Write Your Novel Step by Step (Home Page)

Write Your Novel
Step by Step


By Melanie Anne Phillips
Creator of StoryWeaver

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~ Step 111 ~



Characters - Act One Beginning


Now that you have dealt with the introduction, growth, climax and dismissal of your characters and their relationships, we need to get a bit more precise about the order in which all these dramatic elements will happen, beginning with the first part of act one.


Some stories introduce characters as people and then let the reader discover their roles and relationships afterward.  This tends to help an audience identify with the characters.


Other stories put roles first, so that we know about the person by their function and/or job, then get closer to them as the act progresses.  This tends to make the readers initially pigeonhole the characters by stereotype, and then draws them into learning more about the actual people behind the masks.


Finally, there are stories that introduce character relationships – be they situational, structural, or emotional - at the beginning.  This causes the audience to see the problems among the characters but not take sides so strongly until they can learn about the people on each side of the relationship, and the roles that constrain them.


Of course, you do not have to treat these introductions equally for all characters and relationships.  For example, you might introduce on character as a person, then introduce their relationship with another character, then divulge the constraints the other character is under due to role, then revel the other character as a person.


This approach would initially cast sympathy (or derision) at the first character, temper it by showing a relationship with which he or she must contend, then temper that relationship by showing the constraints of the other character, and finally humanize that other character so a true objective balance can be formed by the reader.


Don't forget that first impressions stick in our minds, and it is much easier to judge someone initially than to change that judgment later.  Use this trait of audiences to quickly identify important characters up front, or to put their complete situations later, thereby forcing your readers to reconsider their attitudes, and thereby learn and grow.


No matter what approach you take, you have the opportunity to weave a complex experience for your readers, blending factual, logistic information about your characters with the readers’ emotional experience in discovering this information.


For this step, then, refer to the introductions you established in act one and select the ones you want to reveal in the first part of act one, enriching them as you can from the approaches described above.