PDA

View Full Version : Introducing new characters


SFFWorld.com
Home - Discussion Forums - News - Reviews - Interviews

New reviews, interviews and news

New in the Discussion Forum


gh0ti
July 3rd, 2007, 05:21 PM
I have a small conundrum with the project I am trying to push towards completion. The story I am writing is the first part of a much longer work, but I need to introduce two characters of vital importance in Parts 2 and 3 without them meeting my protagonist for the vast majority of Part 1. Now, I am a hobby writer, but I care passionately about character - I hate it when authors introduce major players without allowing the reader to become properly accustomed to their role in the story.

The solution I have been using is to write the story in a structure similar to Martin, with chapters told from the perspective from a core of characters. Unfortunately, to keep the pace and the plot coherent, the characters posing the problem appear around chapter 7, run until about chapter 12 and then do not reappear again until the closing chapters (the story isn't finished yet, but I'm guessing the book will run about 20 chapters). Is this poor storytelling or what? Is there another solution that wont require a complete plot overhaul?

The prologue of the story is at http://www.sffworld.com/community/story/2511p0.html, feedback appreciated!

choppy
July 3rd, 2007, 07:05 PM
I'm not sure I understand the problem. In general, you don't need to have every character on the forefront of the reader's conscious through the entire story. What I think you're trying to avoid is the "character deus ex machina" - where someone important spontaneously appears only when needed.

One trick is to put little seeds in the story. This can be best done after you've finished your first draft. Look for places where you can make subtle references to these off-stage characters - something that might seem like a minor detail at the time. These can plant seeds in the reader's mind that can make sudden appearances later on seem plausible.

hippokrene
July 3rd, 2007, 08:38 PM
If they're not main characters, I wouldn't give them chapters. If they're important characters, why not have the main character look for them? That way, when he or she finds them, they can fulfill their story obligation without looking like they've haphazardly appeared via the author teleport system.

James Carmack
July 3rd, 2007, 08:41 PM
People don't tend to stick around all the time. They go off and do their own things. Sometimes they let you know when you'll see each other again. Sometimes they pop up when you least expect it.

You can reduce the deus ex machina effect, but bear in mind that the deus ex machina itself is perfectly valid and will generally be accepted by the reader if done skillfully. As long as there's some setup for it, it shouldn't come off as a cheap cop-out.

Be careful about "seeding" the plot like choppy advised. Nothing wrong with it in and of itself, but if you do it poorly, it'll seem no less contrived than a low-rent deus ex machina.

Example of how not to do it...

Chapter 12

Dave: I'm going now.
Bob: Dave! Don't go!

Chapter 13

Bob: I wish Dave were here.

Chapter 14

Bob: You know what Dave would do if he were here?

Chapter 15

Bob: You know who likes Turkish Delight? Dave.

Chapter 16

Bob: I had a dream about Dave last night.

Chapter 17

Bob: You know, Dave always said...

Chapter 18

Bob: That guy looks a lot like Dave. I miss Dave.

Chapter 19

Bob: We can't beat this guy! If only Dave were here...
Dave: Looks like today's your lucky day.
Bob: Dave! It's Dave! Wow, what a surprise! I never thought Dave would show up here of all places! I never saw it coming! And yet I did...

hippokrene
July 3rd, 2007, 08:53 PM
Notes:

~ What merchandise is Kerrin carrying? Why does it take him hours to pack a set of goods that he can carry in a backpack?
~ Where is everyone else in the city? You raise the question but never answer it.
~ He's a merchant in a large city and he runs at the sight of a rat?
~ Draxn. Is that pronounced differently than Draxen or Draxin?
~ You tell me that the draxn has a regal head, but does it have a human head? Bird head? Bat head? It has blue wing - feathered or skin? Is this like a giant blue bird? Griffin? Bat? Demon? What does this creature look like?

Arash
July 3rd, 2007, 09:07 PM
People don't tend to stick around all the time. They go off and do their own things. Sometimes they let you know when you'll see each other again. Sometimes they pop up when you least expect it.

You can reduce the deus ex machina effect, but bear in mind that the deus ex machina itself is perfectly valid and will generally be accepted by the reader if done skillfully. As long as there's some setup for it, it shouldn't come off as a cheap cop-out.

Be careful about "seeding" the plot like choppy advised. Nothing wrong with it in and of itself, but if you do it poorly, it'll seem no less contrived than a low-rent deus ex machina.

Example of how not to do it...

Chapter 12

Dave: I'm going now.
Bob: Dave! Don't go!

Chapter 13

Bob: I wish Dave were here.

Chapter 14

Bob: You know what Dave would do if he were here?

Chapter 15

Bob: You know who likes Turkish Delight? Dave.

Chapter 16

Bob: I had a dream about Dave last night.

Chapter 17

Bob: You know, Dave always said...

Chapter 18

Bob: That guy looks a lot like Dave. I miss Dave.

Chapter 19

Bob: We can't beat this guy! If only Dave were here...
Dave: Looks like today's your lucky day.
Bob: Dave! It's Dave! Wow, what a surprise! I never thought Dave would show up here of all places! I never saw it coming! And yet I did...

