Character/Plot Development - Follow-up

by John
(Woods Cross, UT, USA)

Question: Thank you so much for your answers to my last quesion. But, I was wondering, about that scene where the main character gets captured, it's where the main plot really kicks off. But, I was planning on having a typical war scene be the very first scene, where the readers get introduced to most of the main characters, in action.

But I was wondering, should I show the main character's weaknesses and problems in the first scene, or put them into the capturing scene, where the story really starts?

Also, if I put introducing the main character's flaws in the war scene, should something go wrong because of it? Or should I just put it into the second capture scene, when something is already going wrong. I know it's probably not a good idea to have two bad things happen right at the start of my book, or will that draw readers into the story better?

Answer: I can't give you a definitive answer, but have you considered combining these two scenes? Otherwise, you have to ask yourself what that first scene is all about.

It worries me when you say you want to start with a "typical" war scene. You generally shouldn't start with anything typical or ordinary. Make the book start with something startling or unique.

Also, you say that the story really starts with the capturing scene. The rule of thumb is that you should start where the story gets going, without preamble.

True, you can start with a big event in the main character, impact character, or relationship throughline and then proceed to main story. But that's why you have to know what the war scene is all about.

If the war scene isn't necessary to either ...

1. Show the inciting incident that gets the main plot going,
2. Introduce the main character's inner problem
3. Give the main character his first look at the impact character in action, or
4. Establish their relationship

... then maybe you don't need it. If it's just there to introduce the characters, perhaps you can do that later?

On the other hand, if you can make that first scene be an important event in one of the throughlines, then okay.

The point is, the opening scene of your novel should have a purpose. It should be an important event that changes the course of the characters' lives.

As I said in the beginning, the other possibility to consider would be combining the two scenes so that the event, the change, is the main character going from a successful (or hopeful) fighter to a failed fighter (a prisoner) because of some flaw in himself. His inner conflict might then be a struggle to overcome that flaw by the time the story's big crisis occurs. At the same time, the battle could be the start of the overall conflict as well.

To take one example that springs to mind, consider the short-lived television series, Firefly. The opening scene of the first episode starts with the main character losing a battle to an enemy who mounts an overwhelming force against him (i.e. our hero wasn't strong enough). For the rest of the series, his inner conflict revolves around his efforts to be strong enough to survive and retain his principles despite an environment that constantly challenges him. At the same time, that first scene is the inciting incident in the overall story, in which the the enemy is "government" (both the hero's own government that failed him and the government of the opposing forces that overwhelmed the hero and his soldiers).

Hope this helps.

Comments for Character/Plot Development - Follow-up

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Jan 26, 2012
Thank you again.
by: John

Thank you so much for your advice and your patience. Your response helped me alot. I was stuck with those two scenes for a while. Mixing them into one important scene that starts the plot off sound perfect.
Again, thank you for your advice and your website.

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