1. Skelly Jack

    Skelly Jack Member

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    How do you make a smooth transition from the intro into the story?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Skelly Jack, Dec 28, 2018.

    A problem I run into when writing my introduction is how I transition into the actual story. It usually feels as if I'm hitting a sudden stop in a car and then suddenly speeding in a turn to a different direction. How do I make this change feel more natural?
     
  2. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    9 out of 10 times I’d say get rid of the introduction. However, it is hard to say for sure without more detail about what you’re trying to do and why you feel the transition is too abrupt.
     
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  3. Skelly Jack

    Skelly Jack Member

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    I'm going for a specific kind of feeling, and the intro I have is meant to convey that. It does, but something about it makes transitioning difficult. I'm wondering if I've included useless information, which is something I've been guilty of in the past.
    I suppose the only way I can tell you what it is I'm looking for is to give you an example of what I've written, which isn't much. If you'd like, I can post that to show you.
     
  4. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    I'm happy to look. You can post it or send it to me by PM.
     
  5. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I can only say your story should give the feeling you're going for. Because that feeling must be sustained by the story. If it is not present in the story, then your introduction, even if the feeling you're looking for has been achieved, will be of no purpose at all. How the reader feels the story should not be separate from the story itself.

    Cut the intro. Readers don't care about what feeling you want them to feel - they only care about the story. This reminds me of all the crappy prologues I've read of late - it's as if the authors are actively trying to kill their books. The latest one involves a 3 page graduation speech saying everything you'd expect from a graduation speech. Chapter 1 starts with the character saying "You're cutting my dole money?"

    I'll let you decide which opening is more interesting to the reader.

    Again, readers care only about the story. If you can't make them feel what you intend for them to feel with the story, you've failed anyway. The intro ain't gonna save it. If anything, it's gonna bore the reader as it is without context and they haven't invested enough to care yet.
     
  6. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    My immediate response when I saw the thread title was, "The intro IS the story."

    What is in your intro, that isn't story?
     
  7. Skelly Jack

    Skelly Jack Member

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    What you say holds merit, but can't help but think about successful writers who implemented this sort of thing into their stories. Stephen King, J.R.R. Tolkien, and J.K. Rowling were a few that had slow starts. Harry Potter was very difficult to read at first because it was purposefully written to show just how boring Harry's life was before he was thrust into the wizarding world.
     
  8. Skelly Jack

    Skelly Jack Member

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    Not what I meant, exactly, but you are correct. I meant more about transitioning from setting the stage to the point of view of your character.
     
  9. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    But it was still, IMO, "story". It was events and characters.

    When you say intro, are you talking about events that aren't maximum excitement, or are you talking about backstory?
     
  10. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Slow openings are OK. An opening just has to be interesting. Something that starts slow but is establishing character, etc. can be effective. An infodump is a very hard sell for a modern reader (or publisher, for that matter). That's not to say that you can't find books that start with some brief background sketch of the world, but they're not the norm and it is very hard to make it work well, imo.
     
  11. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Sure, prologues aren't evil. But the number of writers who use them well is limited. Incidentally, Harry's boring life wasn't the prologue - that was Chapter 1. If I remember the prologue correctly, and it was memorable, it was when Dumbledore put Harry onto his aunt's doorstep, right? I also enjoyed the prologue in Elantris by Brandon Sanderson, another successful author. I'm not "against" prologues or introductions of any kind, but I'm suspicious whether it's been done well. I'm also a very picky reader so I'm probably not the norm anyway :)

    I see from your reply to Chicken you meant setting rather than an "introduction". Your setting should lead naturally into the action of the story - if it doesn't, again, my question is: is it necessary? Is there some reason why you can't start with the action and then let the setting reveal itself through the course of the story?
     
  12. Skelly Jack

    Skelly Jack Member

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    It is backstory. A set-up to bring the reader into the world with the main character.
     
  13. Skelly Jack

    Skelly Jack Member

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    With the particular story I have, I feel that starting with the action may give away too much information about the story, but I see what you're saying. This is all very helpful. Do you have an example of how this can be used? If my intro is just one big "infodump" as Steerpike says, I can see how that would be causing me some trouble.
     
