember, every character, even the busty barmaid serving mead to your luckless young hero, thinks this is THEIR story.
- Consider POV. Most novels with multiple characters use third person point of view (POV) (this is where you use 'he, she, they, it...' to explain what characters are doing). This is because if you speak from many character's POV, you can easily confuse your reader. There is a trend in YA fiction to use first person POV (using 'I, we...'), this is to give the reader a feeling of closeness to the protagonist. You can still achieve this closeness by using third person omniscient POV, this is where we can hear the thoughts of characters and therefore understand their motivations. Most complicated plots, such as multiple story arcs, will use third person POV varying between limited (watching the characters, we're not in their head) and omniscient POV. For more on POV, this site explains it well: The Three Points of View in Writing.
- Epic antagonist. If there are many different characters interweaving, you'll want to separate them into teams of light and dark, good and evil or blue and red (if you don't want to suggest one team has more justification than another). Your characters that lead these teams must be epic. If we have many characters telling stories in this novel, you want the antagonist to stand out amongst them all. I believe his story arc is even more important than the hero's, because it is the antagonist who drives the narrative. The best advice I've heard is to remember, a good antagonist believes HE is the protagonist.
- Voices must be LOUD. I don't mean every character shouts, but each character must have a very distinct voice, to stand out and be heard amongst the crowd of characters. Great writers make every character distinct by their voice, even if they all look exactly the same (simply changing hair colour, gender or size is not a good way of making your character an individual). You can achieve this by making sure you know each character and their motivations well. Do up extensive character profiles, meet their family, live in their skin. For more on the importance of individuality of characters, you can see this post: James Baldwin and Character Who-ness.
- Each story has its own time-frame. If you have multiple story arcs in your epic novel, don't start them all at the beginning of the novel and end them all at the close of the book. Each character's story will begin when they have their own inciting incident, and they may end much sooner than the overall story (especially if they die), or they may continue their own quest into book two. By giving each story arc its own point of rising climax, you give the reader more places to feel the rising tension and more small lulls where they can relax (momentarily).
It's a big job keeping track of many plot lines at once, especially if you're writing the epic novel as a collaboration with other writers. In my next post, I'll show you various techniques for keeping track of multiple plot lines and story arcs.