Character/Plot Development

by John
(Woods Cross, UT, USA)

Question: Hi. I'm just barely started writing a novel, that I hope will turn into a series. But I haven't figured out much of the plot for the first novel. I came up with the story, based on one event of the novel. I thought about a world where dinosaurs lived with with people (it's in Medieval Times, not Modern) and came up with a "scene" in that two warriors get attacked by a tribe of evil beasts and dinosaurs. And the younger, inexperienced warrior gets captured and taken to the beasts' king.


I fleshed it out, built upon that scene, came up with lots of background, and added more characters, and now I have this big huge series I want to write. I'm just wondering if that's the way to go, or if I need to start with a plot, and then fill it with characters that will best accomplish the goal. But,right now, I'm having lots of trouble with the plot development.

Answer: Of course, there is never one right way to go. A writer has the prerogative to build the story from any starting point that feels right.

That said, there is a tendency among budding fantasy writers to get so involved with fleshing out the backstory that the actual story doesn't get written.

I suggest you return to the initial idea that intrigued you. And I will hazard a guess that what intrigued you was the character of that inexperienced warrior (assuming he's the main character).

If I'm wrong and what grabbed you was the idea of dinosaurs living with people, then I suggest you find a main character whose story grabs you. It's characters that make a reader care about a story. The ideas may grab the head, but people grab the heart. And the heart is most important.

So perhaps start by thinking about the main character's story arc. Who is he at the start of the story? How is he challenged by his situation and events? What decision will he ultimately make in the first book? Who will he be from then on as a result of that choice?

Then look at the Story Goal, because it is his pursuit of the goal that will lead to his being pressured to become someone different. The goal will unite most of the other characters, because they will be affected by it or involved with it in one way or another.

It's great that you have ideas for a series, but that means you have a split focus. On the one hand, you must give the readers a great story in the first book, or else no one will ever read the rest of the series. So you must work out the plot for that first book. Use the articles on this site under the "Write a Novel" tab to help you.

At the same time, you must work out the general story arc for the series as a whole, which will have its own separate goal. The first book will be complete in and of itself, yet also be the first chapter of the larger story.

To use my favorite example, think of how Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone offers a complete story about stopping Voldemort from obtaining the philosopher's stone. Yet, it is at the same time only the first episode of the overall story about Harry avenging his parents' death.

Right now, you can afford to leave the backstory a little vague while you concentrate on your first book. Create only as much backstory as you need to give the first book a consistency and specificity that makes it feel real. But above all, focus on getting your main character's story right.

Comments for Character/Plot Development

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Jan 26, 2012
Remember KISS
by: Char

I developed so much story and back story that I became so overwhelmed by the five book series I was developing. In the end I abandoned the project to write a simpler storyline.


I recommend keeping it simple until you are experienced to handle a larger project. JK Rowling took 5 years just developing her seven book series. For most of us just get one book first draft done is the best advice given to me :)

Jan 26, 2012
Thank You!
by: John

Thank you sooo much.
I really appreciate your great suggestions.But I have another question on this same topic.....

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