Background – Starting a Piece
Starting can be fraught with stress and worry. You can, at times, wonder if what you’re doing is worthwhile at all. But don’t worry; it is.
One year I created a kind of web. I had the main character and put her name in a circle on paper. Then I drew a bunch of lines radiating out. I connected her to other characters and then, on the lines, wrote why they connected – whatever it was (and she didn’t have to connect to everyone, of course). That got me to start creating scenes, and I ordered them. Some ended up just being little scenelets. I did this with all of the major characters and eliminated redundancies. Once I had the order down, I started to think about transitions between scenes.
Points of View
This web concept worked very well for a story with one main character. For The Real Hub of the Universe series, Ceilidh was always the center of things and everything would happen from her point of view. If she did not directly witness something, she would have to read about it or learn about it in some other fashion. Sometimes this meant that another character would have to have a conversation with her.
For a piece with multiple points of view, the process can differ. This time, the web is more like a series of intersecting rings. How do characters relate? What do they see, feel, and hear, touch and taste? Who do they know, or like, or despise? What are their goals? What are their prejudices? With Mettle, there are nine separate points of view, although some of them (like Eleanor’s) aren’t the focus too often. Instead, characters with more “screen time”, such as Nell, Craig, and Elise, had to do more of the heavy lifting. One thing which helped a great deal (and it was serendipity, I swear!) was that one of the major plot points concerned lessons which the middle schooler characters had not yet had. Therefore, a part of the exposition became teaching them. As they were taught, so was the reader.
This is one of the reasons why so many television programs kick off with someone moving or getting a new job, or the start of a relationship. Newness is appealing, yes, but it’s also because that gives an expository “out”. If everyone in the book or TV show knows how high Niagara Falls is, then they won’t need to bother talking about it. But if one character does not know, then the audience or reader learns this piece of information at the same time that the ignorant character does. That’s ignorant in terms of “not knowing” rather than being dumb, FYI.