Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Nice to Meet You!

I love Bernita’s reminder today, to:

"make sure each and every page contains
something special for the reader: an insight,
a line of exquisite description, witty or illuminating
dialogue, a bit of shock ’n awe, whatever --
to carry them forward, to sustain their
interest in the unfolding tale."

Lainey, yesterday, was searching to find her beginning. I struggle with that, too, except I tend to have no backstory, no set up. I take the in medias res way too literally, and I need to fill in more, LOL.

But, in the end, I strive to have my characters make intriguing and good first impressions. Rather than tell or even show through backstory, I put them out their doing something relative to the story arc, in a way that the reader can make their own judgments. (And hopefully I’ve slanted things in my characters’ favor.)

It’s like when you meet someone in real life. You see hundreds of people a day in the store and around town, but do you talk to them all? Of course not. They have to do something that makes you notice them. And then once you notice them enough to slow your errands down and actually talk to them, then you have to find something you can relate to.

"They" say that closer relationships are made when you go through a stressful event together. I suppose that’s one more reason to start in the action. If your reader relates to your character, and they go through a stressful event together, then you’ve got a relationship.

But you know, every time you draw a generalization in an attempt to make sense of the craft, you lose all the other stuff that works, too, all the exceptions and all the outside-of-the-box thinking. And I had a friend who opened with backstory every single time. A whole chapter of it. Somehow, it was interesting and perfect.

Anyway, have you been to In For Questioning? It has awesome audio interviews with authors.

How do you like to start your beginnings?

7 bonus scribbles:

Barrie 1/23/2008 02:56:00 PM  

I think of where I'd like to start, that is, where I'd naturally start the story. Then I fast forward and start there instead. It's all a judgment call though, isn't it?

Laura J. Thompson 1/23/2008 06:09:00 PM  

It seems to me that where you start the story isn't as important as how it moves the story forward. For example, backstory that is exciting to the reader can actually prepare them for a fast-paced journey. But starting in the middle of the action tends to grip the reader on an entirely different level. I think it's largely author's preference.

spyscribbler 1/23/2008 06:19:00 PM  

Barrie, that's a good plan, LOL! That's funny. It is definitely a judgment call.

Good point, Laura! Ted Bell starts Hawke with a scene of backstory that's pretty cool. Preference is a big part of it, you're right.

Although, sometimes, it can become obvious when it's too early or too late, LOL.

Edie 1/23/2008 11:59:00 PM  

Eek! I already wrote a blog about beginnings for tomorrow. I got the idea from Lainey's blog too. You'll have to read my blog to see what mine is. Mine takes a different slant on beginnings, but I definitely don't start with backstory.

Aimless Writer 1/24/2008 08:27:00 AM  

I think a beginning needs a great hook. Something to drag the reader into the story.
Next time you're in a book store open some books and read the first page. What did they do to pull you in? I think too much backstory in the beginning slows it down. Better to weave it in along the way.
However! The more famous writers can do whatever the heck they want and people still buy the books because of the name on the cover. I think their name is like a promise. Linda Howard is going to tell me a good story no matter how she starts the book.

spyscribbler 1/24/2008 10:45:00 AM  

LOL, Edie, that's great! I'm heading right over there! I can't wait to read your slant. :-)

Aimless, I think it needs a great hook, too. You're right about the fact that if you have a readership, you don't need to win them over. But there's always the lists and always new readers to want. :-)

I don't know if I said this, but I make it a game to draw the character as quickly as possible in broad outlines, like one sentence. I see if I can make her completely vivid in one sentence, and then I have plenty of time to deepen. Same with setting and mood.

If you can get all that stuff vivid on the first page, then I think you've succeeded in bringing the reader into the story.

Some writers can accomplish this all in a paragraph.

That kicks ass.

Bernita 1/24/2008 12:15:00 PM  

Thank you.
I like in medias res myself.