Saturday, May 11, 2019

Multiverse narration

As an amateur fiction writer, something I find confining about conventional narration is the need to have a single plot. By that I mean, you may start with an idea for a story involving a set of core characters, but that can be developed in more than one direction. There are different directions in which to take the plot. For instance, suppose you begin with two guys and a girl. The guys are best friends. Both guys love the same girl. Let's call them Buck, Brett, and Amber. That kernel of the story generates potential conflict between friendship and romance. On the one hand there's the platonic love between two straight men. On the other hand, there's the romantic love that each guy has for the same girl. And there's the question of how she reciprocates their affection. Here are some alternate plots based on that kernel of a story:

1. Buck is dating Amber–although they're not committed to each other. And this point it's for fun, but the possibility of marriage hovers in the back of their minds. Buck is aware of the fact that Brett loves Amber too, and he senses that she has feelings for him–yet he doesn't know how strong. He gives Brett permission to date Amber. Even though he wouldn't like to lose her to Brett, he'd rather take the risk than have Brett resent him or Amber harbor nagging regrets about what she might have missed out on. He wants her to choose him because she'd prefer to be with him.

2. Buck and Amber are engaged. But in the heat of the moment, Amber hits on Brett, who reciprocates. They have a fling behind Buck's back. Although Buck doesn't know about it, Brett is wracked with grief for betraying his friend. He's torn in two directions. He wants to confess to Buck because he doesn't deserve Buck's friendship when Buck is in the dark about how his best friend double-crossed him. But he's afraid that if he comes clean, it will destroy the friendship. With trepidation, he confesses to Buck. His worst fear comes true. Buck never speaks to him again. In addition, Buck breaks up with Amber. 

3. Same as (2) up to a point, but on this plot variation, Buck forgives Brett. He appreciates the temptation Brett was under, and respects him for taking the risk of coming clean. Nevertheless, Buck breaks up with Amber. 

4. Same as (2) up to a point, but on this plot variation, Brett is too worried to confess. Buck finds out on his own that Brett and Amber had an affair. Buck breaks up with Amber. Because Brett didn't confess to Buck (3), Brett doesn't get the credit he would have had he leveled with Buck (3). 

5. Brett impregnates Amber. To conceal the affair, she initiates an abortion. 

6. Same as (5) up to a point, but on this plot variation, she wants to keep the child yet Brett pressures her into getting an abortion to conceal the illicit affair.

7. Same as (5) up to a point, but on this plot variation, they seek an abortion by mutual agreement. In (5-7), the abortion causes them to drift apart. 

8. Amber has a miscarriage before the pregnancy becomes evident.

9. Brett confesses to Buck before Amber has a miscarriage. He could have gotten away with it. 

10. Amber has an open relationship with both guys. Each father a child by Amber. 

11. Amber dies in childbirth, leaving Buck and Brett to pick up the pieces. 

12. Brett never confesses to Buck and Buck never discovers the affair. But they drift apart become Brett's unconfessed guilt eats away at the friendship. In (2), the friendship ends from Buck's side; in (12), the friendship ends from Brett's side. 

13. After dating Buck, Amber goes off to college and marries up. 

The dilemma which these plot variations pose is that each plot variation could make a good story. They all have dramatic interest. They explore ethical issues. Classic themes of friendship, betrayal, and romance. Each plot variation might be worth developing. But in conventional narration, a novelist or screenwriter must opt for one to the exclusion of the others.

Suppose, though, a creative writer uses the plot device of the multiverse. In that case, he doesn't have to choose. He could have a story with alternate intersecting plots that play out in a parallel universe ensemble. That could work for a novel or a dramatic TV miniseries. The action would cut back and forth between intertwined, alternate storylines. 

In addition, it could be cast in a theological framework, where God is the fictional Creator of the multiverse in which these counterfactual scenarios play out. Moreover, by having the same characters take the road not taken at every fork in the road, that would illustrate the consequences of different choices in life. Both good and bad consequences. 

1 comment:

  1. You just described a very complex, romance-themed gamebook.