1. JPGriffin
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    JPGriffin Senior Member

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    Problems with Introductions

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by JPGriffin, Jun 13, 2012.

    This is easily the fifth time that I've been completely stuck on a project at the very beginning. I have these ideas of what I want to happen later on in the novel/story, but I can't find good ways to introduce characters/settings, no matter how vivid of an idea I have. I don't want to simply push through it, because not only would it drive me crazy to know such an important part is subpar, and as the opening it's what's supposed to catch a reader's attention- par will barely cut it as is.

    I've seen a near overuse of the "Storybook" entrance, where you introduce the lore through the MC, a literal story-within-a-story, then continuing through with the MC's viewpoint, as well as an overuse of the dramatic action sequence that sets up the plot of the story. The problem with the first, though, is that I want to avoid this with great pains, and the latter is usually associated with epic fantasy. My ideas won't work for either of these. As of now, I basically have points B and C clear and defined, but no part A to start the story.

    How should I go about this? Write a generic opening, edit it later on, and push through, or write the story based on the opening, literally writing the story chronologically? I know I have the liberty of skipping around parts, but it helps to know what I have to and don't have to describe, characters who have or haven't been introduced, so on and so fourth. As always, any and all advice helps!
     
  2. kyelena2
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    kyelena2 Member

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    I'm not sure exactly what type of tense you are planning to use, but I think a great introduction is on where you begin with your MC thinking about something. This will help you to begin your descriptions. This way you are starting with the MC's viewpoint, and then explaining things more down the road after you have hooked the reader.
    Such as having a student sitting in class thinking about after class, or a person sitting in a park watching a street performer, or maybe a person writing in their journal.
    Hope this helps. On a side note, I understand what you mean about subpar driving you crazy. Sometimes I have to start writing the story before my head implodes. Then, I can go back and write a more detailed entry.
     
  3. lallylello
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    lallylello Member

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    Jump in and write, JP! Don't worry about that clever first sentence just write the bit you know - the bit that's clawing it's way out of your brain right now. Once you start it will probably all become clear. I've chewed through a lot of pencils trying to work out a great opening only to delete the whole thing later because paragraph two or page two works better as an intro. Once you've got the main bit of your story down you'll probably have a better idea of how to introduce it.
    hope this helps and good luck!
     
  4. Mark_Archibald
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    Mark_Archibald Active Member

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    Don't over think the problem, or try to write the greatest characters of all time.

    Just have them enter the story in a slight way, keep it simple, showcase easy power.
     
  5. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Then start there. Write what you know you want to write. Many stories start right in the middle of the action. I usually like to start either with the main character in the middle of a quandry or crisis, or another character in the middle of a quandry or crisis. The last thing you want to do is start with a passage that feels like an introduction to the reader. Why futz around? Get right to the guts of it.

    Best of luck.
     
  6. louis1
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    louis1 Contributing Member

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    You don't have to introduce your characters. you say you got part B ? start with part B, readers will get to know your characters. it's okay
     
  7. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I rewrote my opening 5 times. Even now, on the rewrite, I still don't have an opening because it kinda had to change as the plot changed a little. Seriously, if I had waited for the opening, let me tell you that I would not even have 20 pages, let alone a first draft to rewrite at all.

    Quite frankly, you might think you have parts B and C clearly defined, but the truth is, they will very likely change to varying degrees as you actually come down to the writing, and then rewriting and editing. This means, oh yes, your opening will likely have to change to accommodate this. And then what will happen to that opening you so painstakingly thought through? Oh yes, you'll have to ditch it :D Horra!

    IMO the opening is probably one of the most fluctuating or ever-changing scenes in the entire thing. The truth is, you probably won't know where's the best place to start UNTIL you have at least a first draft - don't even think about a complete or working draft yet, only a full draft where you've at least got everything from A-Z down on paper. A story is like a plant - it grows and you shape it as it goes, but there's only so much you can control. Unfortunately this means the intro is likely gonna change at some point!

    So there's no point waiting for the "perfect" starting point. Start where you think it's best right now, the best place you can possibly think of. Have some faith in yourself - you know your story, your judgement wouldn't be far wrong. Then write and write and don't go back til you have a full first draft. Only then go back, and on the rewrite you'll be at a better position to identify the truly perfect point to start.

    And yes it certainly does help to know what you need to describe and what you don't - but to be fair, on the rewrite you'll likely juggle the scenes around and find that you now must add description on p.10 and delete the very same bit of description that appears later on p.56. You'll likely also find you've written in unnecessary detail. In other words, having an opening doesn't actually save you from unnecessary writing and trimming. So don't be lazy :p it's just part of writing a novel.
     
  8. Cayo Costa
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    Cayo Costa New Member

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    Edit: Mckk said what I meant much more beautifully. I leave this up only because I'm not sure how to delete yet.

    I think you should plow through your beginning. And I empathize, by the way: beginnings are terrifying for me. I'm a terrible self-editor and I always feel that if these first three paragraphs aren't stellar than what is the point of the writing the thing (as a result my first drafts always have these monstrously large first paragraphs)? But in my experience, the beginning is going to get beat up to a pulp in almost every revision anyway. It's going to get pounded, or dissected and dispersed, or cut entirely your second, third, fourth time through. Generally, with first drafts, you're going to grow your ideas as your write it so the end is going to be much more fleshed out than the opening and you're going to have to go back and integrate all this stuff you came up with into the first half (or more) of your story. That process is going to be so much harder if you've agonized over every word, every sentence of the introduction (it will have become your darling). So personally I would say just write it. Get it down. Perfect it later. As a self-editor I know that's hard but it's worth it.
     
  9. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    The best thing I ever did for my writing was to pretend the reader already knows my characters and the backstory. It freed me from having to introduce characters or explain why something was happening. Very liberating and I've come to find it's quite easy to add the tiny bits of information after the fact.

    Oh and my son tells me all the time that Harry Potter never won any first page awards. So write a good story and don't stress about the perfect beginning.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    When a character first appears in the story, that is an introduction. However, if it's just a name mentioned in passing, you can disregard it as an introduction.

    Featuring a new character in a scene helps the reader get to know that character somewhat, so that is what I consider the real introduction. You don;t have to describe the character. You don't even have to necessarily name the character at that point, as long as you give the reader some handle to associate witj that character.

    Try not to introduce more than one, perhaps two, characters at one time. Otherwise, the reader won't "fix" the character well in his or her mind. This is where the "casual mention" component can be useful. Other characters can be present in that scene but not really introduced, just hang in the background. Give each one a worthy introductory scene later.

    Even veteran writers forget this principle, and load down the reader with five or six characters at once. The reader may have to take notes to keep them straight, and that is most definitely a flaw in the writing.

    Oh, and forget about background information. Write story, not back story. Stay in the now.
     

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