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My MC's just kind of walking around

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

  1. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    Without knowing plot specifics, best I can do is offer up generalisations based on information given.

    IMHO, from this statement, it sounds like the book is trying to serve two masters. If it's the first character's story then I think everything else should be subservient to that story and its needs. And everything before this character's story starts should be considered backstory that can be dropped in later as the story progresses.

    But it sounds like this book wants to give all three of these characters and each of their stories equal billing, which is fine, but then each of their stories should serve the greater story as a whole, and anything that doesn't do that could be left out.

    Take a look at Star Wars. It's Luke's story. Leia shows up briefly at the beginning and we don't see her again until around the midpoint of the movie, and her backstory gets gets revealed in bits and pieces. Ben Kenobi only shows up when his story connects up with Lukes. His backstory is only hinted at in pieces too. Same with Han Solo.

    All these characters show up only when it's necessary to support Luke's story. They each have their own interesting stories that start way before Luke's, but they're not explored because it would take away from Luke's story.

    Now on the other side of things, take Game of Thrones, a lot of POV characters with their own interesting stories, but each doesn't show up until their story connects up with the greater story as a whole. Before that moment, we don't follow them around as they go on their personal adventures and day to day lives.

    But without knowing any more, it can be very possible that I'm off base here. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
    Rkcapps and Heliotrope like this.
  2. Aurora

    Aurora Sage

    OP, correct me if I'm wrong but it seems like you're having issues connecting plot with character motivation/arc--yet you're resistant to the advice given here about the MC needing to be switched OR made relevant.

    No reader is going to forgive you when you break their trust and immersion by switching the main character of the story. More than 1 point of view does not equate with a main character. Readers still need one person to connect with and root for. It's best if that individual is made clear to readers from the start.

    So, what do you do? My advice is to figure out what your story is, which character would best connect with your readers and also which one would make the most radical change by the end of the story, and take it from there.
  3. Rkcapps

    Rkcapps Sage

    As a reader, I like fast pace and a purpose or drive for the story. Perhaps there's a reason he needs to wander? Maybe he needs to train to face a final battle. I'd just want tension, whether that be inner or outer, to engage me. Hope that helps. Good luck!
  4. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

    I guess I'm too old-school. I disagree with almost everyone who has commented on this thread except for this:

    If done well, this story would have the potential to intrigue me deeply. I'm envisioning something like The Traveller in Black stories interspersed with your chapters for the other two POV characters. That would be, as the young folks say, awesomesauce.

    I don't see a need to connect this one MC with the other two POV characters in the first act, in any way other than the shared world setting. The promise made by having all three characters in the first act is that they will all be necessary to the story's conclusion, not even necessarily all coming together -- as far as they know -- at any point in the story.

    In fact, I would love to read that story. Tell me when and where I can buy a copy. As long as it's 120K words or less. I don't go for super-long epics.

    Look, it's your vision. You don't have to adhere to formula. Tell the story only you can tell. Some of your readers might even thank you for giving them something that broke the mold every other author is using.

    Like Demesnedenoir said, write it and see where it goes. Give it to your beta readers and listen to what they have to say. Then rewrite what you feel you must.

    While I'm thinking of it... Have you seen the movie Passengers? For me, the most interesting story in that movie belonged to the Jennifer Lawrence character, but it was a while before she got to do any real acting. There was a brief glimpse of her at one point, and that was it until sometime later, when she became more involved in the story. Once she became involved, she stole the show, at least for me. So, that's an example of where an MC doesn't make a major appearance in the story until after the first act is over. Yes, some will argue that the Chris Pratt character is the MC of the movie. But, ya know, there's no sign on his chest that says he is. Every viewer will relate to that movie on an individual level, just as all of your readers will relate to your story on an individual level.

    Which means, write the story you want to tell, and do the best darn job you can in writing it. Then publish it and move on to the next project.
    Creed likes this.
  5. Um...What about decoy protagonists? Don't they count?

    The funny thing is that I'm currently writing a story with three central characters, and the narrative circles around them, sometimes even having all three witness the same event in different ways.
  6. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    The Traveler in Black! That's the one. I used to have the book.

    As soon as I read the OP's description, I could see the cover in my mind (from 1970s paperback). But I couldn't come up with the author (John Brunner, a great SF writer) or the title. Thanks, MKE!
    Michael K. Eidson likes this.
  7. Creed

    Creed Sage

    I agree with MKE here, as much as I am also on board with the others. The lone traveller trope can be very effective as a seemingly separate storyline. This pops up pretty often: most recently for me in the TV show Preacher. The gunman's story is periodically presented to us, and as an audience we have no idea how it relates to the MC (in fact, just based on time period it seems like it can't directly affect the MC). So the audience asks How is he relevant?

    And that's the trick, I think.

    Produce an air of mystery around the traveller, and get the reader interested, looking for clues, anticipating a tie-in, trying to make the connection between the two (or three) storylines.

    There's no reason this can't be done while also using FifthView's fantastic example of tying them together with information they collectively have to present a story, even if they themselves are in the dark. And of your priest doesn't have to be aimlessly walking down a road without a goal, smelling the roses. Is he being hunted? Hunting something/someone? Looking for shelter? Investigating suspicious activity? Offering his services? Exploring ruins of his religion? Anything at all?
    Michael K. Eidson likes this.
  8. Addison

    Addison Auror

    Every scene should have a goal. Whether it's to get an interview from a detective, a picture of the dragon, to get inside the haunted house etc. Each scene goal should build toward the story goal. If you're having trouble determining the goal then ask yourself what the scene question is. 'Cause in the end something is answered. The readers will wonder if something will happen. Will the witch catch the character? Will they find a way inside the castle? Will they convince the maiden to go on a date? By whatever you write, the question could have one of four answers: Yes, No, Yes but, or No and Furthermore. For the best suspense and action the latter two are best. The character could get inside the castle but there's no way out of that room. Or, for No and Furthermore, they don't get inside the castle and they actually get caught trying to get in.

    So if your character is "walking around" think of what they want and how they can get there and how you can screw up the journey in an entertaining way.

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