Strong and weak plot lines.

by Hazel L
(South Wales UK)

Question: Hi! I love your website, it has given me new hope. I have been struggling with my science fiction novel for about 3 years, not sure about either the identity of the main character or the story goal. I have now decided that since it is for teenage girls, the teenage daughter of the President has to be the main character, and I can develop her plot line (coming of age and leaving her father) in a satisfactory manner. However, her two impact characters (the confidante and the romantic interest)have exciting plot lines of their own, in fact so exciting that her story seems overshadowed. How can I keep the novel focused on my main character when dramatic and horrific events are happening outside the presidential palace? Thank you.

Answer: Thanks for your kind comments.

I think you are correct in thinking that the main character must be involved. For the impact characters to influence the main character, she has to perceive what they are doing.

Now, there are any number of ways this could happen. She can observe at a distance, by reading news reports, talking to them, or stumbling across information about what these people are doing. In that case, I'm going to assume you want to switch to the impact character's point of view to describe some of these exciting events.

On the other hand, you might want to find ways to put the main character in a position to observe events directly. Could they happen to occur when she is on an excursion? Could she sneak out of the White House regularly to meet her romantic interest or confidante and wind up witnessing these events? Could these impact characters drag her into their lives outside the White House?

A quality of good main characters is that they often have some special ability or trait that makes them them ideally suited to affect whether the story goal is achieved. So you might consider what is special about this girl that puts her in a position to do something no one else can.

Comments for Strong and weak plot lines.

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Some further points....
by: Hazel L

Thank you, that is very helpful. The society is a dystopia with lots of security cameras, satellite images, etc, so seeing what is going on is not a problem. I also need to know what is a sensible length for a teenage novel? I was once told, about 65,000 words. Is this right? I am not sure how many incidents I can include. I did think that the way I write about incidents outside the palace will make a difference to how much impact they have on the reader. E.g. Viewpoint of an involved person is very emotionally immediate, news reports very detached. Do you have any suggestions about that? Thank you again for taking the trouble to reply.

Response: That's probably a good word count goal, though you certainly see many longer works on the young adult shelves these days.

The other thing to consider about viewpoints is that events will have more impact on the main character differently if she is actually present for them. Sticking with the main character's point of view allows the reader to experience everything through her eyes, and is a very intimate experience. Switching points of view puts the the reader into more detached, objective position, but it also gives you a way to provide the reader with information the main character never perceives.

My 5 cents!
by: Lux

I had the same problem too. Mainly when I was writing in first person and the plot was really complicated, I found it hard to show what the antagonists and other characters were thinking - especially why they chose to do what they did.

I like reading novels that are written from the point of view of more than two characters, e.g. Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer. You can really see the parallels and the differences between them. And then there's the massive build up to the climax when they should inevitably affect each other directly. I find stories written with multiple point of views very exciting.

It's fine to have well placed chapters in your novel that follow another character that isn't your main.

I like to read other novels and see how they've been written to present the plot. Like, imagine how a story written in entirely 1st person would be like if written in third person?

I'm writing a novel from the POV of two protagonists who will go head to head eventually. Wish me luck!

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