Q&A

How Do I Establish a Big Bad That Isn’t Important Until Later?

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Hello, long-time reader third-time caller.

I’m currently writing a fantasy series, and I’m struggling with the big bad of it. The basic gist of it is that in the backstory the big bad, a group of people on the moon, puts the plot in motion, but after that, the only way they interact with the story is through the things they did in the backstory, like creating monsters that the protagonists deal with.

They, along with the fact that people know that the moon is gonna come crashing down one day, form a sort of shadow hanging over everyone else in the story. My problem then is to introduce them and manage expectations since they don’t play a huge part in most of the story. Like, how early do I mention them when there are other things I need to establish for the more pressing story? Do I just do it when something related to them comes up? I feel like I need to do it fairly early because it would be weird not to mention that there is a moon civilization and such.

– Bobbert

Hi Bobbert,

We get many questions about how to deal with unconnected story elements, and the answer is always to take a step back and change what you have to change so they are more connected. In this case, you want to even things out, so that something important is important most of the way through. I don’t have enough information to guess which is the best direction for you to go in; it depends on what your plans are for this moon group.

Is the moon civilization behind some of the urgent problems in the story, like the creation of monsters, but no one knows that until later, so you’re wondering how to keep them present until the protagonist finally deals with them at the end? Then, you need to find a minor way for them to be involved in important events earlier. Maybe they are just sending vague messages with hints about how the urgent problems might be solved, or one of your existing characters is secretly from this moon group.

Or does the moon civilization simply explain how the urgent problems came to be but they will never matter later? In that case, you’ll want to reduce the need to explain them earlier. Making the backstory simpler will help, but you might just want to give their monster-making role to a different group.

If you aren’t covering them in this story but they are more central to a sequel, consider building them up as a mystery. Maybe the protagonists know they created the problems of this story but not how or why, or the protagonists find out that the moon civilization sent the monster after the problems of the story are resolved, creating a hook for the sequel.

And yes, if you have a moon civilization – or just a moon that will someday fall from the sky – you’ll want to mention that early in the story to set expectations about your world. There are many ways to work things like that casually into the story, especially since both moon people and a moonfall are things people in your world will think or talk about at least occasionally. Maybe there are alerts when the moon looks unstable. Maybe people make jokes about quitting their jobs and joining the moon colony. Think about the ripple effects those things have on your world, and it shouldn’t be too hard to get in an early mention.

Best wishes with whatever you choose to do,
Chris

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Comments

  1. jorgekafkazar

    It may be worth mentioning that this project is a mixed genre, and as such, there are other issues that should be addressed.

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