  14. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    I don't know what you're worried about giving away, but if you think going straight into the action don't work, pull back from that a bit. It's fine. What I'd say is get as close to that beginning action as you can in a way that still allows the story to work. Alternatively, you could rewrite the action opening so that it doesn't give away anything that you don't want the reader to know yet.
     
  15. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I see above you tell Chicken what you're writing is backstory - that's rarely a good way to start a book, unless you're a very skilled writer. Everything can be done in writing - it just matters that it's done well.

    I'm not sure I get what example you're asking for - an example of what? Of starting with action? Or of starting with setting that is done well? For setting, I loved Hunger Games - it's a very slow opening really, a whole paragraph just describing Katniss' sister and mother sleeping, but it tells you so so much about the characters and their world.

    Is there a particular reason why you want to hide information from the reader?
     
  16. Skelly Jack

    Skelly Jack Member

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    That makes sense. Thank you so much for the help!
     
  17. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I think that it's usually a mistake to start with backstory. You don't have to start with the biggest events, but I think that you should start with events.

    For what it's worth, I don't regard the opening of The Hobbit or the first Harry Potter books as backstory.
     
  18. exweedfarmer

    exweedfarmer Contributor Contributor

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    Describe how the driver/passengers feel. Are they sick to their stomach from G-force? Anybody with a bad heart? Did they leave the stove burner on? That works even if the car is metaphorical.
     
  19. Skelly Jack

    Skelly Jack Member

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    Think of being in the car with a driver that you absolutely do not trust and they are looking at their phone. They don't notice the stop light until it's almost too late. Then they suddenly shout "PLOT TWIST" and speed off in another direction.
     
  20. exweedfarmer

    exweedfarmer Contributor Contributor

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    That works for me.
     
  21. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Supporter Contributor

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    I don't usually think of the intro as needing a transition. I just start the story and keep moving forward I guess. Tools like the three act structure are one example of how a deliberately structured plot can move between the introductory first act and the journey that is the middle, or second act. This transition is marked by a major crisis, which forces the hero to make a resolution. Though in my book, this crisis occurs 40,000 words in. I don't follow the three act structure so much, but do think of its milestones and how they map into my plot.
     
  22. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    An experiment: remove the intro. All of it. Then read the actual story and see where a reader might get confused. Or recruit a beta reader to tell you where they get confused.
     
  23. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Contributor Contributor

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    Skip intro.

    Take everything you would have in the intro inside the story. Then there is not much point to intro.

     
  24. Aled James Taylor

    Aled James Taylor Contributor Contributor

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    The beginning of a novel should set the scene and introduce the characters. Where does the story play? When (if it's historical or future)? If it's modern-day, the reader will probably assume this. Is the MC male or female, young or old? I wouldn't just state these things, write something that illustrates them, revealing the details to the reader.

    Stories usually start with some problem, then the characters work towards a solution and then finally there is a solution. Your novel may start with a description of a typical day, and then something unusual happens.

    When you include details are important. Readers will imagine your scenes and characters. Their imaginings may be different to yours. You should either describe details early on, when you introduce the character or locations, or leave them ambiguous. If, half way through your book you write, 'she combed her long blond hair', the reader may think, 'I imagined her as a short haired brunette'. This would be jarring. You either need to describe her hair early on when you introduce the character, or never mention her hair at all.

    In your initial descriptions, you need enough information to guide the reader to picture the scene and characters in a way that will not cause jarring later on.
     
  25. mrieder79

    mrieder79 Probably not a ground squirrel Contributor

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    I cant tell from your post whether you have finished the story yet. I recommend you finish the story before worrying about what to cut or include. Just get your thoughts on paper and leave these questions for the editing process. If you have finished the story, then cut everything that isnt vital to the plot, character development, or setting development. If done properly introductions can be very engaging and effective in setting the mood. Ideally, they naturally flow into the first scene through a logical flow of ideas. Of course, they have to be done properly.

    I seem to recall that Revival by Stephen King had a very good introduction which flowed naturally into the story.

    If you want to PM it to me I will look over the intro and give you my thoughts.

    Hope this helps and best of luck.
     

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