1. AndiPandi91
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    AndiPandi91 New Member

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    Getting stuck at the beginning, Can't get past chapter 1

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by AndiPandi91, Jun 1, 2015.

    Here's the thing. I know the middle and end of my novel off by heart. I know how the action will rise, where it will climax, and how it will be resolved. But I don't know how to start my novel so that I can eventually get to the point where I know what's happening. I feel like my story could start at several different points, but I can't decide on which one is best. I've re-written chapter one at least fifteen times and can't help but think that each time I try what I'm writing will be boring to the reader.
    If the most interesting parts of my novel will be the middle and the end (as is the case for most novels), how can I be sure that my introduction will still be compelling enough for my reader to get to the point where the real excitement happens?
    Any advice on how to hook a reader in the first few chapters when you don't have any big dramatic plot twists or conflicts yet to lure them in?
    I'm getting really frustrated with myself and losing confidence.
    Thanks!
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Ginger Coffee's recurring advice: Write the rest of the book. Come back later and write the first chapter.

    Hi, welcome to the forum.
    :superhello:
     
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  3. smhlolroflbrb
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    smhlolroflbrb Unauthorized Reentry

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    Write what you like. Don't worry so much about pleasing the reader but making them understand. You could focus on characters, for example, or something that makes your story unique. Characters can be introduced by showing them in their daily lives in a way that doesn't change the outcome of your story. They're ultimately what will drive it to the end.

    I suggest throwing out the whole beginning, middle and end outline because it can hold you back. Exposition, rising action, climax; these things are useful for analyzing a story but it sounds like that's just what you're doing too much of. A story can take you anywhere--not just up a mountain and down one. The rising action of your story, for example, can be the beginning. It can start in medias res. There are no rules =]
     
  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    That wouldn't work for most of us. I write what I like, but I also want it to be interesting to read, otherwise why bother putting it down on paper?

    The beginning is a critical piece when I read a book, why shouldn't it be a critical piece when I write one?
     
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  5. smhlolroflbrb
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    smhlolroflbrb Unauthorized Reentry

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    If you like exposition, which I think is what you mean by beginning, then there's no reason you shouldn't read it or include it in your book. And that's exactly what I'm saying. Do what you like because there's always someone who's going to think you and your writing isn't interesting. Be passionate about it and make them understand.
     
  6. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    You could try starting your story in Act 2 to get to the interesting parts quickly, and then weave in the important parts of Act 1 throughout the rest of the text. This can work really well for sustaining mystery/suspense.
     
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  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Are you sure that you need those first few chapters? If they have no plot twists or conflicts, what are they for?

    I'm not asking that as a rhetorical question. I'd say that if they're "for" letting the reader or the character know things that, for whatever reason, they need to know before the big action starts, then you probably need to add some sort of plot twist or conflict, maybe in the form of a subplot, maybe by sneaking up on the main plot sideways.

    Star Wars starts with conflict between Luke and his parent-equivalents.
    So does The Wizard of Oz.
    So does Cinderella.
    The Mirror Crack'd starts with Miss Marple's frustrations with her changed life circumstances and the ways that she is dealing with them.
    The Shining starts with a dysfunctional family and the need to get a job.
    Orphan Black starts with an opportunity for a con.
    An Episode of Sparrows starts with an HOA-like organization grumbling about a hole dug in a garden.

    If you look at your favorite fiction, I'd bet that many of them start with a subplot, a side plot, or a "sneak" glance at the main plot.
     
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  8. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    No, that's not what I meant at all. It's one thing to remember there are no absolutes. But all too often people on the forum ask for advice or guidance, we give it, then someone comes along and says screw the rules, like you did. What's the point of asking for help if the answer is always, "do whatever you want, rules, who needs them." That advice is best left for rare circumstances when an author has mastered the craft and is ready to do something completely different.

    I have no clue why you think I was talking about exposition.

    I gave up writing my first chapter first and started writing scenes. Eventually I figured out how I would put the scenes in order. Then I wrote the first chapter. Then I rewrote my first chapter, we are talking major changes, four times since. It got me past that "your first chapter must hook the reader" barrier.

    The hook is one of the hardest things to write. So don't let it hang you up. Get the story down first and you'll see more clearly what should be in the first chapter.
     
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  9. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Then start in the middle, when the "exciting stuff" happens. There's no rule that says you need a preamble before things are allowed to get interesting. However, readers will put your book down if you bore them :D

    Anyway, don't second-guess yourself so much. Yes, it's important to ensure your beginning is interesting, but equally the perpetual conviction that everything you ever write that forms the beginning will be boring isn't helpful, and assuming you're a good writer, wouldn't be true.

    My rule of thumb with beginnings is that it should set the theme, tone and pace of the rest of your novel. If your book's full of action, you might not wanna start with ponderous character monologue about his internal turmoil, because that would attract all the wrong readers. Your opening should be a taste of what is to come - it sets your readers' expectation for what the book has to offer. As long as it achieves that, I think you'll be fine :) have a little faith in yourself!
     
  10. Aaron DC
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    I was going to suggest something similar to @Mckk - based on the premise that "there are no rules" - start at the end, and work your way backwards.

