Dramatica plotting in a first-person narration series

Never heard of this one!

(LOVE your handle, btw. One of my favorite actor/comedians.)

My WIP is first-person narration and I am struggling a bit on my IC signpost & journey in the first act because my MC (narrator) and IC didn’t originally encounter each other until the end of the first act. But I can’t tell the story of the IC unless my MC is there to witness it using first-person narration. I think I have figured out a solution that brings them together as strangers but it feels a bit forced right now.

I’m curious, have other novel writers abandoned first person narration for this reason? Or what methods have you come up with to solve this dilemma?

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Sounds like what the IC is doing is sort of like backstory? Perhaps you could bring it out somehow after they meet.

For example, a kids’ story: MC and IC are both at summer camp. IC is in a different cabin but gets moved partway through the story because there was an issue (maybe IC got in a fight) in the other cabin.

So the MC/IC throughline doesn’t really begin until they meet (obviously) but the IC could tell the story of what led up to the fight, and the MC might react to what happened after the fact. This could even be part of their conflict, the way the two react differently to the same event which led to the IC being in the picture.

Does this make sense?

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Does it have to take place as the narrator is telling it? Look at Shawshank Redemption. Red is telling the audience about Andy before he meets Andy, but it’s because he’s looking back on the story he’s telling rather than telling it as it happened. Since Red is telling it after it happened, that gives us a chance to assume that Andy told Red everything.

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If the IC does influence the MC within the first structural act, then you should be fine – you can tell it however you want and you don’t need to force anything. This encounter would be the IC Signpost 1 “beat.” (Don’t worry so much about IC Journey 1, it would continue into structural act 2 anyway.)

Does that make sense?

Also, I really like Greg’s answer too.

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I was having this exact thought about one of my WIPs, too. My conclusion was that you can always have a proxy for the primary IC. In my WIP, the issue was that the end of the first Act was the MC leaving her isolated community, with the IC being in the main area with everyone else. What I can do is either a) have a character in the isolated community who expresses the IC Elements in a similar manner, or b) have the MC contemplate the IC’s world and how much different it will be. In the first case, the IC Perspective is being represented through the proxy, and in the second, by the “totem” the MC has created in their mind.

Does that make any sense? :sweat_smile:

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This is perfect, as this explains my situation exactly.

I like this. I’ll have to watch Shawshank Redemption again. It’s been a long time.

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Also keep in mind that MC and IC aren’t people, but perspectives…specifically, they are both perspectives within the same Storymind. That should mean—and I believe there’s a thread on here where Chris Huntley confirms, though I didn’t look for it—that structurally, it’s fine to have your IC scene take place outside of the MCs knowledge. This is because, as a perspective, the IC isn’t meant to have an impact on the MC player so much, but on the I perspective of the Storymind.

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But if the scene takes place outside of the MC’s knowledge, how does the MC narrate that scene? As if they they heard about it after the fact?

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I would assume that particular scene wouldn’t be in first-person. It’s not unheard of to have a story that’s 90% first-person, but jump over to third-person for a chapter or two. (See: the Bartimaeus trilogy, which have Bartimaeus’ chapters in first-person, and John Mandrake’s chapters in third-person.)

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I think I asked about that but I don’t remember the answer or where it was!

… I was just writing that. You have to reveal it somehow.

However, you have flexibility as to when you reveal it. I think that as long as the IC Signpost Event takes place chronologically in the right place (in story time), it could be revealed to the MC at any point as long as the audience gets the whole picture by the end of the story.

Armando has a chapter on doing this deliberately to create mystery, suspense and dramatic irony.

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This is actually similar to what I’m doing in my current WIP (and actually just gave me a great idea!)

I was just struggling with how to create more suspense in my story, and this gives me a great idea. So, in the first act, the MC observes a situation with the IC, but they are still strangers at this point. The MC can narrate this exchange in the first act of the story, but she doesn’t understand the complexity of what is really going on with the IC, and the reader is kept wondering what the whole picture is.

Then, later as the relationship develops between the MC and the IC, the MC learns more about what was really going on during that exchange, and this can be explained in Act 3 or 4.

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I love it! I know I forget all the time the little ways an Influence Character can influence the Main Character. It doesn’t have to literally be the IC walking up to the MC, waggling their fingers, and saying, “I am influencing you now.” :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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However you want. As if the Mc heard about it after the fact like in Shawshank is fine, or switching to third person is fine. Or switching narrators might be an option.

Honestly, i think it’s structurally fine to just have the MC narrate the scene without breaking stride. If the structure is sound, the worst that can happen is the audience will ask how the MC has that information, but I think most will understand that if the MC is narrating, then the MC came across the info at some point between the time the story took place and the time the character began narrating that info to the audience.

How you narrate the story, or maybe I should say which character you use to narrate it, seems like a storytelling choice with infinite possibilities. Structurally, I have to think that the Storymimd itself is the narrator no matter which character it’s narrating through. Structurally, your Storymind is relating it’s already complete process of exploring the problem to the audience and thus already has all the info necessary to tell the story, no explanation needed.

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Pretty sure you and I both were active in that thread. I’ll look for it later this evening maybe.

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At the last subtext meeting @jhull was making the point that you can technically develop all of the throughlines completely separately. I’m still not sure I totally understand though – surely there has to be some interaction between the throughlines? I plan to follow up with him at the next meeting.

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I’ve suspected that for the same reasoning given above. Even if the storytelling across throughlines is separated, it’s all connected structurally. Would like to hear what Jim says, though.

Maybe that could be another Story Assembly thread. Chose a form, have 4 different ppl illustrate a domain in their own way without interaction from the others, then see how all four fit in the end.

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I wonder if there are some books that are essentially collections of different tales which might work like that – each being a separate throughline perspective on the same central inequity / GAS. World War Z (the book, not the movie which is WAY different) comes to mind, although I kind of doubt that its tales combine to form a GAS, because a) I don’t remember them very well and b) I don’t think any of them focused on a relationship story.

Very cool! It’s worth pointing out @jhull found this to be the case when he analysed The Harry Potter Series – the complexity of the IC throughline is not revealed until the end, when Snape’s true motivations and depth of character become apparent (his love for Lily, mistreatment by James, etc.).

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