1. Noya Desherbanté
    Offline

    Noya Desherbanté Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2010
    Messages:
    173
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    wishing I was somewhere else...

    Follow the character from birth?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Noya Desherbanté, Dec 19, 2010.

    Bear with me...

    Does it 'read well' when a book follows a character from birth, or when they were a very small child, if the story happens to them slowly over time? Or do you prefer to read about when they've 'come of age', or at least when the main action of the story happens to them, and read about the rest in backstory and flashback?

    I've had it drilled into my head by writers' advice books to start the story with action, not spend a prologue patiently setting out swathes of information. But if I dramatise events that happen early in the protagonist's life, and carry on the action until the antagonists appear and start making trouble, does that make it better?

    In the first (uncompleted) draft of this novel, I actually wrote a prologue detailing the creation of the Universe... 0_o This is going back a bit too far I think, even though universal entities factor majorly in the plot, they aren't as important as the protagonist, and I think it would be better to learn about them when the protagonist has the universe explained to her.

    But yes... it's hard to explain without giving away great detail, I'm sorry I'm so protective of my writing. :( What I'm trying to say I guess is even though an adventure starts when a girl is very small, would you be put off by learning about her first as a baby?

    At the moment, my first chapter has her at her 'normal' age, talking to her invisible friend, and it shows that she's an artist, lonely, and lives in an imaginary world of her own. Then chapter two jumps back in time to her childhood. I thought this would get the reader engaged straightaway, but right this minute I think it's even worse, turning the dramatised childhood into just an info dump, and it would read better if I just did all of it chronologically.

    Apologies for the complete ramble there. Thoughts please?? :/
     
  2. rainy
    Offline

    rainy Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2010
    Messages:
    137
    Likes Received:
    1
    Naturally, there's no right answer to this because a lot of it depends on how the writing is carried out.

    The usual approach is to start where the action is and pepper in the details as you go. However, if you insist on starting from the beginning, then you need to make sure that not only is the childhood exciting to read, but there's a point to it. Ask yourself, is telling the story from birth going to achieve something for the reader that would not be otherwise achieved?

    Also, how do you intend to break up the years? You obviously do not want to write every moment of every day in her life, so how do you intend to show the progression of time? That's another reason people usually start with the action, it blends more seamlessly.

    Again, there's a million ways to approach this. The right answer is the one that tells the story the way you meant for it to be told.

    //Rainy
     
  3. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    it reads well, if written well... it doesn't read well if it's not... period!
     
  4. Donal
    Offline

    Donal Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2010
    Messages:
    260
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Limerick, Ireland
    Kane & Abel by Archer is a book that does this well. However if its badly written or doesn't relate to plot its pointless.
     
  5. Pook
    Offline

    Pook Member

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2010
    Messages:
    83
    Likes Received:
    5
    The Truman Show :D
     
  6. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    Kate Morton does this very well. Jane Eyre naturally comes to mind. What Katy Did, Little Women...
     
  7. Newfable
    Offline

    Newfable Senior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2010
    Messages:
    146
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    California
    It can be done, but it isn't usually done.

    Hell, not even the Bible tries it! Jesus is born, then suddenly he's a middle aged man.
     
  8. Mallory
    Offline

    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2010
    Messages:
    4,274
    Likes Received:
    191
    Location:
    Tampa Bay
    Well Jesus was a 12-year-old for a while in-between.... ;)

    Early childhood yes. Birth no, for the most part.
     
  9. write_star
    Offline

    write_star Member

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2010
    Messages:
    39
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Columbus, Ohio
    Hey, I'd love to see it done...
     
  10. tristan.n
    Offline

    tristan.n Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2010
    Messages:
    286
    Likes Received:
    26
    Location:
    Overland Park, KS
    In the story I started, I'm making it progress throughout her life a bit before the real plot comes along. I'm only spending a couple of pages on certain periods of time when important things happen in her life. This lets the reader get to know her a bit, and since my story is sort of a mix of science fiction and fantasy, I also want to introduce her situation and make it believable instead of jumping into it. My character is sort of blunt and can be a bit in-your-face sometimes, so the first chapter happens when she is nine years old, showing that she has been this way since her childhood and isn't just a pubescent teenager filled with angst. :) I hope this at least sort of helps in some way!
     
  11. Mallory
    Offline

    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2010
    Messages:
    4,274
    Likes Received:
    191
    Location:
    Tampa Bay
    To expand on what I said earlier -- as Tristan said, childhood scenes help a lot to flesh out the character. As far as birth, though, the character's personality wouldn't be developed or anything....okay, colicky vs. not, but still...it could get dull fast.
     
  12. Noya Desherbanté
    Offline

    Noya Desherbanté Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2010
    Messages:
    173
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    wishing I was somewhere else...
    Hmm... seems I wasn't specific enough, sorry everybody... :/

    The story doesn't exactly start from birth, but with my MC's fourth Christmas - where she recieves a book of fairytales that proves crucial to her development. A couple of years later she rediscovers the book under the sink and meets her invisible friend. I don't know the exact term - maybe third-person omnipotent? - but we're not inside her head; her childishness is demonstrated through her actions and dialogue, and any thoughts she has are explained in a very narrator-type way:

    "W had never seen such a big, shiny book. Completely ignoring Barbie, she squatted quite comfortably in the middle of the floor and gazed at all the beautiful pictures, and the funny tidy black squiggles in the boxes, until her mother returned and was absolutely gobsmacked that this child of hers was quiet for once."
     
  13. Noya Desherbanté
    Offline

    Noya Desherbanté Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2010
    Messages:
    173
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    wishing I was somewhere else...
    Argh! I double-posted :dead:
     
  14. Sentry1157
    Offline

    Sentry1157 Member

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2010
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    USA
    I actually attempted this and the story never seem to keep my interest. I tried various different alternate ways, but it just didn't work. Flash-backs are an awesome idea, it helps carry the story and gives more backstory to the character(s) and development of the character(s).

    I'm sure it can be done, it just depends on the storyline and how well it can keep the readers interest and also develope
     
  15. ajbc_08
    Offline

    ajbc_08 Member

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2009
    Messages:
    27
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Os-Stray-Lia
    You should really read 'A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man' by James Joyce, he does that sort of thing. Its a bit tough to read as you really have to focus, but I'm sure it will be insightful.
     

Share This Page