1. RoughitforGreen247
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    RoughitforGreen247 New Member

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    Openings

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by RoughitforGreen247, Jul 25, 2007.

    I have been told by a number of sources that one of the worst ways you can open a book is showing raw emotion without inducing that emotion in the reader, which is to say, explaining to the reader why the character is feeling that way. Are there exceptions to this rule? What about prologues?

    I am in a situation where the foundation of my novel is based on the reaction to a tragic loss, but I feel that to go into the complications of the matter would greatly defect the emphasis from the plot, which takes place a number of years later. Is there some way I can show this without immediately boring the reader?
     
  2. DivineLemon
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    DivineLemon Member

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    Personally I believe that a more emotional beginning is better. How do the novels you like to read start off a story?

    When you start a story off with deep emotions the reader automatically understands what position the character is in. The reader knows how the character reacts under pressure. Being able to understand the character is a main point I try to keep in mind while I write my stories.
     
  3. adamant
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    adamant Contributing Member Contributor

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    Actually, most of that warning comes from the fact that the reader has just about no real connection the your characters at that point in time. Thusly, something traumatic would be less effective overall. Also, simply throwing out messed up pasts can make the reader feel as though they are being emotionally toyed with. Of course someone is not going to want to have a character raped, but if that's all your story is providing as means of character-reader relationship, expect for there to be little interest in the work.
     
  4. RoughitforGreen247
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    RoughitforGreen247 New Member

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    I understand the very strong danger there. I do not really intend for the reader to find my opening moving, hardly knowing the characters or the situation, but it is more in the way of an explanation for the disposition of the character later in the novel. It is more of a plot device than an emotional one. I am worried that readers will assume I'm trying to get them all teary eyed and get annoyed, even when I intended no such thing.
     
  5. mypensmysoul
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    mypensmysoul Member

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    I believe the reason people say this is because it is very rare you can provoke the reader's emotions when they aren't in the slightest connected with the book yet. When I typically start a new story, I begin with an easy-going conversation between two characters, or an intro to the setting. I would not reccommend putting in a strong tearjerking scene here or an important part to the novel in any way until the reader has had the time to connect with the character.

    However, all rules are meant to be broken. Go ahead and try this technique and see if it works. Typically, it wont, but hey! There's always that exception, right?
     
  6. SnipSnap
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    SnipSnap Active Member

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    mypenmysoul is quite correct. What your trying to do is open w/ a traumatic loss, and also try to capture the loss in emotion, and it would do no good, unless you've already introduced the characters very well and you feel that you and the audience is ready to portray their emotions. Seeing as you said this is a prologue, the mention of this traumatic loss will obviously come into the story again later on, which is then that you should begin major grief/pain/fear emotions in your characters, once we've gotten to have a chance to get to know them and whatnot.
     
  7. electro magician
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    electro magician Member

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    I've seen works that start off after a tragedy, when things are calmer, and introduce you to the character through their reaction and choices. This may be a good choice when the focus of the plot is the tragedy itself.

    I've seen some good transitions to the main storyline when the intro topic is 180 degrees away.
     
  8. SnipSnap
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    SnipSnap Active Member

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    It's okay to start out w/ tradegy, but to start out w/ just raw emotions and characters pouring their hearts out, is a big no no. reminds me of Lady Heatherington Smythe's Hedgerow. It starts in a similar way. No wonder Eoin Colfer made fun of it so bad.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Another approach is to open with the character obviously distraught, but without the reader knowing why. The reader can see the character as he or she is now, and begin to get to know the character, but then let the story of how he or she got to that point unfold slowly. Keep leaving the reader curious about what is still to be revealed.
     
  10. SnipSnap
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    SnipSnap Active Member

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    Ah, another good way. Very good, Sir Cog.
     
