1. ianfort
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    ianfort New Member

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    Help getting past chapter 1

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by ianfort, Sep 8, 2009.

    I'm having a few problems with the novel I'm trying to write. It's a fantasy/sci-fi novel, but it's one where the main protagonist comes from a modern-day "real world." The entire first chapter takes place here, and it is only in the second chapter that she travels to the other world.

    Now, the first chapter is extremely dull to write. So much so that it's difficult to stay focused on writing for more than a few minutes at a time. Though this is a bit annoying, I decided to press forward anyway and just go through with it, but looking back upon my text, there seems to be another problem: Reading it is dull as well.

    A friend critiqued what I have so far and told me that it needs to be trimmed down. I agree; it is way too long. It spends too much time discussing how the protagonist is feeling. But at the same time, I feel like shortening it will make it seem too rushed, and make her actions and feelings less believable.

    For example, the main character ends up reading a friend's diary (for a reason significant to the plot, mind you,) but I want the reader to know she feels intense remorse over doing so. I don't think simply saying "she felt guilty," will get the point across properly. I want her to wrestle with herself internally over whether or not she should do it. But doing that to its fullest effect takes up a significant portion of the page; something I should avoid.

    That is but one of many areas that I need to fix. I really need help with getting this done so I can move on to the good part. What should I do?
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    It seems like you are trying to squeeze too much information in the first chapter. Try to spread it out over a few chapters. Introduce things gradually. In your example, you could try spreading out the reading of the diary. I'm guessing the character feels more and more guilty as she reads more of the diary. By spreading the reading of the diary, it might be easier to show that the character is getting more guilty as time passes.

    If reading it seems dull, then you have to go back and revise it. That's really the only suggestion I can give about this part.

    Also, it may help to write the middle or ending first. You can always go back and write the beginning and/or fill in the necessary gaps.
     
  3. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I'm usually really against this, but why not have your first chapter in the alternate reality (or whatever it is) and reveal the details of how she came to be there in subsequent chapters.
    You can hint at her feelings of guilt and her struggle with herself as she explores this world and only later in the book reveal what it is that had happened to make her that way. Personally I think that mght mae a more compelling read (trying to discover her past while she is trying to come to terms with it) than simply being told "this is what happened and this is how she feels".
     
  4. Evelyanin
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    Evelyanin Senior Member

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    If the first chapter is boring, change it. If your reader isn't pulled into the story, then they will put the book down. There are different ways of doing this. You could slowly entice the reader like lining up bread crumbs for a mouse (but you have to keep the bread crumbs large enough, or even the mouse will get distracted), Or you could pull the chair from underneath the reader and drop the reader right into the story. Either way, you want the reader immersed in your story, and a boring beginning is like having a 10 foot high wall for your front door. It will be difficult for the reader to get in, and since they can't see what is on the other side, there will be no motivation for the reader to climb the wall.
    Why don't you try starting the story extremely close to where your MC enters this other world? If you need to tell a bit of history, show it in little snipits throughout the story. Doing this will also add a little mystery. It is much more exciting unearthing the clues one by one than having all of them dumped in a neat pile on your lap.
    If you really need that time in the normal world for your character, just add a small sub-story, which will keep the reader interested, and surprise them when the MC ends up somwhere completely different.
    In the end, no matter what you choose, the beginning of your story will have an important part in whether it will pass, or fail, as a book.
     
  5. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    Just write it and go back later. It's bound to change -- it's your first draft
     
  6. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Contributing Member

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    I agree with jwatson; keep going, building your momentum until you finish your first draft. Then you can worry about wrighting your words to get you to a third draft. If, on the other hand, your focus is fixed on your first chapter, to the detriment of progress, then I'd suggest taking time out to deconstruct the elements that make up the beginning, middle, and end of the chapter, taking in character objectives and interaction. Take each action and reaction and pare it to its minimal until you see it for what it really is; what it means; how it is influenced by previous actions, and how it affects what comes after. Look at the causes and effects of inner and external conflict, and determine how best to shape its direction and strength. If your writing is 'dull', take a fresh look at it and literally brighten it up with colour and texture, physically expanding your vocabulary until the heaviness has been banished by the feather of your open mind. Good luck with it.
     
  7. Nervous1st
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    Nervous1st Senior Member

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    This is what I would suggest.

    But I would also take the advice of the others and just keep going. You can come back later to add the background information where you think it fits.

    If the background information must come in chapter one and not throughout following chapters, I would post that initial chapter in the review room, having met the requirements of course. Get some feedback from others to help you move through this phase. We can give you advice on what Cheeno was suggesting in terms of 'taking a fresh look' and helping add some variety and colour. Sometime a couple of simple tips is all it takes for a piece to take on a new life.

    Good luck



    Good luck
     
  8. BiddyLowe_
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    BiddyLowe_ New Member

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    I would definitley disperse that internal conflict throughout the first few chapters. You don't want things to get too heavy too fast--that is actually worse than trimming it down too much. The first chapter of a novel is supposed to lure the reader in, so there are plenty of things you can do to get your point across.

    If you feel that that still isn't working, try coming from a different angle. Start from the character's feelings while he/she is in the middle of reading a diary entry, or after he reads it. Or, Begin by explaining the situation as if he is looking back on the memory while he's walking home (or back from wherever he read it). That way, when you move on to the next chapter, you can work in another situation that contrasts the character's remorse from reading the diary and continue to explain it that way.

    Hope this helps :)
     
  9. Acton
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    Acton Member

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    What I've found with my own writing was that initially, I would want to write the chapter... make it perfect.. go to the next. NO! It's a sucky method! I never got past three chapters trying to do that. Eventually I just took the plunge and kept writing. As the story grew, things changed and plot holes evolved, but it made me understand my characters better AND it helped me to actually have a full draft. When you go back to edit, you'll take a lot of meat off of the bones, things not crucial to the story, but initially important for YOU as the writer.

    Just keep writing. Don't worry too much about how it reads etc. Once you have a draft, you will have a much clearer picture of what the first chapter needs to be like.
     
  10. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Everyone is different. Some need to push through and write the first draft. Others, like Dean Koontz, write one page at a time. He doesn't move on to the next page until the page he is working on is ready for print. He edits it about 20 times before moving on.
     
  11. Acton
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    Acton Member

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    I imagine mister Koontz plans excessively before writing though. I'm one of those people who has a rough script in my head and a basic idea of where I want my character to get to (emotionally etc.) As I write, I develop environments that allow the said characters to achieve this growth.

    So I suppose if you're set on doing chapter one first, and perfectly, my best advice is to plan like a crazy freak. Write out character sheets. Chapter plans. Draw flow charts. Doodle pictures of how places look. Stick them all over your walls and bask in the insanity. :p
     

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