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Character+Setup Appeal

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by wordwalker, Dec 15, 2012.

  1. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    This is an odd one, about an intersection of plot, character, and world:

    How do people think a plot can develop characters as part of their background or situation in the world, to get the reader involved with the character? That is, what are the more world-centered scenes or points that can get this across-- especially toward the beginning of the story, when there's liable to be more background than plot-momentum so far?

    I'm thinking a lot of it could be showing things in people's goals and what ways to do them, and especially what things wouldn't work and why. If someone's a merchant, show why he's working so hard to draw in customers, and why that means, say, struggling with Lowtown robbers and that he's already tried and failed to do business in the face of Hightown prejudices. Then get into why one or two customers, suppliers, Meddlesome Guards, and so on have their own reasons to maybe or maybe not be a problem for him... and show the merchant's history as the childhood friend he also tries to keep out of trouble, or the soldier father he didn't follow because he thinks fighting's a waste... And of course, any of these could be caused or affected by the Great Dragon War that the story's about to reignite, or other key parts of the world or his life.

    --That's an ad hoc example, not a story I'd like specific thoughts on. I'm thinking that perspective's a good way to pick background/world points and organize scenes, when there isn't a strong plot going yet. (And of course, when there is one too.)

    So, how do other people lead readers through their character's place in the world?
  2. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    Here's part of my approach to the beginning of a story. I try to show a character in a typical state in their lives before they get thrust into the story world. I try to show a character at work, at home, and at play, along with the obvious wants in those areas, and the relevant background. Having characters interact with people and situations in those three areas fleshes out character and presents story questions. I think this is similar to what you're getting at.
  3. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    Work, home, and play-- good. And the wants, backgrounds, and interactions in each.

    Anything else you could say, maybe about choosing which things to use within those, or coordinating them?
  4. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

    I literally dropped a MC in my principal work in progress right into the action without any setup on who he is or what his motivations are. He's literally on his way back from picking up some feed for his horse (a relatively mundane thing) when the action overtakes him.

    I think it's fine whether you want to jump into the action or work on character development first but I think even with that development you'd have to keep it interesting enough to appeal to the readers.
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