?

I personally prefer a strong relationship (friendship) to be intact or formed by 200 pages in:

  1. Yes

    50.0%
  2. Not necessarily

    50.0%
  1. Sher Duncan

    Sher Duncan New Member

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    Introducing main characters too late?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Sher Duncan, Apr 16, 2019.

    I'm 200+ pages into my first novel out of (hopefully) a trilogy or quartet and I plan for my first to be about 350-400 pages. My issue is, I've already killed off the first set of characters to spark the big conflict that drives my protagonist and she's now with a group but I never intended them to be significant.

    Is this a bad move so far into the novel? I could always keep one or two of them with her. Should I go back and take away names, details, moments of camaraderie to lessen the readers emotional investment in those characters OR should I have introduced more permanent supporting characters by now?

    Thanks for any help or advice!

    PS. I've also come to realise I want the whole thing in third person and have to re-write it anyway. So drastic advice is fine... I don't know what possessed me to write it in first.
     
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  2. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    It depends on the relationship the protag had with the killed-off characters.

    If they were significant to her and she went through a grieving process and then found the new group and built a "new life" so to speak and she experienced a "renewal" that shows character development and change. So, that may work.

    If not, and the only people that matter to her in the entire book are the second group, the pacing may seem off and the character arc uneven.
     
  3. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Supporter

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    You'll probably want to introduce your very most important (two or three) characters pretty quickly so that the reader knows who the story is about. You can introduce other characters later though. There are plenty of good books that wait a while to introduce the major supporting cast (The Name of the Wind being an example that comes to mind; the first half of the book goes through traveling minstrels and Oliver Twist before it gets to the Harry Potter setting, introducing a whole bunch of supporting gryffindors and ravenclaws at that point).
     
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  4. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    My first reading of this suggests that you may go well past 200 pages before we see the important characters, and thus, as I might see it, before the story really starts. I may be totally misunderstanding--can you offer a little more detail?
     
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  5. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    • Killing characters off just to motivate protagonist - yes, bad move.
    • 200 pages in and there are still no important friendships and characters besides your MC? - do you even need to ask?
    • A group the MC's with that was never meant to be important - yes, bad.

    I've done two out of three of the above myself by the way. Yes, it's bad. No reader's gonna care or want to read the book if for TWO HUNDRED PAGES there's no one who's important to the MC and those you've led the reader to think are important actually aren't. Everything should have purpose in your book - what's the purpose of these characters and relationships if they are not important to the plot?

    To me it sounds like there are things developing that you never planned. Ditch the plan. It doesn't sound like it's working anyway. Let those relationships develop. Just go with it. See where it takes you. Sometimes you find the best characters that way. One of my best characters (a favourite for several beta readers) was created completely by accident and she was meant to die at the beginning of the book. She ended up being a POV character who stayed all the way till the end.

    But you gotta let it happen. Don't put things in there just to make your plan work. Follow your plan roughly and then deviate wherever it makes sense. After a little while, regroup and alter your plan accordingly.

    Strip your book to its core and ask yourself, what is the essence of your book? What is the essence of the characters? Everything else can be changed to suit. Use the simplest, fastest way to tell that story. Delete everything else. Delete any details and plot points and themes that are just not coming in naturally, that seem convoluted. If you have to shoehorn something into the book, it probably doesn't belong there. Kill your darlings. This saying really rings true here. For me, I killed off a significant plot point that involved a talking tree that visited my MC's dreams and was supposed to be the source of my MC's special powers and affect his decisions - yes, a pretty significant plot point, really (and thank the Lord I got rid of it. It was one of my most major blockers to making the story make sense).

    12 years it took me. (I'm querying woo!) Do you know how many drafts it's been? (mind you, after this long, the query and synopsis came pretty easily because you've spent that long trying to boil things down to the core) Don't copy me lol. It doesn't have to take that long!
     
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  6. jannert

    jannert Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I know this view is anathaema to people who like to closely plot their stories, but I'd say don't worry about what you've already written. Just keep going.

    500 pages from now, you might discover that the first 350 don't actually fit at all! But once you do know who your important characters actually are, you may find what your story's starting point actually should be. And here's a gleam of light—you might also see where you can fit some of those first 350 pages into your story after all. It could be backstory, flashback, memories your main character has, perhaps comparisons your main character makes with her new situation in her new group, etc.

    I'm with @Mckk on this one.
    I think when you get stuck like this, and aren't sure how to fit something in, this is the best way out of it. Just keep going. 'Killing your darlings' later on can sound harsh, but my own experience has been the opposite. Getting rid of something that's holding a story back is incredibly cathartic. (You can hang onto everything in a separate file, and restore it later if cutting it out was a mistake, so there's nothing to fear.)

    It's like having a clear-out. You throw away stuff that you once valued, but now it's lost its appeal or usefulness to you. It feels wonderful to have that clogged space free.

    I believe no time you spend writing is 'wasted' time, other than, perhaps, tinkering endlessly with whatever is bothering you. Until you get new insight, tinkering actually doesn't improve things much. But discarding stuff you wrote earlier because it didn't work? That's a learning experience and it feels great. That's always valuable to know.
     
