It’s possible for a novel to have so many characters and plot lines that it has no center. Some writers can manage to hang on to a central theme in the midst of what may look like clutter. For instance, Bacigalupi’s Windup Girl, which damned near drowned me in detail and clutter before I found the life raft. It was an interesting trip, but I was hanging on by my fingernails all the way and not a trip I’d particularly care to take again. I’m not capable of writing that kind of book, nor do I want to.
So, finding that The New Serfdom had somehow accumulated a multitude of characters and plot threads, with no obvious way to pull it all together was disturbing. Time to stop and think things through. Windup Girl is science fiction. New Serfdom is science fiction. And that’s where any resemblance between the two ends. In Windup Girl, the whole point of the novel is the technology and the setting. The characters come and go in service to those two themes. I want technology and setting to serve the characters. But which characters? All of them? Are they all equally important?
Some clarity came with deciding that the technology and setting are the framework, not a major part of the story. Still, what is the story? Making Gil one of the central characters continues to affect the novel’s evolution, which is now looking like the story of Nolan’s development over the years and his relationship with Gil. Nolan Graves is the hub around which everyone else revolves, and much of that is probably going to be seen through Gil’s eyes because he’s the one closest to Nolan, the only one with insight into his character.
I’m still leaning toward flashbacks as an integral part of the novel’s structure, Gil’s being the most important, and keeping them very short — literally flashes rather than long diversions. To make sure the jumps back and forth aren’t confusing to the reader, I’m also considering putting Gil’s memories in first person. The bulk of the novel will be third person limited omniscient, and I don’t know if that kind of POV switch is ever done or acceptable. Maybe someone can offer examples, or suggestions about why it might or might not work.
Placing Gil’s flashbacks in first person may be a problem for third person flashbacks that involve other aspects of the story — the Dennisons, for example. So that’s a new problem to work through. And Andy’s story, as interesting as it might be, looks as if it will drop by the wayside altogether because I haven’t found any role for him.