Introducing New Characters Partway Through a Story

I ran into a conundrum this morning.  I’m writing the beginning of chapter 10 in my fantasy project, and, like I’d planned, I’m deviating from the protagonist and telling the story of what’s happening in a different part of the kingdom. Which got me thinking. What does conventional wisdom say about adding important characters partway through a story? I did some basic research, and discovered that conventional wisdom doesn’t really have a good answer. Like every other aspect of writing, you can do it if you write it right. Like that helps.

Here’s my situation: The first 9 chapters focus on the protagonist, a young man from a small village who is about to discover the world is a lot bigger than he thought it was. The main conflict of the story, hinted at a few times within those 9 chapters, revolves around a vendetta against the royal family, which the protagonist is going to be unwittingly drawn into.

To get that conflict going, I have to explain events that are happening outside of the protagonist’s purview. Enter the crown prince. He’s the perfect character to experience these events, but I’m worried that it’ll be jarring to the reader to suddenly be reading from a different character’s perspective. I intend for him to grow into a more important role, and he’ll be critical in resolving the conflict, but readers won’t necessarily know that upon first encountering him.

One of the Reddit threads I read on the subject made reference to George R. R. Martin. He’s notorious for adding characters left and right and giving them unique storylines. He makes readers care about them, then brutally kills them off. I love Game of Thrones, but I don’t think it’s an adequate representation of what I’m trying to do here. I don’t have nearly his skill, so while I can appreciate the example he’s set, I don’t think it’s something to actively model my writing after.

In the end, I decided to go ahead and write the chapter as I originally intended. Unless I truly change my entire story, I can see no other way to accomplish what I need to accomplish. The prince is important. Hopefully readers will agree with me. And if I make them care about him, it won’t matter that he’s introduced late.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Comments are always welcome and can be added by clicking on the title of the post.

Forward Momentum

I’ve had a lot of trouble being productive this week. My forward momentum has stalled. Part of that is a discipline issue. Take, for example, yesterday. 9:00 hit last night, and I hadn’t yet gotten any writing done. I was tired, and my head hurt (it’s been raining for days), and it was late, so I chose to just watch some TV instead. That’s on me.

This post isn’t about the excuses I used to not write this week. It has been a busy week, and I’ve been gone a lot in the afternoons, but if I’d been as disciplined as I should have been I would have fit at least a little work in somewhere.

Rather, this post is about pointing out how easy it is to keep not working when I’ve already begun not working. Did you take physics in high school? Remember inertia? Merriam Webster-“a property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force”. I know writing isn’t physics, but the same principle applies. The more I let myself slide on not getting work done, the easier it becomes to not get any work done. I need an external force (discipline) to change that trajectory.

What about motivation, you ask? Motivation is unreliable and ultimately worthless. There’s a great post by NerdFitness’s Steve Kamb called Motivation: You’re Doing It Wrong. Motivation inspires us to make a change and gives us a push, but it isn’t enough to sustain us through the long haul. Last night, I was completely lacking in motivation. That’s where discipline needs to step up.

Discipline is what makes me get out my laptop late at night and pound out a few hundred words because I haven’t gotten around to it all day. Discipline is what makes me choose to write instead of finishing the book I’m reading or watching new episodes of my favorite show on Netflix. Discipline is what’s going to get this project finished when I simply don’t feel like doing it.

All is not lost, though. Just like inactivity builds forward momentum, productivity does the same thing. As I mentioned in my post Back Into Creation Mode, I’ve been away from this project for a little while. I lost all momentum whatsoever, and I’m still trying to get it back. But once I do, that momentum will only build. Once I’m fully immersed in my story and churning out a couple thousand words a day, it’ll drive me nuts to not be working. Writing will consume my thoughts and keep me awake at night planning my next chapter. I won’t need as much discipline, because I’ll be completely motivated to keep moving forward.

Let me know what you think in the comments. How do you stay disciplined? How do you find the drive to keep working when you just really don’t feel like it?

 

Failing Already

I feel kinda stupid. Here I wrote this post about getting back into my fantasy project and the new goals I was setting and how productive I was going to be, and I didn’t even make it through 2 chapters my first week trying. I have my excuses, sure. Things came up. I was tired. I didn’t feel very good. There’s always a reason why we don’t get the writing done that we planned to do.

