1. Ommonite
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    Ommonite Senior Member

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    setting up my first chapter

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Ommonite, Aug 22, 2008.

    I've hit a rut with the first chapter. you see my novel, that I am taking more seriously than ever this past month, is divided into two parts. Since it is all planned out, sort of, I am free to move about and write whatever I feel, whenever I feel.

    My problem, is oddly enough the first chapter. There are many holes in my plan, and to figure out how to fill them, it is better to have a first chapter at least somewhat done.

    The main character came to the 'home town' and 10 years later the story begins.

    What should the first chapter be?

    1. Start with the hero as an adult, and explain his past later on
    2. Start with a look at the heroes early life, then just jump to adulthood
    3. make early life a prologue.

    Another of my ideas was to make a rather lengthy detail of the boys travels with his mother before arriving at the home town. But I felt that would make the story too epic, and its more of a fast pasted adventure.

    I know i didn't reveal any names or real plot ideas to work with, but I'm sorta self conscious about revealing my ideas.
     
  2. Ore-Sama
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    Ore-Sama Senior Member

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    In my personal opinion, giving some minor clues to his past without revealing it right away, if done right, could make for a good hook which is critical in the first chapter. Revealing it might away may be putting too much on readers and give them little reason to read on to his adventures as an adult.
     
  3. Ommonite
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    Ommonite Senior Member

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    That's true... but even If i have a plan for the first chapter, its those first 10 or so paragraphs that never work.
     
  4. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Read other novels and see how they did it. I find that to be an inspiration.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you're having problems with the beginning, skip it for now and startg writing a bit furtehr in, Then you will have a better idea what the beginning most needs to bring the reader up to speed quickly.
     
  6. theassassin
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    theassassin Member

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    Whatever you do, make sure that it's interesting!
    Remember, many readers, including me, will throw the book away, if it doesn't catch their attention.
     
  7. Ommonite
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    Ommonite Senior Member

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    you actually throw them away?
     
  8. guiltyvictim
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    guiltyvictim Member

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    You always start the story roughly before the event that launches the protagonist into their journey. You're allowed some exposition at the beginning naturally, but the exposition HAS to be relevant to the development of the story.

    For example - we typically see a "day in the life of" of the protagonist in any given story. This is important because it lets us see what their normal life is like, so that we know how big a challenge it is for this person to go through the changes and embark on the journey that leads them to the obstacle, turning point and resolution.

    So work out what the actual "plot" is, start it just before the plot itself begins, and let the depth of your character sip through the pages in the following chapters.

    I don't have much insight into "prologues" however, I tend to dislike them and see them as lazy exposition, but I can't argue with the fact that many authors, including established ones, use it.
     
  9. Ungood
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    Ungood Contributing Member

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    I don't know about other people, but I do.

    I am not going to keep a book I am not going to read. The books I keep are the books I plan to read - AGAIN.

    As for your OP question.

    1. Start with the hero as an adult, and explain his past later on
    2. Start with a look at the heroes early life, then just jump to adulthood
    3. make early life a prologue.


    This is an artistic question. Sadly the answer lies with you. What do YOU want to do with this?

    Since I have NO idea what you have written, I have no idea what chapter 2 looks like, or even what is planned to happen in chapter 3, I really can not tell you how to start chapter one.

    I have heard that it is better to write chapter 17(random number example only) now then to fumble about chapter 1.

    I hope this helps.
     
  10. woken2reason
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    woken2reason Member

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    Try starting with a scene, before the first scene of your novel. This way you can see weather its a good start or a good middle.
     
  11. Scattercat
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    Scattercat Active Member

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    Unless the prologue is the beginning of the plot arc, you should probably allow it to come out in the course of the story. As people have said upthread, you want to start your story a short time before the initial event which kicks off the primary conflict.

    Now, as with most things, this is only a guideline, and a skilled author can bend the rules to suit. I'm currently reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which goes for almost a hundred pages before anything resembling an actual plotline materializes. (And then another two hundred and fifty before the conflict properly begins.) However, I found the author's style so engaging and entertaining that I cheerfully read straight through the long, meandering, and seemingly pointless fluff. ("Seemingly" is important; many of the early details are slowly turning out to be relevant, in one way or another. That's important; otherwise it really IS just empty fluff.)
     
  12. Palimpsest
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    Palimpsest Senior Member

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    I think, the beginning that makes you most excited to tell the rest of the story is the most likely to be a beginning that makes a reader eager to read the rest of the story.

    So (if you can parse that... sorry, loquacious :redface:...) I suggest just go with that first, and if you can break down how that was into terms like "exposition" or "incluing" or "in medias res" then you can build it back up the way you like it.
     
  13. penhobby
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    penhobby Contributing Member

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    First chapters are quite tricky for me. I am rarely satisfied with chapter one even unto the end of the book. I have rewritten my ‘chapter ones’ so many times it’s not funny. I actually hate and love them at the same time. At some point, I finally make myself stop fussing over it and just send the stupid thing out.

    I do not know if the 'chapter one blues' are just an issue for me, or are shared by others, but as an avid reader I do know that the first chapter is crucial in getting the attention of the reader. This is honestly a question you will have to answer for yourself, besides, consider the fact that no one knows your story and its characters as well as you do.
     
  14. guiltyvictim
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    guiltyvictim Member

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    It's a discipline thing really. You should try to write out the entire story, don't even read what you've written, so that you can complete your first draft. It becomes much easier to refine Chapter One when you finally know where the story's going, and you can re-draft the whole story, cutting out what's unnecessary and filling in the holes when needed.
     
  15. Ommonite
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    Ommonite Senior Member

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    Wow, thanks for responding to thew week old issue. I have finally developed a good start, though its about three pages from completion, and tis continuing the already good scene that I have trouble with now.
     
  16. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    I would think starting as an adult and revealing the past later would be best. The mystery would keep me reading.

    Also is your avatar Dr. Manhattan?
     
  17. guiltyvictim
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    guiltyvictim Member

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    Just keep writing - if you're struggling with a scene, write down what you can and carry on. The most important thing about first draft is to get the main ideas down, and then you can read it back and finalise what the journey is, and write the second draft to fix these problem scenes (which might become easier once you know the whole story) and to make sure all your scenes move the plot forward..
     
  18. Ommonite
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    Ommonite Senior Member

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    Yes. That is John Ostermann... or... is it Ostrichman?
     

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