1. Michael Thompson
    Offline

    Michael Thompson Member

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2015
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Branson, MO

    Back Story, Before the Main Story

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Michael Thompson, Feb 1, 2016.

    This may be a tough question to get answered by anyone if they haven't read my story, but....

    I have been writing a sci-fi story. I am new to writing and I am not a big reader of books, so it's a bit of a challenge. I am however proud of my 83,000-word story!

    The first couple chapters are a back story... They take place a long, long time ago... The characters you meet in these chapters, you never hear from again... The main character makes his debut after this.

    I have had a few people beta read my latest draft and they seem to love it... But a literary agent read only the first chapter and seemed confused.

    He said there was too much action for a first chapter... I need more development for my characters...

    My question is, should I maybe write a small paragraph or two at the start of Chapter 1 saying, this takes place blah, blah... (like before each Star Wars movie) or, just trust the reader will figure it out as they read PAST Chapter 1? Or should I maybe name each Chapter? Like: Chapter 1 - 66 Million Years Ago, to give the reader a hint or what's going on?
     
    jannert likes this.
  2. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,969
    Likes Received:
    5,491
    I would suggest thinking about why you need the backstory, and how you could arrange not to need it. Maybe you really, really need it, but my feeling is that most of the time, backstory is not needed. Removing it can produce the tension of incomplete knowledge and of discovery...and those are good things. Handling them is a more difficult juggling act, but it's likely to lead to a better result, IMO.
     
    kateamedeo and Cave Troll like this.
  3. Imaginarily
    Offline

    Imaginarily Disparu en Mer Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2015
    Messages:
    891
    Likes Received:
    596
    Eh, it depends on your goal. If your motivation is to sell, other members here can help you far more than I can.

    Keep in mind you can't please everyone. From what I can tell, it seems that the publishing process is a rigorous, unforgiving one, full of rejections and requiring a lot more luck than should be necessary. What one agent likes, another may hate. Who is your audience?

    If you'd rather focus on figuring out what's best for the story itself, identifying your writing style, and those sorts of things, I'd suggest just asking yourself if that first chapter makes sense the way it is as part of the whole.

    As @ChickenFreak said, it depends on why you might need the backstory. Does the rest of the novel make sense without the backstory? Can you explain it as you go? Personally I find it much more interesting to learn about a society as I gain exposure to it, rather than having some huge infodump all at the beginning which I may or may not need to cross-reference as I continue reading.
     
  4. Tea@3
    Offline

    Tea@3 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2015
    Messages:
    322
    Likes Received:
    200
    Location:
    USA
    First, I agree with @ChickenFreak about deciding if you need that early stuff. If they never show again, is that material somehow tied to the later story? Or could you remove it and make your third chapter become Chapter One? If it's not needed, maybe toss it. Just a thought.

    If it does relate, maybe consider expanding it?

    Did you beta test it before sending to the agent? Curious.
     
  5. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    672
    Let me give a bit of a anedote of mine. It has a point. But it may seem like it doesn't at first.

    One time, I wrote a three page scene for my sister. I didn't like it, but she did. Nothing special. Actually I didn't even save it, that is how much I didn't like it, but I had emailed it to her. So she shared it to a friend. I met that friend and she began praising me, like non-stop. She thought it was some secret master piece. Which is nice, it feels good to get complimented. So, I decided maybe I was to harsh on the scene and looked it up. I read it, (this being a few months since I wrote it.) And I was so confused. I couldn't understand the meaning behind like 1/5 of my own sentences because of typos, or bad phrasing or other grammar issues. Think about that for a second. I WROTE IT!!!

    Yet this friend of my sister praised me? I didn't think she was doing so ironically. I think she meant it. I think she was just wrong. Or she enjoyed it, in-spite of the faults. Which is a fair thing.

    In your case you might have found a similar thing. Not as harsh probably. I bring it up because the literary agent was probably a lot better a source to trust.

    Though, before I continue. It is awesome that you have a full draft. Congrats. :)

    But the train of thought I see her is a very quick fix. It sounds like you are trying to add something minor to fix the issue that the agent had while keeping it mostly the same since the other people liked it. That is probably the wrong approach. Think of it like a table. What you are doing is more like trying to stick paper underneath the leg to stop it from wobbling. A much better fix is to redo the leg.

