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Author Topic: Blog post: openings trying too hard to start with ACTION to hook the reader  (Read 276 times)
Munley
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« on: August 07, 2017, 05:40:07 AM »

This blog entry says some things about other aspects of a novel opening, as well, but I like what it says about not trying to start with intense movie-style action to hook the reader without giving us any understanding who these intense things are happening to, especially when what follows is a huge drop in intensity by comparison.

http://blog.janicehardy.com/2010/09/250-chances.html

The Shifter, a novel whose first 250 pages are posted, is analyzed as an example of an alternative opening that not only has dramatic tension (not car-chase level) and gives us a character the reader can get to know enough to make us care what will become of her. It also sets up other things for the reader to wonder about and know the outcomes of.

I sat in an elementary-school classroom where the teacher was reading a novel aloud. After the first 2 or 3 pages, she asked students what they were wondering about. She wrote each response on a sticky note. Every single response showed a developing understanding of who some character was and what that character was facing.

For example:
"I wonder if Linda will get to keep the kitten she found under the porch."

(The parents have expressed strong opposing opinions about this already, and the students have learned that Linda typically does not take care of anything. She left her favorite toy in the rain, even after being reminded to bring it in, and she got mad when her parents wouldn't rush out and buy her a new one.)

"I wonder if Linda will run away if she doesn't get to keep the kitten."

As the book went along and some "I wonder statement" got answered, the teacher stuck the sticky not on the page where it did. A lot of the kids remembered that somebody had been wondering about that and were excited to find out, even when it wasn't their own sticky note.

The teacher would ask for more wonder statements as the story developed. So, if Linda got to keep the kitten on the condition that she took care of the litter box and fed her new pet, but did nothing but play with it and leave the work to Mom and Dad . . .

So there are no opening car chases or knives at some anonymous character's throat or anybody screaming excitedly.

Granted, this was a little-kid story, but it's still a case where the experience of suspense didn't rely on a life-or-death situation for complete strangers, and that matters, I think, whether the book is for adults or kids.
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Sarah Ahiers (Falen)
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« Reply #1 on: August 07, 2017, 08:28:48 AM »

Yeah, people always think in media res means to start with action. But it really means start in the middle of things.

The best place you can start is in conflict.
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