1. dannyboy
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    dannyboy Member

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    Style Completely confused - With my novel opening

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by dannyboy, Mar 7, 2014.

    Hi All,

    I'm not in a good mind frame at all. I don't have like minded people around me who can help. Thanks to the internet world and WF & its members... I'm writing a novel on 3 friends who take up a pilgrimage , one among the 3 instigates the others to take up this venture and they move on for almost 10 years together...

    I have no issues with my story, but now how do I start... I wrote the intial novel with the Instigators life history in a nutshell and why he takes up the pilgrimage.... My wife who read this draft said it had nothing to do with pilgrimage????

    Then I wrote another opening (starting with the pilgrimage itself) another opening with (Parents of the pilgrims), another opening (starting at the pilgrim shrine)...

    Now I have so many openings and I'm confused... I want this world to know about a famous pilgrim centre, I want the world to know pilgrimage to this place is taking place for over 4 decades, i want the world to know why people take up this, I want the pilgrims to know how to behave during the pilgrims and So on... These are the main reasons why this novel is taking shape, but for some reason I'm getting so confused... Can some one help with ideas to make my oepening great....

    BTW thanks in advance for all your help...
     
  2. Lae
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    Lae Contributing Member Contributor

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    What about a beginning where the instigator is looking back at when in started? Could be he's now finished the pilgrimage or it's just about to start and he's reminiscing about how it started.
     
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  3. dannyboy
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    dannyboy Member

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    Thanks Lae, for your response. I've thought about that POV as well, however I have just written from the Instigators POV in the normal happenings I've not tried the flash backs type.

    I also want to know if as a writer I should look at the Narrative as well, I'm writing this novel in the 1st person narrative.
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    There is a misconception that 1st person is easier to write than 3rd person. It isn't. Moreover, there isn't much you can do in 1st person that can't be done equally well in 3rd person limited, and the latter provides both additional flexibility and a more reliable narrator. But what struck me most was this:
    You want to pull the reader immediately into your story, getting them to care about your characters before they even know who they are. My advice would be to start in the middle of the pilgrimage, with your MC facing a problem, a crisis, a decision point. Don't resolve it right away, but use it as a stepping off point to show is who (s)he is.

    Most of the starts you mentioned sound like backstory. Give only as much backstory as the reader needs to understand the story at the moment in the story it's needed, and not a paragraph earlier. Keep in mind that most of the backstory is stuff that you need to know but the reader doesn't. One of your starts mentioned the parents of the pilgrims. Unless they have an ongoing role to play in the story you want to tell, dump 'em. Excess baggage.

    You're wife hit the nail on the head. If you want to write about the pilgrimage, write about the pilgrimage. But before you start, ask yourself: why would anyone else want to read this? You have to give the reader a reason to care about your characters and about the story you want to tell.

    My suggestion is that you go back and take a look at the best novels you've ever read. Aside from subject matter, what did you like about them? How did the authors develop their stories? Where and how did they start their stories? Where and how did they end them? If the answers to those last two are very similar, expand your sample size so that you can see differences and appreciate them.

    Then go.

    Best of luck.
     
  5. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Dannyboy:

    Unless you are writing a guidebook, you will need an interesting and engrossing reason for the pilgrimage. It may seem clear to you why someone would want to do it, but your readers will not have this understanding, nor do they know about the place of pilgrimage itself.

    Imagine if I offered you book about three friends who go on a world tour. Even if I said that the Instigator really wanted to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Great Wall of China, and that they were famous and interesting places, would that be enough to convince you to read the book? I think you would ask, why are they going, and why now? Why should I care? Is there some interesting story connected with the journey?
     
  6. dannyboy
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    dannyboy Member

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  7. dannyboy
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    dannyboy Member

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    Hi Ed,

    Your reply was very informative and helpful, you got me to do more research now and I'm now baffled with what next! I'm sure many 1st timers would face these problems. I have fixed my mind frame on 1st person narrative, I'll be glad if you and the others help me focus on that in your comments.

    I know I'm getting too carried away in telling my reader's how my MC feels and why he took up this pilgrimage, and apart from all this I want the readers to know about a pilgrimage happening like this (Like a recommendation).

    I would like to open my Novel with a poem or a description of the feeling of the MC about life and when he finds similar people out in the society he is convinced that he is not the only one in melancholy.... I want the MC to speak to himself in the 1st chapter, A soliloqui perhaps. Is this a correct approach as opposed to dialogues in the 1st chapter...

