Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Leader's Song's structure - Three or Two?

As if the strange fork-in-the-road I'm facing regarding genres isn't enough, I also have been debating the structure of my sci-fi trilogy, The Leader's Song. In some ways, it might need a massive overhaul to its structure. In other ways, it might be fine the way it is.

Here's the deal. I mentioned my one-sentence summary in a previous post: "A pastor unearths an alien who is searching for grace." That both describes the first book and the overall plot of the trilogy very well. My problem is this: there's both a modern part of the story and a part that spans centuries of ancient history.

Currently, the trilogy is structured like this:
  • The Leader's Song: The Rune Enigma -- The modern story starts. About half-way through the book, everything shifts. The modern story is put on hold so the ancient story can unfold.
  • The Leader's Song: Exile -- The ancient story resumes where it left off. There is a break to hop back into the modern story about halfway through before going back to the ancient story. When the ancient story winds down, the modern story takes over again.
  • The Leader's Song: Return to the Fold -- The last book follows the modern story to its end, but major pieces of what happened in the ancient story color what happens from here on out.

I know those descriptions are kind of generic, but hey, I don't want to give away the entire plot for free, do I?

So you probably see my dilemma. I start the modern story, I put it on pause so the ancient story can play out, then resume the modern story again.

Why did I structure it like this? Well, a couple of reasons. First of all, when I first wrote this story, I wrote it as one long book. After I finished, I realized that it was simply too long and had to be divided up into three parts.

Second, I thought this structure might be a good way to "ease" the reader into the world I created. Rather than just dump them into a world with aliens, I thought I would slowly reveal what's going on ... and then dump them into a world with aliens.

Third, this is the way the idea kind of unfolded for me when I was brainstorming and I never really questioned the way it was.

So why am I questioning it now? Well, as I was getting ready for the ACFW Conference, one of the things I did was get a paid critique from Jeff Gerke of my novel proposal. Mr. Gerke has served as an editor at various Christian publishing houses and is known as an advocate and champion for sci-fi and fantasy. He was very helpful but one of the things he commented on was the structure of my trilogy. He thought it was a bit convoluted. Instead, he suggested dividing the two stories into separate books: the ancient story and the modern story.

A few other people have commented that it might be better to do that as well. A few have said that it's silly to try to ease the reader into the story since it's almost like I'm trying to hide the fact that aliens are involved, something that will be boldly proclaimed either in the cover art or on the back cover copy. I can see where these people are coming from and I've even put some thought into what I would have to do to restructure everything. It could be done.

So why am I so hesitant to do it? A couple of reasons:

First of all, while people have said I should restructure, just as many people have said to leave it the way it is. That's part of my confusion right there.

Second, if I were to restructure, it would wreck big chunks of the modern story. Part of the modern story includes a mystery that could shake Christianity to its very core. A sthe ancient story plays out, it kind of tweaks the mystery a little before a big shocking reveal at the end of the second book (which sets up a nice cliffhanger that I hope is very "Luke, I am your father"-ish). If I restructure the book, the mystery loses its oomph because the reader will know what's going on, thereby taking the teeth out of part of the plot. To be honest, it's what the restructuring would do to the modern story that makes me hesitate the most. I'm not sure how it would play out or even if it could as well as it has.

Third, I'm a little lazy and am scared by the amount of work that would go into the rewrite. There, I said it. This doesn't mean that I wouldn't do the work if I think it'll help; I will. I'm just hesitant to expend all that effort if it isn't really necessary.

I suppose I'll just have to wait and see what Steve Laube and Andy Meisenheimer have to say about it. I'm still waiting to hear from them and probably will be waiting for a while. That's okay. It'll give me more time to mull it all over.

1 comment:

Mirtika said...

My question would be: How do you keep the tension of the modern storyline going if you have a huge chunk where nothing relating to the current story is going on?

One of my fave novels has a back and forth structure, and I find that every time I reread it, I skip the part with the past (mostly) and just read the modern story. I don't like having the tension dissipated.

So, how do you maintain the narrative drive and suspense?