Friday, February 11, 2011

Writer's Tips - In the Beginning

How does one start their story. Often this criticism is received. "I think you've started in the wrong place." This has happened to me. Sometimes I start too soon and other times too late. So let's look at some problems.

The no action start. Perhaps long passages of description of a place or a person with nothing really happening. A conversation between two people who already know the information being given.

The back story start. There's a great sentence or paragraph that should hook the reader and does until the back story complete with everything that happened to the hero or heroine to make them the kind of character they are.

The early start - Beginning the story with the character's birth, though if there's a conflict regarding this birth this could be a good place to begin, maybe. But taking a character through years when nothing happens could bore the reader.

The limbo start - beginning the story but never giving the reader a look as to when or where the story is taking place. This was one of the things I had to learn. An editor told me my characters existed in a vacuum. Over the years I have learned, mostly.

The big bang opening - Here we go there's a marvelous chase of a dramatic war scene that goes on for pages and leaves the reader breathless and wondering what's going on other than chaos.

The mob scene opening - Here the story begins with a dozen or more characters interacting and totally confusing the reader. Who is the main character? Is there a score sheet to help the reader understand who all these people are. Another place where I sometimes err, especially since I often write stories with multiple viewpoint characters.

Things to remember when going for that great opening to your story.

A hook that resonates through the first chapter. A single sentence or paragraph won't do that.

A clue or two about the main character's conflict and goals. This should be used lightly like a dash of salt. There's time to develop the problem as the story moves forward.

Orienting the character in time and space. Using the language appropriate to the time. Showing a bit of the setting.

Leave the flashbacks or back story to be woven in later in the story.

Using either long action or casts of character scenes with no clues to what's going on or long descriptive passages that go no where.

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