1. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    Opening with a Description

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Thornesque, Feb 26, 2014.

    Though I haven't written the actual first chapter, yet, my friend is trying to warn me away from opening my story with a description of something. She says that it's extremely hard - near impossible - to catch a reader's attention with a description, and I had better open with an action, or something directly related to the MC.

    Now, granted, I have no intentions of opening with, "The room is yellow. The window gives a view out to an open, blue sky." In this particular case, I would be describing the carnage of a house.

    So what do you guys think - Is it bland to open a novel with a description of the surrounding scene?
     
  2. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm okay with description as long as it relates to something concerning the mc and what we're about to see - a kind of set the tone, set the setting and prepare us for the mc type of description.

    I think if your going to do description there should be a sense of anticipation for the mc.
     
  3. Fitzroy Zeph
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    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not only is it description but it's backstory to boot. I assume it's not the room that is of importance but what happened in it. My guess is it is not the best approach. If the POV character were to walk into the carnage and the scene unfolds before him, that may be better.
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    It's perfectly fine. In your case, describing the destroyed house could be a good way to make the reader curious as to why the house is destroyed in the first place. Whether or not you can hold the reader's attention depends on your skill as a writer.
     
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  5. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    Oh, yes. The description is most definitely related to what the MC is experience at the point that the story begins.

    The MC, herself, is the one that caused the damage to the house that I will be (briefly) describing. It would be the MC's immediate surroundings. It's necessary for the reader to know that she caused the damage, as this is the inciting event in the story.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    a vivid description of the damaged house can certainly hook the reader, if well written...

    but then, just about anything can work well, if well-written!

    and a 'description' is not always 'back story'... especially when it's of something in the opening scene...
     
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  7. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    different readers are put off by different things. What I'm saying is, there will be those who are put off, and there will be those who won't be put off. In fact, there will be those for whom description is a sure-fire way of hooking them. You gotta ask, who's your target audience? How does the description and opening fit in with the rest of the novel and the tone of your novel?

    For example, if your novel is fast and filled with one-liners and tonnes of dialogue and sparse description, then opening with description would not be good. Because those who dislike description would be put off from reading and never find out that they'd actually like the book because the rest of the book is nothing like the opening, and those who love description would continue reading, only to be disappointed with your "bland" writing (as in, lack of description).

    Also, even description could be done simply and succinctly. The key is always: is it easy to read? I find that to be more important than nearly everything else. I'm actually more likely to keep reading if the first sentence were: "The room was yellow," than I would be if the first sentence were, "The galactic space-disc propelled itself across the opulently bright rainbow-coloured sky where Captain Spacey Higgins Camerons Spate the Second stood in his double plated ion armour and observed with intrigue the curious lifeforms aboard."

    See what I mean? They're both description, really :D Fact that the Captain Spacey one would also be horrific writing is an aside lol.

    Anyway, write it how you feel the story should start, and the test it on some readers. Only one way to find out really :)
     
  8. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    This^

    I suspect your friend has a specific or narrow picture in mind when she says, "description". But description can mean many different things from describing the aftermath of an opening event to an intriguing introduction to a very strange town.

    Write the story, see how the opening reads, change it if you need to.
     
  9. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    It can be done - it's just easy to do badly. It's sometimes easier if you blend the description in with some characterisation - you can cover more bases on what pulls people in, then.

    E.g.

    As ever, example intended to show technique rather than writing quality. You've got a bit of curiosity about what happened and a bit of the narrator's voice coming through, as well as the description of the house itself.
     
  10. Fizpok
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    Fizpok Member

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    Just think of all the books that start with words "A full Moon..."
    Description is fine. Almost anything is fine as long as it works FOR you and not against.
     

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