1. Imaginarily
    Offline

    Imaginarily Disparu en Mer Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2015
    Messages:
    891
    Likes Received:
    596

    When to start the plot

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Imaginarily, Feb 12, 2016.

    Hello lovely forum :-D

    I need some opinions. My WIP with Jack is starting to take shape nicely in terms of story arc and planning, and I'm wondering when the actual plot should come in. I've spent two chapters introducing characters and setting, and I plan for the main conflict to make its first appearance at the beginning of Chapter 3.

    Among the comments I've received so far though, many of them are things like "Yeah but what are we actually doing here?" So, I can only assume that I should inject some plot before Chapter 3, right?

    Thoughts? Suggestions? o_O
     
  2. Davek74
    Offline

    Davek74 New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2015
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    5
    I'm not an expert (although I aim to be ☺) but, if it was my story, I'd be making chapter 3 my opening chapter as it sounds where the interesting bits start.
    The best piece of advice I had was to start in the middle of the action, that's then your opening hook. Do the first 2 chapters really contain information so important that you couldn't make the 3rd chapter understandable without them ?
     
    tumblingdice and Feo Takahari like this.
  3. Defender
    Offline

    Defender Senior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2016
    Messages:
    135
    Likes Received:
    14
    well, personally, i think you shouldn't worry about trying to introduce the characters and all of that, start writing the story and as let the story define your characters as it will do a much better job as it forces the character to act in different situations, if you want to define your character, start at chapter one ! :)
     
  4. Tenderiser
    Offline

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,281
    Likes Received:
    5,150
    Location:
    London, UK
    You've changed the main plot of your story since writing current Chapter 1, right? So originally, 1 was kinda 'the inciting incident' and now it's a bit of a sidetrack. That might mean what @Davek74 said - the new inciting incident becomes Chapter 1.

    But honestly, your voice is so strong that I think readers will be more than happy to spend a few chapters getting to know the characters and set-up before anything concrete "happens".
     
  5. terobi
    Offline

    terobi Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 20, 2015
    Messages:
    280
    Likes Received:
    212
    Location:
    Manchester, UK
    Start the plot immediately - what is going to hook a reader's attention more, a detailed description of your protagonist's house, or your protagonist being beaten up by a burglar?

    Your characterisation and setting can (and should) happen alongside the plot. It's not that helpful to treat them as discrete entities, or to structure your work assuming that you need to get X, Y, Z out of the way before you can start your plot.
     
    Imaginarily likes this.
  6. Imaginarily
    Offline

    Imaginarily Disparu en Mer Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2015
    Messages:
    891
    Likes Received:
    596
    Yep, the main plot's been changed.

    And yeah, that's exactly what I was thinking. For the most part, people seem to enjoy reading whatever I write whether it has a point or not, so I might be able to get away with doing whatever the hell I want.

    :superthink: I see your point, but I'm worried that I'll have to introduce all my characters at once if I do that. Then readers will be really confused... The goal I had in mind for the first two chapters was to give a little context before everything went to shit, you know?
     
  7. Imaginarily
    Offline

    Imaginarily Disparu en Mer Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2015
    Messages:
    891
    Likes Received:
    596
    And honestly, the new plot is so confusing to me that I might just scrap it and try to go with something simpler, like Kat being a complete psycho stalker. :whistle:

    Sorry @Sifunkle :unsure:
     
  8. R.K. Blackburn
    Offline

    R.K. Blackburn Member

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2016
    Messages:
    14
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    Washington DC
    Vonnegut - Start as close to the end as possible.
     
  9. Imaginarily
    Offline

    Imaginarily Disparu en Mer Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2015
    Messages:
    891
    Likes Received:
    596
    :superthink:

    Actually with Plot v.3 (Kat as a stalker), that would allow me to build tension more organically and thus I wouldn't need the arbitrary setup. :bigeek:

    I'm a genius! You're a genius! We're all geniuses!
     
    Lifeline and terobi like this.
  10. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,922
    Likes Received:
    5,458
    It sounds to me as if you should slice off Chapters 1 and 2, and the book starts in 3.

    Does anything, plotwise, happen in 1 and 2? Some fairly strong subplots, especially if they link to the main plot, could justify those chapters.

    In these discussions I tend to think of Agatha Christie's The Mirror Crack'd, which starts with purely personal issues for Miss Marple--she's getting older, and is frustrated at being forbidden to garden or do housework, and dealing more generally with the way that the world is changing. The gardener does as he pleases, the housekeeper is nanny-like bossy, she likes the girl who comes in as daily help but struggles with her lack of traditional behavior and housekeeping--one of those changes in the world.

    'I didn't mean to disturb you by singing, Miss Marple.'

    'Your singing is much pleasanter than the horrid noise that vacuum makes,' said Miss Marple, 'but I know one has to go with the times. It would be no use on earth asking any of you young people to use the dustpan and brush in the old-fashioned way.'

    'What, get down on my knees with a dustpan and brush?' Cherry registered alarm and surprise.

    'Quite unheard of, I know,' said Miss Marple.


    She takes a medically-unauthorized walk to go see the new housing development--another of those changes in the world. And that walk, though we don't know it for a while, leads into the main plot.

    All of Miss Marple's frustrations are wound up in the end in a way that deals with the gardener, Cherry, the housing development, Miss Marple's struggles with accepting modern life, everything, so these aren't just introductory frills. And the reader cares about all of them, because the reader is fond of Miss Marple, since this was a long-running and incredibly popular series.

    So I'm suggesting that those first two chapters at least to have some plot and some "stakes" for the character. If your character is new to the reader and they don't care yet, those stakes may need to be bigger and more interesting.
     
