1. DK3654

    DK3654 Almost a Productive Member of Society Contributor

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    Making The MC's Introduction to the Hidden World Interesting

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by DK3654, Feb 1, 2019.

    So my WIP is an urban fantasy hidden world type story, in the vein of something like Angel or True Blood. Set in the modern day, with a society of people with supernatural connections of generally familiar sorts living in secret amongst the 'normal' world. The MC, Sarah, starts out as a 'normal' person before coming involved in the hidden world, discovering latent powers.
    An obvious concern with this is that this is a very familiar, and arguably tired, plotline, and a lot of people may feel turned off by it. A lot of other people quite like this sort of thing, but I don't just want to make more of the same and ride off appealing to the most rabid genre fans, but make something worthwhile and a little different.
    Additionally, I am making an effort to have this world be more organised and orderly than many hidden worlds which seem to have no real rules, and the main cast won't be renegades or loners either but very much part of the system, ending up involved in the law enforcement of this society. Which I think is good for making things stand out and potentially be more interesting, except that it actually makes it harder to just throw my MC into things, instead calling for a potentially long and not particularly interesting transition were they train and go through recruitment procedure before getting into it.

    I feel tempted to make Sarah already introduced to the hidden world as of the start of the story so I don't have to do so much work to get her involved, and then completely skip all the 'I'm just an ordinary girl' crap. But then I also have more dramatic effects of the character's emerging powers in mind and like the idea of mixing it up with the character's mental health issues and following along as the character comes to terms with it. And I do have most of the other characters be very much involved already so maybe it's good to show both?

    So, in order to preserve this transformation plotline, I've been thinking about what I could do to make the character's introduction more interesting. It's a subject that requires a lot of delving into the story really, so I don't expect anyone to just tell me what to do, but I was wondering what people generally think about the subject. I want to get an idea of what people like and don't like.
    What really sets apart stories that introduce their characters into the hidden world and handle it well from those that don't? What sorts of things do people find more interesting? Perhaps things you haven't seen that you would like to see done? What things do people not like, that I should avoid?
    Is it more important to throw characters into things quickly and avoid any stale clutter, or is it more important to actually explore the journey and its consequences?
    Those that don't usually like this sort of story, what don't you like about them? Is there anything that could be changed vs the usual plotlines so it might actually interest you?
    Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    Thanks for reading.
     
  2. Some Guy

    Some Guy Manguage Langler Supporter Contributor

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    Piers Anthony did something like this in the Adept Series, and I think maybe Phaze, check that out.
     
  3. Hammer

    Hammer Contributor Contributor

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    There is, apparently, nothing new under the sun, and hasn't been since Ecclesiastes first picked up a pen - I would suggest that you try to concentrate on the how rather than the why.

    As writers we struggle for plots as exciting and uplifting as a new brand of breakfast cereal but what we are really trying to do is add sparkle. Told badly it can read like some hackneyed old cliche, told well it can invigorate and enthuse. Tell well.
     
  4. DK3654

    DK3654 Almost a Productive Member of Society Contributor

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    But, that's partly what I am asking?
    How do you tell well here? Surely it's not all tiny nuance? Let's not exaggerate and say there are no bad plots, no bad characters, only the little things.
    So what do people think a well told version of this looks like? What are the common factors?
     
  5. Some Guy

    Some Guy Manguage Langler Supporter Contributor

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    If most of your story is in the fantasy world, then reference back to the real world in bits of dialog. Focus seems like the bugbear here. Forget about the fashionable athletic wear you'll have on when you win the marathon. Get some shoes on and get over the finishline, first. I learned my lesson about trying to 'describe' everything the reader should know before you tell the story. Tell the story first, even a basic version. Get through A-Z, then go back and work in all the zap and zing. I wrote fifty pages of blah bla bla before I stopped thinking about how great the story would be, and just wrote the story. The Intro turned out to be one scene, less than a page! Gohd, I wish I had started here (WF) first! PM me if you need to brainstorm. :)
     
  6. DK3654

    DK3654 Almost a Productive Member of Society Contributor

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    Well, the notion is the hidden world will be pretty tied to the ordinary world, and while the supernatural people have their own society of sorts, it's a deeply blurred line between them with regular back and forth.

    I've written a decent chuck of the story, and that's made me think more about whether the plot is generally exciting and different enough.
    I want at least to have some possibilities in mind as I go ahead.
     
