Novel chapters like short stories
I'm leaning toward the idea of structuring my novel so that each chapter feels like a stand-alone short story, with the stories told from the perspectives of different characters. I've had this idea in mind for years. A few decades ago when I read Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying" I really liked the way it was told from the perspectives of different characters, so I think this started me down this path. I'm not sure exactly when or where I got the idea for making each chapter feel like a short story, but I recently came across some good examples of what I have in mind: Elizabeth Strout's novel "Olive Kitteridge," has this structure (and it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2009, so that's encouraging). Also, several novels by Louise Erdrich have this structure.
Anyway, I'd be curious to hear some discussion about the pros and cons of this approach. Have you come across any examples that you especially liked or hated?
Like Olive Kitteridge, my novel would have a central character who is involved in every story, and an ensemble of other main characters moving in and out of most of the stories. Unlike Strout's novel, however, mine will have a more identifiable central plot that progresses through the novel – although I think this approach would tend to give the feeling that there isn't any single central plot, or that the central plot "wanders" quite a bit.
Have you ever seen Vantage Point? That comes to mind when I read the lest paragraph.
Originally Posted by Gaylen Moore
I'm sure it can be done, and done effectively - never read Ms. Strout's novel myself so I'll take your word for it. Like anything else, I'm guessing whether it works or not depends on the execution. One potential pitfall you'll want to avoid is striving too obviously to wrap up plot threads at the end of each chapter; that could give the project a feeling of artificiality. Trust your instincts, but only after questioning every single one of them, hammer and tongs.
I know that last sentence was internally contradictory. I meant to do that!
Yes, I saw the movie. I liked it.
Originally Posted by Micheal Woodruff
Sorry I didn't reply sooner. For some reason I ddn't see these post appear on my "New Post" lists.
Thanks John. I plan to wrap up some old plot threads and start some new ones with each chapter (so they won't really be stand-alone short stories; they will just have subplots that make them seem sorta like short stories). I'm thinking that the interweaving of characters and plot threads (with a couple of main plot threads that run full-length) will keep the overall book hanging together like a novel. Hopefully that's how it will work.