2

Is there a way to write an endless story with the same protagonists without the story feeling like it has overstayed its welcome? I think this isn't possible, especially if you already wrote a story beat for the story. Technically, you can only add fillers within the story since you can't put a story beat after a story beat without it becoming a sequel, so technically it would be one story, just like One Piece is one story, and if there's a new story beat after One Piece ends, it would be a sequel to One Piece.

Is there a way to write an endless story, and if that's the case, how do you do it?

3
  • 5
    What do you consider an endless story? Like our entire world is an endless story if you think about it, but nothing of the original cast is still here.
    – A.bakker
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 7:29
  • No story will be truly endless. The author will pass away at one point or another. The next best thing is a really long story. There's one English web novel that is over seven million words long at the time of this post. Commented Mar 27, 2023 at 15:38
  • What is an endless story? Where I live, the word, "story" refers to books, or movies for which the number of words in the book or the number of words in the movie is less than one million. For example, Samuel Richardson's book titled, Clarissa contains aproximately 970,000 words. Commented May 10, 2023 at 3:35

4 Answers 4

3

Commonly a story is defined by having a beginning, some kind of process, and an end on the content level. For example, one type of story begins with an inciting incident that upsets the existing state of affairs, tells of how a (group of) protagonist(s) attempts to restore the previous state, and ends with describing what came of that attempt. This structure is sometimes visualized as a circle (a journey that ends where it began) or a curve of rising and falling actions.

If that is what you think of when you say "story", then no, such a story must have an end by definition. For example, while your life is, well, not quite endless but nevertheless pretty long, a trip to visit your grandmother is a clearly delimited "story" within your life.

If on the other hand you think of a "story" as being a series of tales told about the same person(s) or place(s), then of course a story can by neverending. Every tv show sets out to be such an endless tale, and many novel series fall into this category, and they only end because viewership or readership decline or publisher politics or the boredom of the author put an end to it.

Can such a story go on endlessly without becoming boring? Of course! In two ways:

  1. Many readers love to read the same kind of story over and over again. They don't really want to leave their faviourite characters, settings, and story types behind. So all you have to do is be consistent, both in content and quality. Many pulp series or pre-prime-time serials fall into this category: They are basically the same story repeated with minimal variations endlessly. And some of these have a faithful audience and run for hundreds of installments.

  2. Many readers (and writers) need a bit of novelty. They are bored when they read the same story in different guises over and over again. So all you have to do is to introduce one or multiple factors of change. This factor causing change can be travel (the protagonist encounters different people, circumstances, and challenges), growth (the protagonist changes because of the experiences that he or she makes), or time (the persons that inhabit your story change with the decades or centuries).

Good stories (or rather, series) manage to combine a bit of both aspects. They keep what their audience loves, and provide a measure of change as well. A current episode of Star Trek, for example, is quite different in many respects from the first episodes, and yet it is very similar as well. But most successful examples manage to remain in publication only through a changing cast of writers, because often the imagination of a single writer is limited and he or she will eventually burn out.

So how would you go about writing such an endless series? I would do the following:

a) Define what you want to be the continuous aspects of your story. A person, a place, an endeavour (e.g. settling Mars), etc.

b) Define how change and novelty is brought into your story. Through a change in the person's character brought about through experiences and age, through ever new encounters with always different people, places, and tasks, through changing protagonists, etc.

c) Write each installment as you would write any other book or script (pantsing or outlining).

2

No if you mean that such a story can fill out the beats of some plot diagram and stick strictly to them. This problem was first pointed out by Aristotle:

Again, a beautiful object, whether it be a living organism or any whole composed of parts, must not only have an orderly arrangement of parts, but must also be of a certain magnitude; for beauty depends on magnitude and order. Hence a very small animal organism cannot be beautiful; for the view of it is confused, the object being seen in an almost imperceptible moment of time. Nor, again, can one of vast size be beautiful; for as the eye cannot take it all in at once, the unity and sense of the whole is lost for the spectator; as for instance if there were one a thousand miles long. As, therefore, in the case of animate bodies and organisms a certain magnitude is necessary, and a magnitude which may be easily embraced in one view; so in the plot, a certain length is necessary, and a length which can be easily embraced by the memory.

