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My MC's just kind of walking around

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Devouring Wolf, Jul 2, 2017.

  1. Devouring Wolf

    Devouring Wolf Sage

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    Well, okay he's not "just" walking around but for what will probably be end up being something between the first fourth and third of my story he doesn't really have a goal or anything. He has adventures but they don't really build on one another in the way you'd expect a plot to. Its almost more like a series of episodic short stories about his travels interspersed between chapters about the other two POV characters and their plots.

    Would this bother/annoy you as a reader or is it okay?
     
  2. LRFrancis

    LRFrancis Acolyte

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    Hi, I prefer the episodic shorts approach, the work I'm currently writing is very much like this. Some prefer following only one character, I prefer many POV characters.

    it can work either way.
     
  3. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    If these adventures don't really build on the overall story then why have them in the book? At the beginning of a book you are making promises to the reader and setting up expectations, whether you want to or not. Readers will infer things and expect things to matter, expect the time they spent reading those initial chapters/adventures to matter. If they don't, after all is said and done, many will probably wonder what the point of the beginning was. Some may even get a bit peeved and book may go a flyin'.

    If you want to keep the first bit, then make them matter, and give your character a goal within them. Otherwise, why not just introduce that character later on in the book?
     
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  4. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Archmage

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    Maybe you can tie these smaller adventures into the character's growth as a person to be able to overcome the final obsticles of the story?

    Now I don't think that I personally would have problem with this but I do think that many readers might.
     
  5. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Auror

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    There's no way to draw a conclusion without knowing the work and writing. It could work just fine, or fail miserably, or anywher in between. If it's the first draft, finish it, and see what you think, can't decide, then it's time for readers to chime in.
     
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  6. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I have to ask why is the MC behaving in this way? Do you have some reason for it?

    I'm also trying to picture how this works. MC has Adventure A. It ends. He has killed a monster or gained some treasure. He's standing there, bloody sword in hand (I know I'm doing tropes) and he says, "whelp, guess I'll just wander on."

    Or, he's on the road to Samarra and out jumps a monster! Kills it, wins treasure, then returns to the road to Samarra. Is it more like that?
     
  7. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    The way I'm reading it, it sounds as if you have a story with a kind of a pause in it. It begins, and things happen that move the story forward. Then at some point in the middle there's a bit of a break, and the main story stops moving forward while the hero goes around and has some unrelated adventures. After a while of this, the main story picks up again and continues on until the end of the story.

    If that's the case, I think it may be a good idea to re-evaluate that.
    If that's not the case, I've misunderstood the question and you can disregard my comments.

    When writing a story, you have complete control over what you put into it, and the reader knows this. I think that on some level readers expect you to have a reason for putting in the things you do, and I think they trust you not to just add in random things for no reason.

    I think that if you add in adventures that don't contribute in a meaningful way to the overall story then the reader might feel a bit cheated, and that's not so cool.
    That said, it may not be too difficult to add some meaning to these adventures. If they don't contribute to the overall story, there's not too much to be lost on changing them. You could add in parts that lets you explore the character in more detail, or show off the intricacies of the world, or something like that. They don't have to be unrelated adventures.
     
  8. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    I'm not sure I would be okay with it. If you presented the book as a series of short stories it might be okay, so long as each short story had its own beginning, middle, end, and arcs. But if you presented it as a novel I would expect the premise (and promise) to stay consistent throughout, otherwise I would wonder what the heck the point was.
     
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  9. Devouring Wolf

    Devouring Wolf Sage

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    Originally my MC was introduced too late in the story so I tried really hard to find some sort of "mini-plot" for lack of a better word to preoccupy him in the first part of the story and explain how he ends up in the city where he meets the other two POVs. But while I could think of many problems that might entangle him, none of them alone were going to carry him to where he needed to be alone so they kind of evolved into separate short adventures. They do kind of have a purpose in that each one leads him closer and closer to where the other two characters are, but its never really explicit since he himself has no such goal so short of looking at a map (which my story does have) you wouldn't know it. He's not really headed anywhere, he just lets events carry him wherever they will.
     
