1. CH878
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    CH878 Active Member

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    Which beginning to choose...

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by CH878, Aug 11, 2011.

    Hello

    I've just finished my first draft, and when I began editing one of the first things I noticed was that my first paragraphs may not be up to scratch, but I'm not sure. Let me explain.

    Currently, the first few paragraphs are centered around the main character's, er, character. I've read a lot that your first paragraphs need to be really gripping, so obviously I'm worried about having a lot about my character right at the beginning.

    However, In my novel, I'm working on the idea that the readers (young adults, btw) will identify very strongly with the MC, so in some ways I think that it might be important to get character details in early.

    The other beginning I've considered is to go straight into the action sequence that currently follows the piece on the character, and then deal with the character's background later on.

    What are your opinions?
     
  2. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Up to you in the end.

    I'd go with something with a bit of a kick, i.e. option number 2.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Background is boring. Get right into the story. Let the character be a stranger at first. Make the reader wait a bit, maybe even work a bit, to understand the character.

    Unanswered questions keep the reader reading, to try to find those answers.
     
  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Starting with background is, IMO, nearly always a mistake.

    If you look at the details of your character that you think that your readers will identify with, are you sure that you can't get them seamlessly into action, rather than having to present them as background?

    For example, if you wanted to convey that your main character is a recently married young woman who loves cooking, you could start with an argument with her husband that results in her being so distracted that she ruins a dish. That way, you get the action, and you get the background in for free.

    Now, doing this requires a lot of subtlety - one thing that's even worse than an open and honest infodump is a badly concealed infodump. But you could give it a try and beg some test readers for their take on it.

    ChickenFreak
     
  5. mattrjones
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    mattrjones New Member

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    ChickenFreak's got it... show that background instead of telling it!

    It takes practice, though, and you want to be careful that you don't go out of your way to show that your character loves monkeys or something by throwing in a trip to the zoo that has nothing to do with the story. Subtlety is the key -- you've gotta gracefully slide the details in and make them part of the action whenever possible. Done right, you can show in a few lines what it would take you a few PARAGRAPHS to tell.

    And along the lines of what Cogito said, leaving voids -- so your readers are left feeling curious about your character -- can be REALLY effective. Well-placed voids can make your readers turn page after page after page, hungry for the answers!

    Just make sure you reward them by filling in voids on a regular basis... don't leave them with a growing pile of mysteries and no satisfaction. At the very least, give them enough that they can put the pieces together themselves and feel as though they've figured it out!

    I know I'm always happy when I put two and two together and figure something out while I'm reading, ha ha!
     
  6. LaFeeVerte
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    LaFeeVerte Member

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    I definitely vote option two. Perhaps you can interweave the action and the background?
     
  7. Rassidan
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    Rassidan Senior Member

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    I was having a preoblem with trying to come out and say what was different between my fantasy race and normal humans in the beginning and opted just to drop hints throughout the story. It allowed for my main character to have an edge of mystery that is slowly revealed as the story goes. So needless to say I would say option two myself.
     
  8. CH878
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    CH878 Active Member

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    Thanks so much for all your opinions. You're right, thinking about it. I need to get into the story immediately rather than swamping the reader with background.
     
  9. andrewjeddy
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    andrewjeddy Member

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    I agree, get right into the story. Integrate the background into the action or dialogue. After re-writing the first several chapters of my short story several times. I have decided that the best opening for my story is a dialogue between two of the MCs describing to each other the background. This works well by giving the reader details while getting them interested in the characters and keeping them engaged.
     

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