Friday, September 03, 2010

Whose Story Is It?

When beginning a novel, it is important to give depth to your characters. This is critical to making the reader care what happens and entice them to read the book. In my current work in progress, my hero is the first character the reader meets. However, this is the heroine's story. So, I pondered if she should be the first character on the page. The issue with that is the heroine will reveal her story LATER in the book. What to do?

I ran the first chapter by my critique group with the hero in the opening paragraphs. They all liked it, and I didn't get any feedback about back-story dumping. All good. So, it seemed I'd done my job. BUT, I still felt strongly that the heroine should be introduced first so the reader knew it was her story. What to do?

I revised with having the heroine be in the first paragraph.

My critique group liked the first version much better. Why? Because I was able to develop the hero with likeable traits. My heroine's traits cannot be revealed until the story moves on.

This clearly tells me I have work to do. I must find a way to bring my heroine on stage at the beginning, give her some traits to make the readers want to find out what happens, and weave their paths together. Or, perhaps I may decide this is the hero's story after all.

The decision I make will determine how the story plays out. This will take a lot of brainstorming and planning. The one thing critical to any story is to know in advance whose story you are telling. If you get that right, then you're on your way to writing a great novel.

Remember when you start writing, ask the critical question, whose story is it?

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