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I'm writing a book which was initially intended to be a duology and I had a fixed storyline with the path completely clear.

In this story, I introduce 2 characters - one major, introduced at the beginning of the book and one supporting (not exactly minor), about 1\4 into the book. In the course of the story, it is absolutely imperative that they both die together (not "together" together but "same time" together) and earlier that was where book 1 ended.

But on carefully reexamining the story path, I felt that, in that length of the story (book 1), the readers would not be able to connect with both the characters, understand their importance, their motivations... And am thinking of changing it to a trilogy. I would be extending the story of the 1st book and dividing it into 2, and the earlier 2nd would become 3rd.

However, this feels like I'm stretching the story and run the risk of putting off the reader as the resolution of the novel would be delayed and also, I would have to make major changes to the timeline to accommodate these changes.

So how do I decide which path to take ? Follow the story as is and run the risk of my characters(some of them) falling a bit short or extending the story and running the risk of my story feeling stretched...

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One of the most important things for you to consider is the quantity and quality of key moments in each section of the entire story. If there aren't enough and/or those which are there don't feel potent enough, then you're story could very well seem stretched in places.

A few risks to remember:

  1. Can your supporting cast be fleshed out substantially without overcomplicating the main plot?
  2. When you do introduce new minor characters or expand on existing ones, does it seem like they might pick up too much attention from a reader?
  3. Do you find yourself having to review your main characters and their pivotal events to adjust, then readjust, and readjust some more (i.e. making major changes to the story as you mentioned)? If so, you could easily change the story fundamentally from what you originally envisioned.

Assuming you have all your risks under control, you can then focus on trying to expand where you can:

  • As it is crucial for the reader to connect, just try to add more to what exists now until you're satisfied that is likely.
  • If you then feel as though what you have is too big for 2, then try to look for holes in both your primary characters' and minor characters' story for places where you can slip in some extra drama/backstory which can serve to pull the reader into the world (this is especially effective for fantasy), give the reader more to consider when they're trying to guess who's good/evil/will become important etc. or to set up or improve good plot twists.

You might pick a character, who originally would not have been much more than an extra in a movie, and have them seek revenge on the main character because of some complicated or misunderstood event in the past. This would serve to break up the main character's scenes and allow the viewer to explore more people in the world, and perhaps even establish perspective.

...

Ultimately, you can either go with upping the tempo of the story so you can slice and dice what isn't necessary, or you can go for more in-depth tale, in which case you'll definitely want to add more serious tones, obstacles and tangents to enhance the story.

I can only go on what you've given so... if you're going to kill off that main character and his 'friend' in the first book, then you'll need to give them, or the people who talk about/whose actions define those primary characters, a lot of time and situations which reveal their nature. Try to ensure a person who isn't familiar with your characters can say back to you something at least close to the character bios you may have made for them. If they can, then you obviously got what you needed into the first book.

As for delaying the resolution of the novel, that's fine, as long as you indeed get the reader to connect to the characters.

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  • Thanks @ShastriH, that is quite a detailed answer, it does give me a lot to consider before making a commitment to either path... – user96551 May 4 '15 at 19:12
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Write two outlines. Give them to a few people to read. Get their feedback. Decide.

The outlines need to be detailed enough and contain all the important plot points, I'd guess maybe about three to five pages each. Think of the tv series episode synopses on Wikipedia (e.g. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Under_the_Dome_episodes) and each episode corresponding to one of your chapters, to give you an idea of detail and length. Add in character information.

If you can, chose test readers from your target audience. Maybe go on Absolute Write to draft them.

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  • Thanks @what, I'll definitely try that... I'll check out absolute write too.... – user96551 May 4 '15 at 19:08
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A novel idea (pun WAY intended) would be to release 2 books at the same time. One being his story and one being her story (assuming there is a her). Each book then would be completely from their point of view until the point where they both die together. There would be no specific order they could be read in. You would simply just be reading the story from a particular point of view to the point where the two character's story becomes intertwined.

If you don't want to release the books as different volumes, you might be able to publish both stories in the same book, but keep them separate. You could also interleave each story chapter by chapter if that would make sense (the number of chapters for each character would need to be the same).

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  • Thanks @Jason, that really is a "novel" idea but it is not a him and her perspective... There is a strict timeline which cannot be parallelized unfortunately.... But thanks for the idea... – user96551 May 4 '15 at 19:07

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