1. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    Fresh opening vs revisited opening?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Smoke, Apr 17, 2011.

    This is something weird I noticed with my own writing style.

    I'm so used to opening with a paragraph where I simply name the character and give a brief description of where he is and what he is doing. Most of the people who read my type of story should be familiar with who the character is, their background, how they look, move, and sound.

    When I started a story where the main characters' first mention is the first time they drew breath, I was actually wincing at how far I was getting into what they were doing without calling up any detail about what they looked like, and only the barest nod to their surroundings.


    Really broad question warrants example, so how do you deal with a character's first breaths vs their first appearance in a sequel?
     
  2. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    It would be weird to read the second book before the first...but people do that.
    I do. For example, I picked up the 5th book of House of Night. It didn't feel disconnected, but it did get annoying in the 6th book that the author once again pointed out 2 characters were gay. It was just like "I already know that." ¬_¬ I felt like the information was being repeated...so..don't do that xD

    Describe them in bits and pieces. Like, 'Her blue hair flowed with the wind' or something.
    If your first and second book are closely related, the reader will probably give up and go read the first book since they will feel disconnected from the story :p
     
  3. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    I'm not sure if I know what you mean... but think you're asking the difference between introducing a MC and re-establishing them in a sequel (or perhaps even later in the same book if they aren't the only MC).

    I personally avoid the typical opening paragraph that describes what the character looks like, their history, etc. I don't think it's necessary, and is contrived since I mostly write in a limited POV designed to create the experience of the MC, as if the reader IS the character, not just looking at them or reading about them. And my character's have never been vain or insane enough to stand around posing when a story starts, thinking about their hair color and body type, listing the main events of their childhood, etc.

    So, I guess my answer is that I would personally handle it no differently, as in both situations I'd be representing the truth of the moment for the character, so I would be trying to deliver the MC's experiences, not worrying about whether the reader knows they have thick eyebrows or their pet goat ran away when they were 7.

    That's not to say I avoid all character details or setting, etc. I just deliver such details as they become relevant to the character (and thus the story). If my reader stops a page into a story because they can't continue without knowing what color hair the MC has, then I've failed to deliver an empathetic, authentic human experience the reader can relate to.

    It's also more powerful to deliver such details and history in context instead of in a way that feels like it's just motivation. So, instead of listing a character's history, have them interact with the world in a way that reveals that history. Instead of stating the character has long hair, have that long hair whipping across their face in the wind.

    If you build a realistic, authentic feeling person as your character, you don't need a bunch of external details. However, what one can often find are characters who have details listed, but never feel real. Or characters who have a history outlined for the reader, and then forgotten, and never seem to actually be living and reacting according to that history.
     
  4. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    We can not introduce every new character the first line in a new chapter.Just as we should not open each new scene with a weather report,(i am most recently guilty of the weatherman thing) The just waking up thing is another cliche scene/chapter opener.My observations from being a life long reader (too the point of it being a character defect).... I want you to entertain me, mix it up, do the unexpected, do something everyone else is not doing, start with a one word sentence. There are many good writers that fail to maintain my attention because the refuse to take me on a ride.....let the currently published be your teachers (not chat room Steinbecks )ya dig ?
     
  5. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I give mine a basic appearance and name by end of first chapter - just eye colour,hair colour, idea of height and name. Don't do it in first paragraph except in the novella but my character was dressing for school. I try to work it into conversation and description - stretching out a long lean frame, jamming a hat on his thick brown curls, his boyfriend buying him a blue sweater to with his eyes, another character whistling and saying nice bum or something.

    My first novel begins with a father and son arguing
    Second with a couple of boys fighting or one of them falling off a roof into a puddle.
    third with someone throwing an alarm clock (prologue is a bird fight)
    fourth a walk in forest
    fifth two guys in a cupboard.
     
  6. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    Is it okay if I use my opening for the known? I think it's usually [character name] [verb] [scenery] with adjectives sprinkled.

    "Timmy swiveled his stool as he sat at the bar in the soda shop." (I don't even know if it's supposed to be bar or counter or some other name.)

    "Mythande contemplated as she leaned against a headstone in the old town cemetery."
     
  7. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    I am not saying it is not done Scarlett O'Hara is mentioned in sentence one of Gone with the Wind ....Elmer Gantry, opens with "Elmer Gantry was drunk." What I am saving is that the decision makers, (not wanna-bees like me) the readers that will decide if a writer makes it to the next level must see a buzz-zillon cliched openings, my educated assumption is from that point (when the see my cardboard opening) they from there on read with a perjured mind..............What I am saying the above mentioned are trends(weather report,the twig snapping in the forest ,waking up from sleep) I seldom see used by the writers that are published in earnest


    Please understand this is not an attack on anyone I am very guilty of the trends I noticed
     
  8. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh I usually mention them but don't describe them sorry didn't understand first question - I try to use their name even in first person. I don't know if it is a good or bad thing, generally if you read it and feels right it probably is:

    Book One: Mayhem
    Book Three: Socrates' Children
    Book Five:
     
  9. JeffS65
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    JeffS65 Contributing Member

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    I guess I don't look for a rule on that sort of thing. When to introduce the character kinda fleshes itself out. I don't think there has to be a rule in as much as the context will tell which is appropriate. It might draw more interest for the reader if a character is slowly fed to them throughout a chapter or could be right away. It's the context of the story and what the character represents within the story.
     
  10. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I agree. I think that how you decide to begin the story and what kind of sequence you use will determine when and how you introduce your character. My first project was a biographical novel in which I opened with the MC as an 8-year-old girl jumping off a step and irritating her father. I didn't really describe much about her looks until the second chapter when she was in her teens (and I felt her looks were relevant to the story).

    My second novel was about a priest assigned to a very poor parish in New York City, and I opened it with him getting off the el and arriving at his new assignment. I never gave him more than a perfunctory description, and the nature of his character was developed through a series of incidents both in flashback and in "real time".

    My third novel was about a newspaper columnist. It was the first attempt I ever made at writing a novel in the first person, and so I never described the MC's appearance at all.

    And my most recent project was about a group of middle-aged musicians who had played in rock band in their 20s who get back together in their late 40s. In that one, the MC isn't even introduced until near the first chapter, although I do describe her then.

    That's just my own experience.
     

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