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Thread: Changing styles?

  1. #21
    Member wannabe1's Avatar
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    Thanks for your input. I'm not quite sure what you mean by 'it needs a little something more', but I will continue to work on it. I did change the opening line to -

    Following their Sunday morning's normal routine, Erin and Craig sat on opposite ends of the couch, in their apartment, reading the paper. The phone rang, interrupting them both and Erin quickly answered. Craig knew they would be soon heading out on a new adventure from the look on his wife’s face after she hung up the phone.

    “Where to this time?”

  2. #22
    Member Rojack79's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wannabe1 View Post
    Thanks for your input. I'm not quite sure what you mean by 'it needs a little something more', but I will continue to work on it. I did change the opening line to -

    Following their Sunday morning's normal routine, Erin and Craig sat on opposite ends of the couch, in their apartment, reading the paper. The phone rang, interrupting them both and Erin quickly answered. Craig knew they would be soon heading out on a new adventure from the look on his wife’s face after she hung up the phone.

    “Where to this time?”
    That right there is great
    It sets the scene, we know where the characters are and what they're doing while they talk. The only other thing I could suggest is to keep us in the moment with more descriptions of there surroundings but that's just me right now. As an example,

    Alex rummaged through his trunk and let out a whoop of delight.

    "At ha!" He held up another shell and placed it in a slot on his bandilier with all of his other shells. Slinging his shotgun over his shoulder he left the train compartment and met up with Fenrir at the on the platform. Giving her a smirk he simply huffed in anticipation.

    "So fuzzball are you ready?" Fenrir smiled as well enveloping him in a warm embrace.

    "With you I can take on the world." Alex just stood there slightly red in the face as he gently stroked Fenrir's back. Her tail swished from side to side as she from in his sent and hummed softly.

    Well that was a torrent born of spur of the moment inspiration. Sorry to unload all of that but I do hope it helped in clarifying my meaning of a little something more.
    This might not be my best work but that just means there's room to improve.

    I don't have a big ego. You just can't comprehend my greatness!

  3. #23
    Patron Foxee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wannabe1 View Post
    So, what's the right way to begin a story?
    That is a great can o' worms question! I don't believe there is a pat, formulaic answer though definitely some things to think about.

    From a drafting standpoint:

    I am not as experienced a writer as you (my hat is off to thirty years of working at this, not easy) but what I have learned to do for my own stories is to start in the best place I can think of, where it feels natural, and remember it's the first draft. Write for several pages (or the whole story if it's a short or flash fiction) and then when I go back to consider the beginning, I start by looking for where the 'Real Beginning' is. Because I know I will start with throat-clearing as my thoughts amble into order and there will be a point where it turns interesting. I delete everything up to that point and work from there.

    From an interest standpoint:

    I have to care about what you're talking about just as soon on that page as you can get me to do it. I don't know your MC yet, I don't know your world yet, I have no rapport built so just as quickly as you possibly can, you've got to get me, the reader, to care. Kind of a tall order, I think.

    I love great first lines that are well-crafted:

    Tuesday was a fine California day, full of sunshine and promise, until Harry Lyon had to shoot someone at lunch. —Dean Koontz, Dragon Tears

    Sam Vimes sighed when he heard the scream, but he finished shaving before he did anything about it. - Terry Pratchett, Night Watch

    I can't remember the exact line from James Lee Burke's Heartwood at the beginning of one of the chapters but it was something like, "I knew it was a mistake when I set out to do it." No way am I not reading that chapter to find out what the mistake was.

    The problem or conflict or tension is what the reader is really interested in.

    Yes, that's a generalization but I think it's true, at least to begin the story. I wish I could remember what I was reading that gave the advice "Don't go past the first page without presenting the problem if you can help it."

    Another bit of advice I heard is to start out having your character want something, even if it is only a cup of water.


    That's a smattering of thoughts on the subject at least.

  4. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Rotten View Post
    Strictly linear stories have been passe for more than a decade now.
    Nowadays most stories mix it up.
    This is simply because story-telling, like anything else, is continually evolving.
    This is because lazy writers write lazy stories, and the reading public have become tolerant of it.

    Prologues, flashbacks, and almost every other sort of non-linearity are all crutches for authors that can't be bothered to weave in that information elegantly into a cohesive, linear plot. If you need to start off your story with an explosion, then in the very next chapter jump back a day or a week or a month before, then that's a sign your story is not interesting enough without a contrived hook.

    People hear about "in medias res" and wrongly assume it means "Start in the middle, then go back and start where you originally wanted so you can dump a bunch of boring information on the reader." In reality, it's meant to be the Star Wars: A New Hope approach - start in the middle, and never look back. If something is important to the story, it'll come up in the story. If it's not, it won't. But if you have to disruptively force in information to make your story make sense, or worse, to show off just how fantastic you think you are at worldbuilding, then you're doing yourself and your readers a disservice.
    "Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing." - Benjamin Franklin

    "I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story." - Tom Clancy

  5. #25
    Start with a conflict and it shouldn't be an issue.
    Last edited by Theglasshouse; February 19th, 2020 at 09:27 PM.
    I would follow as in believe in the words of good moral leaders. Rather than the beliefs of oneself.
    The most difficult thing for a writer to comprehend is to experience silence, so speak up. (quoted from a member)

  6. #26
    You've got the start of a good story here.

