1. Caveriver
    Offline

    Caveriver Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2016
    Messages:
    124
    Likes Received:
    53
    Location:
    Missouri

    Revealing character backstory to move the plot

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Caveriver, Jul 18, 2016.

    I have a main character suffering from PTSD (result of a tramatic event, four years prior). My plot, as well as the developing relationship between the POV character and a potential romantic interest, is partially driven by how much/what/when the details of this tramatic experience are revealed to him. In the interest of avoiding a info-dump situation, and hesitant to have her simply tell him the story (she is fairly unreliable on the subject... flashbacks, secrets, her inability to bring herself to trust him totally- hence no motivation to do so), I am forced to find tricky ways in which other characters reveal bits of info to him throughout the story. This is difficult when writing in first person POV... I am afraid these situations seem forced, and yet still do not reveal enough info.
    Question 1: If I were to utilize a Forward to set up the tramatic scence, hence revealing her character traits pre -event, label it as a Forward, and then drop the reader into the story four years later, would this be effective? Seems I would need two equally gripping first lines...
    Question 2: I am really toying with the idea of switching POVs through out the story... first person narrative for several chapters, then switching to third person, limited (from another character's perspective) for one or two chapters (to develop his character). I HOPE the overall feel would be as if the story were being told in retrospect from someone who experienced it, namely the first person POV... but being privy to information she could not have had at the time. Thoughts?
    Question 3: As the details of the event are revealed to the love interest character, they are also revealed to the reader, which also drives the story. If I count on flashbacks, a forward chapter, and other characters opinions to reveal these details, it simply follows the reader will be privy to information that the love interest is not... I am afraid this will make his character seem FLAT. Tips, or thoughts, on fixing this?
     
  2. SethLoki
    Offline

    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2011
    Messages:
    586
    Likes Received:
    472
    Location:
    Manchester UK
    Have you looked at close third? A compromise @BirdsDontCry but I was struggling a bit to grasp how your story will dart around. I am feeling a bit dull today mind. I'm only just starting to muck about with changing viewpoints after writing (secretly) for quite a while—it's hard, I find, as a writer to make it easy for the reader.

    Welcome btw.
     
  3. Lew
    Offline

    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2015
    Messages:
    586
    Likes Received:
    402
    Regarding shifting POV from 1st to 3rd, Diane Gabaldon did this well. Most of her series are told first person from Claire Beauchamp's POV, but occasionally other characters come into focus for a time, but always as 3rd, and usually when Claire is not around.

    I had flashback for one of my major second tier characters. Major because she was important for several chapters as she shaped my main female character. She was a Xiongnu warrior women of 2000 years ago north of China, about 22 years old and most unusually commanding ten men. She is initially introduced as gruff and forbidding, with some sexual quirks... she picks strange men for a romp, always during a non-fertile period. After one such romp with one of my male second tiers (which didn't follow her usual program, he remained in control) she believes she is visited by the ghost of her long dead lover, who wants her to tell her story, to lance the boil that will otherwise kill her. So she breaks her rule to meet with that man a second time, and instead of sex, she tells her backstory, how she had to kill her lover as he was being tortured to death, and he smiled when she launched an arrow at his chest. She was just fourteen at the time, and felt this was all her fault. She carried this alone, her family and clan was wiped out before she became a warrior at 12, why she became a warrior in the first place, and never again had any friend or lover, nor shared this story with anyone. Just became the most formidable fighting person she could be. 2000 years ago, they didn't have a name for PTSD, but given the up close and personal nature of combat back then, most of my fighting people have experienced it, including the Roman centurion and another officer, and understood the need to talk it out.

    It wound up being a very poignant story for her, and a major change in her personality... she eventually marries "that man" and walks off the stage when Xiongne bid farewell to their Roman guests and continue on to the Altai mountains. She had twins, a rough experience back then. I don't know what became of her military career, maybe another story there.
     
  4. Caveriver
    Offline

    Caveriver Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2016
    Messages:
    124
    Likes Received:
    53
    Location:
    Missouri
    Thanks for the quick reply SethLoki... I have considered close third. I really feel like, for the emotional punch it creates, that first person is best for the majority of the story... but because my protag is someone unreliable in some ways (because of the trauma she has suffered) and in order let the reader be privy to information (some about the protag, some not) that the love interest gains outside of the protag's prescence, I am toying with the shifting POVs. Said shifting POVs would be seperated by chapter breaks, and the timeline of events would not overlap... simply offering a shifting view of inside the protag's head, and a close third for the love interest, to tie up loose ends. Similar to what Diana Gabaldon uses in Drums of Autumn, if you happen to have read that.
     
  5. Caveriver
    Offline

    Caveriver Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2016
    Messages:
    124
    Likes Received:
    53
    Location:
    Missouri
    Seems we are on the same page, Lew. Precicely like Diana Gabaldon.
     
  6. SethLoki
    Offline

    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2011
    Messages:
    586
    Likes Received:
    472
    Location:
    Manchester UK
    24 degrees c here and I just got goosebumps; Gabaldon's surname (non pseudmoniker) is the same as mine and she's from Flagstaff where I set my last story with—wait for it—multiple POV with a momentary switch to 3rd. Some twilight zone music please albeit bright daylight here. It's a sign says this sage in 3rd person @BirdsDontCry —you must follow your instincts.

    Seriously, if you're giving it the thought it requires/deserves, you're likely going to pull it off.
     
  7. Caveriver
    Offline

    Caveriver Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2016
    Messages:
    124
    Likes Received:
    53
    Location:
    Missouri
    Oh! Well it's meant to be, then! Many thanks, SethLoki.
     

Share This Page