1. Edward
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    Edward Active Member

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    How in God's Name do you Begin?; or, Pacing and Me, a Rocky Relationship.

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Edward, Nov 10, 2009.

    How do I begin a novel? I've spent the last ten days plotting out my NaNoWriMo story (or, I will admit, playing PSP), but I still haven't actually put pen to paper, or finger to key, or marker to whiteboard to start, all because I don't know how to begin the story.

    I know what happens, and I know the flow of events all the way up to about the 50,000 word mark, but I don't know how to begin it. I don't really know how to introduce my characters, and set up things before the conflict.

    How in the heck do you deal with that first ten minutes of the movie when the characters aren't saving the world, they're just dealing with normal life, before the Call finds them?

    ED Note: You know, it just occurred to me to give them another, minor problem that can be solved in those ten minutes. Kind of like Luke having to deal with the droids.
     
  2. Pidgeon Grenade
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    Pidgeon Grenade Member

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    I've got no idea how to...

    How do I start a story? Ive written a few novellas and plenty of short stories, but every time I write a novella and I re-read the first chapter it is never all that good. I either don't introduce main characters very well, or the pacing is either way too fast or so slow it doesn't hold peoples interest. So how do I write a good opening chapter?
     
  3. SilverRam
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    SilverRam Member

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    Depends on the story. There is no set recipe. Just a sprinkle of intrigue to catch the reader's attention, and a dash of information to go along with it.(Note:Information flavors heavily, and may clump the stew into undesirable "Info Dumps")

    Perhaps your story will have to start out a theme that is consistent throughout the rest of the story. Maybe you should watch some of those movies/read some novels. Study how they begin, and why they captured your intention. Could be a fun exercise.

    I would advise against dramatic scenes that are suppose to draw some emotion/sympathy from the reader. Because they will think, "why do we care?"
     
  4. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's the gist of it, if you wanna go by the tried and true Hollywood template. The "normal world" scenes leading up to the 10 minute mark aren't just some random little thing though -- they serve as a foreshadowing of the story to come. It gives the viewer a subconscious idea of how the story as a whole could progress. The best example ever is the movie The Wizard of Oz.

    Personally I think it's stale. Maybe some people prefer predictable stories -- the same reason you have "genres".

    Another way to go about it is to simply introduce the characters, their cares and their problems. Don't worry about it being too quiet in the beginning, unless you're writing a James Bond screenplay.

    I see it as the calm before the storm. The quieter, the better, almost. You have to let your reader get comfortable in their chair, get used to your flow of words and slowly slip into the trance of suspended disbelief. If you start out too rough, you risk losing them.
     
  5. Tall and Weird
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    Tall and Weird New Member

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    I never start at the beginning. :)

    Write the pieces you know and the rest will either become clear or not but never stop writing.
     
  6. bruce
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    bruce Active Member

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    I'd reveal the protagonist's character.
     
  7. Kirvee
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    Kirvee Contributing Member

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    Meditate on what you already know of your story and a starting point will come to you.

    Or you can go Hollywood's route, or just introduce your protagonist doing whatever.
     
  8. tonten
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    tonten Senior Member

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    It took me half a year to write the first chapter of my book, and a year to write the first four chapters. Also during that year, I did nothing but edit and edit and redit those four chapters over and over again. (Granted, I think it took this long, because it is my first book, and of course, I was also struggling to write a good attention-grabber opener)

    It's been 2 years now and I am almost finished my book.

    Now when I look at back my first chapter, I see how much my writing has changed. There is a lot that will need changing or rediting again.

    Point is, I say finish the book first. You can always go back to change things if you are not happy with it. The more you write, the more your writing evolves and the maybe, you will figure out how to write a good start/opener.
     
  9. Little Miss Edi
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    Little Miss Edi Contributing Member

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    Throw your reader into the thick of it.
    Developing characters is easier during times of crisis and if you know what the crisis is all about then why not start there?
    You can always do a Mary Shelley and write the beginning once all the awesome is done.
     
  10. Edward
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    Edward Active Member

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    Well, the biggest problem I have with writing things out of order is because I'm never sure what will have happened before the part I'm writing, and then when I get around to it, I'm just playing catch-up. Of course, I could always just drop things in the middle and then make my story around me as the author trying not only to put the pieces in the right place, but to figure out what order the pieces need to be placed.

    I finally decided to start en medias res. "Five figures sat at a fire, planning the way they would die." Of course, I'm not sure if that was because the planning for the dramatic climax is more interesting to start on, or because it lets me avoid that part a bit. If nothing else, it can serve as a good prologue.

    Maybe I should just write scenes without thinking about where they fit.
     

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