  10. Devouring Wolf

    Devouring Wolf Sage

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    More like the first one. You could think of him as a sort of an immortal wandering priest whose job is to give last rights to the dead and dying and to preform exorcisms. He never lingers in one place too long because 1) he's a hold-over from an older religion and the new dominant religion doesn't want him around 2) attachments are forbidden to him so he can't risk staying in any one place too long.
     
  11. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Auror

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    Hmm, guessing from this info... I'd really shoot for one "mini-story" showing the MC in their normal existance and then try to get their ass into the main story as quick as possible, heh heh.
     
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  12. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Yeah, based on that info I'd wonder why he was the mc in the first place. Why not pick one of the other guys who actually has a purpose and a goal and a plot to be mc and make this guy a side character? As a reader I would have a huge issue with this.

    When I start a book I immediately start looking for the "premise" or the "hook". It is presented as a question in my mind:

    Will this little Hobbit get the ring back to Mordor in time?
    Will this farm boy be able to save his home from the evil Empire and achieve his dream of becoming a Jedi?
    Will this cute blacksmith be able to rescue his love, who has been taken by pirates, and win her hand?

    You get the idea. The premise is usually presented early on with the inciting moment:

    The hobbit is asked to take the ring.
    The farm boy is forced to join up with the Jedi
    The blacksmith's love is taken by pirates.

    Then the whole point of the book is them solving that problem or accomplishing that goal while obstacles come in their way.

    If a book presented a character with a mini story and screamed "this is the main character!" I would wonder what the goal was. What the premise was. If near the end that hadn't been achieved and the character started wandering around aimlessly with no clear direction I would wonder what the heck was going on. If the goal was never achieved I would think it was an enormous waste of my time and emotional commitment.
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2017
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  13. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    This is really problematic. It sounds like you have a string of semi related mini plots, or events, but no actual story.
     
  14. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    So, once he gets to that city, *then* what happens?

    All this:
    You could think of him as a sort of an immortal wandering priest whose job is to give last rights to the dead and dying and to preform exorcisms. He never lingers in one place too long because 1) he's a hold-over from an older religion and the new dominant religion doesn't want him around 2) attachments are forbidden to him so he can't risk staying in any one place too long.

    is backstory. Even so, there are two very strong driving forces here. One, the Powers That Be, want him not to Be. So there is a power that seeks to thwart him. Two, he cannot form attachments. Forbidden? I dunno about that, since his religion is on the outs, so may not have the power to enforce that rule. But if it's a kind of personal vow, that becomes interesting. Does he refuse attachments because of some tragedy? Or some ideal?

    Either way, the fact that he's now entangled with someone (in the city) means he has to figure out what now. Does he go all in with his new friends? Does he keep letting them down because of that stupid oath? Does he fall in love despite all? Plenty of potential there.

    I wonder if your sense of the MC just wandering around has more to do with the author wandering around in the story. Perhaps the connection is not yet strong enough with your MC. I know this happens to me. When I think the story is losing steam, it nearly always means I'm losing connection with the characters. I have to back myself up, get closer to the characters and to the specific situation, make it more real to myself. Sometimes that results in renewed enthusiasm, sometimes it results in loud curses and a major rewrite. And sometimes, I have to confess, it results in crickets. Not often, but sometimes. Then you can usually hear the sound of weeping.
     
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  15. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    So if you are interspersing this among scenes/chapters focusing on those other two characters, the only way I can see to make this work is to make the events this wanderer experiences relevant somehow to the stories of the other two.

    It's perfectly fine if this wanderer doesn't himself know how his adventures tie into the plots of those other two, nor that he be aware that the other two are somewhere up ahead.

    It seems to me that the primary attention-grabbers for the reader will be whatever's happening with those other two. At least, they are more explicitly tied to the overall premise and plot, for the reader.

