Parallel Stories

by David Meadows 3. December 2016 22:24

(Number 8 in an occasional series. See sidebar for full series.)

 

Last time I wrote one of these essays, I explained how the Game storyline had two distinct parts, set 20 years apart. In the Game, I could throw in references to the past in order to amuse the players, while they implicitly agreed not to use their knowledge of the "past" to cheat in the "present".

If I was writing this story sensibly, I would start with Strikeforce chapter 1, write 300 chapters of Strikeforce, and then move on to Heroes issue 1, set 20 years later, so you would be reading the story in the order the players played it.

Of course I didn't do that. I started writing both stories in parallel.

One one level, I hope it adds interest to each story for the reader. When you met Don in Heroes #1, hints were laid that he had a long and (hopefully) interesting history. When you met him again In Strikeforce #5, you get more of his backstory from another end. James tells us that his father was the leader of Strikeforce 20 years ago, and although you haven't yet met "Major Democracy" in Strikeforce, I hope you're seeing clues to his identity by now, and I hope it's whetted your appetite to see the story of Major Democracy unfold. [Note for later readers: this blog is being written between the publication of Strikeforce 12 and 13.]

But adding clever back-references to whet your appetite is one thing. "Spoilers" are something completely different. And that's going to be a problem for me, if it hasn't been already.

On the big scale, the obvious spoiler given right from the start of Heroes is that some time before the mid-90s, an Event removed the powers of every super-human on Earth. So you know the eventual fate of Strikeforce. Except, you've got 300 chapters of story before then, and does knowing an end is coming really change how you view those chapters? Everything ends ...

Smaller scale spoilers are more of a problem. In Heroes #4 I introduced Frank and Carla Marks. A week later, in Strikeforce #4, you learned that Electron's real name is Franklin Marks. A chapter after that, you (and Electron) met Carla Zod. Have you joined the dots yet?

So is there any point in me writing their unfolding romance and eventual marriage in Strikeforce? And is there any point in me putting either character in peril in 1988 when you know they're going to survive to 2014?

Hmm.

Would you avoid watching a costume drama about Anne Boleyn because you already know she'll marry the king and lose her head in the end?

It's not the destination, it's the journey. This is true for all literature. (Except for those that rely on "twist" endings. And I can still do a few of those ... I've got lots of stories to tell, and lots of characters to play with, and they won't all have their endings spoiled in advance.) And where endings are "spoiled", I hope I'll make the details of the journey to those spoilers interesting enough that you'll still want to read the stories.

The other thing, going back to the Anne Boleyn analogy, is that I consider this a "history" as much as a "story". Strikeforce are real! Everything you're reading really happened. That's why I can write encyclopaedia and who's who entries about these people. And if they are real historical figures, then just like Anne Boleyn, it's ok if you know they are going to be beheaded in the end. (Hold on ... no ... I can't think of any Strikeforce members that were beheaded. So that wasn't a spoiler.)

I don't want to tell you how you should or shouldn't read something, but I think that to get into the spirit of the story you need to embrace the cross-references as something that's adding depth to the journey, not spoiling the destinations. Look for the characters that cross over. Think about how they might have got from A to B, what happened in the "untold" years between the storylines. Hunt for clues in the encyclopaedia and history files. There's a big picture, a whole universe to reveal, and you're not going to get it revealed in a linear -- or even logical -- order. This is deliberate. Go with it.

I'll make mistakes, and I'll accidentally over- (or under-) expose some things that I'll regret later. But I'll do my best to make each part of the saga entertaining.

And when it goes wrong, you need to tell me.

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Comments (1) -

Stuart Forster United Kingdom
12/4/2016 12:58:48 PM #

Ok, if you insist.

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About this blog

The Heroes Universe is an ongoing work of fiction, conceived and chiefly plotted by David Meadows, with help from a group of friends, over a 30-year period.

I am slowly documenting the Universe on this web site.

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