    I am much better at the end of a chess game, and have wondered why and I think it's because the moves are more obvious (in achieving an end game goal). At the start there are just so many possibilities that it's overwhelming.
     
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  11. jannert
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    I'm with @GingerCoffee and others in that I reckon you should just skip ahead and write the bits you know about just now. Stop worrying about the beginning. Once the rest of the story is in place, more or less done, you will know what your beginning should be.

    I'm speaking as somebody who wrote my first chapter last. The way I had originally envisioned my novel starting just didn't work, and that's why I had a problem with it. However, once the story took shape, the focus changed, and at the end I was able to shape a beginning that got me there.

    Whatever you do, don't get hung up writing and rewriting a chapter that's not working. Move on, and let it drop for now.
     
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  12. RachHP
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    I'll jump on the bandwagon and say just write what's clear to you at the moment, the come back to it. I agonised over my beginning and by the time I finished my first draft, realised the beginning was entirely incompatible and had to redo it.
    Don't force it! After all, you don't get extra marks for writing chronologically ;)
     
  13. smhlolroflbrb
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    smhlolroflbrb Unauthorized Reentry

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    Still didn't explain what you meant. What's worse than grouping my comment into a "screw everything" mentality is jumping down someone's throat for their opinion. Sorry you're offended. I'm not.
     
  14. Aaron DC
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    Wrong thread, @smhlolroflbrb ?
     
  15. smhlolroflbrb
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    smhlolroflbrb Unauthorized Reentry

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    No?
     
  16. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    :D My bad. Forum functions differently than others I have been on :D
     
  17. smhlolroflbrb
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    ?
     
  18. Phil Partington
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    Phil Partington Member

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    Since the best cure for any kind of writer's block is just to write, start writing with the middle...or with a part you know well and are excited about. If you get into the groove of punching keys, the beginning will come.
     
  19. GingerCoffee
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    Sorry. I wasn't offended by your post. You were in the unfortunate position of being lumped in with the gazillion people who came before you and my knee jerked.

    This kind of advice annoys me:
    There are many examples on the forum in thread after thread, someone asks if X is OK, or what to do about problem Y. They are asking for advice, for help, not for someone to tell them any and every thing you write is peachy. Yet there is always one or more persons chiming in to say X and Y are not a problem, just write anyway you want, forget any and all rules, etc.

    You don't get there without the work it takes to learn how to write, how to put what's in your head down on paper and have it read the way you envision.

    If you'd have just left off the 'nothing matters' part, the rest of what you said was helpful. I apologize for jumping down your throat over it. If you knew how often it gets said around here you might have better understood my post. It wasn't personal.
     
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  20. smhlolroflbrb
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    Nah, seems more like you picked what you want out of my post and went off on an tangent. You're either not reading or fully understanding what I said.
     
  21. kfmiller
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    kfmiller Active Member

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    I think @smhlolroflbrb is talking about the metaphorical beginning of a story- i.e. if you have notes with backstory, characters bios, setting info, etc, like where the story starts chronologically although maybe not what later gets written down into the book- whereas maybe other people (and me, too) think when you refer to the beginning of a book or short story it means the beginning of the written story. If I'm wrong, apologies.
     
  22. smhlolroflbrb
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    smhlolroflbrb Unauthorized Reentry

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    She could have been asking me why I think there shouldn't be a beginning in a story, which would be utterly impossible, or she was referring to the exposition. Either way, she's taking words out of context.
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2015
  23. smhlolroflbrb
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    I mean, GingerCoffee's ignorance is staggering. This is originally what I said for reference and to clear up the blatant edit she made in her quote:
    And I stand by it. There aren't rules for beginners that don't apply to people who've 'mastered the craft'.
    Please don't just take my advice and apply it to the entire forum, but all of writing. Oh wait, you did. Those are some big strokes you're painting with.
     
  24. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    So which is it, there are no rules, everyone just write what they want, or there are rules and techniques and writing is a skill that requires learning?

    I'm not trying to insult you. I explained the problem when advice is given that there are no rules that need be of concern.
     
  25. james82
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    Another idea is to begin with your antagonist.

    For example, the introduction of the antagonist in my current project which is shed upon by my
    MC, as he's telling his story in first-person past when they first met, is my hook.

    My antagonist is my hook because in my first chapter he does something that captures both my MC and
    the reader's attention simultaneously. That's the idea. My antagonist's very actions early on both impress
    and intimidate my MC and ultimately he is drawn to him. But at the same time, the reader is impressed as well because of what he does, and in turn, their captivation of the character makes them want to know more, immediately. At least that's what I'm shooting for.

    ^^ And this can apply to any character in your story. This could apply to your main character, and the antagonist of your story and your audience/readers are both captivated by his or her actions. The complete opposite.
    Then the story takes off from there.

    The mere mention of an antagonist's nickname could even be a hook. Something about his or her nickname coupled with something he or she does could garner interest, to show thier nickname suits them. But, their actions shouldn't be to just indicate that, that their nickname suits them, they should also be crucial to the story as well. So the idea is to kill two birds with one stone. Apply your hook, but also set up a plot point.

    This goes for your MC as well or any character in your story. There's so many ways in, even if they seem subtle.
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2015

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