I didn’t write a single word yesterday. I curled up on the couch and read a book instead. It was a good book, and I enjoyed it, but I felt very annoyed at myself for not being disciplined, putting the book down, and doing the writing I knew I should be doing. I haven’t done any writing yet today, either. Here it is, 7:30 at night, and I’ll be putting in some time instead of reading or watching tv, which I’m usually doing around this time.

I’ll be lucky to finish one chapter between tonight and tomorrow, only halfway making my goal of 2 chapters a week. But at least it’s still progress. And then a new week is going to start, and I can try again. I can be more disciplined next week, and I can get my 2 chapters in. And if I truly want to, then I will.

I know this is a short post, and I apologize. But, I’ve been away from my story too long, and I need to get back into it.

Worldbuilding

As I’ve mentioned before, my current project is a fantasy project. It’s currently unnamed, and I’m not going to tell you what it’s about, because I don’t really like discussing my stories while they’re still in-progress. That being said, there’s one thing I’d love to talk about, and that’s worldbuilding.

If you’re a writer or even a gamer, then the term “worldbuilding” is likely one you’re familiar with. Worldbuilding, at its core, references the work that is put into creating the setting for your story. All stories require it, but some more so than others. Fantasy and science fiction tend to require more worldbuilding than other genres.

This project is my first attempt at a fantasy, so it’s also my first attempt at what I consider “true” worldbuilding. This is where you absolutely have to create everything from scratch. If you’re writing a crime novel set in modern-day Chicago, the majority of your world already exists, you just have to figure out how to add the pieces into your story. With a fantasy, everything is brand new and exciting and terrifying, because it’s up to you to make it all up. Here are some of the building blocks of worldbuilding, and how I used them to create the setting for my own project:

Mapping

What does your land look like?  What’s the terrain, the temperature, the atmosphere? I really struggled with this. Drawing my maps was one of the first things I did when I started this project, because I felt like I couldn’t fully plot my story without some physical reference. I hand drew them, with pencil, and I did a lot of erasing. Seriously, a lot of erasing. But, when I was done, I had the physical boundaries of my kingdom, and a murky idea of what lay beyond the borders. I had mountains, and rivers, and several cities marked that I wanted to use later. I also made a secondary map of my capital city. I don’t have much action set there yet, but it helped me to cement my ideas of the governing structure as well.

Government

Is your land a kingdom? An empire? A democracy? Theocracy? Does it have one ruler or some version of a Congress or Parliament? What laws do they have? How are those laws enforced and punished? Are your rulers liked by the people, or are the people oppressed? How does your system of government affect what happens in your story? My kingdom is a fledgling kingdom, and has only had a king for a couple of decades. Because of this, there’s still division in the land, and the people lack a sense of unity.

Social Structure

How do your people live? Are there defined economic classes? What kinds of jobs do people have? How do they interact with one another? What values do they hold? Are they educated? Do people from different cities/classes/walks of life get along, or is there tension? My protagonist is from a simple village. There are only a couple hundred people living there, and most are farmers, craftsmen, or trappers. Despite that, every child in the kingdom is educated to at least a basic level. I couldn’t bring myself to create a world where most people don’t know how to read. It bugs me, so I decided that my society would value literacy.

Rules of Magic

If you’re writing a fantasy, chances are you’re incorporating magic. It’s one of the core elements of what makes a fantasy. But magic has to follow rules. They can be whatever you want, but they have to be consistent and they have to make sense. Can everyone use magic, or just certain practitioners? How much magic can they use at once? Is the use of magic regulated by the government? Do the common people fear it, or is it well-established? The magic in my story isn’t exactly magic. It’s more of an extra sense that people can be trained to tap into. But anyone can do it, if they take the time to learn.

This list is by no means exhaustive, it’s just the topics that I focused on intently while doing my own worldbuilding. They create a foundation upon which to begin building your story. You can have the greatest story ever told, but if your world doesn’t make sense then readers simply aren’t going to connect with it. I won’t go into them now, but here is a great article on the 7 Deadly Sins of Worldbuilding. They aren’t things you automatically think of, but they can cause your story to utterly collapse in on itself.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and your own worldbuilding experiences in the comments. Also, sign up for an email subscription to get post notifications directly to your email.