    You can tie this wanderer's wandering to those characters, and to the plot, if whatever is revealed to the reader during his wanderings has a connection to the concerns of those other two.

    An example. I don't know the overall plot of your story, so this is just pulling rabbits out of a hat. Let's say those other two characters are A and B and this wanderer is X. Character A could be dealing with discovery of how a cult in the establishment religion is possibly using necromancy, but he only has circumstantial evidence; he's a minor official in the city's local government. Character B could be some kind of patrolling soldier, perhaps a noble of the realm, who stumbles on destroyed villages and suspects that a foreign kingdom might be conducting raids, preparing to invade. Now, if your wanderer X enters a village in one chapter and during the night it's attacked by the undead, that might tie into the story of the other two characters. Essentially, those other two are dealing with circumstantial evidence, have mysteries to solve, but X's exploits reveal to the reader more detail about what's happening.

    In other words, these characters could be connected by the world, but be experiencing and viewing that world from different angles. That's a bit like the parable of the blind men each feeling a part of an elephant and not realizing a) that it's an elephant, and b) that they are all encountering the exact same, single creature. You don't even need to make explicit that they are all on "the same track" but just leave this possibility open to the reader.

    There are other ways to approach this same sort of thing. The essential thing, in my opinion, is to concern yourself with the reader's perceptions. The three characters might be entirely oblivious of one another and of whatever "perception" the others might have of that metaphorical elephant. But you can reveal things in each strand that will clue a reader in to the fact that they are connected in some way. Since all this happens in the first 3rd or 4th of the story, I do think you need to signal to the reader somehow that a meeting of all three lies somewhere up ahead. That's the promise that will build anticipation. But you can use subtle clues. Wanderer X might encounter a traveling troupe in his wanderings who casually mention that they are eagerly traveling to the city to perform before the city council. In the next adventure, you could provide description of his environment that clues a reader into the fact he is traveling in that direction, without explicitly saying that he is.
     
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  16. Devouring Wolf

    Devouring Wolf Sage

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    Because this is his story. It's about his struggle . . . just not for the first third of the story. And I can't just cut out the first third and start when he shows up because doing so would be a serious injustice to my other two POV characters so I've been trying to figure out how to make him relevant to the first third of the story and this is the best I can do, describe the string of unrelated events that brought him to where he runs into the main plot.
     
  17. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    What if they're not unrelated? What if there's something more to them that neither you nor your MC know of - yet?

    I don't know if you outline or not, or if you do it a lot or just a little, but see what happens if you do. Iterate on the events. Go over them very roughly first, and then do it again, but in a little more detail, and then again with even more detail. Who knows what might show up as you keep scratching on the surface. :)
     
  18. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    You could also do something like I already mentioned, but in reverse. What those other two characters are doing has some bearing on this wanderer's life/concern. This'd be like making his adventures the mystery, seemingly disconnected as far as he knows, but whatever happens in the POV chapters for those two other characters tie into his concerns and adventures, giving that seemingly random life more meaning for the reader. This could be pretty cool if you also provide the reader the promise that he's going to reach a point where this jumbled life of his suddenly comes into focus for him, forcing him to make decisions, once he meets up with those other two.
     
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  19. Devouring Wolf

    Devouring Wolf Sage

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    This is probably the most viable approach although it could still prove difficult. One of the other POV characters came into possession of an item stolen from the god this character serves. My story also centered around the religion of my world so he provides a different way of viewing the demons that are the main antagonists for the story compared to my other POV characters who are both priests of the dominant religion. I'm not sure if that's a sufficient connection though.
     
  20. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Again, as a reader I would read the first few chapters and assume that character presented to me was the main character, and that those goals were the story goals. If suddenly, a third of the way through it changed to a new character with new story goals I would wonder what the point was of the earlier chapters and I would feel cheated, again, of my time and emotional investment.

    The first third of the story, if it does not include your MC, is backstory then. I would find a way to start the story with how the MC gets involved, or reconsider him as an MC.
     
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