Single Character Focused Chapters

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John J. Falco
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#1
My main form of consumption is TV. I watch a lot of it, and so I applaud the single character focused episodes on a TV Show. The Walking Dead does this a lot especially with secondary characters, but I don't see this too much in novels. I have an interesting secondary character and I want to explore a day in his life while he goes to meet with my main character. Would this type of chapter be acceptable in the publishing world? Why or why not? Basically the whole chapter is a lead up to the meeting, but we only see his POV in that chapter and that chapter only. The rest of the book are the POV of the protagonist and antagonist.

I think Tolkien did this a few times in LOTR if I am not mistaken. Bombadil comes to mind.
 

Phyrebrat

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#2
I think the only thing that's crucial to justifying this kind of approach is relevance. If there's the usual conflict or tension that's feeding into the main narrative or a subplot involving the secondary character I can't see why not.

Writing in these kind of chapters could be a great exercise in world building and creative stimulation. It can be edited if it doesn't work; either down or out.

There's a fine line I suppose but as long as the POV character earns their keep and serves a purpose you'll be able to justify it.

Are you a planner or discovery writer? If the latter, writing in another POV might bring up all sorts of opportunities.

pH
 
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#3
That's a great question. I happen to enjoy shows that explore multiple characters, such as Bones, Star Trek, and other. In my story, I have three main characters who are friends (yes, I know, so do a lot of people), and I mainly use the protagonist's POV. But I have also slipped into the POV of the other two friends, two sub characters, the main antagonist, and a sub antagonist. That very well may be too many POVs for one novel, so I might edit out a few. All total it may be 10 different POVs. That might annoy some people.

But my main reading material has been Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, both of whom will explore a huge variety of different POVs. Even if I have to throw those entire chapters out, I'm almost a total "pantser," and so this helps me get to know my characters better.

DA
 

Cathbad

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#4
I've mostly seen the single-character studies in the prologues. A few in the final chapter, esp. in garnering interest in the next book in a series.

I like character studies. As @Phyrebrat says, s long as it feeding the story...
 

Cli-Fi

John J. Falco
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#7
I think the only thing that's crucial to justifying this kind of approach is relevance. If there's the usual conflict or tension that's feeding into the main narrative or a subplot involving the secondary character I can't see why not.

Writing in these kind of chapters could be a great exercise in world building and creative stimulation. It can be edited if it doesn't work; either down or out.

There's a fine line I suppose but as long as the POV character earns their keep and serves a purpose you'll be able to justify it.

Are you a planner or discovery writer? If the latter, writing in another POV might bring up all sorts of opportunities.

pH
I am both. I have an outline and I know where the story is going and how it ends. Then, I fill in holes as I go. The problem I see with a secondary character focused chapter is that it can just lead to world-building. He's part of the criminal element of my world and what I have planned for him is to show the readers what he does. He's been brought up a couple of times, he's even had a small couple of pages already. The main character (Cop) needs his help on the case he is investigating. The guy is connected to a bunch of big players in the story (in unusual ways) and I'm playing with the idea that he can be a sort of puppet master by the end of the novel.
 

Cli-Fi

John J. Falco
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#8
This happens a lot in the fiction I read everywhere back from late 1950's to today. So it apparently works so well some people don't notice it?
I'll be lucky if I read three books a year. Two of them being non-fiction. But this year I'm trying to change that. It's not that I don't want to, it's that I have a very short attention span when it comes to reading.
 

zmunkz

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#9
As others said (and, unhelpfully, as with pretty much everything in writing), I say you absolutely can do this, as long as you do it well.

Have a sense of what such a chapter might do to the pacing of your novel, the engagement of your readers, and the balance of your world building. Compensate accordingly, and all will be fine.
 

Ihe

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#10
"A Day in the Life of"-sort of chapters can be ok if they're relevant, as others have said, but it also will need to keep pushing the plot forward, and this is true of every chapter ever. Relevance without plot development is just aimless world-building. That means that this secondary character's chapter needs to give the reader new important information and further the plot somehow. As long as this happens, you are justified in branching out. Having a secondary char can also help you to describe/interact with your MC through their eyes, which can shed light and different angles on the inner workings of their relationship.
 

