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

Click here to add your own comments

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.....

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