    Again, to pause my advice here. It is awesome you have a full draft. To often people try a perfect chapter 01 before they writer chapter 02 which is not helpful.

    But now that you have a full table(for this anology) you can now view the table as a whole and see what is wrong with it as a whole.

    That is what I am doing with my WIP. The first draft had a very boring slow start. Because I wasn't sure what to say. But now that I finished the draft I am re-writing it and I have tons more ideas because I remember where it is going and I am attaching some of the ideas at the end, to the beginning.

    In your case you might have had the reverse problem. Perhaps you need a slower beginning to help the flow of the novel better. But my point or advice is well that, you need a revision, a redone version of that moment that fits the story better. That is less confusing and not a chapter just giving context. Mainly because a chapter or paragraph giving context is often viewed as a bad way to open. A story is a learning process and a information dump in the beginning makes it feel like a lecture. In some cases they do work, and are useful, but I think that is rare. Even things like star wars. In a book, Star wars would likely explain that on the back of the book and not page one.

    Does that help?
     
  6. Sack-a-Doo!
    Offline

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2015
    Messages:
    2,231
    Likes Received:
    1,511
    Location:
    [unspecified]
    Actually, no. This happens a lot, this whole first-chapter-as-backstory thing. Think of it as a phase, the adolescence of writing, if you will. :)

    If the backstory is needed (and most aren't, no matter what we writers think) if it truly impacts the story, the trick is to present it like oil when you're making mayonnaise. Dribble it. Keep the story (food processor) going and add that backstory slowly as it's needed.

    And if the backstory is so important that it simply has to be told in one chunk, the story may not be the story, but the backstory might be.
     
    Tea@3 likes this.
  7. Michael Thompson
    Offline

    Michael Thompson Member

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2015
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Branson, MO
    I had some people beta read it, but they were all friends of friends kinda thing and I didn't get serious feedback... I did get some good ideas after the beta readers, but maybe not enough... The agent that read it is a friend of a friend also. I only sent him the first chapter with a question about my writing style.

    Without anyone here reading the story, I don't know if there is a good answer for me... As I wrote my story, I played it out in my mind like a big budget Hollywood movie... The history part in the beginning (at least in a movie format) would seem VERY important. It paints the setting of why they are here, what they are about and so on...

    But maybe I'm wrong... Maybe I need to chop 11,000 words of backstory out because my story is being told differently than every other book ever written... LOL I'm joking here... But it seems from so many sites across the web, if you don't stick to a formula, then you WILL fail... Seems silly to me that outside of the box thinking can't work in a book but is praised everywhere else...
     
  8. Michael Thompson
    Offline

    Michael Thompson Member

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2015
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Branson, MO
    Maybe... I don't know... I do know what you mean though about how others view your work...

    I was not overly impressed with a certain chapter, but three people that looked at it, loved it...

    For the most part, I am happy with my work so far...
     
    GuardianWynn likes this.
  9. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    672
    Oh yeah. You should be happy with your work. Just the fact you completed a first draft of over 80k is a tremendously awesome thing.

    Looking back, I may have been a bit cryptic with my exact advice. Let me try to rephrase it better.

    I am saying instead of going back and adding a small paragraph to give context. I am suggesting, you go back and review the first chapter. Sort of break it down into aspects. Like what parts were important, and when you have that list, you could probably add to it, such as the things you could add to make it better, like what the literary agents was suggesting, or the context you were going to add with the small paragraph. And once you got that list of key compenents, re-write the chapter with the goal of showing them all.

    I suggest that, because I bet you will love the new chapter a lot. Because it should not only have a nicer flow(you have written a lot since you first wrote it right?) it should include more elements you wanted in a neater formation, and this way you aren't adding context by information dumping.


    If I can give an example of my own work.

    In one book, the first time I wrote the chapter 01. The main character Jackie just woke up, and I info-dumped her apartment and her morning routine, leading to her deciding to go to the local fruit store which begins the plot. Which lets face it, that was boring.

    When I was thinking about redoing it, I knew the kind of emotional struggle Jackie was facing a lot better. I knew it before, but I knew it so much better now that I had a complete draft. So in the revised version, I cut her opening at her home waking up and instead opened with her beating a heavy bag in a gym. Which I think was a lot more interesting.

    It also dived into her character more. As the point of the original opening was to show what Jackie is like. Which is,
    A. Paranoid
    B. Angry
    C. Going through some sort of change emotionally.

    My original version really only hit A. Because it was too slow and passive to dive into B and C. But the new opening has her being aggressive to a heavy bag, which the way I wrote it I think covers B and she is monologuing to herself about how this all feels unique, which covers C. So the new opening is a lot stronger. :D

    I haven't read your work. So obviously I don't know how strong or weak the opening is. I am just trying to say that, instead of just adding to the chapter, that now that you have a full draft, I bet you could make it even more awesome with a re-write.
     
    Michael Thompson likes this.
  10. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,804
    Likes Received:
    7,322
    Location:
    Scotland
    Hm. Not sure what the agent meant about 'too much action.' Perhaps he meant there was too much going on and not enough reader involvement in the events? In other words, were you just telling what happened as if it was a history lesson?

    I'd say beware of backstory to start a book UNLESS it contains an inciting incident. By that I mean, one event or one incident that causes the rest of the story to happen. Specifically, I mean. Not just a history of what happened before, but one particular thing that happened "before" that gets the story underway. It doesn't have to contain the characters who people your main story, but it does need to directly affect them in some way.

    Examples 1: Backstory: A fight happens between two friends. One of them kills the other one, hides the body, and pretends the person simply left town. Main story: Your main character, whom we meet years later in the first 'real' chapter, is the son of the killer. The murdered man's son is his best friend. Your main character has always believed what his father told him about his friend's disappearance ...until he discovers a body buried in their back yard....

    Example 2: Backstory: A scientist creates a substance that, when sprinkled over bare ground, will render it incredibly fertile and able to grow any crop easily. The land he lives in has been suffering from famine recently, so this seems to be a no-brainer. The scientist turns over the secret to this substance's manufacture, is well-paid for his invention. However, he has failed to mention that after 100 years the substance will deteriorate into poison that will render the land uninhabitable. Main story: It is now 100 years later, people are falling ill, crops are failing, and nobody knows why....

    Are you able to pull some kind of incident out of your backstory that has this kind of effect? If so, you'll probably be fine, as long as you personalise it. In my first example, I'd tell that first chapter from the POV of the killer. In the second, my POV character in the first chapter would probably be the scientist.

    Each of these example chapters could be called a Prologue. If you call it that, then the readers will know beforehand that things will have moved on since the inciting incident, and will be ready for a change of POV when you get around to Chapter One. If you simply call the inciting incident Chapter One, you'll need to spend more time creating a transition into Chapter Two and the rest of the story. Some people prefer to do that rather than hang the dreaded "Prologue" label on the first chapter. Personally, I love Prologues like this, but some folks simply refuse to read them. Your choice, really.
     
    tonguetied likes this.
  11. terobi
    Offline

    terobi Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 20, 2015
    Messages:
    280
    Likes Received:
    212
    Location:
    Manchester, UK
    Now, obviously I can't say a lot without having read it - but it doesn't sound a great idea to me. Is there a particular reason you need to have those chapters right up front, or is it just because they take place in that order?

    Re: The comment, am I right in saying the first few chapters are pretty much showing some major event in history; e.g. a big galactic battle, with lots of spaceships and explosions, but the only dialogue and characters being anonymous soldiers barking orders at each other? That kind of thing can make a good Hollywood blockbuster opening sequence, but not a great opening for a book.

    For one thing, if you have a main character that we're following for the rest of the book, we need to see them pretty much straight away. Whether we care about what happens in your book depends to a huge extent on whether or not we care about your main character(s), so if the first we see of them is four chapters in, after fifty pages of explosions and anonymous redshirts getting blown to bits, we're likely not going to be emotionally invested enough in your story to actually get to meeting them in the first place - and even if you do make the characters in the opening sequences relatable and engaging enough that we're interested in following their story further, you're just going to annoy the audience by suddenly introducing them to someone else as their lead instead of the people that got them interested in reading further.

