Monday, March 10, 2008
Rules, Rules, Rules--Starting With Action
We've gone through the four "writing rules" I listed in my first post on this subject. However, I invited you readers to add some "rules" of your own you'd like to see covered. We'll go through those this week.
The first one--noted by two people: Start in the middle of action.
The other rules we discussed last week focus more on individual sentences. This rule deals with story structure. Where to start the story? As one reader asked--how do you start in the middle of the action when readers don't even know who your character is yet? Why should they care what's happening if they don't yet care about the character?
Very good questions. And something that could be taught on for months. Actually, I already have. There are two series in the archives here on Forensics and Faith that speak to this issue. The first is the teaching on "Backstory." The second is an eleven-part series on "Creating Character Empathy."
The backstory series teaches you how to drop in bits of information without slowing the action. The Creating Character Empathy series discusses ten techniques to help readers connect with your character right away, with an example from a novel for each technique.
It does matter to a degree what genre you're writing in. Suspense readers are notoriously impatient and want action immediately. Women's fiction readers tend to be more relaxed about seeing some backstory up front. Still, the tendency for writers is to "information dump" in the first chapter. So no matter what genre you're writing in, the lessons on backstory may be helpful to you. As with the other rules we discussed last week, when you use backstory, it should be purposeful, for the best telling of the story. Too many times backstory is just thrown in because the writer thinks it has to be there--when it doesn't.
If you're having problems with where to start your story, I urge you to revisit both of these series. The end of each part links to the next one.
Tomorrow we'll look at the rule on action/reaction sequences.
Read Part 9