That method is what this page calls The Seventh Cavalry. A trick ending that is a no no.

http://www.arcanum-butler.k12.oh.us/Creative_Writing.html

Here are the rest:

The Seventh Cavalry: This is the ending in which the protagonist is suddenly saved by a miraculous appearance of some hero who appears in the nick of time.

The Dog Story: This ending depends on the author withholding and important piece of information. For instance, the story is told as if the protagonist is an ill treated son of parents who make him sleep in the damp basement, but in the last paragraph we learn that the protagonist is actually the family dog.

It Was A Dream: The situation is terrible and no escape is possible, so the character wakes up from a dream. Or, any other variation of the dream ending. If the story is a dream it should have sufficient foreshadowing to indicate this.

James Carmack
July 4th, 2007, 01:38 AM
It would be more of a Seventh Cavalry ending if there was no mention of Dave in the interim chapters. Still, it is, in effect, the same thing. I was demonstrating a flimsy cover for that approach.

Now to cover Goat's story. (Consider that your new nickname, gh0ti.)

It's good. Your prose is rather well done, but it's a bit on the frilly side with some sentences that are a bit overlong. I think that you'll be able to streamline it by reading through the passage aloud. If you can say it without a hitch, it's probably okay.

I have surprisingly few quibbles for you, both from Page 2.

When we switch to the draxn's perspective, it is inappropriate to refer to Kerrin by name. Does the daxn know him? I doubt it. (Even if he does, the first citation should be something like "the merchant Kerrin".) You should use some generic term to express the draxn's knowledge of his prey ("the human worm", etc.).

The item is called "pack ice", the location is known as the "ice pack".

gh0ti
July 4th, 2007, 03:26 AM
Notes:

1. What merchandise is Kerrin carrying? Why does it take him hours to pack a set of goods that he can carry in a backpack?
2. Where is everyone else in the city? You raise the question but never answer it.
3. He's a merchant in a large city and he runs at the sight of a rat?
4. Draxn. Is that pronounced differently than Draxen or Draxin?
5. You tell me that the draxn has a regal head, but does it have a human head? Bird head? Bat head? It has blue wing - feathered or skin? Is this like a giant blue bird? Griffin? Bat? Demon? What does this creature look like?

Hey, thanks for punching some holes - really I do appreciate it. I'll see if I can answer a few.

1. I haven't really thought this one through so I guess I better have a rethink about either what Kerrin is carrying or whether I should explain clearly that he's not carrying everything on his back. Hmmm...
2. I guess I just threw this in as a plot device to cause atmosphere. Kerrin is not the protagonist in my story, in fact, he only features in passing until Part 2. The style in which I write I try to ensure that the reader only knows what my characters know - if Kerrin knew why nobody was around, then he wouldn't be so afraid.
3. Kerrin isn't supposed to be running at the sight of the rat - the rat's merely the climax of a frightening night, although I take your point. Kerrin develops into a very cowardly character (by epic fantasy standards) who prefers to avoid conflict if at all necessary. I try to point out in the prologue that Kerrin is a master of running away.
4. I do have an appendix somewhere of all my difficult to pronounce words, though I take your point. I pronounce it as "draxen".
5. Again, this was an attempt to maintain style. I didn't want to over describe the draxn since nobody is around to see him; that and I wanted to go for the 'Alien' effect. Throughout the story I try let the reader see different parts of him, when I get Chapter 1 on the site, you'll see more, then there'll be a snippet around Chapter 8 until finally we come face to face around Chapter 15.

I'm not sure whether any of the above is satisfactory at the moment - I am a novice writer and this is the first story that's ever seemed to be going anywhere. So keep the comments coming if you please!


It would be more of a Seventh Cavalry ending if there was no mention of Dave in the interim chapters. Still, it is, in effect, the same thing. I was demonstrating a flimsy cover for that approach.

Now to cover Goat's story. (Consider that your new nickname, gh0ti.)

It's good. 1. Your prose is rather well done, but it's a bit on the frilly side with some sentences that are a bit overlong. I think that you'll be able to streamline it by reading through the passage aloud. If you can say it without a hitch, it's probably okay.

I have surprisingly few quibbles for you, both from Page 2.

2.When we switch to the draxn's perspective, it is inappropriate to refer to Kerrin by name. Does the daxn know him? I doubt it. (Even if he does, the first citation should be something like "the merchant Kerrin".) You should use some generic term to express the draxn's knowledge of his prey ("the human worm", etc.).

3.The item is called "pack ice", the location is known as the "ice pack".


1. Thanks for the praise and I do know that my prose can sometimes tend towards the excessive, in fact I'm in the middle of a rewrite attempting to curb this. I am actually recording myself reading it and listening it back - thus far I haven't had too many difficulties.

2. I take your point. What I don't want to do is turn the draxn into some mindless animal. The draxn are supposed to be fairly complicated, utterly loyal to their mistress, and disparaging of other civilisations, and though strongly instinctual, intelligent at the same time. Thanks for bringing it up, I'll think on it.

3. That's just a mistake on my part, I'll correct it when I have time.

Oh yeah, and thanks for the responses to the actual thread!