Rag-Tag-Band Ensemble Story
Previous parts in the Theme-Story Integration Series:
Part 2 of this series ended off:
Only in children's stories or "comics" (not graphic novels) do people just suddenly, and without explanation or motivation, change into the opposite of what they've been seen to be in a plot-sequence.
So, bit by slow, detailed, bit at a time, you reveal the inner structure of your world that you built -- and make it clear how your world differs from everyday reality such that this "impossible" thing is possible.
In our Reality - "As the twig is bent; so grows the tree," is a true statement about human nature. Also the apple doesn't fall far from the tree is true of humans.
What is different about your World that makes those two statements about Human Nature false?
Story-arc is the track, the because-line, parallel to Plot where Characters CHANGE because of the impact of events caused by their own decisions or actions -- or events they might never have noticed without some new level of insight triggered by an epiphany precipitated by a Plot Event.
Increased sensitivity to events is a Character Arc.
People do change, but it is rare. More common is how people change their mind, their conclusions or opinions about something.
The "something" is derived from the Theme - the "change" is the Story.
How this can happen, when, where, why, with whom.
Without a Character Arc traced by a Story-line, a Plot just seems like a waste of time to read.
If an Arc is foreshadowed - something that could happen in a future volume, then the Arc can be the suspense-line in the Story.
All this is deep, abstract, and way too intellectual for simple entertainment.
Often people read to participate in a world where there are no coherent emotional pressures urging them to "Arc" in their own real-life world.
THE STARS BEYOND by S. K. Dunstall (the pen name for a writing team of two sisters who have written several books I enjoyed),
is an example of the "ensemble" cast, but because of the scope of the story - almost galaxy wide, many locations, many astrophysical oddities, plus an entire worldbuilding element about genetic manipulation, then adding brand new Aliens - there weren't enough pages in the book to delve into each point of view Character's Arc, Story, personal progress, and Relationships.
Each Character scintillates with possibilities, and none of them get a chance to grow before our eyes, to convince us we can become better people, and that Relationships are the key to that. None of the Characters have enough space in the book to show-don't-tell us how LOVE CONQUERS ALL.
The book didn't set out to be a Romance. There are Relationships, but mostly business-based, and maybe a little charity (or pity) tossed in on the side as people get their fannies caught in bear traps.
The bear traps (like losing a job, behind denied contracted bonuses) resolve way too easily, and all the main characters end up potential rich (due to a mineral discovery made because of a recovered memory.)
None of this is easy, and each step of the plot requires ferocious dedicated, disciplined, and risky actions by the Point of View Character used for a given chapter.
It paints a vast mural before our eyes, and it is a grand read.
But the "world" that is built of these pieces is more the hero of the story, not the Characters. It is the "world" (galaxy-spanning-economy-based-on-gene-modification) that "arcs" -- this is the story of a civilization, not the individuals whose fates change that civilization's potential to survive and continue meddling with genes.
So far, there's nothing grotesque or cringe-worthy in the results of the gene modification professions. There is a full blown healing application, but the rest is an art form that just lets individuals who can afford it become their fantasy selves.
None of the clients go into the gene-modification machines for love, or to reveal or actualize the reality of their Soul, or to venture onto planets hostile to human life. Yet this volume introduces the potential (an unlivable planet with Aliens who also find it unlivable) for such modification.
Humans are modified, but so far there's no mention of modifying plants or food-animals to live on uninhabitable planets.
Gene modification has been strictly limited by lack of elemental resources that make it work. The discovery made at the end of this volume teases future volumes about the impact on this disciplined civilization by unlimited access to such a natural resource.
So far, with all the male and female characters in the story, I don't see the foreshadowing of a true Romance, but this Series really needs one volume that tracks the Character Arcs of a pair becoming mates by being changed.
So writers should ponder human civilization, in whatever epoch you want to write in, and figure out the mechanism that lets one human "change" another human's mind, heart, soul -- opinions.
Part 5 of this series makes a suggestion.
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