1. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Tips for Introducing a New Point of View Character Late in the Story

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by T.Trian, May 1, 2014.

    Here's the scenario: the story is already nearing its end, about 2/3 through or so, and because of how the plot unfolds, it's necessary to introduce a new POV character, partly to provide the readers with a pair of eyes into scenes that are essential to the plot / story, but they would otherwise miss entirely.

    Note that the character does not exist just for the sake of providing her eyes for those scenes, but she's also an integral part of the story, playing a part in how the main plot unfolds in the end. It's just that she comes late into the story, but it feels problematic to introduce a new POV this late in the game, and introducing her earlier is also out of the question as she's not a main character and it would've interrupted the cohesion/flow of the two main plots.

    In her first POV chapter, she meets another important character, but who is not a POV character, yet an important player in the MCs' lives. These two characters (the new POV character and the important side character) have known each other for over ten years and share a lot of history, their relationship is very twisted and strange, so there's a huge amount of undercurrents going on in their interaction.

    Now, it's probably a bad idea to make the characters behave like they're purposefully trying to introduce the reader to their history (suddenly repeating conversations they've had several times years and years ago), to bring them up to speed, but it also feels wrong to just drop the reader into the scene without any background info on why the characters behave in a certain way towards one another, why there's a lot of tension between them etc. The scene is not about their backstory. It's essential for the story, their (and everyone else's) future, not their past.

    Since it'd be unnatural for the characters to "reveal" things they already know or perhaps even think about things they've thought over a thousand times, can that vagueness still work? Pique the reader's interest? Or perhaps be confusing/annoying? One option is to have a main character find out about these things as she's already interested in the new POV character if that'd help at easing the reader into the new POV.

    What things would you take into consideration if you were writing it?

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    One option is to introduce the character earlier than she is needed for providing a view on later scenes, but leave her on the periphery, so that she seems like a minor character. Then, when she emerges, it not only won't be awkward, but the reader will be anxious to learn more about her. She can have some minor interactions with the important side character early in the story - low key and seemingly unconnected with where you are going with the story itself - and make some references to the past history. The reader can and will fill in the blanks. And when she emerges, having greater importance later in the story, the reader will have an "oh, wow!" moment.

    Good luck with it.
     
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  3. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Thanks, Ed. Thing is, the new POV character has essentially already been a side character during the past few chapters and since the character and her role are... colorful to say the least, it's possible she's memorable enough. It's just that because she's quite weird and sometimes behaves in an erratic manner, the reader won't know why, what has caused her to become the way she is? Why does she behave diffferently towards this one side character? Or is any of that even relevant?

    Of course it's possible this is a needless worry, making mountains out of mole hills, but sometimes it can be confusing to get new POVs late in the story. How to make the reader even care about this character who's essentially a stranger to them?
    Just wondering if there are some things to take into consideration to make the transition into a new POV smoother. I mean, other things than introducing her as a side character a few chapters before her POV, which seems like the reasonable thing to do to ease the reader into the new POV.
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I don't know. :D You tell me.

    By that I mean that you need to decide how much of their prior history is relevant. Even if it's not directly relevant to the story itself, it may be somewhat relevant to her being involved at that point.
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2014
  5. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I guess it was stupid of me to ask those questions without giving you the backstory 'cause in hindsight I realize it's probably impossible to make the call without knowing what's going on. Sorry. :oops:

    Basically we have a finished manuscript and this bit would've originally been in the sequel (also already a finished draft), but we decided this scene/POV just fit better in the earlier MS, so we moved it here from the sequel.
    Anyway, here's the setting for the scene in question (the character's first POV chapter). I'll put it within the spoiler tags since we have a few beta readers here reading the finished draft and they haven't read this bit yet.

    She's one of the bodyguards of a mafia boss (from here on Mr. Boss). She's also the adopted sister of the boss of another mafia (from here on Lady Boss), who's Mr. Boss’s #1 enemy and contender for the throne of organized crime of that area.

    The POV character (from here on POVC) was adopted into Lady Boss's family when she was 13 and Lady Boss was 15. After a few weeks of living together with Lady Boss's parents, Lady Boss sexually molested POVC and from there on, the rapes became an almost nightly occurrence. Lady Boss used extortion to keep POVC quiet and to keep her from running away.

