Where, in the story, should i start the book? (or should i make two books)

by John
(Woods Cross, UT, USA)

Hey Glen,


I have a story I have been wanting to write, but I have just one question: at which part of the story should I start the book on, and which part should just be "history" or "back-story"?

I noticed the plot has two main sections... one section, that's kind of the setting the stage section, (which is quite a bit shorter) and the long "main" section where the actual adventure starts, like THIS IS POINT A, and at the end of the second section is POINT B.... the thing is. It seems like the second section is almost independent of the first, and the two sections are so different, that having them together in the same book would make the book seem inconsistent, divided, and a little rushed.

So, if you are understanding what I mean by all that, then what should I do? Should I start the book AT POINT A (the start of the second section) and just have the entire first section be history? Or should I write them both into the same book, or should I split it into two books?

To recap the situation:

SECTION 1 - laying the groundwork
- Readers meet the characters, and their backstories
- Problem is introduced, but isn't necessarily acted upon
- Readers see the characters interacting as tension builds up
- Finally, all the tension leads to a catastrophe, in which a main character is killed

SECTION 2 - The Adventure
- Readers see the aftermath of the catastrophe from section 1
- Another main character is moved by the catastrophe, and the death of his friend and goes off to stop the problem.
- main character experiences a series of events, and this changes his heart.
- main character finds some new allies, and they fight the evil and put an end to the problem.

So that's basically the story so far, and it seems like the pace and feel of both sections is too different to be able to work together... But if I only did Section 2 as the story, and made section 1 be the history, it seems like the story would feel incomplete... If I split it into two books, then they both seem incomplete...

So what should I do? Could I shorten Section 1 so it doesn't seem like it's own story? I am just having a LOT of trouble with this.

Thanks Glen!

Answer: I expect that most of the information and backstories you list for Part 1 could be told in little pieces, "as needed," in Part 2. This would allow you to begin with the second character, the real main character, and make the book about him. This will spare the reader the discomfort of getting attached to a character only to have him killed early on.

The one event from Part 2 that you may find challenging is the death of the first character. I suspect this is the inciting incident or first driver (the event, without which, the rest of the story would not happen).

The inciting incident is part of the overall throughline, and it is quite common for there to be a gap in time between it and the introduction of the main character, which causes a dilemma.

Readers usually like to connect with the main character right away, so it has become popular nowadays to begin the main character's story in Chapter 1. This means the inciting incident is often told in a prologue (which some people dislike) or in flashback (which other people dislike).

Sometimes, as with mysteries, the inciting incident may only be hinted at in the beginning. The reader sees people reacting to it, but doesn't know why until the answer is revealed later. Sometimes the inciting incident can be mentioned, but not shown.

However you manage to reveal the inciting incident, I suggest you try writing the book from the second character's perspective. That will mean introducing this character in Chapter 1 and gradually catching the reader up on what happened earlier.

If this doesn't work, you can always go back and write Part 1, but I suspect you won't need to.

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