How to handle episodic plot structure


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Thread: How to handle episodic plot structure

  1. #1

    How to handle episodic plot structure

    Hello, everyone ! I'm new to this forum, and I would really appreciate your insight for this issue that's been bugging me for some time now.

    I'm currently in the works of my first ever novel. The plot is basically structured like this: Each chapter, a different setting/place with its own distinct storyline. What binds them all together though, is the main character's arc, who creates the journey line from each location to the next. The theme and story of each chapter/place is not irrelevant. It moves forward the general plot, and evolves the main character.


    Chapters/Journey Line: Home--->Journey Location 1--->Journey Location 2--->......--->Journey Location 7--->Home


    What I'm afraid is that the episodic nature of this structure appears to be problematic, or at least difficult to handle by my level of skill. My guess is that I'll have problems with the general flow of the story .


    So is there any advice you could give me? Is there a way I could pull this off or should I seriously consider changing it and start from scratch (which is my least favorite option). Are there any books structured like this that have managed to get it right that might help me?

  2. #2
    Welcome! Great to have another fellow novelist join the forum. I'm working on my first novel as well. This forum has been a wonderful resource in so many ways. It's also a very supportive environment to work through writer's hurdles.

    I love your structure idea. I don't think that sounds very difficult at all. But I will tell you what a seasoned novelist told me before I started, when I had doubts about my structure and plot. She pointed her finger at me and said, "Write chapter one." I never looked back and am now on chapter twenty-eight.

    I look forward to seeing you on the forum!
    Sometimes in the waves of change we find our new direction...
    - unknown

  3. #3
    That's not episodic. That's multiple POVs.

    Depends on what your genre is. This type of writing is the norm for the vast majority of crime, mystery, and thrillers. I suggest reading around those genres and seeing how experienced writers do it.
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    "One morning I shot an elephant in my pyjamas. How he got into my pyjamas I'll never know." ~ Groucho Marx.

    "It is better to be feared than loved, if one cannot be both". ~ Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince.

    "A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer". ~ Bruce Lee.

    "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few". ~ Shunryu Suzuki.

    "Give a man a mask and he will show you his true face". ~ Oscar Wilde.

    "He who learns but does not think is lost; he who thinks but does not learn is in great danger". ~ Confucius.

  4. #4
    No, this is not multiple POV, as the POV is going to remain the same (that of the main character). What I'm saying is that there are going to be many sub-plots (one for each chapter/location) along with the central one. My concern is that after a while it may get tedious and repetitive. It feels kind of chopped up and I worry about the general flow.

  5. #5
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    Your structure reminds me of The Mandalorian's first season. My problem with the show is that the episodes are too disconnected and random (apart the end, which gathers every sub-stories).
    But as long as your character has a good reason to travel, and he faces different challenges in each location, it won't be repetitive IMO.
    Last edited by Kensa; January 29th, 2021 at 08:20 AM. Reason: grammar

  6. #6
    Unless your main character is going to be present in each and every one of these sub-plots, it is literally impossible to write them all from his/her POV.
    Hidden Content

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    "One morning I shot an elephant in my pyjamas. How he got into my pyjamas I'll never know." ~ Groucho Marx.

    "It is better to be feared than loved, if one cannot be both". ~ Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince.

    "A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer". ~ Bruce Lee.

    "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few". ~ Shunryu Suzuki.

    "Give a man a mask and he will show you his true face". ~ Oscar Wilde.

    "He who learns but does not think is lost; he who thinks but does not learn is in great danger". ~ Confucius.

  7. #7
    As a matter of fact she is .

  8. #8
    The structure sounds fine but I see why repetition might be an issue. When I'm reading, no matter if it were set up in an episodic way or one continuous single arc, I want each chapter to draw me in, keep the story moving forward, and when that chapter ends I want to be excited to read the next one.

    - if each chapter is a different setting then each setting should shine
    - if each chapter has a subplot then each subplot should shine
    - everything should move the story forward

    That's completely possible with the structure you intend to use. A LOT of the magic won't come til the editing phase. Don't worry about that, just get it down.

    Don't get discouraged by your skill level! You have a plan, tackle the writing and see how it is working. You'll end up rewriting a lot of it, at least I rewrite quite a bit so I expect I'm not alone. (full disclosure I'm speaking as a short story writer but the basic ideas are the same)

    I found this video about the Story Corpse by Victoria Schwab to be a helpful way to think about the process. Dropping that link in here for you in case you find it helpful as well.

    Your skill level will increase as you go as long as you're willing to learn. I'm rooting for you!

  9. #9
    Thx Foxee for your input! I'll check it out!

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by voxofe View Post
    As a matter of fact she is .
    I would have led with that.

    Yes, this has been done before. The most prominent example of it is Homer's The Odyssey.
    Hidden Content

    Hidden Content

    "One morning I shot an elephant in my pyjamas. How he got into my pyjamas I'll never know." ~ Groucho Marx.

    "It is better to be feared than loved, if one cannot be both". ~ Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince.

    "A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer". ~ Bruce Lee.

    "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few". ~ Shunryu Suzuki.

    "Give a man a mask and he will show you his true face". ~ Oscar Wilde.

    "He who learns but does not think is lost; he who thinks but does not learn is in great danger". ~ Confucius.

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