    That went on for a little over two years and when POVC turned 15, she finally ran away, thinking she'd rather die than stay under Lady Boss’s control.

    POVC became a petty criminal (was in prison for a year), and after five years apart, she met Lady Boss again. At that point, Lady Boss was apologetic and wanted to mend their relationship so they could be like real sisters. POVC knows she can never forgive Lady Boss and POVC actually plans to kill her, but because Lady Boss is her organization's leader at that point, she usually has so many goons by her side, that killing her would be a suicide and POVC doesn't think killing her worth her own life, so for now she plays along, acting the part of the kid sister.

    Besides the heavy emotional baggage, the situation is also problematic for POVC because she's Mr. Boss 's bodyguard and every time she meets Lady Boss (in secret), she essentially risks exposure/her life because Mr. Boss would have her killed for interacting with Lady Boss behind his back.
    POVC has waited for a suitable time to jump sides (Lady Boss is offering her a better position in her organization, more money etc. and POVC wants to get closer to Lady Boss so she can kill her, exact her revenge). Now POVC has found out something that can destroy Mr. Boss so that Lady Boss can get rid of him, merge the two organizations, and become the undisputed ruler of organized crime. That would also elevate POVC to a far more powerful position and even give her the chance to take over the organization after killing Lady Boss if she plays her cards right.

    The scene shows POVC going to meet Lady Boss in secret to tell her about this new info that could destroy Mr. Boss. She has provided Lady Boss with some info about Mr. Boss's actions for a while, but they've been small things considering the grander scale (where a drug shipment will be unloaded, which people he's extorting, planning to kill etc).

    That's the long and short of it. Considering all those undercurrents running between the two characters in the scene, any tips on how to, or if we should even reveal any of that stuff in the scene or would it just compromise the authenticity of the scene? Or should we reveal some of it through the MC's (another character altogether) POV earlier on.

    Can you think of any examples of how other writers have done this, introducing new characters who have a lot of baggage or a lot of strange history with an existing character?
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I see a particular problem about which I will shortly send a PM so as not to spoil for anyone.

    I can't think of anything offhand that quite parallels your situation. The closest I can come is Allan Drury's Advise and Consent. Sen. Brigham Anderson is opposing the president's nominee for Secretary of State. In clearing out some old drawers, he comes upon a photo of him and a man with whom he had a romantic relationship many years earlier and decides to throw it out. While giving a ride to someone who strongly supports the nominee, he drops the photo and drives off, and the supporter picks it up, suspects what it means and ultimately tracks down the other man. The story is leaked to others who threaten to go public with it (this is in 1960). The man in the photo calls Anderson. He's been very down on his luck and needed the money they gave him to tell what had happened.

    The novel won a Pulitzer, but Drury's approach - with painfully long stretches of backstory - probably wouldn't fly today. But his method of keeping a character in the background (for much of the novel, we only know him as the other guy in the photo) until bringing him into the light for a specific purposes is instructive here, even though the other man never becomes a POV character.
     
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  7. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    My finger hovered over the spoiler button ...but then I didn't push it! So I'm flying blind here...

    Is this new character one who could be MENTIONED earlier in the story? Mentioned in a way that we'll remember her when she finally appears in person? You've indicated that one of your main characters is interested in her, so maybe a bit more could be made of her existence? Then it wouldn't appear as if you've pulled a character out of thin air at the last minute, to help wrap up the story.
     
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  8. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @EdFromNY, thanks for the heads up, we'll check out that book.


    Glad you didn't, you're not far from that part anyway. :cool:

    We actually already decided to add a new ending for the previous chapter: in it, the MC talks to a person who knows a bit about the new POV character, so she talks to him and this way learns some more about POV's history.

    Even though the new character has already appeared in a couple of chapters and in fairly big roles (e.g. has quite a bit of dialogue with the MC in both chapters), we figured this would be a good way to give the reader some more background info without resorting to telling actual backstory or turning the characters into backstory puppets in the following chapter.
     
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