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Need some advice on focus in a chapter

At the moment, I'm writing one of the critical chapters in the development of the story: the protagonists have reached a dead city and, upon entering, have been scattered. Also in the city is the antagonist and his guards, who have also been scattered. This chapter is important because two characters, Fiannuala and Tullia, die in the running battle, and I want to do justice to them.

Originally, I planned to cover what happened to six of the seven protagonists in the city (one of them can never get his own POV), but lately I've been wondering whether it might be better just to focus on Michael, Fia and Tullia and the fight that will get the two killed. I like the idea of keeping the focus on the two who are about to day, and letting them spread their wings one last time, but I'm worried that it will seem strange that the other four characters are being completely ignored for a whole chapter.

Which do you think is the better idea? A broad focus, or a narrower one upon the soon-to-be departed (from life, although not from the story)?


Not knowing much about the story--how much you've written it to date--I would recommend that you don't alter how you've been telling the story thus far, the method including POV(s).

Another thing to consider: More justice (or at least additional) will be done to the characters who die in the following scenes and chapters than possibly the instant that the deaths occur. How their death affects the other characters will influence how it affects the readers. I suggest this as my guess is that the deaths serve a larger purpose in the overall storyline.


One possible solution would be to do the scene over two chapters -- one focused on the other characters (letting the tension build by not mentioning the characters about to die in that chapter at all), and then in the next chapter you switch to the dying characters to focus on what happens to them. Then you bring it full circle in the following chapter as the remaining characters deal with the fallout of what has happened.


toujours gai, archie
TWErvin2 makes an excellent point. Don't try to stuff the whole tragedy into that chapter. How the other characters react, the implications of the deaths, is indeed more important than the details of the death.
As for spreading their wings, that should have happened by now. We aren't going to be as invested in the death scene if we haven't already become attached to these characters. So, you may not need to give them too much attention in terms of character development. Much depends on the nature of the scene. A surprise death out of the blue? Knowingly heading into overwhelming odds? One makes a foolish mistake which the other tries to rescue? Every possibility will drive different narrative requirements.


It sounds like the story, in both plot and characters, are coming together and building in suspense. Look at the books with characters who die, movies where characters die. Some of them are more effective when you witness the character's death, other times when you find the character dead. The most effective method depends on the story. So which method do you believe would really present the gravity of the death to the story, characters and readers better? Witnessing the death or finding the corpse? Either way your chapter has a focus, the death and its effects on the others.

K.S. Crooks

I have read stories where chapters alternate primarily between to view points, with the occasional short chapter from a minor character's perspective. This worked well as there is eventual linkage between the third party and the primary characters. I think having a chapter from the perspective of the dying characters will work well, but you may want to also have a parallel chapter following the main characters. Thinking about the chapter of the dying characters made me think of the play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, which follows two minor characters from Hamlet who are assigned to bring Hamlet to England to die, however it is they who are going to die. Overall I think the key is to determine how attached you or the reader is to them. If the attachment is high then give them a send off, if not let them fade gracefully. Hope this helps.


A bit off topic--but you may be misusing the term 'protagonist'. Your story has seven of them? You probably only have one, and the others are just major characters.

As to the main question, I think the others here have covered it pretty well.
I think that in situations where you're portraying the fate of two groups alternating points of view can be beneficial, like when simulatenous things are happening it's fun to switch between the experience of one character to the experience of the other in the same instant. likewise, pushing for great detail in some situations is just filler material, a little bit of mystery adds to the ambiance you create in tense situations like tragedy. if you want to portray the details of everyone's experience consider that their experiences within a vast landscape like a dead city can be very unique. one character may find himself stranded with another, another may find themselves stranded against an menace unrelated to the main story of which the only tie in might be one split second in the story, like two lost parties meeting each other at unopportune times.