Where to put what

by MF

Question: Well, I'll explain it better: I'm confused about where to put some kinds of information. For example, I want to explain each character's story, but when do I do that? I keep focusing too much on the main character's story, because it's the main plot! Furthermore, I have problems in knowing when should I put flashbacks and past information and how much should happen until the point it reaches the final fight against the enemy! I know how it begins, how it goes, and how it ends. I'm just confused about the organization of things. (by the way, I'm 14 so I'm not very experienced on this, although I already wrote one or two short stories as a kid)

Answer: First, there's nothing wrong with focusing on the main character. Lots of great novels are written from a single point of view.

However, let's assume you have a reason for wanting to use multiple points of view.

Flashbacks serve a couple of purposes.

1. To explain why a character has done what they have done. For instance, let's say a character does something strange, like betray their best friend for no apparent reason. That creates curiosity in the mind of the reader. A flashback after the incident may explain what's going on by revealing an incident that motivated the misdeed.

2. To create suspense (where the reader wonders what's going to happen). For instance, most prologues are flashbacks to the initial driver of the story -- some event long ago that planted the seeds for everything that happens later.

As you may guess, where you put the flashback is very much a judgement call on the writer's part. Do you want the reader to be anticipating something will happen? Or do you want the reader to wonder why something just happened? You may want to experiment with the order of scenes to decide which arrangement is most effective for your story.

3. Another use of flashbacks -- brief flashbacks in this case -- is to explain what is happening now. Sometimes you just need to give the reader a little information so they understand what is going in. For instance, your main character runs into someone and exchanges a stony silence. A little background information -- such as they are old enemies -- clarifies things.

4. There are times when a writer feels the backstories are strong enough to stand on their own legs and deserve equal focus with the main story. In this case, the novel resembles a collection of separate stories, taking place at different times, that may connect at some point. Usually this is a weaker approach than having one central plot.

(As an example, I would suggest the current TV series Arrow suffers from this approach. The backstories about the main character's history on the island are not nearly as interesting as what's going on in the present and are given too much screen time.)

I would suggest, as a guideline, that if you don't actually need the backstory for the reader to fully appreciate the main plot, then you may as well leave it out. This is a corollary to the guideline that you include what you need to convey the story, and nothing else.

Comments for Where to put what

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Dec 17, 2015
One more thing
by: MF

Thanks!!! I really needed it, now it's just a small question: my main character has, in a mysterious way, dreams with things that happened in real life but she never saw. What if I use those flashbacks in a way that, in the beginning, confuses and saddens the character, but then it actually makes her ideas clearer? For a character development purpose and to make it quite easier to understand some characters who wont tell their past?

Also, will she look whiny and annoying if she cries a lot of times? If yes, how do I make her more... strong-looking?

Dec 17, 2015
To: MF
by: Glen

What you're describing is one way to create mystery -- in that the character and reader will wonder what these dreams are all about and what actually happened. Of course, your story should eventually answer such questions.

Also, crying can be okay if justified. If you are afraid of her looking weak, you might show her struggle (and succeed) at not letting her emotions overwhelm her, especially at times when it matters.

Dec 17, 2015
by: Magda

Thanks again! I only feel like I'm being somewhat annoying or repetitive when she cries, because she basically has the same reason every time. (her father is a terrible man an also the antagonist and she gets mixed feelings because of her dreams and the memories of her mom,so its a VERY strong reason) However, she has been trying to stop showing her feelings too much in the latest chapters, so it can be some kind of development/change in her personality. Hopefully, when I publish it in the future people will like it! :3 Again, thanks.

Dec 18, 2015
to Magda
by: Glen

Suggestion: Does she have to cry over her father's death more than once? Once would illustrate her grief. But you shouldn't have to illustrate the same plot point multiple times. It could seem redundant.

Dec 18, 2015
by: MF

She doesn't exactly cry too many times. But she keeps saying out loud her self-confidence problems and believes nothing will work out. Even if she doesn't say anything, I mention something about her body language that shows she is insecure. Would it be not so bad if I did that and later made her more confident? Or would she be too annoying after too many doubts and readers will stop before she gets character development?

Dec 18, 2015
To: MF
by: Glen

I don't see a problem in having your character start as insecure or negative, but be challenged by events to rise above or alter her approach and change. That's simply illustrating the main character's inner conflict.

Dec 18, 2015
by: MF

Ok,I'll try to make it the best way possible! Thanks for your advice, this site doesnt stop helping me :D

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