Phyrebrat

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#11
I apply this to each of my scenes.

1 What is the character's immediate goal?
2 Where is this shown in the copy?
3 What is the scene question?
4 Who or what is the opposing character to prevent this goal?
5 Is there a bad resolution to the scene question?
6 Is there a sequel section afterwards?

pH
 

Brian G Turner

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#12
I'll be lucky if I read three books a year. Two of them being non-fiction. But this year I'm trying to change that. It's not that I don't want to, it's that I have a very short attention span when it comes to reading.
Yeah, you'll definitely need to make an effort to read more, no excuses. If you have the patience to write, you should have the patience to read. It may simply be the case that you've not found the right books or authors, though.
 

Cli-Fi

John J. Falco
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#13
Yeah, you'll definitely need to make an effort to read more, no excuses. If you have the patience to write, you should have the patience to read. It may simply be the case that you've not found the right books or authors, though.
Probably, I'm already doing better than most years. Most years I can't even do three. Last year I read one but that was a long-ass anthology series five "books" combined. This year I'm halfway done book four, half of my problem is picking 1,000 page books apparently. I have always had trouble sleeping at night and reading two hours before bed has cured this problem.
 

Cli-Fi

John J. Falco
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#14
I apply this to each of my scenes.

1 What is the character's immediate goal?
2 Where is this shown in the copy?
3 What is the scene question?
4 Who or what is the opposing character to prevent this goal?
5 Is there a bad resolution to the scene question?
6 Is there a sequel section afterwards?

pH
I probably think about most of this at some point during each page/chapter
 

The Big Peat

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#15
Short answer - Yes, as long as its relevant to the story and interesting

Tangential answer - These are great short story fodder, as witnessed by Butcher's Side Jobs anthology and I'm sure many others. If you want to write these but it doesn't quite fit, short story can be the way.
 

Jo Zebedee

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#16
Short answer - Yes, as long as its relevant to the story and interesting

Tangential answer - These are great short story fodder, as witnessed by Butcher's Side Jobs anthology and I'm sure many others. If you want to write these but it doesn't quite fit, short story can be the way.
If you get a really popular secondary character they even open the door to spin off books. I don't know, exactly, what's in Abendau4 yet, but I do know the secondary characters are leading the way all the way. And that Lichio is quietly stretching in the corner and positioning himself somewhere suitably visible to me....
 
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#18
I second reading lots of books. Unfortunately, I haven't read much fiction lately, what with being in college, working, etc. Everything seems to eat up my time. Then there's also the problem with my attention span - at the moment, I have about 4 books halfway finished.

In the past, I read lots. I feel like I was heavily influenced by such a practice. Memorize as many different methods of writing as possible, then make your own from them and spit them back out.
 

Cli-Fi

John J. Falco
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#19
If you get a really popular secondary character they even open the door to spin off books. I don't know, exactly, what's in Abendau4 yet, but I do know the secondary characters are leading the way all the way. And that Lichio is quietly stretching in the corner and positioning himself somewhere suitably visible to me....
That seems to be what's happening with my character known as "The Salesman," he might be a bit cliche but he's a pretty cool dude who runs around causing all types of trouble. I'm nowhere near spin-off level yet and I wouldn't be too sure about making a spin-off about him. The scope of my world is a bit too big just for that but hey if the emmys are any indication it's working wonders for Saul Goodman.
 

Cli-Fi

John J. Falco
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#20
I second reading lots of books. Unfortunately, I haven't read much fiction lately, what with being in college, working, etc. Everything seems to eat up my time. Then there's also the problem with my attention span - at the moment, I have about 4 books halfway finished.

In the past, I read lots. I feel like I was heavily influenced by such a practice. Memorize as many different methods of writing as possible, then make your own from them and spit them back out.
Oh yeah I know what you mean. Good thing I'm not in school anymore. I make mental notes of how authors describe certain things like rooms and buildings since that seems to be what gets me the most. Some styles, I like, some I don't and some tell so much I wonder how they even got published in the first place!
 

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