1. Milady
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    Milady Contributing Member

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    The beginning: who cares?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Milady, Jul 14, 2008.

    So, I have my novel planned out. Start to finish, with a little ambiguity in the middle to keep me interested. I'm excited about the characters, and I can't wait to get them into some mess or other.

    The problem? I can't start.

    I think I'm afraid that I'll lose the reader's interest--the basic premise of the beginning is that my characters are starving. They've been betrayed by one of their own, all their food has been stolen, and they have no way to "legitimately" get more. In their desperation, they decide to invade a rival gang's territory to find food... the disastrous results of which make up the rest of the story.

    So, where to start? I need to get the reader emotionally involved, or else they'll be like "who cares?" when the conflict comes about. If I start when they make the choice to invade, the reader won't know the characters' reasons and may be put off by their behavior. If I start earlier, and try to show how they get into such a desperate situation... well, that would be a bunch of narration, involving characters to whom the reader has not been introduced yet. Another "who cares?".

    Any suggestions about capturing reader's interest? Or just general encouragement? Thanks.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    What you show in the opening scene pales in importance next to what you leave out of it. Try making every sentence in your opening raise more questions than it gives out in information.

    You're probably starting with hunger gnawing at the main character's gut. So reveal that without explaining why he or she doesn't eat something. Already the reader is faced with the question, "Who is hungry, and why?" So next you might start with the "Who?", but not too quickly or directly. Perhaps part of the who can be answered by one of the others looking to the MC for help, or reporting a failure to find anything to eat, establishing the MC as some sort of leader of the group. What group? And the question of why they are hungry is reinforced. Are they jobless and have used everything they had stored up? What is the real connection between the two characters in those two sentences? Maybe the second person referred to the first by name, maybe not. The next sentence may reveal more about the characters, or it may give a partial answer about the lack of food, but it should raise another question.

    All these questions entice the reader to read on, to find out the answers. You don't want to only raise questions, because the reader will get frustrated, but you should open more questions than give out answers in the opening sentences.

    I hope this helps. It's not the complete or only answer, but I think it's a good place to start.
     
  3. Milady
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    Milady Contributing Member

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    Good idea, Cog. As always, you've helped me come up with something good. I think I'll be shamelessly stealing your example--the "looking to MC for help" thing will also be a good base to the subplot of her fear that she's doing poorly as a leader. Thanks.

    --That's not to say I'm not open to more suggestions! Anyone out there? *echo, echo* :D
     
  4. writinginsecret
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    writinginsecret Member

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    Milady,

    This is going to seem like too much work but here goes. I normally start a story at a beginning point before what will actually become the beginning. At first, it seems like too much information and it always is. I tend to do a big infodump at the beginning so I just go ahead and write it out. Then later, when I arrive at a point in the story where the real conflict begins or an action sequence begs to be shown, I make that my new starting point. All the details that were in my original beginning must now be SHOWN through the actions of the characters. This is my way of getting to the real start of a story and avoiding infodump.

    The other thing I like about this method is it forces me to just start writing! The point at which I start writing may not be the beginning in the end (pun intended) but my pen moves across paper (or in this century, my fingers move along the keyboard.)

    Hope this is helpful. It works for me but I have many strange habits because the only thing I seem to really excel at is procrastination.

    JL
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i wouldn't bore the reader with any back story info in the beginning...

    i'd simply start with a vivid action scene of the group creeping into the enemy's territory... perhaps follow with/include bits of thought/physical description of some of the characters, to hint at why they're doing it and what the risk is... to me, that would be the hook that would make me have to keep reading...

    something like:
    or whatever... but start with drama, not info...
     
  6. roblutter
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    roblutter New Member

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    are these mice by any chance? like redwall style - thats the impression i get...
     
  7. roblutter
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    roblutter New Member

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    star with some kind of action - the event which we dont expect - a reader, i think, is fine with the esposition and the desrciptions of characters and locations at the beginning cos thats what they are readin for - in order to may bring this world out, which sounds quite 19th century and grimy underground to me, one example would be to take us through the world and maybe keep the reader interested with some mystery. so for example we follow a character, identity unknown, as they travel through streets and locastions at night that set the tone for the film, we arent told what is happening but, for example, this character might be the evil betrayer sneaking into/or out of the gangs camp and betraying them.... keeping the story mysterious and the dialogue not revealing. or perhaps this character is being chased or a character is running back to the gang to tell them of the conversation they just overheard between the betrayer and another etc in some dark street, either way trying to bring out the location - also kep it intense and a dynamic at the beginning in my opinion. as if u wer opening a film realy and had 3 minutes to do it.
     
  8. Small World
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    Small World New Member

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    If you want to put information in the beginning of a book make an introduction, its good to start out with something that gets the reader's attention and work on that from there
    Information that is just tossed around in a story's beginning is just to set up a small plot that doesn't get solved exactly from which you work out of to get to the big story, like a continuing series but it just happens before the reader briefly
    It sounds like you have that, but don't ever try to make the two stories exactly the same, you would go at it a different angle from there to keep your information coming out fresh
    Emotions, action, drama, thats where you can get an interesting short story so the reader comes out to bigger things, it might even make them say 'wow!'
     
  9. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Contributing Member

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    They've been driven to extreme actions because they're starving, so open at the beginning of the operation. Have them approach the enemy territory, with your mc ensuring all are in their preplanned locations. This will provide the opportunity to introduce characters in interaction, preparing and psyching up for out of character actions born from desperation. The hook has to have enough personal conflict to pull us in, though I'm sure you're well aware of that already. Good luck with the work.:)
     

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