Monday, December 31, 2012

Is The Story's Conflict Apparent Immediately?

There is a fine line of starting too soon and starting too late. This is really a struggle many authors face so if you are struggling, don't worry, there are others like you.

The biggest problem a lot of authors have writing single title books is the conflict simply doesn't show up until too far into the book. There is a belief that since we have 100,000 words to work with, we simply don't have to rush things. Instead, the author takes far too much time developing his or her world; exploring the characters goals, motivations and conflicts; or simply providing huge amounts of back story the author feels is necessary to "truly appreciate the story." The result of this is boredom. Your reader will give up too soon and not wait around for the good stuff later on.

I think it is also important to remember that most editors and agents only do read a partial of your submission. They may only ask for the first three chapters or they may ask for a full, but the decision is often made after the first three chapters anyway. You simply have to hook them much sooner. We are reading your story just like the your potential readers will do. If the book is boring, we move on to our next book in the infamous TO BE READ pile next to our bed.

Now, let's talk about the opposite end of the problem. This is one that often happens with writers in category genres. This is also the reason this genre has established a stereotype of being formulaic. In this case, because the author knows there is 1/2-3/4 of the space to tell the story, the author immediately launches a full assault on the reader with the conflict already in place. For many authors, they do this because they were told to start the story with action. Although the book does have action, the problem here lies in the fact that the reader has no context to work with. In simple terms, there are a ton of people doing things around us, we know these actions are probably going to be important, but, because we have no idea who these people are, we have no connection. We have to care about the characters. We have to have a "buy in" and without this, we are lost.

You have to simply take some time to do a little "pre-writing" work. Take some time to decide what the reader truly needs to know and what can probably be held off on until later in the story. Plant some seeds in the head of the characters where we can see that "this could potentially be a problem." For example, if we are introduced to a hero that is a corportate magnate, apparently a work-a-holic, and with a short fuse, we know that this will probably get him in trouble later. We don't know what, but this is clearly a sign of something that might not work out. Maybe it is a suspense novel and the simple line of "Shelly was told by her colleagues at the university that maybe taking a year off of the research would be a wise decision, but she knew the information from this trip to Borneo was crucial and had to happen now" will give the reader the sense this is going to be much bigger than poor Shelly imagined.

Just find that happy medium and think before your write.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for a very informative post. I write MG adventure and historical romance. Your advice works well for any project.