The Compound Story

The Compound Story is all about telling two stories at once. It’s more than common to have the story told from two different sides. In fact, it’s essential: if you always tell the tale from the hero’s perspective, the story literally becomes one-sided. Never, EVER tell the story from only one side.

Primarily, this type of story has certainly been adopted in contemporary writing and storytelling. It wasn’t so much like that in the old epics, yet telling two stories at once allows the writer to tell the story twice, from two different, unique points of view.

One of the problems, however, that frequently occurs in this type of storytelling (But by no means makes it any less useful) is that one perspective sags while the other flourishes. You want to tell about this character, but it’s so boring in comparison to the part about this character, that the reader skips through the book to get back to the character that he/she likes. I am guilty of this, I will confess.

However, to first address the problems, we have to discuss the actual method. To start out, you have to have a reason to be writing about two or more characters’ perspectives. Usually, you have the hero and the villain. Or better yet, the hero, his/her helpers, the villain, and his/her helpers. Four perspectives. But first, establish a why: WHY do I want to tell the story from more than one perspective? WHAT can I gain?

Usually, you have the why so that you can tell more about the subject. If the subject is a crime, then you have the detective’s side, the cop’s side, the perpetrator’s side, and the innocent-accused-person’s side. The detective is trying to find the real culprit but doesn’t know who it is, the cop is convinced that the innocent person is really guilty, and the perpetrator is hiding out in a barn, watching the whole thing unfold. They all witness the same things, but have different perceptions. These other perceptions all ow the reader to experience more than one story.

Second: conceal some things from certain characters and reveal things to others, just so that everyone acts differently. You could literally have four characters who are exact duplicates of each other, and, by showing them different perspectives of something, it will make them all act in ways different form each other.

Going back to the crime example: the cop saw the innocent person’s fingerprints on the gun, and that was enough for him. But the detective knew that they were added artificially, so he’s still on the hunt. The innocent person knows nothing except for one seemingly useless fact, so she’s just on the run. By revealing certain secrets to certain characters and concealing them from others, you get different behaviors and actions. Utilize secrecy and concealment.

Now, to solve the problem of uninteresting perspectives. This can primarily happen when one viewpoint is similar to another, or nothing much has happened or preceded the happening. Everything that happens in a story is seen through the lens of a character. I guarantee you: if the character that is viewing the story has no interesting reactions, then neither will the reader. So one possible solution is to modify the character. Make the character easier to sympathize with. Backstory, quirks, humor, personality, actions, whatever.

Another good cure: maybe nothing is happening from this character’s point of view. That’s easy to fix: just make something happen! Make something interesting occur, something pivotal. Those are two good tips for fixing seemingly boring viewpoints.

Creation Challenge: Think of a situation (Other than the crime scenario that I just mentioned) that the compound story model could be used. Then, describe three or more viewpoints that pertain to the situation. Then, explain what they do and don’t do depending on what they know or don’t know.

Good luck, and happy writing!


Published by Van Ghalta

A cold, dark, mysterious character who purposefully wrote a story so that he could fit into it...A story where he himself WRITES stories, practices martial arts, blogs, plays airsoft, collects MTG trading cards, plays outdated video games, and writes weird, third-person bios for himself...

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