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message 1: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan New thread on how to do beginnings.

Feeding off comments from P.K. and Ian

P.K, Ian, feel free to repost your comments below.

message 2: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan WRT starts, you can always dump the reader directly into the middle of a big battle, I've seen that done a few times, i.e. Star Wars, Gardens of the Moon, others.

You then have to quickly establish care factor for at least one major character as quickly as possible, and the battle and its consequences must setup the plot.

message 3: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16088 comments Read somewhere an advice to take your best scene from the middle and adapt all the rest to fit -:) Sometimes makes sense, especially for thrillers

message 4: by Graeme (last edited May 24, 2018 02:01AM) (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Thinking about starts.

Consider the first page, what makes the reader get to the point of turning that page to read the second page?

What promises are you making to the reader on the first page, and by the third page.

I think you need a hook for the reader within the first three pages, and preferably on the first page.

I think you need to have demonstrated to the reader the basic nature of the story (true to the target genre) and the core conflict within the first three pages.


message 5: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11805 comments I tend to write multi-strand stories so it can be a little difficult to choose which strand to start with. My first start with 'Bot War ended up as chapter 7, and the reason was, while it outlined one of the problems of the story quite well, and was retained because of that, it did not contain explicitly any of the main characters, and worse still, the first sentence was a sort of philosophical social comment on the society at that point in the future. So besides outlining the problem, it provided a picture of what society was like then. I moved it for later because it struck me that was not exactly a thrilling start, although interestingly, when I showed it to a writers' group, nobody mentioned that problem.

Graham mentioned you had to hook them in the first page, which leaves open the question, what comprises a hook? In my case, what I struggle with more than anything else is the first sentence. I usually have many goes at that, because eI think the first sentence has to strike an interest. But then there is the problem, what some find interesting, others find the need to say, "Oh dear!"

message 6: by Graeme (last edited May 24, 2018 08:51PM) (new)

Graeme Rodaughan For me, a hook is any interesting problem.

So, for example, (considering a Romance Genre), the story will be about two people finding true love, - but that's not on the first page. :-).

In the first page, angry words are spoken, terrible claims are made, crockery is thrown and smashes against the walls, and someone storms from the house.

Our protagonist, puts their face in their hands, and tearfully exclaims, "When will I find true love?"

There's external conflict, there's the core inner conflict of the protagonist and the goal that they need to fill.

Plus the goal is hugely relatable - nearly everyone wants true love, and as we all know, true love is hard to find, and the path to true love never runs smooth.

So - get some external conflict to catch the eye, than hammer home a highly relatable core conflict which captures the key theme and genre of the novel.

message 7: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11805 comments Graeme seems to have romance sized up. For a crime thriller, I guess you could start with someone getting murdered. But some other genres are more difficult.

message 8: by Graeme (last edited May 24, 2018 10:33PM) (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Ian wrote: "I tend to write multi-strand stories so it can be a little difficult to choose which strand to start with. ..."

Which strand has the most emotional content, the greatest emotional contrasts, and impacts the MC the most. It may be best to define the key narrative thread and determine that the others are sub-plots.

message 9: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6184 comments Graeme, you present a pretty good formula for telling a story: "There's external conflict, there's the core inner conflict of the protagonist and the goal that they need to fill." I know that's only one way to go about telling a story. What are some other workable story formulas?

message 10: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Hi Scout, that's a very good question. I'm blinkered by the fact that I see conflict as essential to a story, i.e. no conflict = no story.

But conflict doesn't have to be between a protagonist and an antagonist.

In a survival story, conflict is with the natural world, surviving isolation on a frozen tundra for example.

We could have a corporate setting where the conflict is all about competing ambitions and maneuvers that never resort to violence.

the number one thing is that there has to be a gap between what the protagonist wants, and what they have got resulting in a call to action on their part.

Then there is a series of ongoing obstacles as the world stubbornly refuses to conform to the protagonists desires, calling forth ever greater exertions until the conflict climaxes in a specific sequence of events that irrevocably delivers what the protag wanted (Triumph) or doesn't deliver (Failure) or delivers something unexpected (Ironic, or Phyric victory).

Whatever happens - it should involve irrevocable outcomes at the end.

message 11: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11805 comments Graeme, the problem with picking the most emotional strand is that this shouldn't be on page 1. I think the idea should be to build up to it. I agree there should be something that either picks the main character, or identifies the core conflict, but it may not be desirable to do both. Or maybe I am wrong there :-(

message 12: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 3079 comments Not sure I've cracked it in any of mine.
First ever book - Part one of 3 part thriller
"The four men had met for the third time in two weeks." in a prologue

"The Chief Medical Officer, CMO, Professor Kieran Graves, sat at his desk." From my survival catastrophe

“Stars Ix! Get us out of this mess!” From my second part of sci-fi series

"Another shift in the restaurant is due today." From my most recent romance.

Only the sci-fi one is close to an instant suck in but then agin in my own reading I am willing to give a book a paragraph or two to draw me in not just a sentence.

I know a good editor would advise different starts but even "One upon a time...." is not particularly gripping mind you Star Wars did ok out of it.

message 13: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Star Wars dumped the audience into the middle of a one-sided battle.

message 14: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Hi Philip, are those first lines?

I like this one the best, “Stars Ix! Get us out of this mess!” From my second part of sci-fi series

message 15: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan My first lines from my first book, are,

Prologue: Thunder boomed and echoed across a sky howling with madness.

1st Scene: The white limousine purred down the darkened street.

I think capturing a mood is the best anyone could hope to do with a first sentence, unless it's a statement by either the MC or their main Nemesis.

A statement like.

"Kill all the Heroes!"

Might work well if uttered by a supervillain in a short intro scene that quickly shifts to the naive young fellow who is about to discover his secret destiny...

message 16: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11805 comments Here is what I think is my best starting sentence:
"Pallas Athene was in disgrace, but it was worth every gram of it for she had immortalised her name over three thousand years before she was born."

I like, but it says nothing about the main character, although by page three the reader knows Athene needs a specific sort of character, and she will have to mould that character to what she needs, and the primary problem is outlined for the series. However, the reason I like that sentence is I hope it will make the reader think.

message 17: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 3079 comments Graeme wrote: "Hi Philip, are those first lines?

I like this one the best, “Stars Ix! Get us out of this mess!” From my second part of sci-fi series"

Yes that is first line from the sci-fi with the AI responding "Maneuvering" and the MC telling it to "Maneuver faster." The second line is good indication of my MC's character and relationship with her AI.
As a second book in a series the character is already established, I know some readers did not read part 1 first adding to complications.

message 18: by Graeme (last edited May 25, 2018 10:43PM) (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Hi Philip, wrt to a series, the continuing books probably don't need a huge kick-off first line/first page, however I strongly suspect it doesn't hurt.

Noting in all this my own preference for action/thriller stories and associated tropes.

message 19: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 3079 comments Thought I'd take a look at some classic novels

Catch 22 - "it was love at first sight"
Romeo and Juliet - "In the city of Verona were two rich and powerful families...."
Cather In The Rye - "If you really want to hear about it..."
1984 - "It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking 13"

Found this review

message 20: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan That's a great line from 1984, of course you'd want to read further.

message 21: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11805 comments Then again, there was, "It was a dark and stormy night." That may be the most famous first line ever because who has not heard of it?

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