  7. Azuresun

    Azuresun Senior Member

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    I don't think there's a single right answer to any of this. But I'll suggest a few general things:

    --Bear her personality and her character in mind. Try to avoid making the reveals a long list of setting info that needs to be dropped on the reader, and try to have her learn things more organically, based on her priorities. Does she have strong religious beliefs that she must now reassess? Does she have strong atheist beliefs that have now been proven wrong, forcing her to reassess the world around her? Is she thrilled because she always wanted to believe in magic? Does she just want to go back to her old life, either out of denial or because it doesn't matter what the Wyrdstone of Elmwood Hall has prophesised, she needs to be at work tomorrow? In short, how does she react to this amazing revelation? For example, the Peter Grant series is heavily influenced by the main character being a pragmatic, level-headed guy who can take a lot of weirdness in his stride, because he's a police officer trained to notice stuff and quickly assess information about unfamiliar situations.

    --Introduce the elements of the new world slowly. One series I failed to get into was the Iron Druid novels, even though a lot of people say good things about it. Because in the course of the first book, we got introduced to an immortal druid, gods and goddesses, werewolves, vampires, ghosts, witches and demons! Throwing so many "types" out there leeched all the wonder out of it. Don't assume "it's urban fantasy, everyone knows how vampires work", remember that even if the audience is familiar, you're protagonist isn't. Off-handedly mentioning "oh yeah, dude's a vampire" misses a chance to expand the world and make out how genuinely unsettling it would be to meet even a friendly vampire. It's a bloodsucking predator that feeds on people--even if this one's okay, how many others are there out there?

    --If you haven't already, map out how the world works. How does it avoid being revealed to mortals, for one thing? Is there a clean-up crew who goes around erasing memories? Is the supernatural world naturally inaccessible? Has magic faded and only just started to return? Etc. Seriously, plan this stuff out first. I remember one urban fantasy series by Lilith Saintcrow I read a while back that had distractingly weak world-building--for example, demon hunters like the protagonist were officially sponsored by the police department, but nobody else other than her handful of leather-clad weirdos ever seemed to get involved, even when the aforementioned demons were killing cops in the middle of a crowded main road, or building up stockpiles of deadly bio-weapons. If the demons had the power to cover those crazy stunts up, why hadn't they also arranged to outlaw the hunters?
     
  8. Azuresun

    Azuresun Senior Member

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    Again, it's hard to say for sure, but I'm writing a novel series with roughly the same sort of premise, so this was how I went about introducing my MC to the other world:

    One of her traits is that she's an atheist, so her early experiences of the supernatural were attributed to being strange dreams (a reasonable conclusion, at that point). But she's also not an idiot, so when it becomes clear that things are going on that can't sensibly be explained, she tries to investigate as best she can. She adjusts her beliefs to "this is an unknown part of the natural world, but it can be explained rationally", but it's never a comfortable fit, and she butts heads with another character who sees the ghost world in explicitly religious terms. At the same time, her logical, rationalist outlook lets her notice things and make leaps of logic that the other characters don't.

    I spent some time introducing the ghost world just from her POV before putting her in touch with the characters like her who would become her mentors. I wanted to establish the place through showing, before I started to tell.

    I decided early on that I didn't want the supernatural stuff to overshadow the mundane world ("everyone is a something"), and spent time early on focusing on her friends and family, how she relates to them and how the early events of the story (she suffers life-threatening injuries after being hit by a car) affect them.

    Even when she meets the mentors, she's still suspicious of them and what they do, refusing to accept some of the stranger things they do in collecting souls and trying to do things her own way (and failing because she doesn't understand how all this works yet).

    I also gave some thought to the nature of the powers--I didn't want the heroine to be a once-in-a-generation prodigy, but she also needed to be able to hang out with far more experienced characters. That informed the idea that ghostly powers are accessed through drawing on intense memories--and if you don't have a very personal memory of the right type, you can't do certain things. It's a system that lets her be ahead of the other cast members in some ways, while being overall weaker.

    So that rambled on a bit, but hopefully it explains how I tried to introduce things in a personal, MC-centric way as much as possible, and also how I set up the setting and focus of the story to make her relevant and distinct, but also grounded and plausible as a regular person who is having weird stuff happen to them.
     
  9. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    I do agree with what you're saying, this type of thing can be a bit off a turn off.
    Maybe think about your target audience and your learning curve.
    Some books like 'Gardens of the Moon' had quite a steep learning curve and you have to work hard to keep up. I would drop pieces in here and there. Think about things that could be in the News, unsolved mysteries that these beings are responsible for but no one knows - if those things are good or bad that's up to you.

    Does Sarah stumble across this world or is she looking for it? You mention she has powers well maybe her Mother did. She has a vague memory of her Mother before her mother ran away. Maybe her Mother found, with her powers, living in the 'normal world' too dangerous. I would give Sarah a justifiable reason to get into this world because if it's an accident why has no one else stumbled across it frequently? Make if a difficult thing. Also, if these beings very existence depends on them keeping their identity a secret how are they going to feel about a 'normal world' person coming amongst them? Even with powers, who says she keep her mouth shut?

    Hope I said something helpful
     

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