  11. lawliet
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    lawliet New Member

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    Something I use if I want to show extreme emotion at an early point in a story is to use a pov that does not belong to the person who is experiencing the emotions. I don’t mean some minor characters that are used for this purpose only, but another major character, someone important to the story. I’ve noticed readers tend to ‘get’ the extreme emotion allot faster and gain sympathy/ understanding trough the pov character. And they don’t feel cheated, since the pov character sticks around so the scene from before was also a chance to get to know him/her better.

    Maybe it is a little like when someone I don’t know tells a joke and I am not sure if it is funny or insulting. If someone else laughs I tend to laugh too. And if that someone becomes my friend later on I don’t really mind that I followed their lead in the joke situation.

    Hope it makes a little sense.
     
  12. bluejt2000
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    bluejt2000 Member

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    The prologue, though popular with many writers, is often unnecessary (readers often skip them and go straight to Chapter One anyhow). It's better to just drop in bits of back story as and when the reader needs that information in order to understand what's going on. Flashback can be a useful technique for this, but keep it brief. This takes a little more skill but isn't really difficult.

    One of the worst ways you can begin, whether you use a Prologue or not, is by telling the reader what has already happened to a character. In effect, this is just a backstory dump - bo-ring! If you really must start this way then show rather than tell what happened. And don't call it the Prologue - call it Chapter One.

    Who said you oughtn't to begin a novel by showing strong emotion in a character anyhow? I've never seen that written in stone. Just make sure it doesn't trump whatever comes later.

    Just do what seems right for your novel (which doesn't necessarily mean choosing the easiest method).

    John
     
  13. Funny Bunny
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    Funny Bunny Contributing Member

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    I'm going to Differ here.
    A big "emotional" scene at the beginning? I am not sure what that means? Do you mean you might open your novel with someone weeping on a bed? I think that would be boring. Most books that interest me, and movies begin with some sort of violent opening-- really introducing the bad guy or situation before the protagonist. This shows people what is at stake. I'd call it a kind of "star wars" opening. A space battle is seen, no one knows what is happening. You only get bits and pieces, not knowing what is really going on. Then the princess (the goal) is marched out, and sees her home planet destroyed. ---THEN---the main character is introduced, and he's not even there! There are genres who expect the opening scene not to be chatty. Thrillers generally start with some sort of action. Often the crime itself. They expect a fast pace. They want constant highs and lows (sort of manic/depressive writing). Sometimes a similar crime perpetrated by the same person, so we can see how bad he is.

    There is definitely a novel philosophy which prefers "total immersion," that is, not telling the reader much about the scene and throwing him into it and then getting around to "focusing" on one or more characters. Since a character should change from the beginning to the end of a novel unless the character is wooden, then the character needs to be re-introduced each time he or she makes a transformative step forward anyway. I never think a big introduction for a beginning is needed. The Davinci Code (the movie) started with only a brief look at the type of symbology the professor was doing, and the fact that he was a well known lecturer and author. The scene also told us he was in Paris. That was all the introduction that occurred before he was brought to the scene of the killing. I think the first intro should be only a brief glimpse.

    What I do when I am having these sorts of questions is to check out a pile of similar books from the library. Graph out what several authors did to structure their book. Every time you read something, as an author, you should have a pen and pad there to jot down interesting ideas on structure and so on. Often, it is better to have a "reading list" in your genre. You need to know what other authors that you are competing with will have read. The conventions established by the "masters" of the genre will be those generally expected by both publisher and audience.

    I propose that you may be battling this "opening" conflict because you may be working in the wrong genre. For years I tried to write in one genre and failed-- that was because I was writing in a style that would have been perfectly acceptable in another genre.
     
  14. jj3125
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    jj3125 Member

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    that movie stoned (about the founding member of the rolling stones) was set up backwards.. starting with his death, and then jumping back to the start of the story. i think it captured the viewers attention immediately... but i guess you want to have the tragedy... and then the story coming after..? well i say give it a shot... see how it turns out. you might be surprised.
     

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