Parallel lines

One of the things I’ve sometimes found difficulty with in my writing is point of view; most of my book are told either in the first person or from one character’s stand point. In my novel ‘Lucky Portbraddon’ which I’m working on now, a long family saga I guess you’d call it – not at all what I usually write, I have tried to  follow different narrative trails.

The story is introduced from the point of view of a new girlfriend, meeting the family for the first time, four cousins and their wives, plus grandma, the ex-wife of another cousin, and lots of children, some of whom are adults and have boy/girlfriends too. In order not to muddle the reader, the main character in this part loses her glasses, so the others are just blurry figures, and only gradually does she (and the reader) get to know them, names are only slowly introduced and those of the children aren’t mentioned at all, apart from a couple of key characters.

Later on, as their story unfolds, different characters take the limelight as different things happen to them; however there is a crucial scene when a great schism opens up; I need to tell both sides of the events which have happened, sometimes one scene from two points of view… and this is where I worry that I might muddle everyone who reads my story…

I need to keep some aspects of what has happened concealed, until another character reveals them, but in order for it to have continuity there are sometimes two lines of narrative running parallel. Antoine has left his wife – the rest of the family are horrified and shocked that he appears to have abandoned her and his three children, and also in doing so betrayed another cousin… However, the reader learns the background to what happened and why it happened and how it happened… but the other characters are ignorant of the context of what he did.

I am struggling to weave the different strands of story together, to make it clear, but to keep it all in sequence… which order should I put it, whose point of view should I take, whose mind should I be inside, how much should I reveal, how much should I conceal?

If I wrote everything, the book would be as long as the Bible! It’s already too long and I’m ripping into it, slashing out unnecessary verbiage, boring conversations, dreary descriptions, and yet at the same time keeping all the necessary details to make it vivid and believable. It’s taking me much longer to edit – and not just because it’s about twice as long as most of my novels, but it’s like juggling words and story-lines, trying to keep the all in the right order, and not to accidentally drop something vital without realising it!


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