1. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    Swapping one MC and introducing five

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by DeathandGrim, Sep 10, 2013.

    I'm planning out a tale in which the main character and the team he operates with are introduced some time later. The trouble I'm having is how to properly introduce four characters and swap the MC.

    Background: The first MC is a FBI task force officer named Tonya, who leads The Sentinels, a gang task force. The first couple chapters are about how she leads an assault on a mafia boss and Chaos magic abuser, Rufio Martin in his manor. (Rufio, within the span of only a few months, took over the entire criminal underworld with the help of Chaos Magic) The assault goes absolutely terrible when her group is literally obliterated by Rufio, sparing her and leaving an open challenge to stop him.

    Due to this operation gone awry her team is put on indefinite suspension to prevent further casualty despite the extremely dangerous threat Rufio is. She'll take the law into her own hands and recreate the Sentinels with magic users of her own, unfortunately the only ones available to her are prisoners.

    The story a couple chapters later has to shift to the real MC, Nicholas, and the new Sentinels made up of prisoners. The reason I had Tonya up first was to avoid prologue and give a bit of introspective on the "boss lady" character and why she did and does what she does. But my problem comes in with introducing the new Sentinels. I don't know how to comfortably transition and introduce them properly.

    Do I do it chapter my chapter? A bunch of paragraphs? Don't?
     
  2. idle
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    idle Active Member

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    Introducing new characters shouldn't be a problem. All options that you mentioned are possible, it depens on how important they are to the story and how much background you want/need to give on each of them. Whatever the story needs.

    I'd be more worried about swapping the MCs, because that can be confusing and unsettling for the readers if they attach themselves too much to Tonya. I can see two options: a clean cut basically separating the tale into two parts, so that reader expects (and accepts) some changes, including the change of MC. Or step by step, the first MC's story alternating with other POVs and gradually stepping away from her in favour of the new one. This option could incorporate bigger character introductions for the rest of the team - even before they join her, they could each get their own scene or chapter so that we already know a bit about them when they finally get drafted.
     
  3. Dean Stride
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    Dean Stride Contributing Member

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    You need to make one thing clear before you get an appropriate answer: What is the POV? 1st person or 3rd person?

    If it's the former, you're gonna have a hard time with the transition between the first MC and the rest. Here's what I suggest, though:

    Have only two POVs, one for the first MC and another for a second one; when you decide to introduce the new POV, be as blatant about it as possible so as to remove any confusion that might arise. For example, have the character state their name, age, where they're at, why they're there, but don't be too detailed about it, imagine how a convict would tell their story - quick and to the point.

    When you introduce the other characters, don't dedicate individual chapters to each one, and God forbid, don't use additional POVs. The more complicated a narrative gets, the less likely a reader would stick with it. What you could do here is have them interact with each other in a relatively confined environment, places such as a prison are ideal for these types of situations. You want them close to each other, so you could more freely use the second POV as an observer/partaker, that way you can say a lot more about the other characters without unnecessarily diluting the reader's attention.

    For example, you could have them meet in the prison cafeteria, prison yard, have them reside in nearby cells, have them work in the same place (such as the laundry room), etc. All of those are variants to effectively utilize the second POV.

    Now, there is an inevitable problem that arises when it comes to changing perspectives - readers can get attached to the original MC's narrative and might get disillusioned with the new introduction. One remedy for this is to give (near) equal time, in evenly or at least adequately distributed intersections, to both POVs, that way you won't lose the aforementioned group and you'll be able to work with your other characters.

    However, do keep in mind that smooth transitioning between the interchange is key, don't get sloppy at the end/beginning of new chapters - they play the role as buffers between both perspectives; if poorly written, readers might be dissuaded. You should want to know why you change the perspective each time, make sure it's crucial to the plot and storyline, and be absolutely certain that your reader would know that is the case.

    For the latter, it should be a lot easier, theoretically:

    There's more freedom to experiment, as your narrator is probably omniscient and/or omnipresent. Unlike 1st person, you can actually play around with dedicated chapters, although I still advise against them, as they tend to get a bit tedious for the reader at times. If you're convinced you can pull off six intriguing introductions, then by all means, have a go.

    Alternatively, you can pretty much use the same strategy as with the 1st person perspective, with only slight alterations that derive from the differences between using 1st and 3rd person.

    I hope this gave you an idea of where to go next. Have a good one!
     
  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree that swapping the MCs is dangerous. A reader will give you only so much attention, and if you pull them into a sympathetic interested relationship with one character, and then essentially throw that character in the trash and expect them to form that same relationship with another character... I think you're asking too much.

    I would start with the character that will be your "real" MC, and put the failed assault in the past. Alternatively, maybe you could find a reason for him to be part of the failed assault. But however you handle it, he should be the main character from the beginning.
     
  5. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    What I'd like is to keep Tonya in the story as a major role but she's not stepping back on the field. Guess making the opening chapters flashbacks from Tonya would help. I can keep Nick as the MC and have those parts told in a summarize form.
     
  6. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Sounds to me like you didn't avoid prologue at all. Tonya's bit at the beginning is a prologue, even if you don't put that label on it.

    I'd start with Nicholas and insert the Tonya stuff as flashbacks or background info as it's needed. If Tonya isn't the MC, don't annoy the readers by making them think she is.
     
  7. Dean Stride
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    Dean Stride Contributing Member

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    Why not? He could experiment with a two-pronged POV, if he feels confident enough he can pull it off. It could certainly make an interesting read.
     
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  8. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Because the OP does not treat Tonya as an MC. It's okay to have two MCs but then well, they actually need to be MCs, not just a random character you've engaged your readers in whom you're just gonna discard for the majority of the story, or at least the meat of the story. Unless of course the OP want sto turn Tonya into an MC?

    My advice - don't do it. Start with your MC and then slip in details and flashbacks on why Tonya became the way she did. When I started my novel, I thought it'd be oh-so-clever if I started with someone who's not the MC but simply a randomer who exists only for one scene to deliberately "mislead" the reader. It was only for one scene - the opening scene, that is - and then my true MC comes in the second or third scene within chapter one.

    Guess what happened? At least 5 different people read it and couldn't relate to my MC. In fact, they ended up relating to no one because they got so confused as to whom they were supposed to follow.

    Seriously, don't mess with the MCs. Start with Tonya by all means, but do not make the readers think she's an MC if she's not. Or if she's really so important that you can't cut that stuff, then perhaps it's time to reconsider who your MCs are. You could always have both your true MC and Tonya as co-MC - definitely Tonya needs to be someone important for the rest of the whole story if you're giving her so much to do right at the beginning, and important stuff too. Whatever you do, don't make her disappear into thin air and forget about her once your MC shows up!
     
  9. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    This is true, I don't wanna pull an infamous MGS2 scenario.
     
  10. Dean Stride
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    Dean Stride Contributing Member

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    You're absolutely right. However, I warned him against everything you said in my reply to his problem and gave him plausible solutions. I'm not going to go as far as to recommend having two POVs, but I would be hypocrite if I didn't say "try it out, see how it goes."
     
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