1. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    Introduction of plot?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by E. C. Scrubb, Feb 22, 2013.

    So, in a previous thread, I shared that I was struggling with my opening chapters. I think I've narrowed it down to another issue, and want to get some input here.

    How do you all introduce your stories, and introduce plots? Do you prefer to jump right into dialogue and drive the plot through characters, or do you prefer a little "telling" at the beginning of the story to set up the plot, then jump into it? I know that this question may be one more of style that "right or wrong," but reading through the answers sure would help me.

    Also, how much of the plot do you reveal in your first chapter? Is it just the main conflict, or do you reveal two or three major side conflicts as well?
     
  2. ElijahMaddoxx
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    ElijahMaddoxx New Member

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    I've always been interested in intros that start out by guiding the reader through an environment while introducing characters through either dialogue, or a description of actions that kind of tell a little about them before we continue to learn more about them as the story progresses.

    Like a story beginning during the wind up of a school day as a high schooler is boarding the bus or walking to the car that's come to pick him up, and his best friend comes out of nowhere and you see how they interact and learn a little about them through that interaction.

    Sometimes I like the typical dream sequence beginning where a writer starts off writing about something really gripping and compelling, before it's revealed that the intense action was a mere figment of a characters imagination as he awakens from a nightly slumber, maybe foreshadowing a mental illness, anxiety issue, or even the thought of possible premonitions that continue throughout the story and come true.

    There's just alot of fascinating ways that I've seen writers begin that's caught my attention and kept me reading, vs. the typical cookie cutter beginnings or superfluous description that really doesn't take my mind anywhere, except to thoughts of "When does the interesting stuff happen?" lol.

    But that's just me. ;)
     
  3. Bimber
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    Bimber Contributing Member

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    The first chapter is how you introduce your story and want to make the best impression you can, and give them a glimpse of what to expect in the book, you dont want to reveal too much just enough to make them want to know more or put a question that you will answer by the end.
    as for how many plots personally i would go with just one at first as you dont want other events to steal its thunder and confuse readers with too much going on, you dont want to info dump on them at the start.

    Well the reason most people find description of the world and stuff at the beginning boring is cause simply you dont care for those things yet, you dont know the story enough to care to know more about it, thats why i think its always best to put that stuff later as it would have more meaning and better effect
     
  4. creative_nothings
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    creative_nothings Member

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    Really, it all depends upon the story I suppose... I've read many books where the author starts with action to hook the reader, then follows up with dialogue and background development later on. I've also read many books where the story starts off in a serene place, devoid of excitement or action of any kind (though these are usually sequals in which the reader already knows the characters and it basically picks up where the last book ended).

    For me, if I know nothing about the world or it's characters, there needs to be some driving force or conflict to the opening chapter to keep me hooked. There can be description and dialogue, but I had better get a glimpse of the point to the story. Hope that helped in some small way :)
     
  5. BitPoet
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    BitPoet Member

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    I think this is what it boils down to. The opening should reflect the style, tempo and language of the book, it is a promise to the reader about what's to come. So never try to write especially fanciful in the opening, never tell from a completely different angle, never try to do time jump acrobatics in the first few paragraphs (unless your whole book is jumping back and forth like a kitten on steroids), and most of all, show (don't tell) that your book contains action and conflict. Only once you've writting a number of openings that work and know why they work should you start to loosen those rules.

    A good exercise would be to write standalone openings to try different levels of exposure, conflict, dialogue and action and see where those go. Just pick random, small conflicts of whatever nature and start to write, but stop when you hit the 200 words mark. Write a few of them without re-reading them immediately. Once you've done a number of them, read them again and try to get a feel what kind of story each hints at. You'll learn a lot more about which kind of opening works with your writing style than from any pointers others can give you.
     
  6. Bimber
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    Bimber Contributing Member

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    well said will only add that you keep in mind what sort of promises you make to your readers for if you fail to deliver a promise it can have devastating effects on your story, some small lies can be over looked, learn to know when you are making a promise to your reader and try to keep it.
    For example your MC in the story is preparing to face an enemy and you show him training for it and all sorts of things and building up the suspense to the reader will he make it or not, and when you reach to the battle just as it starts someone (or some creature) comes in and kills the enemy and steals the kill leaving the reader disappointed as he didnt get to see his hero in action.
    but some promises are ok to break if you use them well and you want your readers to feel strong about it (two friends start out on a quest they save each other's life and such but at the end one betrays the other, they didnt get to see them complete the quest together but with good character development they really feel betrayed by that character)
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    imo, one doesn't have to [and shouldn't] reveal the plot right off the bat... but you should at least hint at the fact that there is one, in your opening, so it will hook the readers and make them keep reading, to find out what it is...
     
  8. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    I generally go for a prologue that has a bit of everything you should expect from the plot, not like blatant in your face but subtle things that hint at the whole tone of the story
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that's generally frowned upon by writing gurus, d&g... and not much appreciated by discerning readers... why telegraph what's going to happen instead of getting right to it?
     
  10. Bimber
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    Bimber Contributing Member

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    A prologue is usually used as your chance to tell the reader what happened in the past if there was an important event, or to make a POV that your MC cant see(like a secret meeting of villains or anything else), there are many ways to use prologue to make readers interested
     
  11. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    For me there is absolutely no telling/exposition at the beginning. Confusing the reader in a specific way is a very effective narrative tool. For me it is paramount to hook the reader asap, in the first paragraph if possible. This is very hard to achieve and needs lots of re-writes, and the plot has to be rich and organised in order to yield a confident scene straight off. The aim should always be that the reader shouldn't have time to put the book down for at least first three chapters.
    I try to start in the middle of action, lots of dialogue, make it punchy and memorable, introduce significant characters but don't make them obvious. Everything has to be relevant, nothing gratuitous. And one common mistake - increasing the conflict in the beginning, in order to hook the reader, doesn't mean describing some natural disaster which befalls characters the reader doesn't know yet. Conflict has to be something most people can relate to, and then it has to happen to a character through whom the reader can experience the outrage, or happiness, or sadness or anger or what have you.

    ps. An example of a great beginning (from "The Quiet Game" by Greg Iles):

     
  12. creative_nothings
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    creative_nothings Member

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    Thank you jazzabel... now I have another book to add to my growing list of things to read... lol :D
     
  13. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Haha, yeah, sorry about that :D
     

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