    Imaginarily likes this.
  11. Imaginarily
    Offline

    Imaginarily Disparu en Mer Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2015
    Messages:
    891
    Likes Received:
    596
    The more I think about it, the more stalker-idea seems to work perfectly. If I change course to it, then Chapters 1 and 2 have very relevant cameos in them and I won't have to edit much of anything, plus I can continue touring readers through Jack's world at the current pace.

    :superthink:

    Yay? Nay?
     
  12. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,922
    Likes Received:
    5,458
    Yep, on general principles, that sounds fine. I'd still keep in mind that the user needs to care in the moment--even if you know that the events will pay off in plot relevance later, the readers need to care right now. So that may or may not(?) require a side plot with some immediate stakes. (Lost cat, threat of being fired, nervousness about a blind date, are examples of what I mean by immediate stakes.)
     
    Imaginarily likes this.
  13. Sack-a-Doo!
    Offline

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2015
    Messages:
    2,231
    Likes Received:
    1,511
    Location:
    [unspecified]
    A couple of things...
    • Introduce your characters through action. What are they are doing before the plot comes along to divert them from what they're doing?
    • These actions should not just reveal character, but show how they approach problem-solving.
    • Pre-plot actions should be related to the plot or/and show/imply the characters are on a collision course with the plot.

    How soon you start the plot: anywhere from page 1 to page 100, but there's nothing wrong with showing who these people are before the plot starts... as long as you keep these pointers in mind.
     
    Corbyn and Imaginarily like this.
  14. Imaginarily
    Offline

    Imaginarily Disparu en Mer Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2015
    Messages:
    891
    Likes Received:
    596
    Thanks everybody for the swift and thorough and helpful replies! :-D

    Now that I have a better idea of what I'm doing, I think my writing will start to shine again.

    *goes to edit at some point maybe soon* :write:
     
  15. Corbyn
    Offline

    Corbyn Lost in my own head Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2010
    Messages:
    562
    Likes Received:
    203
    Location:
    Hereford, Texas
    I read somewhere that the first quarter of your planned book should involve character set up, and then the main plot point is finished by the end of the quarter. So if you think you will be writing a 300 pager novel then by page 75 all your main character's should be introduced, and your first plot point complete.

    To give you an idea of how many words that could be, the last year I completed Nanowrimo I wrote 54,273 words. That turned out to be 162 pages if I remember correctly.
     
  16. Lifeline
    Offline

    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2015
    Messages:
    1,392
    Likes Received:
    1,544
    Location:
    UK - the place betwixt and between
    So far no one has addressed the point that it also depends on the genre :D

    In my opinion this is a real firecracker. If you are writing a 'theoretically' fast-paced dark-fantasy like me :D your readers will expect to be thrown in immediately. However, if it is another genre entirely (and don't ask me which because I only have experience with my own), then I think you could get away with a lot more words..

    I'd say, go with your gut. It only very seldom is wrong!
     
    Imaginarily and Defender like this.
  17. terobi
    Offline

    terobi Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 20, 2015
    Messages:
    280
    Likes Received:
    212
    Location:
    Manchester, UK
    It might well depend on the genre to some extent - but I'm not sure you can really get away with two chapters of just characters going about their daily business without anything particularly exciting happening in any genre. Your inciting incident could be anything from an alien invasion to a wager on a sporting game, to meeting a new boy at school who's just a little bit gosh-darn sexy, but it needs to happen fairly early on, otherwise your reader (and therefore any potential agent/publisher) will simply get bored and put the book down.

    Not forgetting that in a lot of cases what publishers are asking to see is the first three chapters of your manuscript - would you really be happy sending off three chapters of background and no story?
     
    Imaginarily and Lifeline like this.
  18. Lifeline
    Offline

    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2015
    Messages:
    1,392
    Likes Received:
    1,544
    Location:
    UK - the place betwixt and between
    You are of course right and the expectations of prospective publishers stand entirely on its own. However, I know quite a few books, and bestsellers, romantic fantasy, at that, where for about 1/3 of the book 'nothing much' is happening ;)
     
    Samurai Jack likes this.
  19. BayView
    Offline

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    5,585
    Likes Received:
    5,068
    Start your story where your story (plot) starts. You can work the rest of the information in as you go.
     
  20. Samurai Jack
    Offline

    Samurai Jack Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2010
    Messages:
    167
    Likes Received:
    101
    Location:
    Nashville, TN
    Because it doesn't depend on genre.

    The story can either introduce the characters and then set them in motion, or introduce characters in motion.

    That transcends whether it's dark fantasy or YA romance or biography.
     
    Imaginarily, Tenderiser and Lifeline like this.
  21. Lifeline
    Offline

    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2015
    Messages:
    1,392
    Likes Received:
    1,544
    Location:
    UK - the place betwixt and between
    I certainly seem to have argued myself into a corner here :D Thanks for pointing this out!
     
  22. madhoca
    Offline

    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2008
    Messages:
    2,527
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    the shadow of the velvet fortress
    The plot starts when the story starts--with the first word. Start with something triggering something else. This is true for any genre nowadays. Readers become impatient with loads of buildup--unless you have the skill to make that incredibly compelling.
     
  23. terobi
    Offline

    terobi Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 20, 2015
    Messages:
    280
    Likes Received:
    212
    Location:
    Manchester, UK
    Well, I mean, it's certainly the case that some genres are more forgiving than others - pretty much no genre is going to want page after page of description, chapter after chapter of history and background, but an epic fantasy reader is going to be more interested in that than a thriller reader. It is flexible to some extent, but you still need to keep a reader engaged and wanting to turn the pages.

    Ditto you get much more flexibility with an established series. We're interested in Harry Potter having his breakfast at the Weasley's, having a chat about Quidditch and then going to the shops because we're already invested in these characters and what happens to them.
     

Share This Page