1. ThinkingCliché
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    ThinkingCliché New Member

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    What do you do when it comes to the Introduction?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by ThinkingCliché, Dec 30, 2011.

    Hello all,

    I've been pondering lately about introductions. So I was wondering how do you go about introductions to your novels? Do you start off with a sentence that draws the reader in like Twilight. Or do you just start describing a certain character like in the Philosopher's stone? Perhaps you do neither?
    Or should I just not worry about it all for the first draft?

    Any advice about introductions at all will be much appreciated!
     
  2. Metus
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    Metus Senior Member

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    Maybe this is cliche of me, but I always start with the protagonist waking up. I don't know why, but that's the only way I can see the book starting. He or she can wake up anywhere or in any situation, from sleep or unconsciousness, but they always wake up. I tend to start by describing their immediate thoughts and observations upon waking, and I then go to physical descriptions. If they're, say, a prisoner, they'll probably be disheveled or injured. I work in how they look in that case over the course of describing their temporary flaws. (blood-caked, dark hair, as opposed to simply black hair.)
     
  3. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    You do what comes naturally to you. Different stories will have and require different introductions. Most young adult fiction will have the main character's description in the first couple of paragraphs. For other fiction, it largely depends on the plot, the characters, and the situation at the beginning of the novel. You might want to describe the atmosphere and setting, or the individual actions a character is doing.
    Really, though, you want any introductory sentence to draw the reader in, so using Twilight as an example isn't the best idea.

    If you're spending too much time thinking about it, feel free to come back to it after you've finished the first draft. There is no one correct way of writing, really, so, again, just do it naturally. Write the words that come, ignore the ones that don't.
     
  4. Kallithrix
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    Kallithrix Banned

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    What cruciFICTION said. There are many ways to start a story, but the only thing it MUST do is entice someone to read on. It can be anything that intrigues or just makes a reader want to know what happens next, so whether it is an interesting character description, a bold statement or just going straight into the action, these could all work.

    If you want some inspiration, why don't you find 10 books that you've enjoyed and look at their opening paragraph/page. Make a bullet list of all the different types of openings they use, i.e. character description, action etc. Then see what you think would work best for your story.

    Good luck :)
     
  5. AmsterdamAssassin
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    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

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    This.

    When you finish the first draft, you might find that you actually want to start the story with your third chapter. Or you'll write a new opening chapter based on the whole story. Or...
     
  6. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    This. Sometimes I open in conflict, sometimes I open in calm. I open with what comes naturally to me. It's my story and if I let others write it for me, it's not really my story anymore.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you seem to be asking about the 'opening'... an 'introduction' is something entirely different and should be avoided in fiction as a general rule...

    the opening sentence/paragraph needs to be a 'hook' that catches the readers and won't let them go without reading further... period... there are many kinds of hooks and ways to 'set' them... take a look at the first sentence and paragraph of any 10 bestselling books and you'll see how varied they are...

    imo, a good opening is important from the get-go, so i wouldn't put off crafting one till later... how you start will determine what comes next, so nail it with your first draft, if you don't want to risk having to do a lot of rearranging later...
     
  8. Kallithrix
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    Kallithrix Banned

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    I wouldn't say that it's necessary to 'nail it' in the first draft - as others have said, sometimes you come back to the beginning after you've written a little into the novel and realise you started in the wrong place. Personally, I ditched about 3000 words from the prologue and started with what was originally scene 2 (yes, it's still a prologue). I just realised that scene 2 was more interesting, and scene 1 could probably be worked in later.

    Starting your story in the right place is crucial, but you don't always KNOW what the right place is until you've wandered further into the plot. So, if it's not perfect to start with don't worry about it. Chances are you will get a better idea later.
     
  9. Whirlwind
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    Whirlwind Member

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    This is funny (in a good way). Stories are a metaphor for awakening, so this makes perfect sense.
     
  10. Whirlwind
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    Whirlwind Member

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    In Twilight, the preface starts "I'd never given much thought to how I would die". The first chapter starts "my mother drove me to the airport."

    They're both pretty standard openings. You're basically leaving the old world and state (death, departure) and entering a new world and state (journey, arrival).

    That Bella is driven to the airport by her mother means something (in Karate Kid, Daniel is driven to California by his mother).

    It's all hero's journey again. For which I recommend Kal Bashir's version.
     
  11. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've found myself starting with my character travelling in two consecutive stories, either going someplace new or coming back from where they've been and there the story starts. I even planned for my third story to start in the same way, haha, I don't know why but that is a great way for me to get started plus I think it's an opening full of possibilities. I don't know, maybe it's a problem though? Well, I'll concentrate on getting the first one of them accepted for publishing and If it won't, then there might not even be a problem :)
     
  12. astroannie
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    astroannie Member

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    I was confused if you meant the opening of Chapter 1 or whether you meant an Introduction preceding Chapter 1.

