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

Click here to add your own comments

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.

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Questions About Novel Writing.

search this site the web
search engine by freefind

Celebrating our 2nd year as one of the...

 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook

NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles

"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards

"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero