Getting into the action

by Nicola
(New Zealand)

Question: I'm starting my story off with a description of the life of my main character, showing what she does in an average day and how this is different to a regular teenager (she is homeless and living on her own).

I wanted to know how long it would be appropriate to continue with the introductory, day-to-day life of my character before the action of the story starts. At this point the plan is for her to meet a homeless boy, and the story will develop from there.

My problem is that seeing as the main character is homeless, she doesn't have a home or a base of any sort. She doesn't stick to any particular places, and generally just wanders from place to place without any direction. Also, she is completely on her own with no family of friends. This leaves me with no other characters to introduce at the beginning of the story, and very limited setting to describe.

I'm worried that I may be developing the plot too quickly, but at the same time I don't want to go too long without any action because I know it will get boring for the reader.

I would appreciate your feedback on this, I'm only 15 and have limited experience in writing.
Thanks heaps for everything you guys do, this site is truly amazing and invaluable for a new writer like me.

Answer: I would suggest that you think about your story as a series of events. An "event" means that something happens that changes everything from that point on.

Your first event should show something that happens in your main character's life that changes its direction. Show
her coping with the kind of problem that she often faces, in the way she is used to dealing with such matters. But make it enough of a challenge that is is interesting for the reader. Make the outcome of that event change things or give her something new to cope with. Don't begin with a "typical" day, because nothing is more boring, and the last thing you want to do in Chapter 1 is bore your reader.

The event could be the event in which she meets the homeless boy for the first time, or perhaps sees him doing something that affects her plans. Or perhaps you begin with the event in which a new problem arises in her life, followed by the event in which she meets the boy.

Events have a natural structure. They begin with a situation or problem, build to a turning point, and end with a resolution that sets the stage for the next event.

Don't worry about introducing other characters right away. Just introduce them in the natural course of events as the main character encounters them. Let the reader discover the setting through the main character's eyes as she moves through her world.

Provide exposition (information) when it becomes important to the reader's understanding. For instance, if we see her going to sleep at night in a cardboard box in an ally, the reader will wonder where her parents/home are, so if you haven't explained yet that she is homeless, there's your opportunity.

You're absolutely correct about keeping the action going. Trust your instincts. If the story feels dull to you, it will probably seem dull to someone else.

Best of luck.

Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Plot Invite.

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