    Were it I, I would just write it all down first and then, consider it as a whole, and work from there.
     
  13. Kallithrix
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    Kallithrix Banned

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    My story starts with a character travelling, but in a hopeless way as they are certain they will die. To start with the reader doesn't know whether they will or not - remember, you don't necessarily have to start your novel with the protag ;-)
     
  14. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    In general, I recommend avoiding an introduction/preface/prologue to the story. Just start Chapter 1 where the story starts.

    Twilight is actually a good example of an effective opener, even though on the whole I thought the book was more or less average. If you are going to have a prologue, you could do far worse than looking at how Meyer does it. The prologue there raises the reader's interest, and more importantly it is extremely short. So yeah, that's a good example.

    I recommend starting with some "action" of the story. That doesn't mean it has to be an action sequence like from a movie, with guns or fast cars or whatever, but something should be happening that is interesting to the reader and makes the reader want to continue reading.
     
  15. Kallithrix
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    Kallithrix Banned

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    Well, I disagree that prologues should be avoided - so does my agent. BAD prologues that contribute nothing to the story should be avoided, but then so should bad writing of any kind ;-)
     
  16. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Most prologues I've come across are bad and far too long. By definition, you are telling the reader "Look, I know the story starts in Chapter 1, but I'm going to subject you to the rest of this for a while...."

    I often put books back on the shelf if they have lengthy prologues, simply because I've had enough bad experiences with them. I might also buy them and skip the prologue.

    Orson Scott Card once wrote:

    "I have learned, as a book reviewer, that's it's usually best to skip the prologue entirely and begin with the story - as the author should also have done. I have never - not once - found that by skipping the prologue I missed some information I needed in order to read the story; and when I have read the prologue first, I have never - not once - found it interesting, helpful, or even understandable."

    I think he's a bit on the extreme side, but he's more right than wrong in my view :)
     
  17. Kallithrix
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    Kallithrix Banned

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    Yes, quite a lot on the extreme side, I would say! Prologues can be very effective, interesting additions to a story. IF THEY WORK. I can't make my prologue chapter 1 - it isn't. But it is an introduction to the world of my novel, to the historical background and the character of the antagonist that DOES contribute to the impact of chapter 1 when you meet him again. Everyone who has read it says so - including the agent who offered me representation on the spot. If you've skipped the prologue, you've missed a MASSIVE part of the subtext and intrigue in chapter 1. So, maybe it's time to ditch your preconceptions about prologues and be a little more open minded...? :)
     
  18. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I've read effective prologues, and I'll certainly give them a go in a book that is by someone I know or that has been recommended to me in some way. I buy a lot of books by simply browsing the shelves, picking up titles by authors I've never heard of, and I have to admit in that context if I see a prologue I'll usually put the book back, unless it is very short. But if you PM me when your book comes out I'll buy it and give it a read :)
     
  19. ThinkingCliché
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    ThinkingCliché New Member

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    Thanks guys, your advice has given me some cool ideas.
    I'll have to get through High School before I can have it published, let alone see it on the shelves I'm afraid :)
     
  20. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    I know prologues are considered bad, but I've used them a couple of times and think they add to the story, mainly because I write a story centred around a main character and the prologue is usually background to events he's not a part of. My thoughts are that prologues should be short, a couple of pages or so, and be enough to set up a train of enquiry in the readers' minds i.e. is this what it's about? Before I pull the metaphorical rug out from under their feet and start the actual story.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  21. astroannie
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    astroannie Member

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    I'm with Steerpike -- it often is an admission that you don't believe your story can stand on it's own merits. That's why I was unclear whether you mean an actual separate introduction.
     
  22. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i don't think the op really meant an 'introduction'... from what was described, it seemed the wrong word was used for the 'opening'...
     
  23. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Mostly write short stories. I tend to start with a short, precise sentence that gives some insight into a character/ situation.

    The key for me: to make it intriguing in some way.
     
  24. Pea
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    Pea super pea!

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    I had several chapters drafted before I realised they were superfluous and couldn't 'grab' the reader. They were good, sure, but just not good enough for a story beginning. I cut out the first three and started in the middle of chapter 4, where the real interesting things start and the protagonist's world is thrown upside down. I don't think gradual introductions are needed at all, and it needs to be something that grabs the reader and won't let go. As the saying goes for scriptwriting- arrive as late in the scene as possible, and leave early. The unneeded bits just dilute the story.
     

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