What I’m Doing Now

Now that I’m almost done with the first draft of my next novel, it might be time to ask if it’s a feasible project.

Here’s the thing: the story has nine main characters. In other words, no main character, but an ensemble of interacting parts. If it were a movie it would be something directed by Robert Altman, where a common narrative thread connects people from different backgrounds–except, in my case, all the people are kids, ages 11-13. The main narrative takes place on a school bus–talk about forward motion!–and unfolds over the course of a school year. Nine months, nine characters: each month will focus on one of them. The title is, Somebody on This Bus Is Going to Be Famous.

This is a rare case where I thought of the title first, then came up with the story. There’s a mystery embedded in the title, of course: who?? Each of the children has some potential for “fame,” but also some built-in limitations, and are we talking about fame or in-fame, and is it in the near future and the distant future, and is it possible that the “somebody” isn’t one of the nine at all? And, in an age obsessed with “celebrity,” is fame necessarily a good thing?

There’s another mystery in the plot, which comprises the main narrative thread and has to do with something that regularly happens along the route. But I won’t go into that.

My question about feasibility is . . . . NINE main characters?? I’ve been told it’s inadvisable to project more than two, although it was done successfully with four in E. L. Koningsberg’s The View From Saturday. Less successfully (some would say) in Lynn Perkins’ Criss Cross, even though that book won a Newbery Award.

With a first draft almost complete, the torch is lit and I’m running with it. I can’t help asking though . . . now that I have this blog it might be interesting to throw the idea out there. Otherwise I’m thinking in a vacuum. Characters welcome . . . comments, too.

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7 Responses to “What I’m Doing Now”

  1. Melissa Says:

    I don’t see why it is not possible, well done movies do it all the time. I would think tying the characters together somehow somewhere else besides the bus, without their knowledge. Maybe even only the reader can see it. In that way, each scene with a particular character is a constant climax for the reader….”OMG…I KNOW SOMETHING YOU DON’T KNOW!

    Maybe even have half the book (in the middle) written in blog form from each of the characters. The story stops (with each their own middle ending) and then a series of blogs from each is written…all with their tangled web of perception going on. With Replys!

    Dang. I think I have a good book idea.

    • jbcheaney Says:

      I think you do, too. Go for it! I’ve got unseen character connections throughout the book that are revealed at different times . . . it’s a good idea to let the reader know things the characters don’t know (yet), but at the same time not reveal too much. I’m writing the last chapter now, and it reads like a “revelation dump”–must find some way to spread it out more.
      Thanks for the comment, and I’ll see you on Thanksgiving!

  2. Denise Monson Says:

    🙂 sounds great Janie 🙂 I think it will be a good book, and I can’t wait to read it 🙂

  3. Louise Jackson Says:

    I REALLY like the title and, in this case, the 9 character idea seems doable. I would go for it.

  4. Tielman Says:

    I’m kind of excited about that idea. That sounds hard. I don’t know if it’ll work, either, but it sure sounds like it COULD.
    Make sure there’s a big-chinned scientist in it. Because it won’t work at all otherwise. He should go to school at Castleton.

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