The fork in the road

In my most recent post in this category of blogposts (The Road to Environmental Armageddon), I described a fork in the road where I currently stand, scratching my beard, wondering which road to follow.

Here is an outline for Choice #1 – the shortest, most direct route. It is a pared down version of the three-part story I’ve been contemplating that sticks with the main story and minimizes or eliminates secondary threads.


The Souring Seas

 Part One: An Intriguing Experiment is set in the immediate future and focuses on two characters; Tony Atherton, an oceanography graduate student at Dalhousie University, and Beth Manville, an actress/model with an interest in environmental issues. The story begins as Tony and his university colleagues discover an important response of phytoplankton to ocean acidification and follows their involvement in the ensuing investigations.

 Part Two: A Technological Solution begins in 2027 as the first real test of the effectiveness of the global climate accords looms. It focuses on the exploits of Dan Delacour, another Dalhousie University oceanography student studying climate change, and Elena Llewellyn, a representative of the industrialists responsible for a technological cure for global warming. Scientific and political/economic repercussions of the flawed solution drive the story. On-going roles for several characters from Part One provide threads that bind the parts together.

 Part Three: An Imperfect Future continues the saga starting in 2038 as people and institutions in various countries struggle with the repercussions of the flawed attempt at a global-scale manipulation of the environment. Two new characters, Tomas Matthews and Luna Grange, undergraduate students at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, have central roles as do the main protagonists from parts one and two. The outfall from a disruptive and corrupt attempt by industrialists and political insiders to motivate the American public in a fight against an existential threat drives the story to its conclusion.


My current draft of Choice #1 contains approximately 110,000 words. I can reduce it to a nice tight 100,000-word book, but it has a serious flaw – each of the three parts follows different pairs of central characters. I’m told a book should follow single protagonist (or pair of protagonists). I’m breaking this important story-telling rule.

Choice #2 is three short novels (40,000 to 50,000 words?) that follow the three parts in my outline for Choice #1. They would be three interlinked novels that flesh out the plots to reintroduce the secondary threads I removed. Would this be a legitimate way to get around the problem of three different pairs of protagonists, or would it be seen as what it is – an arbitrary construct?

I could market these as three books (ebook and paperback versions) and each book would have one pair of central protagonists. But the reader would have to read all three and make the links between them. If I generate a single book with the complete story, I’m back to the three pairs of protagonists problem, and it would be a 150,000-word monster.

My story-telling knowledge is woefully inadequate, and my understanding of marketing almost non-existent, but I still want to produce this damn book (these damned books) because I have a story I want to tell. How should I proceed?

5 thoughts on “The fork in the road

  1. What way feels right to you? It’s your story and you should tell it the way that seems best. It doesn’t matter that you are not following typical models.Just do what feels right to you. It will work out better than you expect. This coming from someone who writes poetry but has never been formally or informally taught….lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good advice, and I am not considering writing someone else’s story, but readers appear to prefer stories that follow a single (or I hope a pair) protagonist. I would like to reach as big an audience, so I might be want to follow this model … or maybe not.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with Judi that you might consider what you would like to do of greatest importance, but then it’s understandable to want to give yourself the best chance to reach the target audience, and if there is established wisdom for doing so, all else being equal, maybe go that way.

    Smaller books are a smaller ask of the reader, and maybe the exercise might prompt you to flesh each part out all that much more, to ensure each can also stand a bit more on its own.

    Are there any characters that criss all three arcs, that might provide the tie that binds?


  3. Hi, I’m currently thinking along lines that are consistent with your comments above, three small books that allow me room to flesh out the stories (relatively easy) and the characters (harder). I do have characters that appear in all three. Building up their roles will take some effort, but I agree, they become ‘the tie that binds’.
    You and I appear to be thinking alike. I hope that’s a good thing.


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