Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A to Z: Introductions

2017 THEME: Editing Fiction (Because that's what I'm in the middle of doing.)

What is the Blogging from A to Z challenge and where can I find more participants? Right here.



Introducing your story to a reader starts at the beginning.  There are four beginnings we're going to touch on today, but we'll start with the obvious: The beginning of the story.

When editing, you want to make sure your story is starting at the actual beginning of the story. This point will depend on your genre and your voice, but generally this isn't where your character is waking up or taking in the picturesque scenery. It's where something is happening.

When writing that first draft, we start where we think the story starts, but that doesn't mean we were correct. Take a good look at the whole story now that its finished and make sure its the closest to that something moment.

The something can seem like a delicate balancing point. I don't mean where someone is suddenly on fire or a car crash / gun fight / bar brawl, but the point where the thing that launches your character into the story happens. Something interesting. It doesn't have to be huge with fireworks and flashing lights, but make it catchy. Make us want to know more about the character, situation, or world around them.

Next up: the beginning of your chapters. If you're switching POV with each chapter, make it clear which head we're in in the opening sentences so we're not floundering. While I enjoy a good mystery, whose head I'm now in isn't one of them. Make it clear if we've jumped to a new setting or advanced a significant amount of time from the previous chapter. And again, we should start with something interesting happening.

Now we're going to get nitpicky, take a look the beginning of your paragraphs. Do three in a row start with the same person's name or word? Time for some rewriting.

Maximum picky level: start looking at the beginning of your sentences. Last week I picked up a book where every sentence in the long opening paragraph began with "He". You would be correct if you guessed that I put that book right back on the shelf. Also watch for starting a sentence with the same word that ended the last one. It's distracting when reading.

Have any story introductions that drove you nuts or a favorite to share?


19 comments:

  1. Nicely said.

    I have one story, which is a novella, where I start it right at the point the story pivots for the protagonist, and I've had some people say they loved that it started them right into story, and others say they wanted more intro. I'm converting the novella into a novel, and i am putting more on the front, because the pace of the novel is slightly different.

    Thanks to my English teacher at primary school, I am intensely aware of the reuse of words in sequential sentences and paragraphs - she drummed it into us :)

    Sophie
    Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles - Dragon Diaries

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    1. Finding just that right spot to start can be hard. Good luck with the novel!

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  2. I have a tendency to start each sentence with the same word. Something that I try to manage. Periodically, it will slip past me as I am focused on the content. Good to have a reminder.

    Emily | My Life In Ecuador | Iguanas at our bedroom window

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  3. My first draft is usually a crazy mess and what I start with ends up getting cut. I like stories that take their time and slowly build the world being created...as a writer of supernatural fiction, I spend a lot of time figuring out the "rules" of the magical world I'm creating. http://luanakrausestorymagic.blogspot.com/

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    1. Many of my first drafts look the same way. There's often a lot of editing that goes into the first chapters to make them mesh with everything that came after.

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  4. Starting a sentence with the same word...usually she is one of my biggest problems.
    Great post!

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  5. Hi Jean - I'm sure I'd fail at this ... but when I pick up that I'm duplicating words ... I try and amend ... but excellent post to remind us of what to do .. cheers Hilary

    http://positiveletters.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/i-is-for-ice-age-art.html

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  6. I am used to academic writing, where every paragraph has to begin with a new thought, and then expand on it. This way, when you have to read 500+ books for research, you can just read the first sentence of each paragraph, and get an idea of what the book is about... saves time. :D

    The Multicolored Diary: WTF - Weird Things in Folktales

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  7. I'm still struggling with the first chapter of my WIP. Finally had to let it go and will see how it stands up to my initial revisions.

    I: Isla Mujeres & Indiana
    DB McNicol, author & traveler
    Theme: Oh, the places we will go!

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  8. Good summary. And no, I don't think it's nitpicky to address the intro to paragraphs. Often, writers forget the lessons they learned in school about constructing an effective paragraph.

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  9. Thanks for the reminders. I constantly edit and edit and edit once again. Are we ever really satisfied with our stories... LOL I look forward to checking back here.

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  10. Great tips. I really have to watch not to start every sentence with "he said", "he did", "he went"... it's so easy to do.

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  11. Constantly saying "said" is one thing I try to avoid, by looking for alternate dialog tags.

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    1. "Said" is one of those invisible words. It's often better to just use it, rather than keep trying to find other words. Only use variants like "stated" or "declared" sparingly, and only if that is really what the character does.

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  12. Another great post. Lots to think about, I can’t say I have ever noticed starting words or sentence. I have certainly had books that I didn’t enjoy right from the first few paragraphs, I would be curious now if any of the points you mentioned contributed to that.

    Thanks for visiting my blog.
    Is Everything a Weapon
    Shari

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  13. I have a list of my own over-worked words that I search for late in the editing process.

    As for openings...lots of books open with the key moment, and then go back and fill in the background. I'm not sure I'm wild about that approach, either. But you do have to start with something compelling. So if the MC is just waking up, it probably had better be an abrupt awakening to something not so fun.
    The Ninja Librarian’s Favorite Characters

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    1. Finding just that right mix of fleshing things out as the story unfolds can be difficult. Adding that later sounds like one way to work around that issue, though I'm with you on not being wild about it.

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  14. These are excellent points! I don't think i have ever looked at introductions in this light! I will now be looking out.. i can see how these would be a good sign of a well written and edited book.

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