I've been busy revising the first draft of book 2 (which will now be the first half of book 2) and working out the outline for the whole book. I'm really pleased with the results of combining books 2 and 3. For one thing, it's going to allow the subplot (formerly the plot of book 2) to get really messy and complex and hit the fan just when the characters are getting ready to face the real threat. It's also going to save me from having to change POV characters for the second book. And I won't have a second book which just doesn't have as much going on as books 1 and 3.
However, it also poses a problem. There's another subplot for two of the characters that I really want to include. But, these two characters have to get a little older before I can do that. Where I am now (roughly the midpoint of the new book 2) they're only 13 and 9. To get them to the right ages, I have to stretch the story a little, which could cause the book to run longer. Right now, I estimate the combined book to be a little long at about 135k words. That's a guess, of course.
I was going to handle this by just letting some time elapse between books 2 and 3. But, if they're combined, I can't do that.
An alternative might be to include this subplot as a sort of epilog. I've actually got a good portion of it written already. It should run about 5k words, give or take.
I would just write it as a short story, but I'd never be able to get the complexities that I've developed for the world in which the novels take place or the history of the two characters into a short story.
Would an epliog that only marginally involves the main character even be appropriate?
I'm not sure I'd care about it as a reader, unless I really liked the two characters in question - in which case I'd have been wishing all along that they were the main characters, and want another whole book about them.
Could you do the epilogue as a separate short story meant to stand apart from the two books?
I remember reading one book in a series where the others were meant to more-or-less stand alone. It had an epilogue set nine years later, about the daughter of the main character. It was kind of annoying because it answered questions that wouldn't even have come up in my mind if I hadn't read some of the other books, one of which starred the daughter of this daughter. My guess is the author's idea was to illustrate healing (since the MC lost a different child as part of the main plot), but by focusing on the daughter instead of the mother's feelings about her, it lost my interest.
[This message has been edited by Pyraxis (edited December 29, 2008).]
I've heard, here and elsewhere, that some readers just won't read prologs or epilogs, or forewords or afterwords. I can't see why not---after all, you've picked up the book, and woomp! there it is---but I know these things happen and these readers exist.
You could just call your epilog Chapter X, X being defined as the number right after the number on the previous chapter.
And then there was the epilog (don't remember whether it was called that or not) to the Harry Potter series, which was annoying because you really wanted to know a little bit more about what happened in between. Not just this snapshot fifteen years later.
In this case, if there were to be a third book in the series, one of these two characters would be the new POV character. The main character from the first two books would have completed his arc and would transition to the mentor role. However, I don't really have a plot for this third book at this point. Just some broad ideas about what would have changed in, say, ten years.
The short story idea is what got me thinking about an epilog. Because there's just too much to put in a short story to make it stand alone. This world has six different cultures with very different values and ways of relating to the world. Their interaction--or failure to interact--drives a good part of the main story. And I just don't know how to put all of that into a short story and keep it short.
But, you've given me another idea. I already have one short story (very rough) in this world. I needed it to help me understand the backstory between two of the supporting characters, so I wrote it out just for my own purposes. I've got a similar short story between two different characters partly written. Maybe, if I think about it some more, there are enough short stories surrounding these novels and the world they belong to that I could do something with that.
Problem is, I've never considered myself very good at short stories. I'm more comfortable with a longer story. But, I still try to write short stories from time to time. Practice may not make perfect, but it cant' hurt.
I'm not hugely fond of epilogues, but when they are there I expect them to do only one thing: to give us a brief glimpse into the HEA (happily ever after). It is after the falling action, after the resolution. The story is done but we get one last peek at the characters and what they are doing. I do not expect there to be a new story arc of any type and that would really annoy me.
As an alternative, you could consider writing it as a short story. If the novels do well, or even ok, you might get such a thing published in a magazine or anthology. I often see short stories written in the worlds I know with the character I kno.
Thanks. For right now, I think I'll just consider that bit as a short story. If it ends up fitting into the novel, great. But I don't think it will. I may just have to cut that side story, even though I really like it.
However, if there ever is a third book to this series, one of these two characters would probably be the main character of that book. My current POV character would have completed his arc and transitioned from hero to mentor. The new POV character would be his kid sister. Then that short story might become a prologue, bridging the gap between the second and third books.
I don't really have a plot for that third book, right now. Just some vague ideas. But there's still more to this world than will have been explored in the first two books.
Happy new years, and my opinion on a tetchy subject.
I like the idea of Prologue as chapter one, Epilogue as the last chapter- with limits. In the draft for my novel, chapter one took place with one person as the POV character, in one country. But the next chapter took place hundreds of miles away, in another country with other people, who were the cast for the next few chapters, until the guy from the first chapter joined them. So I made chapter one a prologue, since it was disconnected so much so from the events that took place in the country the first character defects to. The epilogue, in turn, was the last chapter, in which everyone has returned home. Not an exact parallel, but a little insight.
Look at our favorite book. All the chapters prior to Speaker for the Dead (ch 15, if my memory serves me) detail Ender's war. In effect, that story is over. The last chapter deals with Ender finding his place after the war, and function as an epilogue to that story. Yes, the human race is safe. But what about the boy?
Of course, EG itself might be the prologue to the book SFTD, so who knows? Haha!
[This message has been edited by EP Kaplan (edited January 01, 2009).]