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Thread: Dark Tidings

  1. #11
    Rogue Mutt
    I would really appreciate a couple of examples of how you'd improve this opening... just a couple of sentences would be brilliant.

  2. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Jayce is right. That's where the story starts. Everybody go back to the first page of their manuscript now...

  3. #13
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Elkins Park PA
    I think my writing pulls the reader in more when other characters join the story and there is plenty of dialogue.
    But if the reader fails to turn to page two, they won't know that. in the words of Sol Stein: “A novel is like a car—it won’t go anywhere until you turn on the engine. The “engine” of both fiction and nonfiction is the point at which the reader makes the decision not to put the book down. The engine should start in the first three pages, the closer to the top of page one the better.”
    I would really appreciate a couple of examples of how you'd improve this opening.
    A few things to keep in mind:

    • Any time the narrator is explaining things to the audience you've stopped entertaining. As Jack Bickham put it:“To describe something in detail, you have to stop the action. But without the action, the description has no meaning.”

    • When you find yourself using terms that are relative, like "some, many, etc.," or terms like "He could see," which are general, you're probably talking about the story, not presenting what matters to the protagonist. And story lies in what matters to that character.

    Look at the opening:
    Way back in the medieval mists of time, long before most people counted which century was which, Tung shivered violently on the ice-cold stone floor of the executioner’s dungeon.
    You open this with someone who cannot be heard talking about the setting, in general. But it's Tung's story. And the reader wants to live the scene in real time, as Tung. So why not begin with him. The term "executioner’s dungeon" pretty well places the reader on the scene. And at this time the reader doesn't need to know the country or century in order to follow the story. Nor do we need to know that the dungeon was filled with crud. He's ignoring it, so why does it matter to us? We've seen enough films to know what the term dungeon means.

    He's shivering. Does "violently really add much that's necessary? Without that, we could open with, "Tung shivered on the ice-cold stone floor of the executioner’s dungeon." But that's passive, a factoid. How about letting Tung set the scene? It is his story, after all. You might use something like:

    Tung huddled in the corner trying to ignore his shivering and conserve body heat. It was a waste of time. The damp stone floor of executioner's dungeon sucked heat away faster then his body could produce it. Standing might be warmer, but after the beatings, the cold, and no food, he couldn't find the strength get up.

    To keep from dwelling on what couldn't be changed, his mind turned inward, focusing on how it all began.

    Your story and character? No. It's not meant to be that, or brilliant writing. It's an example of another way of approaching the scene presentation that's more character-centric than author-centric, and emotion rather than fact-based.

    That aside, I wouldn't recommend the approach of showing the ending then dropping back to how it began. It's been done too many times. And in a way, it gives away a plot point. As we read we know he's going to end up in that spot, and that something he's done will rescue him. So why worry about him when they catch him and toss him there?

    In general, it's not a matter of saying, "Do this," and then you're in business. There's an entire body of writing craft that no one tells us exists in our school days, that the strengths and limitations of our medium make necessary. This article is a very condensation of one technique for placing the reader on the scene. It takes a bit of chewing on to fully understand, but it's well worth the time, because a strong character viewpoint is what keeps a reader turning pages. And if it does seem like something worth investigating, the book it's based on is filled with tricks like that.

    Jay Greenstein

  4. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Greenstein View Post

    A few things to keep in mind...

    Jay Greenstein
    Hi Jay, that's one of the most helpful responses I've seen in forums like this. I really appreciate the time you've taken to tie the advice specifically to my writing.

    Like many writers here, I'm constantly striving to learn and improve my technique. I've read numerous articles about the 'craft' but it's impossible to take them all on board and sometimes it's difficult to see how the advice relates to the story I'm trying to tell.

    What I plan to do in the short term is rewrite chapter 1 of Dark Tidings in Scenes, Sequels and MRUs. I'm doing this as a writing improvement exercise not to try and revive my first baby.

    Thank you again, Jay, although I suspect my enjoyment of writing will be severely testing in the short term.

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