The "endless story" you describe is certainly too large to be held in mind as one thing. It would turn into an endless episodic series of events.

What could be done is having stories within the story of the main character, possibly overlapping.

The chief way is that the main characters, who must be strictly limited in number, are static characters. They do not have character arcs. Instead, either they are endlessly on the move or else (less often) the location of the stories is always drawing in new major characters. These major characters are the ones who have character arcs, if anyone does, stemming from their interactions with the main character(s). If not, their new problems at least generate a conflict that the main characters can resolve before going/sending them on their way.

0

Of course, but you can't outline it ahead of time, this would have to some form of "Discovery Writing".

And it would reflect life. Just like "Roots", it dramatized the ancestorship of a Black American from the 1700s forward, for several generations.

It begins with a baby born in Africa, his story and culture as he grows up, becomes a young man, but is then captured, shipped to America and sold as a slave. And we follow him and his sad, violent life in slavery.

Although truncated in the movie, we follow his story. Eventually he fathers a child, and we see the child grow, with their own personality and talents. When the child is sold, we switch to the child's view. The original protagonist dies, the child is the new protagonist, we see their story, they grows up, have a child, and we repeat, moving ever forward into the future. As the culture changes with each new protagonist, as slavery ends and Jim Crow begins, etc.

That protocol is endless, for as long as you can write, and invent new stories, and a changing culture. Roots is a fiction grounded in actual well-researched history, but you can write a complete magical fantasy realm, as Tolkien did, and carry it forward as far as you like.

You don't have to get "technological" or "SciFi". Our civilizations existed without even electricity for thousands of years, our technological age only got started a few centuries ago, with about 9 dozen centuries before that of very low-tech "civilization".

So certainly a magical realm could go on for thousands of years, following a descendant line like Roots, that become everything from kings to paupers and all in-between, good and evil protagonists, smart and dumb protagonists, lucky and unlucky protagonists.

For as long as you can write, and you still need not be "finished" with the story, it could be passed on to another to keep it going.

0

Soaps etc. are an example to my understanding. Some of their ingredients.

  1. Characters. Defined by a kind of rich psychological report for each and everyone, covering their life from birth to death. Hidden to the audience, revealed bit by bit as the story develops. Same for the worlds they „live“ in.

  2. Conflicts. Within character, amongst characters, within time etc. Same for the worlds.

  3. Focus. Pick one or a few per series. For these work out the overall drama. Change focus with the next series.

  4. Introduce new ones of any of these as needed over time.

  5. Self-similarity. Take the acting structure of a short short-story with a thrilling twist. This pattern has to hold within the episode, over episodes and several layers above.

Some examples.

X1) Big Bang Theory. Constant characters with complex conflicts. Ran for years, could run several decades. E.g. the love story between Penny and Leonhard was noticeable right from the start, remained unfulfilled over a long time, became true, developed further. Even nerd Sheldon found his wife, which was introduced late.

X2) Focus change. BBT again focused on the group, which grew over time, with episode after episode within the same broadcast. - Then focus changed to „Young Sheldon“, a new soap. Same for Breaking Bad which gave birth to Better Call Saul.

(Background: Focus of BB is teacher White in chemistry, who catches cancer, tries getting enough money from producing drugs and turns into a criminal. - Saul is a lawyer, who plays an important role in BB after some time. - BCS restarts with focus on the laywer, earlier than BB, focusing on his personal history, with some touchpoints to BB, and then taking its own turns, later. - You could follow this concept "forever" ...)

To make this process endless, each generation of authors needs to know aboves ingredients, stick to its rules, introduce believable change as needed to invent breathtaking story after story. Etc. while keeping the audience curious and convinced in an entertaining way.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.