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Thread: Caring about Someone Later in a book

  1. #1

    Caring about Someone Later in a book

    So, I realized that in my current novel, two of the main characters are revealed far later in the story. I'm starting to worry if these characters won't have enough time to shine. Now, I know it's possible to make this work, but I'd like specific tips on how to make that happen.

    Matters are only further complicated by how one character has to tragically sacrifice his life in the end, and the other gets a strong bond with the main hero. This is a rather big book but I don't know if their development and introductions would get in the way of the plot's pacing.

    These characters show up around the 75% mark of the Second Act. In case you wondered.

    As always, any and all help is appreciated.

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  3. #2
    Moderator skip.knox's Avatar
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    He sacrifices his life. Whether that's a tragedy or not is going to depend on how you write! In general, I think advice would say to introduce them earlier. There's a danger of having both developments feel contrived. But you asked for ideas on how to make it work the way you want it to work.

    You say the characters are revealed. Does that mean the MC literally doesn't know they exist? I was thinking you could have them mentioned, talked about, see their operations from afar. There's plenty of precedent for the Looming Presence.

    Another approach might be to treat them as negative space. You could foreshadow that a sacrifice is going to be needed, we just don't know who yet. The MC obviously needs a friend. The arrival of these two characters (both at same time?) would be like fitting in the missing jigsaw piece.

    Why do you say they are main characters? I can see they play an important plot role, but that alone does not make them principals. Perhaps these are really only secondary. If they really are primary, why not introduce them earlier?
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  5. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by skip.knox View Post
    He sacrifices his life. Whether that's a tragedy or not is going to depend on how you write! In general, I think advice would say to introduce them earlier. There's a danger of having both developments feel contrived. But you asked for ideas on how to make it work the way you want it to work.

    You say the characters are revealed. Does that mean the MC literally doesn't know they exist? I was thinking you could have them mentioned, talked about, see their operations from afar. There's plenty of precedent for the Looming Presence.

    Another approach might be to treat them as negative space. You could foreshadow that a sacrifice is going to be needed, we just don't know who yet. The MC obviously needs a friend. The arrival of these two characters (both at same time?) would be like fitting in the missing jigsaw piece.

    Why do you say they are main characters? I can see they play an important plot role, but that alone does not make them principals. Perhaps these are really only secondary. If they really are primary, why not introduce them earlier?
    They are not introduced earlier due to worldbuilding reasons. And yes, they do show up at the same time, and are very famous figures in the wider world. I call them main characters primarily because they are part of what could be considered the "Main" party in the group

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  6. #4
    Senior Member DragonOfTheAerie's Avatar
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    Tricky, very much so.

    I'm assuming the tragic sacrifice requires the reader to have some sort of attachment to the character for it to have the emotional effect you want. The relationship with the hero--even trickier. Relationships, in stories as in life, take time to grow. You'll have to give them a lot of screen (page?) time for readers to buy both the friendship and the sacrifice.

    Honestly, given the fact that you say these characters (and, i thus assume, their roles) are central, I would find a way to change the structure of the story so that they could come in earlier. Shift events that happen in the first part later. That's what *I* would try to do, since my stories are relationship-based.

    If that's out of the question, I think it might be prudent to shift attention somewhat away from the main hero to the two newcomers. Maybe even switch POV's, if only temporarily. Give the newcomers roles in the plot that originally belonged to the main hero. Possibly?

    I like Skip's ideas of foreshadowing, as well.
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    Senior Member Michael K. Eidson's Avatar
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    If these characters are "very famous in the wider world," then it would be reasonable that they would be mentioned in conversations before they make an appearance. This could give the reader some familiarity with these characters earlier in the story, without a need for the characters to be there yet. The reader might become eager for these characters to show up well before they do, if they are talked up enough.
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  9. #6
    It would be best to introduce them earlier, but if you choose not to do that, here's a few thoughts.

    As far as having one of the two bonding with the main character, could you possibly add a particular trait/piece of personal history to them both? Something that have made both of them feel somewhat isolated because they've had no one in their life who shares the same uh... quality, so that when they finally meet someone who does, that's like an instant bond right there. Something like both being orphans? Or maybe they already know each other from before? Old friends separated for whatever reason.

    For the sacrifice of the other person to be sufficiently tragic, you'll simply have to work extra hard at making him/her likeable, I guess. Some ways to make a character likeable are: 1. Have them care about someone else, and others care about them. 2. Show them doing something nice and selfless for others. 3. Give them some flaw that humanizes them. 4. Have them be useful for the main character/party.
    I also wouldn't make him/her TOO damn nice, as that would make their sacrifice seem more obvious and actually less of a sacrifice - it takes more for a slightly egotistical person to do something so completely selfless. Still, you want them to show enough heroic qualities so that the sacrifice is believable enough, of course.

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