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Thread: Opening a MG book with an adult viewpoint character

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW rwm4768's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2012

    Opening a MG book with an adult viewpoint character

    I have finished my upper MG fantasy, and I have a question. My first chapter is actually from the point of view of the thirteen year old's mother. It also takes place when the main character is a baby. I know it might seem like more of a prologue, but I don't want to call it one because so many people skip prologues.

    I've seen this done before in books. Most famously, the first chapter of Harry Potter follows Vernon Dursley, then switches point of view to the Dumbledore-McGonagall scene.

    So I know it can be done. I feel like this chapter does need to be there. Technically, the book could function without it, but it sets up the major internal conflict that the character faces at the end of the book, as well as introduces a character who features in the rest of the series.

    What are everyone's thoughts on this? Can it be done well? What pitfalls should I try to avoid with this?

  2. #2
    Deus ex Harry Potter. djrashn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Billings, Mt.
    My 3 cents:

    1) Write your story your way. "Rules" are broken all the time and you've cited an excellent source of evidence, Harry Potter. HP was a debut novel and breaks countless "Rules" not just for writing but also first time authors. It did take a year to sell though and was rejected 8 to 12 times, depending on the source, but look at the outcome

    2) If it's absolutely crucial to the story then do it. After you get an agent/editor, you will work with them to make changes, but don't change your story because of what ifs.

    3) Can it be done well? Absolutely! JK Rowling did it well in the Sorcerer's Stone and did it even better(IMHO) in The Half-Blood Prince.

    Good luck with your story.
    "Create, Develop, Resolve." Someone smarter than I am.

  3. #3
    practical experience, FTW MsJudy's Avatar
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    Apr 2007
    I agree. It has been done before, and done well. It can work just fine. Dianna Wynne-Jones is another who used that technique more than once--starting in a POV that was more omni or more adult, before homing in on the young MC.

    Now, other people will feel differently, and will argue with you. Especially if you enter into first-page contests like Miss Snark's First Victim. But if the first page does everything it should--introduce a character we care about, raise a story question that makes us want to keep reading, showcase a strong voice that tells us we're in good, capable storytelling hands--then I think kids will trust that you'll move on to a kid MC soon enough.
    represented by Jenny Bent of the Bent Agency. Most happy.

  4. #4
    practical experience, FTW lolabelle's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    New York, NY
    This question was very relevant to my interests.

    I initially began my novel with an adult's POV, but then scrapped it because I thought it might be hard for agents to see the voice of my characters in the first 5-10 pages if they were all from the point of view of the MC's grandfather.

    I will say though, that as a child reader, I really didn't like the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone because I didn't really care what the adults did.

    So perhaps it's about performing a balancing act between the first chapter coming from an adult but limiting the feeling that it's a total adult view.

    But I do agree with the other posters in that I find it more important to write what you believe and what you want versus what is considered "right."

    Best of luck and happy writing!

  5. #5
    keyboard crawler Diver's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    I also don't see a problem starting out with older characters, but I suppose it will ultimately depend on how it blends with the rest of the story.

    In the case of HP, the first chapter set up the mood and introduced important characters. It also gave us the promise of the fantastic journey to come while we waddled through the first chapters in our 'ordinary' world.

  6. #6
    Super Browser triceretops's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    In a van down by the river
    I've done it before and see no problems with it. I actually went three chapters with the adult then switched over. It sold, no problem.

  7. #7
    Widely Regarded as a Bad Move DanielaTorre's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    The Desert Planet of Jakku
    I completely understand your conundrum because my ms starts off the same exact way. It's via the POV of the MC's father and a mysterious man during the aftermath of an event that will echo throughout the book. It also introduces certain aspects of his world and how that mysterious man is relevant to the MC.

    I avoided it being prologueish (or at least I hope I did) by keeping it short and introducing the MC about five pages in as a smooth transition. In other words, I passed the torch from one POV to the other by having those characters interact . Nearly midway through the story it loops back to the events at the beginning, giving the MC and the reader an opportunity to see how important that beginning was, and it was told via the POV of the MC. Had I started with the MC's POV, it would have sounded like a prologue. Trust me, I went through several beginnings before I was satisfied with this one.

    It can most certainly be done and not seem like a prologue. Like Diver says, it will depend on how smooth it blends in with the rest of the story.

  8. #8
    practical experience, FTW rwm4768's Avatar
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    Jan 2012
    Thanks for the responses. I feel a lot better about it now.

  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW SheilaJG's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Northern California
    It's funny, the last two MG books I picked up started with an adult POV: Magical Mischief by Anna Dale and Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz (hers starts with an 80-something year old in a prologue, no less. Of course, she's a Newberry winner, so she can do whatever she wants).

    Represented by Molly Ker Hawn of The Bent Agency


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