1. Amz

    Amz New Member

    Jan 16, 2020
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    Help with writing a plot.

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Amz, Jan 16, 2020.

    Hello, I'm writing my first story. I'm having problems with first chapter. I was wondering if I can some help.
  2. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

    Mar 7, 2013
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    Hi Amz! I'm one of the forum moderators, and I want to say welcome to the forum. I see this is your first day and your first post.

    First chapters are really hard for me as well. In fact, so hard I tend to write them (or heavily re-write them) after I've finished the whole thing!

    A first chapter launches your story in a particular direction, and you might not be sure what that direction should be until you've finished. My own tendency is to try to pack in too much preliminary information at the start. All the things I reckon a reader has to KNOW before they start. This can result in the dreaded info-dump.

    Better, I think, to just skip over the beginning and jump in to what happens next. And write as if the reader already knows all that preliminary stuff. You can refine that later, during an edit. I think the most important thing to NOT do is let your angst over a bad beginning keep you from writing the rest.

    This is certainly a good thread to get help on your plot development, and you are welcome to ask any questions you have, pertaining to your plot, etc, on this thread. Go ahead and describe your problem, and I'm sure lots of people will jump into the thread to help.

    One wee caveat, though. You are not allowed to post story excerpts here, hoping to get feedback on your actual writing. You can only do that in our Workshop area, and only after you've fulfilled the requirements for posting in the Workshop.

    Please read our New Member Quick Start if you haven't already. The issue of posting actual work and the requirements for doing so are dealt with here.

    And also check out our Forum Rules, for a general overview on how the forum operates.

    Meanwhile, feel free to explain what problems you're having with the start of your story on this thread, and we'll see what angles we can come up with to help.

    Again, welcome to the forum. If you have any difficulty settling in, don't hesitate to contact me via a 'conversation' (click my owl avatar and follow the signs) and I'll do my best to help.

    Cheers for now,
    Jan :)
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2020
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  3. TheOtherPromise

    TheOtherPromise Senior Member

    Jan 10, 2020
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    First chapters can be very intimidating, because there is so much pressure to do it right. Just know that your first attempt will not do that. It will likely take multiple edits to get it to the point where it has the appropriate level of polish. With that being the case, there isn't actually any pressure to write the perfect first chapter at the start, since perfecting it will come much later.

    One piece of advice that I've see a lot (though I personally have a hard time following) is to start later in the story and come back to the first chapter after you've already written a fair amount. This way you already know where the story is going and can build the first chapter to compliment that.

    Disclaimer; I'm mostly just regurgitating advice that I've read. I don't likely have any more experience than you do.
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  4. marshipan

    marshipan Contributor Contributor

    Jul 29, 2013
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    I like to start the first chapter mid action or immediately before action takes place. Just plop the character in the middle of a high intensity scene. The scene should also be a kickstarter for the rest of the plot. For instance, it's something that changes the main characters life in some way. Or, it shows something that has been going on that needs to change soon.

    I don't do much explaining in the first chapter. Instead my goal is just to let the reader get to know the main character's personality and life through action. I leave world details for later.

    Without a doubt I always change my first chapter about three times before I'm happy with where the story starts. And usually I change it after writing a significant amount of the story.
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  5. Steve Rivers

    Steve Rivers Contributor Contributor

    Dec 15, 2019
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    Quarantining before it was Cool
    To add to Marshi's point, make sure it includes a hook.
    Ask yourself when you create the scene "Will it leave me asking a question, or wanting to know more about a mystery, problem, or why the action in this scene happened in the first place?"
    Good writing is always about enticing the reader to want to learn more. To do that, it needs to hook.

    *Rummages around for his fishing rod.*
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  6. Maggie May

    Maggie May Active Member

    Jan 9, 2018
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    I agree I tend to put too much into the first chapter. I've also been taken off the path I had intended or where I wanted the story to go. It is still a work in progress.
    jannert likes this.
  7. J.D. Ray

    J.D. Ray Member Supporter Contributor

    Oct 15, 2018
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    Portland, Oregon, USA
    First chapters always make me think of those walking races where people get lined up in chocks like they're taking off in a sprint. At the "go" signal, instead of leaping forward in a sprint, they all stand up and start walking forward.

    If your story has chapters, I presume it's a novella or full novel. Tell it as a short story first; cut it down to just the story. Then start adding to it, beginning, end, and middle until you have a size and format you're happy with. Then trim it with a sword.

    By the way, I have a hard time following my own advice. I usually get a story idea (as in "here's a neat setting, I wonder what's going to happen"), then start writing, from the beginning, shocked as any reader about some of the things that turn up. Often I don't know where the story is going or how it's going to get there. As such, I'm terrible at plots. For my current project, my longest ever at about 50K words and counting, I'm forcing myself to do better. I wrote the prologue, the first chapter, then the epilogue, then mapped out a few things that happen in the middle. Then I proceeded to start writing the story using my old style. But at least I had an end in sight (light at the end of the tunnel that didn't appear to be an oncoming train). After getting stuck, I remembered something one of my favorite authors had done; mapped out a timeline. So I did that. It's full of "events" that will never hit the plot, but help me frame the story.

    Writing is a lot of work, and takes craftsmanship to do well. I've honed my skill at technical writing pretty well, but fiction is another thing entirely, and I'm working on it. People here will help you A LOT. Don't worry about writing poorly and having people laugh at you. This isn't that sort of place.

    What's your story idea? Can you put the idea in three or so sentences?

    Welcome aboard.

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  8. The Multiverse

    The Multiverse Member

    Jan 17, 2020
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    I've personally seen quite a few writers that will start at the end of a story and then figure out the different major plot points that lead up to that ending and THEN they'll start building on that framework.

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