Novel In Story

I’m working on a book right now. Syndicate is one of those weird concepts that I had that was never supposed to exist. It was supposed to be a universe that appeared as setup for a whole different story that took place in a completely different place, but then I started getting idea after idea for it. And then I started writing those ideas down as several short stories.

The funny thing was, the story didn’t focus around any particular characters or story lines. Sure, there were recurring characters and bits of longer plot threads that popped up here and there amidst the shorts, and a few characters definitely got more attention than others, but this thing I was writing wasn’t a novel. It wasn’t even really a sequence of shorts because, try as I might, these stories needed one another and were going to come as a group.

It’s around this time I learned about the novel in story format (Which appears to no longer exist according to Wikipedia) via more unconventional means. By that, I mean I watched an anime called Boogiepop Phantom, which more or less illustrates what I’d started to create.

A novel in story is a format whereby each chapter reads like it could be a self contained story centring around a central setting, person or possibly theme. The stories are told sometimes linearly, sometimes in an anachronic order, however the author chooses to tell them. When put together, they create a more complete story, though ideally they will all hold up individually as well.

These shorts will sometimes even connect directly to one another via an overlapping character or crossover scenes told from different perspectives. When writing, it’s a little tricky to make sure the details of the scenes still fit, but if it works it usually works as a bit of an “Aha!” moment for the reader who recognizes both. That, and it helps to put the stories in time line context of one another.

Myself and Boogiepop Phantom aren’t the only ones to do this, though admittedly I haven’t found many more. The comic series and Sin City have done this as well. As for books, it’s a little hard to tell because anything that suggests itself as a collection of shorts usually is categorized as an anthology regardless of the context.

The question then becomes: What is the difference between an anthology and a novel in story?

For me, I think it’s those little details in creating crossovers between chapters, episodes, issues or stories. When the parts all really feel like they were meant to fit together somehow and not just written separately, then grouped together because of similar theme.

Now that I’ve seen it in video and comic format, though, I would like to see what other authors are doing with the format. Does anyone out there have any suggestions?