Friday, September 7, 2012

Friday Tidbits

Hold that Explosion, Thank You!

One of the most common rules for modern novel writing is this: "Start with action!"

The idea being, if you can catch your reader's attention with some exciting, explosive, action-filled scene, they'll have to keep reading to find out the whys and wherefores.

Personally, I'm not a fan.

The best books I have ever read start with a certain amount of conflict, true. But they don't start with those big, movie-sequence, action scenes.

Because, really, why should I care that some gorgeous woman is being chased down by the steely-eyed gunman? I don't know her or her story, whether or not she deserves this chase. Why should I care if the stoic soldier fights off the marauding hordes at the wall of his city? For all I know, I should be rooting for the marauding hordes!

Much better to start with a smaller conflict. Give your reader a chance to get to know your character. Give your reader some tension and some questions, but don't give them BIG tension or HUGE questions just yet. Let's see that character in play for a bit and get attached first.

Think about your opening sequence. Too much action? Too little? How is your character introduced?


Kessie said...

Another one of my non-favorites is the opening with the hero going, "I'm so boooored! I have awesome powers/magic sword/magic in general and there's nothing to do!"

Makes me want to put the book down right there.

An enchanting intro I read recently was The Palace of Laughter. It starts with a creepy circus coming to down in the middle of the night a la Something Wicked This Way Comes. Then an orphan gets awakened by a talking tiger. I was hooked from then on.

Arielle Melody Bailey said...

This was very encouraging! It is nice to know that a professional writer dislikes the, "Start with action!" rule. I have a few stories I have started with an action sequence, but I generally prefer to introduce my characters with a quieter scene, and give people a chance to properly meet- at least the first character- before bringing in the action.

Taisia TinĂºviel said...

I have read many books that start that way. They do keep me reading, but I don't know who to root for! And seeing as all the 'cool' books are written that way, I always feel that if I want to get my book published, it needs to be 'cool' too. :P I love these Friday tidbits! They're so helpful! Thanks Mrs. Stengl! :)

Brandi Boddie said...

I tend to agree with you, Anne. I think the reason for those BIG scenes started because of the misconception that books should be similar to watching a movie in your head. Well, that doesn't work all of the time. A book is not a screenplay. Thanks for the tidbit!

Victoria said...

This is a very helpful suggestion! I have found that books starting with action seem like they begin with the climax...and when the action drops, I lose interest. Anne, what is your favorite kind of book beginning? More specifically, I mean. A lone person crying? The middle of an extremely important discussion? A frantic search for someone or something missing?

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

You know what, Victoria? That is such a good question that it inspired me to write up a whole blog post devoted to it. So I'll tell you here in the comments that my favorite type of book beginning is something I call a "Declarative Opening."

But I will give you the complete answer in next week's Friday Tidbit! :)

Victoria said...

Wow, cool! Thank you! I can't wait for the next Friday tidbit. :)

Molly said...

This was something I needed. I used to do that all the time, thinking that that was what kept people reading. I tend to do it sometimes now, but after reading this, well, it has really helped me.
Thanks for all the Friday Tidbits, they REALLY help me with my story writing.

Rachel6 said...

I'm reading book 3 of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, and it begins with a witch and her cats discussing an annoying person. Calm domestic scene, but so very entertaining!

I'm very unsure of my opening scene. It moves to conflict pretty quickly, but it's narrated by my MC and I can't find a place to use his name for something like 5 pages...