Wednesday, June 1, 2011

And That's the End of That Chapter

The one thing about writing that I am constantly debating about is formatting.  Granted, almost all writers have to stick with a tried and true format in order to make sure their message/story gets across clearly to the reader but I believe there is plenty of wiggle room to push the boundaries of the norm and try something different.  Thus, today’s discussion entails the decision on how to format the Agent M series.

                Back in my days as a fan-fiction writer, it was much easier to take liberties with your story since there were a few variables that separated the medium from the published writing world:

1)      Manipulating already established copyright characters
2)      Published on a free to read venue
3)      Little to no moderation of stories

In an essence, the fan-fiction realm of writing is akin to the Wild West days of this wonderful country.  Anything and everything goes.  If you wanted to write about Solid Snake drinking tea with Neo from the Matrix, have at it.  The world was at your disposal and only limited by the facets of your imagination.  Obviously a few major issues presented itself but hell, it’s fan-fiction, not too many people take it seriously anyways.  Some see it as an outlet to take their beloved characters and add onto their already established universe while others are a bit more “expressive” with their motivations and direction.

While I am all for writers getting out there and publishing as much as they possibly can, making a career with fan-fiction is almost impossible.  I certainly did enjoy my time there and wouldn’t mind going back for another round or two just for shits and giggles but not until I’ve got a few original titles under my belt.

One thing I credit towards fan-fiction writing is that it helped me establish a way to format and present a story unlike any other I have seen before.  When you’re writing fan-fiction, normally stories are published on a chapter by chapter basis.  Instead of completing the story outright, authors would put up the next part of their story as soon as they were ready.  This in turn gave me a great I idea.  I began publishing my stories in an episodic format much like a television series.  With every week or so I updated, each chapter was presented as if it were its own story intertwined into the larger one as each piece began to be put into place.  I loved this method and so did my readers.  It allowed them to be richly invested into the story while being taken through the story’s rollercoaster ride.

If I were to compare it to anything, it would be the Universal Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood.  The entire ride spans 45 minutes but during your journey you get to visit little segments of individual stories that make up the framework that is Universal Studios.  The entire ride wouldn’t be entertaining without each individual section and each individual section wouldn’t be enough to make up their own ride yet as you pass through each one you get a complete understanding of the story that section was trying to tell.

The main idea I wanted to do with, what I’m calling “Episodic Chapters”, is give the readers substance in each chapter they read.  Some of the novels I’ve read have had 20, 30 or even 40+ chapters.  I couldn’t tell you what happened in chapter 4 or even chapter 34, just a few key points of the book as a whole.  With the Agent M series, I wanted each chapter to matter.  That way, when you’re reading it and wanted to refer to a certain scene in the book, you’ll recall it that much quicker.  In order to create synergy, I opted to have 12 chapters (not including the prologue and epilogue).  Why 12?  Because it provides a nice balance in size and flow.  That and there are 12 numbers on a clock and that’s another cool way of looking at it.

So there we have it.  Thanks to fan-fiction, I was able to learn a wonderful method to present the Agent M series.  If you’re thinking about doing something unique or different with your story, then give fan-fiction a shot.  It’s a very easy medium to get into and the feedback you get is surprisingly beneficial.  Practice a bit and maybe you’ll find something so good that others will want to copy it.  After all, people only copy what’s good.


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