If you read the previous article on Micro Stories, then grasping the concept of Episodic Reduction should be very simple. It also helps to remember the Five Stage Plot, though not necessarily required.
What is Episodic Reduction? It is the reduction of the overall plot into self-contained episodes. Each episode becomes essentially a micro story, exhibiting the various sections of story development common to an entire story. In other words, each episode has exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement, per the Five Act Structure. But, the resolution of each episode should lead directly into the next episode. Episodes should build on each other and often reflect the Five Stage Plot that I mentioned above. Yet at the same time, each episode builds upon the overarching plot.
Let’s outline this a bit to better explain, using the Five Stage Plot as a template.
EPISODE 1 – Containing exposition for the overall story. Plot Stage 1 – Self-contained exposition, rising action leading to disaster #1, climax, falling action, denouement that transitions to next episode.
EPISODE 2 – Containing rising action for the overall story. Plot Stage 2 – Self-contained exposition, rising action leading to disaster #2, climax, falling action, denouement that transitions to next episode.
EPISODE 3 – Containing continued rising action for the overall story. Plot Stage 3 – Self-contained exposition, rising action leading to 3rd and final disaster prior to story climax, climax, falling action, denouement that transitions to final episode.
—Note: The number of episodes for YOUR book may vary depending on how complex you’ve developed the plot. Remember, not all stories have three defined disasters prior to the climax. Don’t remember about disasters? Click that Five Stage Plot link above and review.
FINAL EPISODE – Containing climax, falling action, and denouement for the overall story. Plot Stages 4 & 5 – Self-contained exposition, rising action consisting of Plot Stage 4, leading to Plot Stage 5, which is the climax for this episode and for the overall story, falling action and denouement, also serving for both the episode and the overall story.
It’s easy to see how any attempt at Episodic Reduction might lead to fragmenting a very large story into to separate books. However, it can and has been used to great effect in a stand alone novel.
Consider Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s (Philosopher’s) Stone. J.K. Rowling even admits that this book breaks down into definable episodes within the plot, with arguable far more episodes than what I described above. 1. Harry leaves the Dursley’s. 2. Harry settles into school, ending with the discovery of the three-headed dog. 3. Harry vs. the troll. 4. Harry’s first Quidditch match. 5. Harry and the Mirror of Erised 6. Hagrid’s dragon. 6.5 (Because the movie combines these, though the books make them separate) Harry in the Forbidden Forest. 7. Harry and the gang go after Quirrell. The end.
Each of these episodes builds its own exposition, rising action, climax, and resolution, leading almost seamlessly into the next episode while also being careful to build upon the overarching plot that is developing. Each episode can even have their own genre or genotype. It helps to approach this as if you’re creating separate, self-contained short stories, each building upon the previous and working toward a larger goal. And if those episodes are too big…well, that’s how anthologies are born.
It can be tricky to manage, especially if you’re also trying to build those overarching Micro Stories to keep everything nice and tied together. Do not operate without a license and keep away from children.
For more tips on becoming a master of story building, click HERE.