How would you go about this introduction?

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  1. #1
    Reality is a dream TheLlama's Avatar
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    Default How would you go about this introduction?

    So I have a few characters in a story I'm working on, they're an ensemble cast of sorts; there's a four-six main characters that will be portrayed, along with a plethora of recurring ones. Each of the main characters will have their own introduction story set in first person, with the rest of the story in third person. The introduction story varies in length from character to character (from a few paragraphs to almost an entire chapter), and typically works to set the basis for their running conflict throughout the story. At least one or two of the conflicts they will have.

    Anyway, the thing is, I'm slightly unsure about how much is sensible to reveal regarding their conflicts. I mean, a few of the characters are meant to be shrouded in mystery, so there I'm good, but others, not as much. The issue is, how much of their past I should reveal and in which form I should do so. Revealing too little kind of takes away the point of actually having an introduction story, but revealing too much will detract from the conflict later on, and you run the risk of the reader's curiosity and interest waning as a result. So how much I should reveal, is what I'm wondering. Or if I should reveal anything at all. I'll post the basics about two-three of the characters, and (leaving aside whether or not their background story actually is interesting; it's still a work in progress) then I'd like to hear how much you guys think it sensible to actually reveal. Or if there's even a point to this kind of introduction - I kind of want to do it, so the reader will know at least a bit of what is going on; there is much potential in the conflict created when the other characters do not know the others' circumstances, but the readers do.

    One of the guys is a man who lived a normal life several hundred years ago, but was one day transported to our time (without knowing what had happened). He's taken in by an elderly couple, lives there for some time, then sets out on a pokemon journey to try and develop a deeper understanding of this foreign world - and to find a way back to his own time. Should I reveal from the start that he's from the past? Or is the potential for a twist so great I should leave it for a later occasion? The image of him dramatically revealing that he's from the past - without the reader knowing - feels so cliche to me. A cliche can be good, sure, but I don't know. I want to do, and will likely do it, differently, unless there's a resounding "NO" to this idea. Besides, the twist about what actually happened to make him end up in our time is supposed to be the real twist here, not the fact that he is from the past; that's just the fodder to create the twist.
    Another is a girl whose special powers (NOT mary sue-special) resulted in a dramatic incident during her childhood. This resulted in her mother and her leaving for some godforsaken island, where they lived in isolation. This is what laid the base for an equally isolated character. The nature of the incident is shrouded in mystery, but should it be shrouded in mystery that there was such an incident? That would make it more interesting in a way, and I'd, like to avoid the whole "*dramatic* `...that incident´" way of doing it you so often see. Having the introductions in first person presents the problem that what they think will have to seem natural (or be in the form of a journal etc.) for them, meaning that some things will unavoidably have to be revealed, or mentioned, though. But I'd like to avoid that whole melodramatic referring to "that incident".

    The concept I'm wondering about remains the same for all of the characters though: Should I reveal that there is a conflict straight away, or should I keep hidden the existence of any conflict at all until a small ways into the story? By introducing the characters in first-person, through thoughts etc., I can introduce the conflicts to the reader, without the characters getting introduced to each other's conflicts right from the bat, leaving room still for suspense ("when will the others find out?"). And seeing as how the whole story is very much character-driven, I feel this is more natural.

    I'm pretty much set on doing it this way, so it's not that, but this little doubt that I always have compels me to bring this out and discuss it.

    (If parts of this made little sense, my apologies - I'm quite tired)

  2. #2
    you can breathe now. x diamondpearl876's Avatar
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    Default Re: How would you go about this introduction?

    It really depends on a lot of things. And you're probably going to have to decide for each character. Just because you keep the mystery hidden for one character, doesn't mean you should do it for every character. I may have read this wrong, but that seems to be kind of what you're leaning toward. I wouldn't recommend it. Too much mystery will annoy the readers and turn they away if you make them wait too long, and waiting to reveal too many twists all at once can be chaotic and difficult to accomplish satisfactorily.

    I'll try to give you my reasoning and logic behind the two characters you described. I would reveal right away that he's from the past. It could be cliche, and I don't want to say that you shouldn't care that it's cliche--just know that people will be wary, and that you'll have to try to pull it off very well if you want to get readers to like the idea. Then, you could foreshadow and build up to the twist as to how he got to the present. I'd think of it this way: if you wait to reveal that he's from the past when you want the REASON he got to the present to be the main focus, no one is going to care about how he got to the present because they'll still be so bewildered by the idea that he's from the past at all. The "twist" you want wouldn't be considered a twist at all. Building suspense will be key here.

    As for the girl, I'd personally keep the incident a secret, then, since most people like to keep those kinds of things to themselves, anyway. Also, it'll make the readers wonder why she is the way she is. If readers know everything about her right off the bat, then they have nothing left to learn about her--which will make your character development not as powerful as it could/should be. Readers should be taken along for the full journey of how characters are at the beginning and middle of the story, and how the characters have changed at the end.

    If you're going to write in first person for this character and you think you HAVE to mention some things, you really don't. Have the character be intentionally vague in her journal or whatever for her own safety. Get her in the mindset of: "If I'm not careful, someone could find my journal and then they'll find out my secret. I want to write about it, but I'll be vague and will say just enough to satisfy me." If your character is naturally not very careful or a very open and honest person, though, I wouldn't recommend this.
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  3. #3
    Reality is a dream TheLlama's Avatar
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    Default Re: How would you go about this introduction?

    No, I'm keeping some characters more mysterious than others. Others will have their situations clearly explained from the beginning - it will depend on how integral their motives are to the main plot (as opposed to a side plot). I'm on the same train of thought for the guy from the past, I think that the whole why of it is what should be focused on - and that is the most integral thing to the plot, anyway.

    As for the girl, that sounds just about right.

    Thanks for the input!

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