1. EVLuoNero
    Offline

    EVLuoNero New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2012
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0

    Opening Descriptions

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by EVLuoNero, Feb 11, 2012.

    To be honest, I've always had problems in setting up the opening. It's the classical route, but it seems to have vanished. When I begin, it's an all-out introduction, that 'this world is this' and 'this is what works' in the best way I can. For progress and interest, does anyone have very different styles of doing this, perhaps a slow integration or the like?
     
  2. JPGriffin
    Offline

    JPGriffin Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2011
    Messages:
    180
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Connecticut
    I try and stick to what the character knows. If he's a traveler, he'll know a lot of cities, towns and routes in between, since he's traveled them so much. Someone that's stuck in a small town, they'll know the area like the back of their hands, but beyond that would be lost. It's not so much introducing the setting all at once, but just as the character experiences it, and how much you want the reader to know. If there's an important lord you want the reader to know about, then have one of his guards tussle with him. If there's any major water routes or cities, have a trader come in, telling of his trip. But don't just throw names at the reader and expect them to refer to a map. Even when the names are numerous, the locations, unless strategical, are only that much more of a distraction.
     
  3. GoldenGhost
    Offline

    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2012
    Messages:
    505
    Likes Received:
    58
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Descriptions can vary and do not always have to start off explaining things. I have started off stories with my main character getting chased and doing what he can to get away before really, any information was revealed. I have started stories where my character is standing down a hall way looking at a candle burning. I have started stories where my character comes back home. More often then not, its usually started with my character already in the middle of doing something, or heading somewhere.


    Exactly.

    I recently read a short story that my brother wrote, was kind of a mystery satire. He started it with his MC walking down the street and stepping into a phonebooth. It was brilliant and simple. All he did was throw in a little description of the city, as he was was walking, nothing too big nothing too vague, just what he was noticing as he walked, some narration to give the reader just enough insight to his personality, and how his character felt about having to wait impatiently to use the phone, and then in one simple phone call, you knew what the MC's profession was (he was a professional thief for hire, big hiests, big money) and you knew a little bit about where the story was headed, and you had a pretty good idea how he acted. There was no info dump, there was no, this is how this works and this is how that works. I found out all of that and more as the story went on, and it was still the first page.
     
  4. Pink-Angel-1992
    Offline

    Pink-Angel-1992 Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2011
    Messages:
    157
    Likes Received:
    3
    Here's a little advice that I've read - show, don't explain! For some part it may be naccassiary and some stories may call for it, but giving to much information may just confuse the reader and/or bore them. Showing would allow a read to experiance it, give them much more of a mental picture in their heads.

    Anyways, you don't have to start of with explaining stuff about the world, do that slowly as you go on, that would be better and your not flooding the read with stuff that the may not need to know yet or may not even be needed. Explain what you need I think. Anyways, for the story that I'm currently developing on, I'm thinking that I'll start with an effent that happened long ago, that will take the main characters on their adventure or the rumor that will set the adventure going. You could start the story 'showing' a room to the readers, a room that an important character is in, sleeping or doing something. You could even start with an extract from a newspaper.
     
  5. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    why do you think you must open your story with a description of anything/anyone?... the most reader-grabbing hook is usually a bit of action, not description...
     
  6. Tesoro
    Offline

    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    2,825
    Likes Received:
    290
    Location:
    A place with no future
    I'd say start with character rather than the setting or the world.
     
  7. Protar
    Offline

    Protar Active Member

    Joined:
    May 11, 2011
    Messages:
    603
    Likes Received:
    13
    Location:
    UK
    You don't need to start straight away with a in depth description of the setting. Instead I'd focus on what the characters are doing, or what's going on around them. And make it interesting. It doesn't have to be a fight, but something engaging.
     
  8. Jowettc
    Offline

    Jowettc Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2012
    Messages:
    207
    Likes Received:
    8
    “It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured. I realised, somehow, through the screaming of my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them. It doesn’t sound like much, I know. But in the flinch and bite of the chain, when it’s all you’ve got, that freedom is an universe of possibility. And the choice you make between hating and forgiving, can become the story of your life.”


    Those are the opening lines to Shantarram, punchy or what?
     
  9. jeffbarker
    Offline

    jeffbarker Member

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2012
    Messages:
    14
    Likes Received:
    0
    I've enjoyed a little bit of dialogue, some sort of confrontation or action is the best way to open. In my current piece I open with dialogue that introduces the world the characters are in.

    "The Castors and the Carnor have always presented a united front to the people of Avonaire...is there any logical reason that it should end?"

    The very opening line that sets the scene. It sets up a plot line, establishes the government, and tells you where the story is. The action isn't too far past this opening line. Either some sort of dialogue or action, oh and start in the middle of the story, not necessarily at the very beginning.
     
  10. cold grave
    Offline

    cold grave Member

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2012
    Messages:
    30
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    California
    The story has to begin with a change. Backstory, if necessary, can be told later. It's critical to grab the attention of the reader. Present the conflicts in the story and keep them moving along. If you have a need to explain things, introduce a novice character with little knowledge of the world.
     
  11. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    huh?... meaning what?... and whose 'must' is that?
     
  12. madhoca
    Offline

    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2008
    Messages:
    2,527
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    the shadow of the velvet fortress
    This would have me dropping the book in a minute. Why? All that "I...I...I...", the hate and torture... what a turn off. And quite a windbag and pompous style. For me, the absolute polar opposite of 'punchy'.

    Which just shows everyone has different personal likes and dislikes.

