1. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Beginning: Big Bang or Slow Ramp-Up

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Commandante Lemming, Jul 11, 2016.

    So - I'm looking back at my beginning and I've got a potentially vexing question. I know what I can do to take if from boring to punchy - but I'm not sure I like the plot results. So as always I'm defaulting to "ask the forum"

    At present - my tv-reporter protagonist is catapulted from her small-town news gig to a national network by uncovering a political spending scandal that takes down a US Senator. We don't see this action and the story begins a few months after it happens, with the call from the national network. This beginning is slow, but it works for the fact the story is itself a political drama and it mirrors the past experiences of both the villain and the mentor character.

    I'm debating the merits of returning to the beginning I'd thought of way back in the dark ages when I first brainstormed this story (I was in high school), where our intrepid young reporter just happens to be on scene during some sort of major violent event, and then has to spend hours and hours on air with the national bigwigs - impressing them in the process. This is great for action, and it gives me a "dumb luck" start that I can later use to make the character question her worthiness...but in the process I undermine the fact that the character is a smart cookie with a real brain for details, which explains her later progress as a political reporter. I'm also worried about opening with a literal bang, as the rest of the book actually involves her getting an interview with the Pope and her subsequent rise to stardom. So, I don't have any more explosions lined up.

    Thoughts. Leaning toward keeping what I have but liking some of my other options.
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    These days, if it is commercial fiction, I think you want to start fast. That doesn't mean you need explosions, severed limbs, buckets of blood and dead bodies, but it means you need something important and interesting happening from the start.
     
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  3. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Do you HAVE to write the punchy opening in a way that undermines her intelligence and her head for details? Like, couldn't she distinguish herself not only by being in the right place at the right time but ALSO by offering insightful analysis and maybe doing something resourceful/daring to get more information?
     
  4. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh definitely not. I'm chewing on that right now.

    What sticks in my craw is that right now, she comes with a lot of that built in - having spent months bulldogging a corruption story that most of her co-workers thought was nothing (and I had her idiot long-term boyfriend leave her over her obsessive pursuit of said story, thinking it was a mean-spirited crusade against a "nice old man"). I like that aspect of her character - and I could write a whole prequel just on that mess - but I don't want to - at least right now :p

    But there are definitely some quicker, easier ways to demonstrate her eye for detail.
     
  5. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah - small city in North Wisconsin - so the two easiest options are active-shooter situation or massive industrial accident. Those are the two things I can think of happening that would get something in Appleton, Wisconsin on national TV before anyone from the big networks can get there. But that's more punch than I'd deliver for the entire rest of the book (although I have bigger bangs for Book 2....*evil laugh*)
     
  6. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    This. Every time I've written anything in my life where I was stuck between doing one thing or another, the story always became a thousand times better once I realized that the correct answer was "Both" ;)
     
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  7. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    No sense repeating solid advice others have said above, other than I'd avoid the slow ramp up. You could ramp up, but not slowly. A conflict or crisis doesn't;t have to be bloody or involve explosions. All that backstory can be worked in within the context of the storyline, as it unfolds.
     
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  8. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Good point. Although the question arises as to what counts as a fast start. Right now Chapter 1 closes with the protagonist finding out that she's just landed the job of her dreams, so that's escalation, the question is whether I need some sort of punch to justify that rather than just implying that she's already done something huge.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2016
  9. NeeNee
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    NeeNee Member

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    I am assuming you are mainly wanting to know how fast do you get the reader hooked on your story.

    Putting your MC into an exciting situation at the beginning is a great idea but does it have to be on the job? Could you introduce us to her maybe by showing us something that's happening in her personal life? Maybe start with a sex scene with her soon to be ex boyfriend to give us an idea about their dynamics and show us she's an intelligent woman through her dialog with him.
    Or maybe some interaction with her boss or one of her coworkers where she's telling them how she's tired of being put on fluff stories, etc.

    There's lots of different scenarios that you can use to open the story, introduce us to your MC and get the reader hooked without starting out with a major news story.

    (Maybe start with a small news story even just to show what types of stories she typically does.)
     
  10. laurasiren12
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    laurasiren12 Member

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    I think this is a solid piece of advice. Back stories are meant to come out in the actual story but someties you write, like I did with my story, Bleeding Love, where suddenly one of my main characters was dead. I didn't see it coming.

    I have to also agree with NeeNee but sometimes a prologue can be opening of a chapter later in the book.
     

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