1. Alex_Hartman
    Offline

    Alex_Hartman Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2008
    Messages:
    338
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    At a desk staring at a blank notebook.

    Getting into the Story.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Alex_Hartman, Oct 28, 2008.

    If the beginning of a story is really supposed to "grab" the reader, why does it seem to take so long to get into it? Would it just be because you don't know the characters yet and don't really care what happens to them? Or am I just stuck reading books that have crappy beginnings? :(
     
  2. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Many older literary works didn't follow the same writing principles that we follow today. I don't mean to imply that the craft i snow more evolved, but neither is it necessarily true that today's reader has a shorter attention span that must be catered to.

    Nevertheless, I'm a believer in getting the reader invested in the story as early as possible. The most effective way to do that that I know of is to introduce an important (or at least an interesting) character right away, but him or her in some sort of difficulty to begin with, and to suggest more intriquing questions than answers.

    This is what I know hooks me early. I make a point of going over books I enjoy to try to figure out why I loike it. Conversely, I also try to figure out why other books fall flat for me.
     
  3. TwinPanther13
    Offline

    TwinPanther13 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2008
    Messages:
    407
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Dallas
    Beginings should grab the reader but they do it in different ways. Action may grab you, but a very picturesque setting may grab others.

    You may just not be reading a book you like.
     
  4. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    what are you reading that you find 'take so long'?
     
  5. missupernatural
    Offline

    missupernatural Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2007
    Messages:
    33
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Victoria, Australia
    Our current society has a poor attention span.

    You don't exactly have to have physical action, rather you need to have a quirk to your story which makes your reader question "what happens next?!".
     
  6. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    I too suggest action in the broader sense of the character you open with doing something. Opening with him or her dealing with some problem, large or small, gives us an immediate glimpse into his character.

    Starting with description can work, but I consider it a weaker way to open. Although you may draw the reader into the setting that way, it's a more passive opening. You also risk turning purple (as in purple prose) if you are trying to hard to make the description grab the reader. That is less likely to happen when you begin with a character in motion.
     
  7. Kylie
    Offline

    Kylie Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2008
    Messages:
    273
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    America
    I think it's best if you 'hit the ground running'. Start off strongly. Have your character doing something- facing a problem or a diffficult circumstance. If you want to have the reader hooked, then dangle the bait in front of them. Give them lots of questions and don't give them all the answers immediatly. Like Cogito said, starting w/ descriptions is more difficult...if you want to start off strong.

    Also, be careful how many characters you include in the first scene. Too many can get confusing. You want the reader to be puzzled (full of questions) but not so confused that they will put the book down.

    I agree that some books are slow in catching my attention, but now that I think of it ...most of those are 'older' books.
     
  8. ManicParroT
    Offline

    ManicParroT Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2008
    Messages:
    204
    Likes Received:
    2
    In A Song of Ice and Fire, George R R Martin uses a clever prologue to get things started off. In a nutshell, he kills off a bit character (that never reappears), but his death is particularly interesting. This creates interest in the rest of the story, and helps keep the reader interested in the rest of his characters while he makes the necessary introductions.

    Even if your characters aren't facing enormous, serious problems immediately, their lives and problems have to be interesting enough that you want to see what happens next. You don't have to bring the super villain into the plot immediately, but maybe your character's thinking of asking a girl for a date at the beginning of the plot. Handle that correctly, and even if the main plot hook makes it completely irrelevant, you can use it to keep the reader interested until you establish your central premise.

    The really good books that I've read that didn't use some kind of early hook have been amazing pieces of writing, or, as Cogito notes, of slightly older vintage.
     
  9. TwinPanther13
    Offline

    TwinPanther13 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2008
    Messages:
    407
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Dallas
    I won't lie I tend to enjoy stories better when they move into action quickly.

    "Watership Down" and "Rehersal for a Renaisance" started very slow to me, but picked up a lot once you got past the first chapter or two.

    Try to get as many people as you can , but the story does not have to open with something major. try to do subtle action
     
  10. Scarlett_156
    Offline

    Scarlett_156 Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2008
    Messages:
    193
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Colorado USA
    I would never force anyone to read a book that he/she didn't want to read. As far as I'm concerned, therefore, you don't have to read a book ever again. I release you from all responsibility as far as reading is concerned! Be free! No more reading! No, not even the warning label on a box of rat poison!!! Just look at the pictures. The pictures tell you everything you need to know.

    To address your secondary question:

    There's a lot of difference between a poorly-written first sentence or paragraph to a story and a first sentence or paragraph is well-written, but progresses slowly into the story.

    Since you don't like to read, however, I'm not saying the above in the hope that you will ever make any sort of attempt to discern the difference between the two--I'm just being a jerk.

    yours in Chaos, Scarlett
     
  11. captain kate
    Offline

    captain kate Active Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2008
    Messages:
    876
    Likes Received:
    28
    Location:
    Cruising through space.
    Off course you can adjust your style for that "hook." I tend to come up with one line, a single line, that starts off my novels that is my hook...and then I start writing paragraphs from there...
     
  12. Alex_Hartman
    Offline

    Alex_Hartman Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2008
    Messages:
    338
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    At a desk staring at a blank notebook.
    I was doing a book report on The Host by Stephenie Meyer and it took a bit to get into. I loved the book, I thought it was great. It's just that the beginning was a little bit slow. And I was just wondering about it. Of course, I never give up on books that start out slow, I still read them.
     
  13. Sylvester
    Offline

    Sylvester Member

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2008
    Messages:
    89
    Likes Received:
    0
    "The Sound Of Music" would be a nice example with the camera flying over the Austrian Alpls before settling down on Julie Andrews singing the song. I love the intro for that movie even though I'm not a big musical fan.
     

Share This Page