    My advice? Start with the main character in chapter 1. Let us get to know and like them, then contrive some way to show us what happened in the past when it becomes relevant. Perhaps they discover a holorecord, perhaps your main character receives mysterious visions and memories that he can't account for, perhaps (if just the reader needs this information clarifying and everyone else implicitly knows this) then perhaps you can include flashbacks, else short passages from a history book/broadcast between chapters, or a similar device. In any case, giving us all of the history up front seems like nothing short of an infodump, you should probably reconsider it.
     
  12. Michael Thompson
    Offline

    Michael Thompson Member

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2015
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Branson, MO

    I actually have a Prologue before my questionable Chapter 1... My prologue teases a much later chapter in the book. The chapter it hints to, is sort of the opening for the 2nd book... Which takes place before the 1st book, on the world that was destroyed at the start of the 1st book...

    See, I don't see the first few chapters as info dumps at all... I'm telling the story of a family...

    Chapter 1 takes place 66 million years ago on a distant world. The story follows a family and their struggle to flee the planet before it's destruction...

    Chapter 2 and 3 take place a couple thousand years later and follows a descendant from the family in Chapter 1 and his discovery of a new world and the loss of that world.

    Chapter 4 is millions of years later and follows yet another descendant through another tragedy...

    Then we meet another descendant in the near future of this ancient family and his brother and follow them through the rest of the story... They must defend their world from the very forces that destroyed the original home planet 66 million years ago...

    Well, that's a general breakdown...
     
  13. Tea@3
    Offline

    Tea@3 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2015
    Messages:
    322
    Likes Received:
    200
    Location:
    USA
    I'm battling a similar issue with my current work. (my 'bad guy MC thread)

    Mine was a screenplay first, and it worked fine the way it was structured, but I finally realized that novels are not structured like movies. Not even close.

    What I did was slice out the first third of my screenplay and started building my novel from page one with the present scenario, then after getting that off the ground I used chapter three to go back and explain the background, who these people are, why this and that etc etc, explaining the way some curious things are set up in chaps one-two. I think it actually worked out better this way since it adds an air of 'mystery-wondering' for the reader in chaps 1-2.

    Dig in, plug away. You'll get there. :cheerleader:

    "Keep'cha game tight, playa!" --Bishop Magic Don Juan
     
  14. ILaughAtTrailers
    Offline

    ILaughAtTrailers Member

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2015
    Messages:
    94
    Likes Received:
    37
    Embed, don't dump.
     
    terobi likes this.
  15. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,969
    Likes Received:
    5,491
    I think that it's different in a movie. In a movie, the user doesn't have to do any work for the backstory, so if it's spiced up with enough spectacle and dramatic music, they'll take it in. Plus, they paid for the thing, so it's not as if they're going to get up and leave because of five minute of backstory. A movie is sort of like a prepaid tasting menu--they're in the chair, and you're presenting them with different dishes, and as long as nothing's horrible, they'll keep eating.

    The reader of a book is more likely to "get up and leave" (that is, put the book down) than not. You have to drag them into the book, drag them past the first few pages, and get them interested. With a big chapter of backstory, you do that and then they're suddenly thrown out of the book when the backstory ends, and you have to drag them in AGAIN, into a story that's different--different setting, different characters, different everything.

    To continue with the food analogy, it's as if you put a whole lot of effort into convincing a customer to get in their car and come to your bakery, and you feed them a sample cupcake, and they say, "This is great! I'll take a dozen!" And then you tell them to drive across town to the real bakery, and, oh, they don't sell cupcakes, they sell cookies.
     
  16. terobi
    Offline

    terobi Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 20, 2015
    Messages:
    280
    Likes Received:
    212
    Location:
    Manchester, UK
    Hmm, okay then, so it seems like you're going for a very "Foundation" approach with your story, in that it's more about galactic history than following one particular character?

    If so, I think you're going to struggle getting it published in general - modern tastes have moved more towards interesting, indentifiable characters than archetypes inhabiting an interesting setting. I'd be willing to bet that Asimov wouldn't have managed to get Foundation published as a first-time author either (Foundation started as a set of short stories which were later collected into volumes).

    Have you considered trying to write this way? Breaking each of your historical "pieces" into publishable short stories, and trying to get them published as a collection later?
     
