Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Do You Know Why We Use...Action in the Beginning

Start with action! Writers scream this to new authors all of the time.

And so they do. Many authors will immediately dive into the action that is the central conflict of the story. They throw us everything they have in those opening pages to "really get things going" and "get the reader involved." Again, however, starting with action, for may new writers, is often done poorly and ends up leaving the readers with a sense of wondering what in the heck just went on. This happens simply because the writer doesn't understand why.

Lately, when writers talk to me about beginnings, I have changed my wording. Instead of saying we start with action, I say we start with "movement". This simple wording change seems to make all of the difference. Now, the writers have the ability to do something other than dive into the central conflict of the story. Please, don't get me wrong. I am not saying to leave the "conflict-action" until too far into the story. Just not that soon.

But why do we want movement in the beginning?

Well, the authors that told you this, in many ways, were right. We want that movement in the beginning of the story to get the reader hooked. It is this opening that sets the tone for the story and gives the reader a sense of what to expect. This is just like an introduction to any form of writing. You don't dive into the thesis immediately, but tease us with a great introduction. Actually, the concept of "It was a dark and stormy night" does just that. Now, in this case, the author is "telling" us what is happening; but, if he or she were to show us by throwing us into the storm, we would have the tone of the story.

Let's try it this way. Think of the beginning of THE LION KING or of MISS SAIGON. Both throw you into the middle of the environment of the story, and in both cases do it with action and movement.

By using movement, the writer can also set the pace of the story. You want the reader to keep flipping the pages. If a writer starts with a ton of narration and scene building, then we have slowed down before we even got started. Wait a page or two before you really dive into that narration. Once you get us "warmed up" you will find that the reader is more accepting.

TOMORROW... Professional Organizations

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for taking the time to post these helpful nuggets of information. They are clearly explained and useful to our writing!