Opening Your Story

Do you read books on how to write?

The latest I read talked about opening a story and checking for four criteria.

Does your opening start with:

  • the protagonist,
  • conflict,
  • movement,
  • setting?

This is a lot for an opening, and I’ve been studying novels to check if authors do this.

The first point, the protagonist, doesn’t seems to happen consistently. There are books that start with the protagonist, the villain, a minor character, or a character that doesn’t appear in the rest of the novel at all. I like all of them. So I guess on this one, you have to decide for yourself if your protagonist is the best place to start. I do agree the protagonist should appear early in the story.

Conflict: This one seems more consistent. Sometimes the conflict is quiet or subtle. Sometimes it’s a full-out battle, but it’s there.

Movement: I find books with no movement boring. Even if the character is walking, it’s better than sitting still, or worse yet, if there’s no mention of what the character’s doing.

Setting: This might only be one word, one line, one paragraph or this could be more. To me the setting it important at the beginning. I like to know where the character is. Are they in a city, in the country, on a mountain or in outer space? This helps me figure out what kind of story I’m reading.

Do you follow any guidelines for opening your story?

Thanks for reading . . .

Novels: Point of a Scene – Is there one or should you cut it?

Is There One or Should You Cut It?

I’ve often read the advice that a novelist should be able to summarize their novel in one to two sentences. This made me start thinking about scenes and chapters.

I asked myself if I knew the point of a scene, and if I didn’t should I cut – yes the dreaded word cut – the scene from the novel? It’s easy to get attached to a scene for many reasons but if there is no point, then I ask you what is the point? J

I challenged myself to go through my latest novel and write one sentence describing the point of the scene.

Taking this one level deeper, and adding a new column to my spreadsheet, I tried to reduce the sentence to one word that described the scene.

This did a couple of things for me.

  1. It showed me what to cut. Ouch.
  2. I helped me organize my chapters into a theme.

The second item was a surprise and created a new way for me to look at organizing chapters.

How do you decide it a scene is needed or not?

Thanks for reading . . .