1. Epic0n
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    Epic0n Member

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    Writing a story on a character that already has history?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Epic0n, Apr 17, 2012.

    Almost all the fantasy/scifi protagonists I read are about follow the rags-to-riches storyline, i.e. they suddenly discover they're the wizard destined to save the world or something.
    Have you read any stories that are on protagonists that already have histories? For instance, if Harry Potter was already a pretty good wizard when Hagrid came?
    What are your thoughts on these types of stories?

    Sorry if this is in the wrong section btw, I was about to put it in Character Development but I felt this question is more about the stories themselves.
     
  2. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    Lots of books.
    They are good. If they are well written.
     
  3. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    i don't understand what you mean with the characters having histories, all characters should have a history to me. Having a character who's life seem to start with the novel, a blank canvas, doesn't seem very plausible. Plus their history is what have formed them and made them who they are, how can a character not have any when the story starts?
     
  4. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    You mean you take a character who has already been established as pretty darn important and awesome, and then you make them awesomer? I guess it could work, but how would you establish their already awesomeness? And then you have less scope for character development because there is a limit to how awesome someone can be.

    On the other hand, you could always start out with them being awesome, break em down and then show how they get back up again - there are loads of stories like that, like... well, I can't actually think of any right now.
     
  5. thecoopertempleclause
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    thecoopertempleclause Contributing Member

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    I think most authors like to start with someone who appears to be average, because it makes them more relatable, then when they get powers/skills/a calling it becomes wish-fulfillment for the reader. Obviously it does happen, I can think of Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay which started its narrative when the titular character was already a serial killer/vigilante.
     
  6. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    yes, if the character already possess the skills to solve every problem presented to him there won't be much of a struggle, = a boring story.
     
  7. Epic0n
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    Epic0n Member

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    Thanks for the insight, guys.
    Tesoro - yeah, I meant something like a sequel as a first book if that makes any sense.. a protagonist who already has powers, and starting the story from there.
    Nakhti - thanks! Your comment gave me a good idea - sorta a life lesson for my protagonist that he isn't oh-so-powerful after all.

    Ah, yes, that's one.. I was brooding mostly on fantasy/scifi books that followed the format but Lindsay's works are great examples. Thanks!
     
  8. CrimsonReaper
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    CrimsonReaper Active Member

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    Starting with a "raw recruit" is easier on many levels. Character development aside (and it is characters that draw people into the narrative) there is the issue of exploring the world itself. An experienced character will NOT have long internal monologues about the dark overlord and how zombies are animated by evil spirits. They already know that stuff. Whereas Hero Farmboy is, well a farmboy with no world experience that has to learn.
     
  9. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    Good point, reaper. A newb is often (at least in fantasy/sci fi/historical fiction) a good vehicle for exploring your world because you have to teach them as much as you have to teach your reader. That's why the pupil/mentor trope is so common in those genres. On the other hand, a seasoned pro will just take all that stuff for granted, so you have to find another way to acclimatise your reader to the world you've just yanked them into.

    And I'm still trying to think of a book that does this... dammit! Maybe Tyrant, by Christian Cameron. That starts off with the MC already having made a name for himself as a cavalry commander in Alexander the Great's army, but cannot return home to Athens because he has been exiled, so he uses his reputation to hire out his services training a city garrison. It does feel a bit 'in media res' because you never get to see how he won that reputation (well, you get a glimpse of it in the prologue) but it works because other characters reinforce it throughout the story by recalling his famous deeds.

    But note, there is still a slight 'reversal of fortune' inherent in that plot arc - he WAS a celebrated cavalry commander, but cannot return home to enjoy the acclamation of his friends and live in comfort on his family's estate. He has to start all over again.
     
  10. Pink-Angel-1992
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    Pink-Angel-1992 Active Member

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    The Chronicles of the Raven by James Barclay is about characters with 'history'. The characters are experiance and well known mercenaries, whom get recruited and set off on a quest to safe their land from the apposing evil that will destroy them. I'm currently reading the second book, but I think that the first was good and I'm enjoying the second.

    Starting with a newbie will be easier, as already said, to show and explain the things that the readers need to know about your world and how it functions, but you don't have to. It can be and has been done with experiance characters who are well travelled. In the Chronicles of the Raven, there is magic and the mages in it explain stuff to their comrads who had no interest in any of it before, but have now with everything that is going on. It would make a refreshing change, but you'd have to find a different way of showing and explainign what the MC would view and learn.
     

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