1. JosephMarch
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    JosephMarch Active Member

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    Changing the order of the plot

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by JosephMarch, Apr 29, 2014.

    I just read a HUGE thread on another forum about effective ways to begin your novel. People posted their first three lines, opened up to criticism from other posters.

    It made me realize the beginning of the thing I'm writing, my story, doesn't really hook the reader. It hooks me, since I know what's coming, but I'm not the reader.

    So now I'm considering changing up the when. What if I started it off with this fight, which is now the middle, and then backtracked by having the main character remembering how she got to the present situation? So my entire story up until the fight is a recollection. After that, it will be in actual time.

    Make sense? Too convoluted? I feel like I've read novels that have done this; I need to find a way to give her lots of time alone to do the remembering. She is taking a flight from LA to NY right after the fight, so maybe then? Please forgive my (dumb!) questions. I am new at this and every time I think I have it, I read something that says no, sorry, you don't!
     
  2. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    It also depends what your target audience is. Children, young adults (younger or older ones?), adults? Generally, the older you get, the more patient you are when it comes to the opening of a book - but just remember that everyone wants conflict! Still, conflict can be inward looking, and not just outward and physical. Think about that.

    What about your genre? Readers of mystery are going to want a very intriguing opening, while readers of general fiction will be fine reading a much more subdued opening. And also remember that you aren't going to please everyone, no matter how you open your novel; some will like a slower start, and others will not. Decide which works best for your story, while making sure there is conflict, however big or small that initial conflict is. Keep in mind that a very small conflict (either inward or outward looking) can open the novel to intruige the reader, and then in a couple of chapters or pages add a larger conflict. Perhaps the small conflict is resolved, perhaps it isn't for now, or perhaps it will never be resolved in the book. What I'm trying to say is that you don't have to bring your readers into the main plot immediately, because a much smaller conflict can set up the scene and also allow time for character sympathy and development.

    Hope this helps. :)
     
  3. Fronzizzle
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    Fronzizzle Member

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    I just had the exact same issue. My first chapter was too boring, at least in terms of hooking or bringing readers in. Instead of rearranging my whole novel, though, I was able to come up with a couple of new scenes that were exciting - I'm much happier with how it starts now.

    Be careful, though - that sounds like a lot of backtracking/flashback if the fight is currently in the middle of your novel. I don't think it does much good to have a hook, only to turn around and bore the readers with 200 pages of back story or whatever.

    Also, search for "info dumps". You don't want to spend too much time blandly explaining what is going on or why something is the way it is. It seems to me that its a more common problem when using flashbacks than at any other time, so if you go this route make sure to avoid them.

    Finally, it doesn't have anything specific to do with your post, but I have found that reading (and submitting) short stories for the bi-weekly contests on this site do wonders for items like this. When you only have X amount of words total, you want to make them count so it forces you to have a good opening.
     
  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that the "remembering" is probably a mistake. When I read a book, the moment that I start it is the "present" in my mind, and any backing up is flashback, from which I'm impatiently waiting to return. I recently started reading the sequel to Flood, which started out interesting and then switched to the past for chapter after chapter after chapter, until I just gave up and stopped reading the book.

    I would find another way to make the opening interesting. Your character could have some sort of personal issue or conflict--remember that the conflict doesn't have to be THE main conflict of the book. The girl who's going to save the world could start out fighting with her mother. The cop who's going to save the world could start out driving pellmell to be with his wife, who's in labor.
     
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  5. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    I had the same problem with Samantha and the Bear. The publisher I submitted to said they loved the novel, and that the first chapter ended with a great hook, but that the opening of the chapter wasn't strong and the character (of necessity) seemed a bit passive for the first few chapters. She said that if I could strengthen the opening she would say yes, so I wrote a new first chapter that was more gripping and demonstrated that the protagonist was intelligent, resourceful, and someone to feel empathetic about. You might give some thought to either doing that or trimming the opening to place it closer to the inciting incident.

    You don't have anything posted, so it's impossible to make an evaluation or suggestions for this story. You might want to post a few thousand words to get reaction.
     

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