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My MC's just kind of walking around

  • Thread starter Deleted member 4265
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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.


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!
Well, okay he's not "just" walking around but for what will probably 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?

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

There's no way to draw a conclusion without knowing the work and writing. It could work just fine, or fail miserably, or anywhere 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.

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.
No reader is going to forgive you when you break their trust and immersion by switching the main character of the story.

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.


toujours gai, archie
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!


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?


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.