1. ApocRK
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    ApocRK Member

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    Main characters powerless

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by ApocRK, Jun 30, 2009.

    I have a question on my story plot, whether it works or not. My main characters are being thrown into all the conflicts that are unfolding in the world but are completely powerless to stop them. I'm planning for this to be a trilogy and I really want the first book to show the characters and them getting their goals in check. I want the results of the problems in the first book give them an opening to go in and change things in the second book.

    So my question is, can I have an entire book be about a conflict my main characters have no say in? Should I look at the plot from an angle that encompasses all three books or just one at a time?

    (I plan for them to have smaller conflicts in the first book that they can overcome and ultimately change smaller details of the end result but not the big picture (for example, they save the written history of a nation while the nation itself is ravaged by an invading army))
     
  2. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I think as long as the plot and the main conflict somehow relates to the characters. This kind of thing isn't too uncommon, a larger important conflict providing the backdrop to a separate character story, but they should intertwine to enough of an extent that the reader can follow both and understand how they relate, especially if the outcome of the conflict is going to be referred to in later books.
    However, just because the "main" conflict doesn't involve the main characters, it doesn't mean that they don't need to be involved in conflicts of their own, and need to be as compelling and captivating as the main conflict.
    On another note, you should make sure the books are capable of standing alone, particularly if you plan on submitting them for publication; series are never sold as such by new writers.
     
  3. JavaMan
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    JavaMan Senior Member

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    I'd say yes. Reason being is that in a very simplistic sense, that is what conflict and/or plot is. These conflicts must be resolved, in one way or another, however.

    An example would be a story about a group of soilders fighting to stay alive in Dubya Dubya Two. WW2
     
  4. ApocRK
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    ApocRK Member

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    Ya right now I have only a rough sketch of how the books structure is going to be as a whole (im only about 10k words in) and when im closer to the end im going to take a step back and pick and choose what needs to be changed and modified so it seems like its a stand alone. Its going to be a jumble of character progression and them finding out their standings and such through experiences from small conflicts. Hopefully I can find a way to join them all together into something that is a great setup and a story in itself.

    In a way my story is very similar to the example of the soldiers. My characters are trying to to survive in a losing battle(which would encompass book 1) and I plan for their generation to rise from the ashes of the lost battle and create something stronger(book 2 and 3).

    To expand on your example it would be as if their commanding generals get wiped out in the battle and because they showed their prowess at staying alive and knowing what to do, they are the best fit to take over their position.


    Thanks for the help guys :)
     
  5. Scribe Rewan
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    Scribe Rewan Contributing Member

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    So what you want is for the war to be background in the first story, and then be brought in focus in the second and third books? Sounds fine, as long as there are conflicts that drives the first book.
     
  6. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    I think you can do it, but you have to make sure your characters are still doing something, as opposed to just having stuff happening to them. One advice I've found on writing that I think is relevant here is that characters should "act, not react". It's not true 100% of the time, but it's a good start if you make your characters try to do things on their own, or at least try to do something other than just sit around and let the world keep throwing stuff at them.

    And apparently, you already have started doing that.

    That's decent, I think. At least they're not sitting around having stuff thrown at them, so I suppose since this is a trilogy, it may take time for them to develop influence and ability, so little battles like this may work out in the beginning.
     
  7. ApocRK
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    ApocRK Member

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    Thanks, the act and not react thing is going to help me alot. I have never looked at it like that, but I have had some scenes where my characters don't do much and I always felt like they were missing something. I want little hard won battles throughout my book but I also don't want it to feel like a prequel that just introduces the characters and their strengths.

    Hopefully it works :) thanks for the help guys
     
  8. B-Gas
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    B-Gas Contributing Member

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    There's an intensely depressing webcomic out there called "Nana's Everyday Life," based on the Elfen Lied anime series. The main character has no arms or legs, is far too young to understand what's going on, and is shunted from one horrible situation to another in such a way that what starts off being "hahaha, she's so cute when she's sad" becomes "for crying out loud, give the poor girl a break." It makes you smile at first, then cry, and then that fades away into a dull rage. She is powerless to stop what is happening to her, but is always as cheerful and upbeat as she can be, and tries to make the best of things. It's a very compelling read; you honestly cannot stop clicking the "next" button until the thing is over.</tangent>

    Always have the main chracters try. If they try their hardest and still can't change anything, then bring that sense of futility out. If they should be able to affect the plot, but can't, make sure the reader knows that they should be able to. Always have them running at one hundred percent and it doesn't matter if they can't change things, if they can't stop what's happening. If they try their hardest, then the reader will be fine with nearly any outcome.
     
  9. wave1345
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    wave1345 Member

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    Throwing your characters into a plot they can't control probably would reveal
    more about them than throwing them into a plot that they are in control of.

    There's nothing wrong with a book in which the main character's plot runs parallel to a
    much broader conflict. And the best part about that is that you can have those two
    plots intersect more and more often, until, suddenly, without even trying, the main
    character's plot coincides with that broader conflict, and they are now in a position
    to affect change on it.
     

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