Begining a novel from a secondary character's point of view..

by Consty

Question: Is it appropriate to start a novel with a scene involving the secondary character? I'm working on Middle Grade novel and my secondary character is the MC's grandfather. Is this allowed in genre fiction? What about the readers, would it make them place the book down when they notice at the end of the chapter that the book isn't going to be about the first person in the scene? I'm writing in third person limited too.

Thank you.

Answer: There are no rules, and those are the rules.

Seriously, you must not mistake guidelines as unbreakable. You're allowed to do anything, as long as it works. While Dramatica would argue that most readers, and especially kids reading genre fiction, prefer to latch onto the main character right away, you can find plenty of exceptions. One that comes to mind is a well-known book called Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, which begins from the point of view of the MC's uncle, Vernon Dursley.

However, I would suggest that you don't let your reader become too heavily invested in the secondary character before you introduce the main character. For instance, a brief prologue, scene, or possibly a short chapter from the secondary POV might be all right. But definitely not three or four chapters.

Of course, your other challenge is to make the grandfather's POV interesting and intriguing enough for your middle grade reader to want to keep reading. I'm guessing the reason you want to start with the grandfather is because you've got a interesting opening in mind. Otherwise, why bother?

In Dramatica terms, most likely the scene you have in mind will be the first event in the overall plot - the inciting incident. Next would come the main character's first event, where we learn what type of person the MC is at the start of his/her story arc. Many stories put these events in the opposite order, introducing the main character first. But again, this is not a hard and fast rule, just a guideline.

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