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Getting the Structure Right, by Russell Cornhill

Damn it, I’ve killed my second POV character. No, I don’t mean he died in the story. I mean he’s gone, deleted, never to be seen again. Now there’s identity theft.

That means structural changes that can’t wait until I finish the first draft. I didn’t need that right now.

I guess my problems started well before I joined the Novel Program. I had eight or nine ideas for satirical stories with goblins as the central characters. That’s fine except that then I had the bright idea to connect the stories – same world with a background story that culminated in a tenth book. I believe in keeping things as simple as possible but somehow I always manage to complicate things. Some of the ideas were strengthened when I quickly worked out a rough chronology, so I decided the idea was a good one and left it there while I concentrated on a rewrite I was doing at the time.

I started the program with only a rough idea of the first story and suddenly realised that in many ways, the story line didn’t fit the new world, though it was still the best story for introducing a world where the conflict between humans and goblins was to become the main theme.

I introduced the orcs and orc character Abal to bridge the gap between the start of the story and the arrival of the humans. Kain (a goblin character) is the protagonist but Abal became Axal and took on a life of his own. Not a problem except others were identifying with Axal and not with Kain.

Okay, I’ll get rid of him.

I decided that was a knee-jerk reaction and I’d look at ways to make Kain more appealing but the idea persisted. I realised that Axal was taking much of the story-line that should have belonged to Kain – even stealing the climactic scene. By giving most of his story-line to Kain, I was strengthening Kain and getting rid of the constant switch between characters. Not only did Kain take on added life but so did some of the other characters and so did many of the relationships. Axal was only adding complications I didn’t need.

Bye, bye, Axal.

I guess another solution may have been to allow Axal to become the main protagonist but I’m not sure that ‘The Orc Chronicles’ has the same ring to it.


Russell Cornhill bio page

The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Boxed SetBeast Quest Master Your Destiny: The Pirate's Curse (Beast Quest)The Grasping Goblin (Grim and Grimmer)Green Goblin: A Lighter Shade of GreenThe Monster's Corner: Stories Through Inhuman EyesWriting the Breakout Novel: Winning Advice from a Top Agent and His Best-selling ClientWriting: A User Manual: A Practical Guide to Planning, Starting and Finishing a Novel

One Comment Post a comment
  1. A good article, Russell. Helpful hints on how to combine characters or how to prevent a relatively minor character from swamping the protagonist. Thanks!

    May 15, 2012

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