1. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    The "Drop this book right now!" routine

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by jwatson, Nov 4, 2009.

    My first issue is that I feel I am steeling it. If you have ever read the back of Lemony Snicked books, or if you have ever read the first page of The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan, you know what I mean. Did they come up with it, or did they get the idea from someone else?
    Basically, I am about twenty thousand words into a children/YA fantasy novel and I am starting to go back and edit. (I edit about every five chapters because that's just how I roll ;) )
    The first page starts off with just a little bit about the character (first person, by the way) and this is where I tell the reader: If you don't believe in fantasy, you might as well stop reading.
    Pretty much, is this alright to do? I really like the "Drop this book right now" thing (if it has an actual name, please, tell me), but am I using it wrong and am I copying other authors too much?

    My second issue is tense. On this little introductory first page, my character is telling a little bit about himself before the actual story begins. I am struggling to grasp the proper tense within this little introduction. I am constantly switching to what feels right, but obviously, there is more to it.

    "Apart from continuously telling the friends I make should I write "made" here instead? that I never met my real father, the only other embarrassing thing about me was or is? that my family was or is? not one of the wealthier ones in the neighborhood. By “family” I mean only my mom and I. I don’t really consider my step dad as a father-figure. I mean, maybe if he wasn’t such a drunk and an abusive husband I would be able to consider him a father. My mom always said or says? I was too young to understand why we still lived or live?with him. Maybe she was right. Maybe twelve was or is? too young."

    I have two other paragraphs before the story kicks off, and each of them has similar issues to me. Can anyone shed some light on my questions? Thank you for your time
     
  2. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    1. That "drop-this-book" thing can be effective when used in stories for children, but I think it's usually used to heighten the reader's anticipation of the story that follows, not to try to discourage particular readers. To be honest, I can't see any publishers picking up a book that discourages readers in any way. But if worded right, yeah it can be a powerful way to draw (young) readers in.

    2. With tense, it depends on when the story is being narrated. If all of the narrated events have already happened, then you obviously use the past tense. If some events are still occurring in the present (is he still making friends at the time of the narrative? is he still alive?) then you use present tense. Don't get confused and think that just because you are narrating in the past tense in general that every verb you use has to be conjugated in the past tense. If you've been speaking English all your life, you will probably instinctively know which ones to use, so if in doubt go with your gut instincts and then see how it reads later.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Narrator intrusion (chatting with the reader) is pretty much out of style these days.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes... and annoying to the max, if not done by a masterful writer who can make the reader not mind that s/he did it...

    as for the tense, past is best...
     
  5. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Mayber instead of saying to put the book down if you don't believe in magic, you can write: this story if full of magic. It's a fantasy story with evles, orcs, goblins, and dragons, and it's more than that.

    Something along those lines. I think it serves the same purpose without telling the reader what to do.
     
  6. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    The purpose of those passages should never be to tell the reader what the story is about. Instead, they should appeal to the child reader by appealing to their sense of adventure, of risk. It should almost be a challenge to the reader that makes them want to engage in the text all the more. For that reason, it should never be attempted beyond fiction for young children, and it should not concern itself with the genre or specific content of the book.
     
  7. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    Thanks everyone for your responses

    I agree my discouragement is not a good idea. I want to manipulate that part and make it more appealing to my general audience. As for the chatting with reader part, I'm only doing it for this one paragraph. I honestly think I can pull it off without annoying the reader, but I'll have to see.
    Thanks again
     
  8. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    If you want the reader to know right away the type of novel it will be, you could open with a scene that has those elements in it.

    In my fantasy End of All, I start with a scene where the teenage lightning elves are practicing their powers. They turn into pure energy and pass through a tree. The MC Skyla sucks at this and fails, slamming head first into the tree.

    You could start with two character's mixing a potion, or whatever.
     
  9. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    I'm sorry, but I don't like it at all (talking to the reader directly). It's cheesy, lame, tedious and irritating. I tend to skim those sections. They feel like TV commercials and contribute nothing to the piece. I think arron is probably right in that it works better on younger readers, especially children. Kids are often more entertained by commercials than the actual show. Adults are generally more interested in the story. Make a great product and let that be your sales pitch.

    There are very few books I judge from the first page. I'm a mature reader. I know it pays to be patient. But I would probably drop your book like a ton of bricks with the opening you have in mind. I don't want to see set-up of any kind. I don't care how long the story takes to "get to the action", so long as the story actually begins on page one. If I feel like I'm being sold something, I drop the book immediately. I just don't have the patience for that crap. But I will read 100 pages of triviality, no problem. As long as characters are doing something and the story looks like it's going somewhere, I'm cool.

    But your commercial is only fit for defenestration. Sorry! I really am sorry. That was harsh. I just hate the style, if you can even call it that. . .
     
  10. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    I guess it depends on preference, seeing as I don't mind it too much. If I do not pull it off successfully then I'll obviously change my introduction. But, like I said, the novel is directed at children, so I don't think the style is pushing my luck, especially since I'm not continuously writing this way.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i have to agree with kas... in all except 'definistration,' since it's misspelled... ;-)

    it's 'defenestration'... comes from the latin word for 'window' [fenestra]...
     
  12. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Lol, maia. Thanks for fixing that. Sometimes a wire gets crossed in my brain.:rolleyes:
     
  13. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    Fixed.
     
  14. Goldie
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    I have read quite a few novels where the narrator talks to the reader using "you". That happens a lot in chick-lit and sometimes in YA fantasy.

    He's one of these "masters", but Tolkien also did the same thing. And if no one aspires to that level, then we're all doing mediocre writing and should just quit, right?

    I like the present-tense that Atari put up. It sets it up, so that tense can be used rather nicely! I say take some risks and talk to your reader. You never know! And if you get as far as an agent and editor, then your editor can tell you if it needs to be cut. So this is the stage to try some things out, rather than chuck them in the trash pile without giving it a go.

    Good luck!
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Don't confuse second person narration (which I also abhor) with narrator intrusion, in which the narrator steps out of the role of telling the story to address the reader directly. The latter reminds the reader that he or she is reading a story, not a direct obeserver, and the latter is what the writer should be striving for to involve the reader.

    Narrator intrusion is rarely seen in contemporary writing. It is out of fashion for the reason I gave above -- it rips the reader out of the scene with a reminder that the narrator is standing between the reader and the story.

    Be careful about adopting anachronistic writing practices.
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    good advice!
     
  17. MaverickChaos
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    MaverickChaos New Member

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    'Choke' by Chuck Palahniuk begins with something like that, and it's one of my favourite novels. It is a little cliched I think, but he manages to do it in a slightly different way.
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    he's light years away from being a mainstream author, so don't think you can do what he does and get away with it...

    when you've bestsellers under your belt, you can afford to be different... till then, you'd better stick to the 'usual,' if you want to maximize your chances of snagging a publisher...
     

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