    I dislike novels that start with too much of anything which is really badly written: wham bang action (cheap and unsubtle attempt to grab me, okay if they sustain it and it really does interest me), scads and scads of banal dialogue (but okay if really interesting dialogue), loooong drawn out description of a place that I still can't quite picture even though there is a load of fussy detail, and I'm not sure why I need to know so much about e.g. a kitchen cupboard... etc etc.

    I suppose I like any openings that are written in a style that I don't find horribly offensive, make me think or laugh, and seem to promise plenty of interest ahead...
     
  13. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    to me, too, mh!... ditto all of that...
     
  14. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,535
    The concepts are interesting but it doesn't feel natural - "it came to me in an instant, while I was chained and tortured"? If you're chained, ok you could be musing, granted. But if you were in the process of being tortured, I don't think you'd be having such long drawn-out thoughts - I don't think you'd be thinking straight, for a start. There's also no emotion - it's in a kinda cold, narrative style - which is fine, but not for the situation. I know nothing about how the guy actually feels, and that's quite something when your reaction and emotions should be rather strong, seeing as you're being tortured!

    Another thing, my editor always said you need to let the reader know almost right away WHERE the character is, and WHY we should care. You need to set the reader into something concrete so they can visualise it and understand, and make them care (his advice was by showing the reader just why he needs to read this passage, why something is happening - in other words, show them how it relates to the story). Your sentences were long and your concepts quite deep, but that makes the opening very slow, and tells me nothing of the actual story or character (other than perhaps clear-minded?) - none of this serves to grip your reader.

    You may also be trying too hard to be deep - it took him a lifetime to learn about love and fate etc but the heart of it came to him in an instant, that he's free. It sounds like clever words to me, trying to link concepts that don't really link.

    In short - I like the ideas, and I do actually like musing, thoughtful openings - but it didn't grip me. If you had more, granted I would read on. But I'm not disappointed that there's not more either. And if you did have more, and you kept your current style and if nothing happens in the next paragraph very, very quickly, I would start skimming a few lines and put the book down after 1-2 pages max (not reading every line).

    Oh, and you started with a cliche (love and life and fate etc) - that'd turn off a lot of readers :p

    In my intro, my action moved very fast - my intro scene was actually a meeting between the High Priests talking about the state of the current war - PLENTY of info-dump needed and I spent a good amount of time trying very hard not to info-dump. I did it by using a mixture of description, character reaction and inner thoughts, and dialogue - all three combined to give you all the necessary information. I also try not to have the characters say anything obvious that my other characters should already know, making it feel more natural, like you've really been dumped into the middle of it. But there was no real "action" - but rather it started on a point of change, when the High Priests finally discovered what could turn their war around from imminent defeat, and next scene taking the reader to find my protagonist. So you could say it started on suspense. I've tried to open my novel with 2-3 different intros now and this one was the one that worked best for me :)
     
  15. 1000screams
    Offline

    1000screams Member

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2012
    Messages:
    29
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Undisclosed, USA
    The first few paragraphs and pages are the most important part of the story to me. When I read a book, usually standing in a bookstore trying to decide what to buy, the thing that makes me put a book back will be long rambling paragraphs about the setting and character descriptions. I just don't like it. I like the first few paragraphs to grab me, throw me into action with the character, and get me on that character's side by page five. That's also how I write. I like not knowing what is fully going on, it gives me a reason to keep reading, to find out where the character is, what they are doing, and why they are doing it.

    A lot of the classic literature opens with rambling paragraphs of description...I'm not big on classic literature. I admit it. And I know there's some writer snobs out there who would greatly disagree with me, but I find a lot of what is deemed as "classic literature" as boring. I like some of the classic horror, like Poe and Lovecraft, but that's because most of those are interesting and full of suspense and tension.

    Maybe I get bored easily. Maybe I have no taste according to some... Doesn't really bother me, because I know what I like. If you really like rambling on paragraphs with detailed descriptions of the setting and upfront character descriptions then that might be the style you want to write in.
     
  16. shadowwalker
    Offline

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Messages:
    3,299
    Likes Received:
    851
    I want an opening that makes me curious. Descriptions typically don't. I want enough about the character and his/her circumstances to pique the curiosity; whether or not I care about the character in the opening page(s) doesn't matter - I only want my curiosity satisfied. Hopefully, by the time my curiosity is satisfied, I'll be vested enough in the character and story to keep reading.
     
  17. Jowettc
    Offline

    Jowettc Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2012
    Messages:
    207
    Likes Received:
    8
    Ditto that. Shantaram sold over a million copies and was a best seller in two countries on two continents.

    BUT - you can't please all of the people all of the time...

    SO - to the OP's original question - I guess advice from everyone here is just that - advice. We prefer different genres, different styles and different ways of doing thigns. They aren't all right and they aren't all wrong but they are all subjective. At the end of any given novel - you need to shift it. If you can find an agent and a publishing house who will - thats great!
     
  18. AmyHolt
    Offline

    AmyHolt Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2011
    Messages:
    475
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Warsaw, IN
    Start you book like your reader already knows what's happening as if they've already read a few chapters and they know the characters and their world. Then later go back and add a few words here and a sentence there to help things make sense.

    If you can't do that, try chopping the first paragraph, scene, chapter from your book and see if it leaves a gapping hole. If it doesn't then you don't need it and you started your story in the wrong place/too slow.
     
  19. Daniel_Allan
    Offline

    Daniel_Allan Member

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2012
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia, Australia
    It also depends on the story. If you have multiple characters from different walks of life, simply let the reader gain perspective through these different settings/activities/interactions.
     

Share This Page