Start at the begnning or go back in flashbacks?

by William

Question: My story is set in a dystopian society where mythological Titans rule the world. The main character is a slave but before the Titans took over he was a regular teenage boy. Should I start out with him when the world was normal or should I start out in the dystopian society and flashback to him when he was normal?

Answer: I think it depends on what story you want to tell.

If you want to tell the story of how the Titans took over, then you should probably start before it happens.

If you want to tell a story of how the Titans lose power, or a story that simply uses the Titans' kingdom as a backdrop, then you might not need to mention the time before their coming at all. If it's not an essential part of the story arc, then cut it.

What would be a reason for showing the time before the Titans came? Maybe to illustrate events that play a key role in shaping the main character's personality and motivations in the present, or those of another major character? Perhaps these events set in motion something that will affect the main character in the present?

In other words, think in terms of a 4-part structure where the first part establishes the character (the setup), the second part challenges or complicates things for the character, the third part forces the character to make a choice, and the fourth part shows the resolution. Is the time of enslavement the complication or the setup? If it's the setup or neither, then consider cutting it. If it's the complication, then you need to show the setup at some point.

Sometimes it makes more sense to present the reader with the complication and then tell the setup later in flashback. Other times it works better to tell the setup first. It all depends what will hook the reader better in those opening pages.

See, I can't give you an easy answer, because it depends on so many factors in your story that only you know. I can only give you something to think about.

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 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