1. JamesL
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    JamesL New Member

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    Starting scene from later in the story

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by JamesL, Jul 23, 2010.

    Sometimes, in movies (the only one I can think of recently is Seven Pounds with Will Smith) and probably books too, the opening scene is of something that happens later in the story- in my case a small glimpse at a moment of extreme low for the character in the future. However, I'm concerned if whether this is OK to do.

    The second chapter would be the 'real' beginning, or do you think it would be better to have a small snippet in the very beginning of the first chapter, do one of those triple circle deals, and then begin with the 'real' beginning?

    Also, if I do begin with that, how should I approach the scene when I come to it at it's chronological place in the book? Should I just rewrite the scene as it comes up, or skip it? Or even just do a small description so the reader can understand that this and the very beginning of the book are connected?

    Please, I need help. Thank you.
     
  2. Fantasy of You
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    Fantasy of You Banned

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    The technique you mention is great for creating a hook. Fight Club is a great example, as it begins at the very end of the story, with a gun in the narrator's mouth.

    As for where to go from there, it's completely up to you. If you execute your story well, you can skip around as much as you'd like.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Why do you want to disturb the chronological sequence?

    If you don't think the beginning is interesting enough, you may want to simply begin te story at a more interesting place and go forward from there. Skip over what you thought was the beginning. You can introduce any significant plot elements from that part later.

    Taking a peek ahead isn't always a bad idea, but you should have good strong reasons for doing so.
     
  4. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    Yes, it is okay to give a small glimpse of an important event in future in the beginning. One way it'll work is not to give away the 'why' and/or the 'how'.... because that will provide intrigue and curiosity for the readers. Everything you write from then on should have the 'why' and/or the 'how' as the underlying theme, until all the events finally culminate into that first scene.

    You don't need to repeat the same scene but you have to make it very clear that the point where you have provided a glimpse in the beginning has reached. You can do that by providing extra details of the scene which the readers were not privy to in the beginning.
     
  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with this. I read an interview with the novelist William Kennedy once, and he discussed his novel Legs, about the life of the gangster 'Legs' Diamond. He said "I knew that Legs Diamond was going to die at the end of the book, so I killed him on page one." It suited his purpose to set the plot up that way. It let him manage the climaxes the way he wanted.

    And, as Fantasy said, it creates a hook. Another good example is Ernest Hemingway's For Whom The Bell Tolls. It begins with Robert Jordan surveying the bridge he is to dynamite. Then it moves into a flashback scene where the general gives him the assignment to blow the bridge. Hemingway could have begun with the scene with the general, but he decided that it would be better to start with his MC in the setting where the main action takes place, dealing directly with his target.

    Cogito is right in that you should have good reasons for messing with the chronological sequence of events. But don't be afraid to do so. A great many writers, including some of the very best, have done it.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i should just have this ready to be cut/pasted!

    anything can work if it's well-written... and nothing can work, if it's not...

    period!

    you can discuss this till we're all too old to write and the answer will still be the same... besides which, no one here or anywhere can tell you if something will work without seeing it...

    so why waste so much time and energy on getting other people's useless [at this point] opinions, instead of just writing what your gut feels is right for you and your story/book/script?... after you write it, then others can give you their thoughts on whether it works, or not...
     
  7. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    This happens all the time on TV shows(particularly cop dramas or similar show) It will show a scene and then roll back time to see what leads up to that event.

    It can work. Just gotta make it so it can.
     
  8. BlueWolf
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    BlueWolf Banned

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    Tarrantino is the master of this! Pulp Fiction was brilliant.

    However, I have done this for my sequel, but I am not happy with it for whatever reason - maybe I have given too much away, or maybe I should never have done it - but I'll figure it out.

    If done well, it can be brilliant, so if you can pull it off, I'd say go for it.
     
  9. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    This might be a very simple suggestion that still don't occur to everyone. You can write your story any order you find interesting, chronologically or not. And on the editing stage play around with what order work best.

    It you feel it easiest to write starting with the beginning do that. It does not have to have anything to do with the final layout.
     
  10. Sang Hee
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    Sang Hee Contributing Member

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    I myself hate retrospective and prefer if the story starts at its beginning so I might follow it in a linear fashion and therefore be surprised if something comes up. In rare cases I don't mind (like the mentioned Pulp Fiction) but I can imagine that people find it a good way how to spice up storytelling.
    Regardless of how you choose to write it there should always be some reason for the order you present. Throwing it out randomly won't help.
     
  11. litchickuk
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    litchickuk Member

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    i think that sometimes you cant get the maximum effect if you write chronologically. I think starting in the middle or at the end can make you read on quicker, so for writers its always a good way to write. But as with all things there are times and places where this is effective and others when it is not. Move scenes around until you find the perfect place for it.
     
  12. Cardboard Tube Knight
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    Cardboard Tube Knight Member

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    Starting like this is a good hook, really it depends on how grabbing the part you plan to start at is and how it plays into and connects back to the start of your narrative. I think that outside of movies and television it works best with a first person narrative.
     

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