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Can MC be introduced in Chapter 3 of a MG?

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Zixi

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Starting a new MG Fantasy and somehow my MC does not get introduced until the 3rd chapter. Is this acceptable? Because if I make chapter 3, chapter 1, the first two become backstory and that's a lot of backstory.

 :thankyou
#1 - June 05, 2012, 08:57 PM

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If your MC isn't introduced until chapter 3, then maybe your story really doesn't start until chapter three. Is there a way to weave all that other info throughout the story instead of dropping it all in chapters one and two?
#2 - June 05, 2012, 09:41 PM
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Does seem late for intro of mc
#3 - June 05, 2012, 10:09 PM

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Yeah, I lean toward no.  It may be a lot of backstory, but it's also waaaaay too much for MG readers (and agents/editors) to read without a character to connect to.
#4 - June 05, 2012, 10:43 PM
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Bet you, oh, a bunch of chocolate that you don't need most of those first two chapters and what fraction you do need can be woven in later, as Donna suggests. Whack 'em off, give ch. 3 to a critique group, and see what they really, really need to know that's not there. Probably not much.
#5 - June 06, 2012, 12:28 AM
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Agree with the others. That's not to say it can't be done, especially in an epic fantasy, but it's a hurdle. You need to know all the stuff in Chapters 1 & 2, but the reader may not need to know it. Or know it YET.
#6 - June 06, 2012, 03:55 AM
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I agree with all the above.  Without a clearly defined MC, I don't think most editors/agents will read beyond the first few pages.

I've heard to start right before the inciting incident. The feedback I've recently received on my work has suggested that you give
enough time for the readers to connect to the mc, to make the mc a sympathetic character.

Backstory is usually a huge turn-off, easily recognizable, and will likely result in a quick rejection.

#7 - June 06, 2012, 04:39 AM
Making metaphors out of molehills for over thirty years.

I agree that you probably don't want to start without the main character appearing in either chapter 1 or 2. But I have a slightly different sugggestion, since you're saying this is a new story.

Discovering where to start a story can be tough--at least it is for me.  Sometimes the best choice is to just keep moving forward. As you write your first draft try to discover places where the backstory can be slid in one tiny bite at a time. Then, once you have finished a  draft of the entire story, go back and write the first chapters. I've written quite a few stories and I don't think any of them have ended up having the same first chapters as they did in the first draft.
#8 - June 06, 2012, 06:10 AM
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I agree with the above wisdom. Seems too long a stretch, over two chapters.
#9 - June 06, 2012, 07:41 AM
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I would also agree. But before you start rewriting, I'd finish the book and then go back and cut. I nearly always have to rewrite my first chapter after I've finished the book and finally have figured out what in the world my story is. Rewriting is the key to a successful book.

I would also recommend looking through the 10 top MG titles in the genre you are writing and get a feel of what is being published.
#10 - June 06, 2012, 07:49 AM
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I think Patty's advice is excellent...

but as soon as I read your question I thought of Harry Potter. And there are fantasy adult books I've read that I'm sure started that way as well. SO it can be done, but I agree it makes it tough when querying. If you can only send the first 10 pages with a query, and your MC isn't introduced in the first 10, those first 10 had better be riveting to get the agent to request the rest.
#11 - June 06, 2012, 08:38 AM
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but as soon as I read your question I thought of Harry Potter.

But Harry IS introduced in the first chapter (by reference) -- he's just not *physically* in it.

(Admittedly, though, Arty, your point is correct. Anything's possible.)
#12 - June 06, 2012, 10:37 AM
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I also agree with what Patty said.

In terms of 2 chapters worth being a lot of backstory, I actually think the more backstory you have, the stronger your final story will be. But if this is a new project, like Patty says, maybe just move forward and when you get to the second draft of the entire m.s. it will be more apparent where the real beginning is. But I think 2 chapters worth of backstory is only a positive thing, even if it ends up getting cut or moved.
#13 - June 06, 2012, 10:37 AM

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But I think 2 chapters worth of backstory is only a positive thing, even if it ends up getting cut or moved.

Oh, totally -- a good fantasy could easily have a whole 'nother book's worth of backstory. (Tolkien, anyone?) For the author's eyes only, though - not in the story itself.
#14 - June 06, 2012, 10:39 AM
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Thanks everyone. You all reiterated what I already knew.  :grin   I, in fact, started the book with chapter 3, but then switched it. I believe your advice is great. I'll just switch it back and continue, then revise, revise, revise.

I knew I would get an answer from you guys. 

 :thankyou

#15 - June 06, 2012, 09:26 PM

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I read an MG book recently where the MC was introduced in chapter 7. When I realised what just happened I almost chucked the thing across the room. I know everyone's said this already, but readers do feel cheated if they invest an hour or more of their time into getting to know characters, and then you dump that lot and bring in the 'real' ones.
#16 - June 26, 2012, 12:35 AM

I've started my story just after the inciting incident.  Which means I need To sprinkle in how she got into the predicament she's in over the next two chapters.  But it let me start with action right away.   I don't give her a name until halfway through chapter 1, when she finally has someone to talk to.   The reader has to cope with 'stuff' having happened to 'the girl' for a while....
#17 - October 21, 2012, 07:39 PM

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Even Harry Potter, which starts with the Dursleys and ends with Dumbledore and MacGonnegal, has Harry present as a lump in a blanket. I agree that chapter 3 is way too late. You need your reader to form a connection with your MC early on. Otherwise, you run the risk of them simply closing the book and never getting to the good stuff. If you start with some other character, I think you need to still keep it very present in the reader's mind who the real MC is. (As in the aforementioned case of Harry.)
#18 - October 21, 2012, 09:45 PM

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I agree.  Otherwise, I think readers will either feel cheated when they finally do get to the main character or will never get that far.
#19 - October 21, 2012, 10:51 PM

Could be brilliant, all depends on how you do it.
#20 - January 26, 2013, 10:35 AM

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I think one of the wisest bits of advice I've gotten about first chapters is that they need to give the reader something to care about ... and usually that's a person, and that person is most likely your main character. Otherwise the promise of your novel that's made in those chapters might be a bit misleading. I'd give your first chapters to a beta reader, and then when he/she is finished reading ask, What do you think the story is about? Do you want to continue reading? Why? Why do you care? Those answers might give you your answer.
Jean
#21 - January 26, 2013, 11:30 AM
« Last Edit: January 26, 2013, 11:32 AM by Jean Reidy »
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Quote
Even Harry Potter, which starts with the Dursleys and ends with Dumbledore and MacGonnegal, has Harry present as a lump in a blanket.

We actually learn quite a bit about Harry in that first chapter, and he is introduced by a very unlikable character which makes him automatically likable for most people.
#22 - January 26, 2013, 12:47 PM

I'd read over this thread a few times and thought, why that's just crazy talk...  Then it hit me that I've done the same thing!  I have had a problem summarizing my story, and I'd say things like, "There's a lot going on," or, "It's hard to explain."  Now I realize that this is part of the problem.  My MC is so buried in "setting" that even I couldn't recognize her.  Geez, I feel like such an amateur.  Ok, back to the writing board...

  :poop
#23 - February 04, 2013, 09:30 AM

Zixi

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Thanks again, everyone. Your wise advise has been utilized. :)
#24 - February 15, 2013, 04:41 PM

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