    Nevertheless, I've got two observations.

    The first paragraph spends a lot of words describing the telephone. While that particular phone says something about the couple, it doesn't say enough IMHO to warrant its placement at the very beginning of the story. For readers like me who accept or reject a story based on the first few words, or at most the first two sentences, we'd have no idea of the intrigue that awaits us later in the scene. Start with Erin's cryptic "yes", and you'll have the reader wondering what she's saying yes to after saying nothing for so many minutes, and that reader might want to read the next sentence, just to find out more about that phone call. Writing a page-turner is all about the reader wanting to read just one more sentence, and then just one more.

    The other observation is that everything after the first paragraph is dialogue - talking heads. While it's interesting dialogue, perhaps this would be a good place to salt in some action or description. Aside from being blonde, I don't learn much about Erin's appearance, and nothing about Craig's. I know they're in a living room, but I can't picture it, other than for the telephone. Some contextual description would help get you closer to your 100,000 words. Some action - pulling a luger out of a drawer, crumpling the newspaper, Craig touching Erin in some meaningful way - might advance the story more than the bare dialogue.

    Aside from those two observations, you've established some interesting characters heading towards a dangerous future. Good first scene.

  7. #27
    As for false starts: If a gun is introduced in the first act, then it had better be fired by the third.

  8. #28
    I actually liked your first intro better than the 2nd one.
    In the first intro, we at least get a peek into their lives, albeit a boring peek...
    In the second you go straight into back-story mode, with nothing fun or interesting about the characters.
    The 2nd intro felt like you were rushing to tell the story.
    ...and way too much whitespace in the dialog.

    If you wanna start with the phonecall, then have the couple doing something something interesting and atytpical...something that speaks to the nature of their relationship. Could they be fencing...or even in the middle of some role-playing when they get the call-interruptus?
    He could be the hard-nosed detective busting the hooker when the call comes in and ruins date night. (She tells him next time HE gets to be the hooker.) Y'see where I'm going with this? Make us fascinated with this couple, right from the beginning.

  9. #29
    There is a book called HOOKED, wherein Les talks about the mission of an opening. More importantly, he writes about all those things that tend to get in the way of that mission. It isn't that you can't do certain things. It's that if you open with stuff in the way, it makes the chore more difficult.

    So, what is the chore? The chore is to fully engage the reader. Now, wannabe1 made mention of books of old. The dude found a book, maybe the only one in town, and of course he's going to read the whole thing. The standards and capacity to produce great literature were also considerably lower. One did not have resources at hand to learn the craft, hone the craft, easily edit the book,compare, etc. WE ARE BETTER. Hands down. That's not to say that folks don't pump out lots of crap, but at the top, the work is stellar. Partially this is because we know more and can definitely produce more, with lots of eyes on the product and a world of possibilities to compare it to.

    That said, my advice is to stop reading the classics and set a higher standard of only reading work produced over the past fifty years. This gives you a much better shot at actually knowing what you are doing.

    Take for example, this line: "
    Older stories always seem to begin with enough background information meant (I guess) to entice the reader... " Whew.That's loaded. For the most part, background information is going to do the opposite from entice a reader. It's major on the list of things to avoid in the critical space of an opening, for precisely that reason.

    Any opening has things that need done. We need to get the reader onboard, produce a world that feels real and lived in, include the genre, coerce the reader to turn the page, make it all look effortless. Instead, we find ourselves OUT OF STORY, OUT OF VIEW, OUT OF OUR MINDS, giving INFO. Which way is that story. Oh, that’s right, it’s forward. If the story was backwards, why didn’t you start there?


    An opening page is a couple hundred words. No space on the planet is more precious real estate than those first couple hundred words. This is because the page does not get turned until the reader is convinced that the writer is worth the effort of moving her fingers to do it. If you spend that time info dumping history or facts upon the reader, that minimal amount of effort isn’t worth it. The reader is already convinced that this writer isn’t good enough to pull it off. And, the fact of the matter is, they're not. Any decent writer, in 2020, knows better. If they don't, then they're so good at other things that their mistake is overlooked.

  10. #30
    Good points, and I own the book. It's worth reviewing. He talks about setting, character introduction, language, opening line, backstory, the setup, "the initial surface problem," the story problem, and the inciting incident. He says no backstory at the beginning, at least a glimpse of setting, memorable opening lines and language. There's more to it. In other words he does mention what can go wrong and right at the very beginning of the story which is what this thread's subject about. It's more complex and these can all be valid talking points for discussion. People have different opinions. That is they have agreements and disagreements on each, and what each means, and quantiles, or whether there should be these in the beginning.
    Last edited by Theglasshouse; March 5th, 2020 at 06:04 PM.
    I would follow as in believe in the words of good moral leaders. Rather than the beliefs of oneself.
    The most difficult thing for a writer to comprehend is to experience silence, so speak up. (quoted from a member)

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