Trouble coming to the Problem/Event.

by D. C.

Question: Hi, I need major help with this series I'm writing. I've posted other questions here and the answers were great! (Thanks!!!!!) But I have another that's a bit personal to my first book:

So, the main character is this normal 12-year-old girl. She's not super popular but not picked on all the time or anything either. The book start with a dream she has. (The dream is important by the way, which you don't find out until the end of the first book or else in the second book. I haven't decided yet.) Anyways, then you go through the last day of school with her. You meet her friends who are going to summer camp and some enemies. Also a few other students and teachers. But should i even do all of this? I mean, it's the last day of school so these people wont even be in the rest of the book. They'll for sure at least be mentioned in a few of the rest. But the girl is going to find out she's the granddaughter to the king of another world. Her grandfather is actually here on earth and he sends her back to the world he used to live in.

So she's in this world for the whole summer. And she either has to stay there for all of the other books or keep going back and forth from Earth - where here father, non-evil stepmother and step...siblings are. Or. The world she was born in where a few members of her family still live. She doesn't even get to the world until the fourth or fifth chapter. Is that too long to wait? I've heard that you should address the problem or event that is going to drive the story in the second or third chapter.

Also, she doesn't even know the full extent of what she has to do in that world until the very end of the first book. Which i figured would make a good lead to the second book. She'd just here now (in the first book) to do what her grandfather sent her to and go home. But then realizes that she has to stay. Will that work? Should I give her more of a drive than that?
And back to the school day. I'm using it to show that she's just a typical kid, but with a background hidden even from herself. I've been told to have a typical day to establish the characters and how they act in their natural environment. But then it just changes.

I know this was a long one. And maybe you didn't want to know all this about the book, if so I'm sorry, but I couldn't find another way to ask what I needed to.
Could you tell me what you think?

Answer: A few more questions and I'm going to start asking for credit as a co-writer. (Just kidding!)

If you've read the article on "Beginning in medias res" you'll know I advocate beginning a story with an event, for a very important reason.

Many people advise introducing the main character by showing a "typical day" in her life. I understand why they say this,
but it's a terrible way to express the idea. Typical days in which nothing special happens are boring, and the last thing you want to do is bore your reader. That, I'm sure, is why you're wondering whether to keep this section or not. What's the point of it?

The real trick is to present an event that reveals who your main character is at the start of the story. For instance, most James Bond movies begin with a short sequence showing Bond in action - fighting a bad guy or trying to stop a crime. Why? So the audience can see what type of person he is and how he goes about things. His nature is revealed by the way he handles a challenging situation.

On the other hand, maybe you have a character who is not very effective in life. Think about Harry Potter. He starts out as an underdog bullied by his uncle. How is this revealed? Not through a "typical day" but through a very specific event. On his cousin's birthday, Harry uses magic to set a snake on his cousin and incurs his uncle's wrath. So we see Harry as someone who loses even when he does something extraordinary.

I assume the dream sequence you have in mind is the first event in the one of the throughlines other than the main character's. This could work, but you'll have to make sure the reader isn't disappointed when it turns out to be a dream.

As for the main character's last day at school, I suggest you come up with an event that happens on that last day - an event that will reveal who she is, her strengths, weaknesses, and how she handles problems. You say we meet her friends and enemies? Great! There's potential for conflict there that will reveal her nature.

Next, we have the grandfather sending her to the other world for a reason. I'm guessing this has to do with the story goal for this book. If so, the external conflict will be her efforts to accomplish this goal. What chapter this occurs in depends on how many important events must happen first. Only you know this, but I assume it will happen before or at the end of the first act. (Act two will be about what happens when she gets there and the complications that arise.)

Where the story gets richer is if, in the course of pursuing the story goal, her identity (as established by the event on the last day of school) gets challenged. This is where internal conflict comes in. Can she remain the same person and succeed? Does she need to stop being a certain way, or become a different person, or do something she could not have before, etc. Or should she stay true to her initial identity?

Her decision at the climax determines whether the story goal is achieved, but it may also have personal consequences. (I find myself wondering if that is why she decides to stay in the other world?)

Perhaps you can tell I'm starting to like this story, so this is where I should stop and leave you to work it out in your own way. Best of luck.

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Thanks a million!
by: D. C.

(Chuckle) Do you like my story or the one that's coming from your suggestions? I couldn't tell. (Chuckle again)
Thank you sooooooooo much for all your help. I really really really really really really really really really really...(two hours later)...really really really appriciate all the helpfull answers. And sorry for wasting your time with my frivolous questions. :)

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