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I'm 20 and have been writing a lot of fiction since I was 11, and there is a story that I keep rewriting as I get older and learn more about writing and storytelling. Strangely I haven't done that much reading myself so the Dos and Don'ts are still a bit unclear.

The main problem I have right now is that the story centers around several characters that together have to search answers about their origin. But these characters are introduced over time - in the beginning there is only one character (the most important character) but further characters are introduced, each with their own separate storylines from their perspective. Is this a taboo in writing? Should I focus on one or a few characters from the beginning to prevent it from becoming confusing and annoying?

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3 Answers

IN order to be yourself, you must write what you feel led to write. If you want to add POVs (Point Of Views) as you go, then by golly do that! I personally think it's a great idea and would love to see more people do it. I have a similar story to yours, since I, too am about your age and have been writing since I was ten. I say go all out on the story and make it the best book you can possibly write! Have fun writing and I'll look forward to seeing your book in print.

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Sounds fine to me. George R.R. Martin's been doing it for about five thousand pages so far.

ETA: Martin makes the vast array of characters work by starting slow, with one family, and building outwards as the family splits apart and the members travel. Ned Stark goes from Winterfell to King's Landing, where we meet another family at the palace, which introduces us to the politics of the country. That's a springboard to other families, other castles, and more politics.

He also helps the reader by keeping to one POV per chapter, and naming the character at the top of the chapter, so you know who and where the plot is focusing on. (As some characters shift their internal identities, the names change as well, which is a nice touch.)

There's a huge character list with thumbnail descriptions at the end of each book, for those who have difficulty remembering who was doing what to whom six years ago when the last book was published, and several maps as well.

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Maybe some notes on how it is he makes it work well might be in order :P –  Standback Jan 11 '12 at 14:12
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fixed. happy now? :) –  Lauren Ipsum Jan 11 '12 at 14:41
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I have a few rules for you which I made up just for your case. Follow them rigorously:

Rule #1: There are no taboos in writing!

Rule #2: There are no taboos in writing!

Rule #3: There are definitely no taboos in writing!

Now I hope we have made that point clear.

Yes, there are rules in writing, what you should do and what you shouldn't. But for each rule there is an exception where you should do exactly the opposite of what the rule tells you. The prerequisite for using or breaking rules is understanding the rules. You are in the right place ;)

Ok, back to your question: You want to avoid confusing your readers when introducing all these characters. First: You cannot please them all. There are readers who get confused with too many characters, no matter where you introduce them. A pity, but that's how it is.

So let me tell you a story about Margret. She had a sister, Susann, and they both visit her mother Ann. They met Marie on their way to their Mom's house, the daughter of their neighbor Kate. Kate and Laura, the aunt of Ann, know each other since childhood. Sadly Laura is sitting in her rocking chair all day and Kate doesn't have much time visiting. But she always loved that marmalade Marie was cooking.

Now ... where was I ... oh, yes, who is my main character?

Yes, I'm overexaggerating, but I wanted to show you, that introducing characters in a short time period (all in the beginning) can be also very confusing. Take your time introducing the protagonists to your audience. But that does not mean that you should bore them. Writing is so lovely complicated, isn't it? :)

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+1 to "The prerequisite for using or breaking rules is understanding the rules." It's not that the rules can never be broken, it's that you have to know them to break them properly. –  justkt Jan 11 '12 at 13:37
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