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  7. Azuresun

    Azuresun Senior Member

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    I think there's two things you want to steer clear of. One is having barely-developed red-shirts who the reader knows they don't need to get invested in. Private Deadmeat reporting, sergeant! Have I mentioned today how this will be my last deployment before I get to leave this war and go back to my loving family and this girl who I'm going to marry? :)

    But the other is having the doomed characters be too interesting, so when they're gone, the reader is unfavourably comparing other characters (or the protagonists) to the ones they lost.

    If it was me, I'd keep one or two of them round--it would stop the break from being so traumatic that it would be something that would dominate the protagonist's personality and make them less fun. Also, there's a lot of dramatic meat in the relationship of two survivors changing dramatically from what it was.
     
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  8. Sher Duncan

    Sher Duncan New Member

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    That is EXACTLY how I feel!! Like I've faffed on without really starting the story! Thank you. I think I needed to hear someone else say it to really bring it out.
     
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  9. Sher Duncan

    Sher Duncan New Member

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    I'm thinking of this too. Basically, her city was overrun by a rebel group and loads of the upper echelon were slaughtered to make way for the new regime. So she sets out to beseech other countries for help but the main country, Imani, has had their borders closed for a few hundred years since the first rebellion. So no one outside trusts anyone from Imani and my protagonist is presenting herself as an emissary to open trading routes, etc as if the country has changed. She's going for an audience with the King in the closest country and a small company of border guards are escorting her to the capital. I've made several of them far too detailed and given them quirks/personalities and I either have to cut that back and make them shells OR like you said, bring one or two with her. I'm leaning towards the latter as the above advice is right- 200 pages in and it's like the story hasn't even begun if I dump characters again.
     
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  10. Sher Duncan

    Sher Duncan New Member

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    Thanks all for the solid advice! I can't believe what an instant, comprehensive response I've gotten from so many. I literally just joined and posted these with zero expectations.

    I think I do need to go back and cut out a few chunks of nothing. It's not like she's motivated by revenge killings as such- it was a hostile takeover and she's seeking help. Or is that the same thing?? The story isn't focused on that. Her attempts to seek help won't be dragged out- she's going to be arrested. Anyway, it will lead more to character development as that is the essence of my story and in the sequel (is this poor etiquette to discuss a sequel?) she finds out that the takeover was internal from her best friend who is one of those "good intentions" kind of character. Her character stays true- but she believes the end justifies the means for the greater good. I don't know yet if she's a villain or one of those strange Little Finger characters (but not self-serving).

    I have so many bones but I'm struggling to give it flesh without jumbling up the bones... maybe I do really have to "drop" the plans :cry: I'll just keep little post-it notes of events/scenes that I want and if the opportunity comes across where it fits, I'll stick it in. The group the MC is with was GOING to be important (a fling with one of the troops) but the character I made for her... I hate him. I don't want her to have a fling with him. So I guess that is where the story evolved and I got stuck. There's one in the group that was meant to be the funny companion but something happened and now he's gone serious and suspicious... I've lost control of the characters?!
     
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  11. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Is it possible that the sequel is the real beginning of the story? I hate to keep saying such discouraging things, but on the other hand, digging yourself out of a swamp and starting more solid progress is maybe encouraging instead?

    My own WIP has a war as important life-changing background, and those events are frequently referred to, but the only scene that's actually set during the war is (lemme check...) 700 words of flashback.
     
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  12. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This last bit made me giggle. I feel ya. It happened to me too, except the person that morphed was my MC. I gave him a name I didn't like, just because everyone else liked it. He ended up being absolutely insufferable. I hated him :bigconfused: Then I introduced a side character who was the female MC's friend, whom I liked much more, and the chemistry between the friend and the female MC was instant. But I'd planned for the insufferable male MC and female MC to get together.

    Result? I made that friend into the new MC and gave him a name change. After the name change, he isn't exactly the same character as the side character was first envisioned.

    Either way... this was how I discovered my actual MC.

    If you have strong feelings about something, trust your gut and go as your feelings dictate. You need to learn when to stay on course and when to go with the flow, but usually when the feeling is strong, it's wiser to go with it. Your story will not be as you'd planned or envisioned - IT WILL BE BETTER.

    Yes you read that right. It. Will. Be. Better. Better than you ever imagined.

    Stay strong. Keep at it!

    ETA: Name changes often affect the character's actual personality. Beware of this. Giving your character a needed name change could change everything!
     
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  13. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    I agree with @jannert, don't try to edit at this time. Intentionally or otherwise, you have some sort of character arc going for your protag. This is a first draft, and a whole lot of first draft stuff will end up in the delete file. Just keep going, get to the finish line, and see what supports the story as it has evolved, and what does not. Editing your early chapters now is an exercise in procrastination, and editing will kill your confidence in yourself and your story.
     
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  14. jannert

    jannert Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I especially like that last line: editing will kill your confidence in yourself and your story. While I suppose some people will feel differently, I reckon it's an issue to consider. There is that 'roll' you get on when you're writing first time, and if you start second-guessing every decision, you're going to lose vital momentum.

    There is nothing you write that can't be changed later on, if you feel it needs to go, or be revamped. What is hard to do is regain your enthusiasm, once you've lost it. That's why I always advocate moving on, rather than backtracking.
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2019
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  15. jannert

    jannert Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    That was actually my feeling as well, especially after reading all the feedback.
     
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