    Michael Thompson likes this.
  17. Michael Thompson
    Offline

    Michael Thompson Member

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2015
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Branson, MO

    Yeah... You might be right... I wrote out the story in chronological order... Maybe I should print the whole book out and set out my chapters on a table and see if I can rearrange them in an order that still makes sense then make little tweaks to fill in the blank spots...
     
  18. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    672
    Well, the are just short summaries but I don't see their relation. Which, is the crime of a prologue.

    If you look around this forum, or a lot of writing forums, you will notice, generally a prologue is argued as a bad thing. To be fair, it does have a place, but the issue is the crime of a prologue is steep.

    And that crime is that it feels like two stories because you are in a sense opening twice. Take a book I almost read. It opens on a spy that is trying to poison a traitor to the king. And he does in chapter 02. So in chapter 03, the story basically just restarts. Artistically, the point to show how strong the traitor is before the start of a story, which may sound like a nice position, but by killing the POV I was in, I stopped reading.

    Let me explain more too. It isn't like I was angry for the action, characters can die, even the POV. I didn't read the first three chapters in one day. I read chapter o1, and then a week later chapter two and ext. And the issue for this is that I spent a week thinking about this story. "Will this guy win? How?" Ext. Well, all that thinking was wasted, because he died. The book is not about that. And the next part of the book was a lot more complicated. The opening had a nice simple style and then after that it switched to a much more bombastic choice of words and well it just wasn't even the same book anymore. I struggled to stay interested and then dropped the book. But I liked chapter 01-02.

    The issue is unlike a movie, in which a prologue take 5-10 minutes, a book takes much longer. A movie is a lot less work too. I mean, have you ever caught yourself looking at your phone while watching a movie? Because of the movie is boring for a moment, you can just wait and it might get better. You can't do this with a book, you have to keep turning the page, so if the pages don't connect, a reader may lose interest.

    Does that make sense?
     
  19. Holden LaPadula
    Offline

    Holden LaPadula Member

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2016
    Messages:
    41
    Likes Received:
    18
    Most novels—again, MOST, as you may have artfully pulled off what you wrote for all I know—contain three main "acts," as I like to call them, with variations. The first section/act should make up around 25% of the book. It should contain the development of your main characters, backstory, and traces of plot and subplot, with events leading up to the main conflict in the spotlight. The middle 50% should be your main conflict developing and unfolding, ending with the third act, the climax, resolution, and aftermath. The way you describe your work, I would strongly reconsider the placement of your backstory, unless you can massively condense it and give it its own section before Chapter 1.

    Good luck!! :D
     
  20. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,804
    Likes Received:
    7,322
    Location:
    Scotland
    Obviously I haven't seen your actual writing, but what you said here sort of clanged a bell in my head.

    That's the meat of your main story, isn't it?

    So all of the following is backstory?

    66 million years is a long time for you to remember things about your family. Even 4 million years is a long time to remember things about your family. So presumably the main story characters are not going to know anything about their ancestors, except perhaps some vague kind of legend. Even that seems unlikely, if these characters are humans with roughly human life-spans.
    We certainly don't have legends from our ancestors arising from what happened millions of years ago here on earth. So I don't see how any of these previous stories can possibly affect the main story, in terms of the characters involved. The fact that the previous worlds were destroyed is so far in the past that it seems irrelevant.

    If it were me, I think I'd concentrate on the main story, and the problems these ''present-day" people will need to defend against. If you wanted to indicate, in maybe a short chapter, that these world destructions have happened before, that fact might be relevant. But I think going into lots of detail about families and tragedies from over 60 million years ago—I just don't see how that will work. That's too much distance to cover.

    However, it's hard to be specific when we haven't seen your actual story.
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2016
  21. Commandante Lemming
    Offline

    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2014
    Messages:
    1,241
    Likes Received:
    1,000
    A lot of the advice already on the thread is probably better than what I can give - but one note is that the question you are asking doesn't entirely match the problem as identified by the agent. The agent said you have too much action in the opening chapter - that's not a plot problem, it's a PACING problem. You might just be moving too fast and dumping a bunch of events (I don't know, haven't seen it). If you keep this opening chapter - you might consider going through it again and thinking about pace and reader experience. Chapter 1 is where you need to hook you reader and draw them in - the first line, first page, and first chapter are all among the most important pieces of your book. Go back, read it as best you can while trying to imagine yourself as the reader (or go over it with someone who hasn't seen it). If you can find the same problem as the agent, see if you can rewrite the chapter to fix it.