    Bryan, many thanks for your advice as well. I would like to my readers to know that my MC is probably like one of them who faces similar problems, Which means I focus on many issues he faces with himself battling the good and bad omen with himself like many of us do... eg. Somking is not good for health - Its universal truth however those who enjoy smoking would never want to give it up, but at some point when they decide to give it up there is battle in the mind, they find it so difficult... Like wise there are many small and big problems the protogonist faces and turns to a pilgrimage or for divine help which turns out to be both frutiful and not...

    Hope you are getting a picture what I would like to potray...

    I'm very thankful to those who take time to read and assist me on this...
     
  8. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    That's not necessarily a bad thing. You want your reader inside your MC's head.

    How many good books, recognized works, have you seen that begin that way? What if Hemingway had begun The Old Man and the Sea with Santiago moaning about his rotten luck? You need to hook the reader, and that means there has to be something going on at the get-go that makes the reader care. I mean, if he's reaching for the pills or about to turn on the gas or lock himself in the garage with the engine running, that's one thing. That's a crisis that needs immediate resolution. But if you're going to start with a soliloquy about how melancholy he is...I can only speak for myself - it's a nonstarter. You might want to give Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist a read as an example of a good quest story. And for an excellent example of starting in the middle and then spooning in the backstory when it's needed, I heartily recommend Rachel Simon's The Story of Beautiful Girl.

    I also think you may be too focused on style instead of substance at this point. Do you know what kind of character your MC is, how he begins and how he ends? Is he heroic? Is he tragic? Why would we want to know his story? Don't worry about the trappings of your presentation at this point - if the story is compelling, you won't need them anyway.
     
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  9. dannyboy
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    Great Ed! Thank you so much for the insight... Your'e right I haven't read or seen any novel beginning with a soliloqui, I have decided to rework on my opening and come up with a dialogue oriented one ... At the moment I'm reading the book Twilight by Stephnie Meyer, I've just started if you've already read that book can you tell me if the opening actually hooked you as a reader and why? or else can you please quote or recommend some good openings of novels from the 1st POV and I can get some idea before I start to rework.... Thanks Ed...

    Other members can also help, if possible - to get me started
     
  10. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    Smart lady. Listen to her. At the moment you're thinking in terms of plot details and informing the reader. But a reader is seeking entertainment, and hopes to find it in the form of story, not history, from the first line. Expecting them to study a history lesson before they read the story, when it's not necessary to understanding the opening scene and will probably be forgotten before it's needed, is hardly the way to hook a reader.

    At the moment, you're trying to go to zero to flank-speed in a millisecond—to go from rank amateur to competent novelist with no more effort than sitting at the keyboard and typing. And that ain't gonna happen because there's too much involved that's not obvious without having it pointed out. There are lots of things that once heard drive us to say, "Why didn't I see that for myself?"

    Storytelling on the page is unlike telling a story in life because in life it's a performance skill involving tone, gesture and expression, and a host of other things unavailable on the page. The needs of the page and those of personally telling a story are vastly different. Yes, when you think of the story the film of it plays in your mind. But getting a visual image, complete with sound, taste, texture, etc., intact, from your mind to that of the readeer is a bitch without the verbal and visual tricks we use in person. Film and novel versions are almost always different, for good reason. Each medium makes different demands and has different limitations, and unless we understand the set for the medium we're working in the result will be unsuitable for the audience.

    That's not said to discourage you, but to appraise you if the fact that given that your experience, currently, is in verbal storytelling and the nonfiction writing techniques we all learn in school, your having problems opening the story are expected, no big deal, and curable—though not by a few words in a post.

    Like any area of specialization, there are tricks-of-the-trade and areas of knowledge that make the job a whole lot easier. And knowing the tricks of your chosen medium will pay off in the form of both greater options in how to accomplish your goal, it will also eliminate the frequency of screwing up by falling into a trap you didn't recognize as one.

    In acquiring such knowledge your local library's fiction writing section can be a huge resource. My personal recommendation is to seek Jack Bickham's name on the cover, thoughg there are many good books that will show you how to manage your story for best chance of reader acceptance.
     
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  11. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    First of all, you are referring to "person", which is not the same as POV, which refers to which character's eyes and ears your reader is using. For example, Tom Clancy's books are told in 3rd person, but encompass many POVs.

    Both of Elizabeth Kostova's novels - The Historian and The Swan Thieves - are told in 1st person. Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls. Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird is narrated in the first person, but she is clearly telling a story in which her narrator is only somewhat involved. James Michener's The Novel is divided into four segments, of which the first is told in 1st person, the others in 3rd. Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. That's a very wide swath in both time and subject matter, and so should give you some ideas.
     

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