1. Ice Queen
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    Ice Queen Senior Member

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    The 1st Paragraph is always the hardest!

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Ice Queen, May 5, 2011.

    Everytime I start writing, be it a University essay or a short story or a novel- I always find that it bugs the hell out of me trying to write a good 1st paragraph. I'll redo it so many times and There's almost always something that continues to dissatisfy me :/ It is very important obviously... As it's the thing that grabs the reader and makes them wanna stick around, makes a good (or not) impression.

    At the moment I'm trying to write a scene which is a 1st chapter, wherein my main character, a Necromancer & Exorcist (in training) has been called to rid a storage barn of a nasty little demon who keeps terrorising the owner. (The joke is that the little demon is actually the Necromancer's familiar who has a very twisted hobby of haunting people he doesn't like).

    I felt it was a good opening for the story as it sets down the theme of spirits and magic pretty well. The story is quite dark but it also has a few comic characters (the demon familiar being one of the most prominent).

    Err... really my problem is that I'm not sure how exactly to start off the scene- be it dialogue, description, a look at the character. Should I concentrate on the Necromancer's perspective or the poor terrified barn owner?

    Any suggestions? How do you usually start? Can you think of any techniques that might help me? :3
     
  2. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    Well first off it sounds interesting :D It's kind of a hard thing to give advice on, really. Where do you foresee the rest of the book going? I think what I would do if I was having a hard time with it is just write it out the way it seems to be coming to me and not look back at it at least until the first chapter is done. After you finish the first chapter you can go back and see if it's working for you. Rewriting the first paragraph over and over isn't going to be as helpful to you now as it will be upon editing later and you may find you drop that one altogether later, you know what I mean? I hope that made sense, lol.
     
  3. JMBlackman
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    JMBlackman New Member

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    Why not try out more than one opening and see which one you like the most/fits best? I've had this problem and few times, too, though not necessarily with the first paragraph, but just setting up the opening premise as a whole. For some reason, I thought I had to stick with one method and that was it. When the truth is, you can try all sorts of different things for however long it takes to be satisfied with your work. Just don't get bogged down in little things. If anything, set it aside and work on something else and come back with fresh eyes.

    Speaking specifically about your situation, if your MC is the Necromancer and that's who your reader will be following, start by concentrating on him. Through him, you can focus on your terrified barn owner and still lay down a satisfying mood. But if it's just the first run, don't pressure yourself too much. If you write it and you think it might sound better focused in a different direction, save what you already wrote but write something else and see if you like that more.

    Hope that was helpful and not just running in circles. :) Good luck.
     
  4. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    I am sure this breaks the rules of the junior college trained unpublished authors. But I feel our creative process is as indivual as our fingerprints. I tend to gravitate to the dramatic elements that make reading (god forbid) entertaining. Once that is in place I look for an engaging tie in. I wrote the last paragraph on my masterpiece "Velvet Elvis " months before I wrote the first
     
  5. nastyjman
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    nastyjman Contributing Member

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    Write whatever comes to mind as you begin. It would be impossible to start a story if you critique your opening from the get-go. Make a mess of it first, then clean it up after.
     
  6. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    exactly...high four....perfect point
     
  7. Arathald
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    Arathald Contributing Member

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    Good points all around. From a practical perspective, what I find helps (for narrative writing, you have to modify the technique a bit for exposition) is to just move through the scene in my mind until I find the absolute latest relevant piece of action, and start there.

    Note that "action" doesn't mean a fight scene or a car chase, it just means that something is happenning. Maybe your character's mother is crying, or his boss tells him he's fired, or her credit card is declined at the fashion mall. When I start like this, it makes it really easy to get into a story, instead of trying to figure out how to set it all up. This is also a great way to draw your readers in. Why is his mother crying? Did he really deserve to get fired, or is his boss just a jerk? How is she going to respond to her card getting declined, and how is she going to pay for that dress that she needs for the party? As mundane as these situations sound, they have a strong element of conflict, and that's what you need to have a compelling opening and story.

    (Honestly, with this technique, openings are probably just about the easiest thing for me to write; I could probably crank out a dozen right off the top of my head with no problem. Learning the craft of writing really helps out in these kinds of situations.)
     
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  8. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    For essays: try writing the body paragraphs first, do the intro afterward. It does not do you well to dwell on the intro if you don't know how to start off. It's more or less a waste of time, not to mention how frustrating it is.

    For novels: just write it. In the end, you will have changed your first paragraph 100000000000000000000000000000 times.

    Hope this helps.
     
  9. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    After seeing the ugly results of many one inning wonders who are able to deliver an engaging opening only to unravel by paragraph five I put less credence in the first 411 opening paragraphs to a chapter I try on for size
     
  10. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    If you agonize this much over the first paragraph, what will you do with all the ones that follow it? Write it however you would most want to read it. Then keep writing. Don't look back until you've hit the finish line (except to verify your recollection of something you've written), and then only when you've taken a break and can start fresh.

    Trying to anticipate how you will correct your writing is a good way to not get started.
     
  11. JimFlagg
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    JimFlagg Contributing Member

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    There are no hard fast rules to the opening other than DO NOT BORE THE READER. I personally have a problem with stories starting out talking about the weather. Describing what the world looks like is not telling me a story. Think about the story you are telling your main character and how you want to introduce them. What is the main character doing that starts him/her down this path? Start your story there. I like the following...

    Call me Ishmael... Herman Melville

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times... Charles Dickens

    Just a side note, it was Dickens that started the fire in me.
     
  12. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    Once I learned how to tune out the writer on writer crime of the perpetually profound and the terminally snarky , I was better able to understand the only true rule DO NOT BORE ....Learn to consider sincere advice while ignoring blow hard-ish self promotion. Having a mind not cluttered with the defense of my opinion allows me to emulate rather than debate....you feel me ?
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Just keep writing, and don't wory abouh that first paragraph. Chances are you'll rewrite the beginning more times than any other paragraph in the book, AFTER you finish the first draft.

    Hell, odds are pretty good that you'll delete your original beginning before you're done cleaning the manuscript up for submission.
     

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