    Now, as for the actual question of whether you NEED these opening chapters - that depends on how important they are to the story. Do you consider them part of the main story, or are they basically an extended prologue? What happens to the structure of the story if you remove them? What is gained or lost?

    The weird thing is that, with three chapters of backstory, you have something that's too long to be a prologue and too short to be "Part 1" of a multi-part historical saga. If you need to keep it - consider either shortening it into a one-chapter prologue or expanding it into something more substantial. I know the expansion suggestion sounds a little nutty, because we're all trying to stay within a target word count - but you're writing straight sci-fi, and if you're at 83,000 words, then you have about 13,000 words of space left before anyone really freaks out.

    The big thing is whether these chapters drive the main plot or whether they really are nothing but backstory. How much stuff that happens there actually has a bearing on the story you want to tell? Are there major plot events or is it just added color to add depth later? If it's just added color - it doesn't need to be there at the beginning, and is at best a prologue.

    If, and I do mean IF, these chapters are extremely key to the plot, move the narrative forward, and absolutely, positively NEED to stay in....then (deep breath), you're going to have to consider making them LONGER to slow down the pace, develop it, and make it into Act 1 of the larger story rather than an extended prologue.
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2016
    jannert and Michael Thompson like this.
  22. Michael Thompson
    Offline

    Michael Thompson Member

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2015
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Branson, MO

    As the writer of my little story, I feel they are needed... But that's just me, because I wrote it that way... :) There are actually key events that I wrote about that do lead into events later in the book and they play a MAJOR roll in the 2nd book I'm working on.

    I might be able to cut out most of this and recycle it into the end of the 2nd book... I could maybe have my main character read some of this history from an ancient journal written by his distant ancestor...

    I guess it's hard for me to cut it out after 9 months of working on it...

    Thanks for the advice... I just sent the book out to some beta readers... Maybe when they read the whole story, I'll get a better feel for what can be cut...
     
  23. Commandante Lemming
    Offline

    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2014
    Messages:
    1,241
    Likes Received:
    1,000
    Having looked at this now - you actually have two separate pseudo-prologues. Your decision on Ch. 1 may not affect your choices on Chs. 2-3, because those are separate stories.

    How many chapters are in this thing overall and what do you see as the key to the story? Is it first and foremost the story of a family or the story of a person? Yes it can be both, but you need to know which is primary and go from there. If it's the family story you really want to tell, you're going to have to look at your story structure and think about how long each piece needs to be in order to be satisfying. I cite Azimov's Foundation for just about everything, and in this case he did pull off a sweeping historical epic that follows a civilization over multiple centuries within one book...and he did so by telling the story in five roughly-equal vignettes. So, if you want to do something similar, you might consider sitting down and plotting out how important each piece of the story is, how long you want each piece to last, and how that has an effect on reader experience - do that very deliberately.

    If it's first and foremost the story of the person we meet in Ch. 4 - then we need to meet that person pretty early so you can hook us with them - Ch.1 after a prologue at the latest.

    You can do it either way but I think you should give some thought to the overall structure of the book and reader experience...granted you're actually ahead of me in the process, and my mostly-done first draft has some real plotting problems. So, I may not be the best person to ask :p
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2016
    Michael Thompson likes this.
  24. Commandante Lemming
    Offline

    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2014
    Messages:
    1,241
    Likes Received:
    1,000
    You have to be a bit careful laying in stuff for future books - I struggle with that too but it has to make sense within the book it's actually placed in.

    I'm also going to throw out one concept that people generally dread but that is occasionally useful...FLASHBACK SEQUENCE.

    *gasps of horror*

    Flashback sequences are like defibrillators - under normal circumstances it's not always a good idea to play with them, but sometimes they're really needed. Depending on how your story plays out and how important stuff is - you might be able to shove it somewhere other than the beginning.
     
    GuardianWynn likes this.
  25. Michael Thompson
    Offline

    Michael Thompson Member

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2015
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Branson, MO

    My main character actually has a few flashbacks... My characters live for 1000's of years...
     

Share This Page