1. Cyrano
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    Cyrano Member

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    Introducing MC with an abrupt opening

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Cyrano, Oct 18, 2010.

    Hi, everybody! Long time, no see. After living in the woods all summer I've finally returned to writing.

    My book opens immediately with action, with a vivid scene of the main character standing over two dead soldiers. From then on out the action continues, where he flees and is perused by more soldiers.

    I've been having difficulties doing character development in this opening part. So far I've been using his actions to show what kind of person he is, and having one or two sentence asides where certain things trigger memories or relative information. It is my goal that by the end of the first sequence, where he's eventually captured and caught, that the audience has a fairly good understanding of him. As much info as I have presented, I am looking for more ways where I can insert information/backstory without it seeming out of place the narrative losing its flow. Any suggestions?
     
  2. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Short of giving him someone to chat to I think you're doing as much as you can without walking into an infodump. You could make it so the memories that are triggered are much longer flashback sequences that tell a lot more, if you want to mess around with the pacing or something.

    Other than that, the reader doesn't *have* to know everything about a character - just one or two details are usually enough to assure me they're not a cardboard cut out, and encourage me to keep reading to find out more later.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    What's your hurry? IKt's only the first scene, and how he behaves in captivity and interrogation will give the reader a developing picture of him.

    What is his first action standing over the two dead soldiers? Does he say a quick prayer over them? Does he spit on one and kick him in the head? Does he take their dog tags to return them to their families? Does he sprinkle holy water on them to keep them dead?

    Every action tells us something, or should. Don't explain, but know the reason for each action. Let the reader put it all together.
     
  4. truant
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    truant New Member

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    I don't know what you're trying to accomplish exactly, but it seems to me that the place to put your backstory is after he's caught.

    Action sequences are poor places to establish background, but great places to define character, as Cogito pointed out. Focus on defining the type of man that he is and leave the biographical details until later, after he's caught and he's given a lot of time for reflection. This is a natural time for characters to reflect on their past and deeds and will serve as a good contrast to the prior action sequence. If the initial situation is compelling, and his actions are distinctive, your readers will stick around for the backstory. Providing too much information too quickly always seems contrived, like the infamous 'looking in the mirror' scene, which should be banned from stories unless something happens to be jumping out of it.

    Seems like you're off to a good start. You just need to control your pacing.
     
  5. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I prefer beginnings such as yours.

    Trust me, your MC's personality will show through just fine when you show how he reacts to conflict situations.

    Personally, it really bugs me when authors start with MCs waking up, carrying out daily routines, and/or describing themselves. It's dead boring.

    Tension and action is the way to start. Chances are you're doing fine.
     
  6. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm okay with both ways. Starting with action gets you into the story quicker but not all stories are action either. I sometimes like starting with waking up cause it sort of helps humanize the character. I can sometimes find starting with action to be boring and cliche as well. Sometimes I like to start the day with the character and then be just as surprised as they are when their daily "dead boring" routine is interrupted by chaos.

    In other words, I feel anything can be made to work or not work depending on how one writes it. Any way can be made to work so I say to the OP, go for what your gut tells you. It's your story and odds are you'll be able to know what's best for it. I've found relying on what other people find boring or interesting leads to disheartening emotions. Go with how you'd like it best and chances are it'll come out the best way it possibly can. If you like it getting right to the action, it's probably the best way for the story.
     
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  7. Cyrano
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    Cyrano Member

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    Well, the intro is somewhat like that. It starts with the aftermath of him fending off two soldiers because I thought it would be a strong and graphic scene that would draw the readers in. After he tries to hide the bodies and such, he jumps back into his truck and then it flashes back to his normal day being interrupted. Though the way I presented it, it loses most of the surprise factor but I believe it makes up for it with intrigue and curiosity. Personally I think all stories should start with a "normal day," at least for a tiny bit, just so the reader can fathom how abnormal the day has become. I digress.
     
  8. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    In my novel "Angel's Curse", the opening scene is an action scene.

    However, it's not the type of action scene where swords are flying or guns are going off, etc. etc. It started off with the character having a normal everyday ride on the local bus system, dealing with a demon, then slaying him. It's fast-paced, action packed, but it gives you a clear idea about the character in just one scene. (It's actually where you learn the most about the character).

    So personally, starting a story off with an action scene isn't a bad idea.

    In your case, and as Cogito said, what your character does in these scene will define them a lot more than any kind of info dump ever will. Also (I think this was said, might have missed it) giving a bit of an info dump after your character is caught may be a good idea. As long as it isn't some massive info dump that'll make your readers snore.

    Something I came to remember was that actions define your characters a lot better than a massive info dump will.
     
  9. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Keep them waiting and let them try to figure him out. Just give a few hints of who he is by his immediate actions (no flashbacks), and keep the reader guessing. Together with the action is a good way to catch and keep the readers interest. If you show them few enough hints to give them ideas but no answerers and action to keep their immediate attention occupied they wont put down the book until they get their guessed about the character confirmed.

    I would keep him a mystery throughout the first chapter, personally as long as other things like setting, mood, conflict etc is introduced through the action.
     
  10. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sounds good to me. I really don't think there is a "right" or "wrong" way to do it other than going with your writer's gut.
     

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