Friday, December 17, 2010

The Third Rule

So here's rule number three for you.

Rule 3: Go in easy!

I find it hard sometimes to leave out information in the beginning of a story. You may wonder why you would want to leave anything out? Well, if you tell too much right off the bat, you are leaving nothing for later. Really good authors will start right into their stories and leave things like introductions for later. Now I'm not saying there's anything wrong with introductions, but they sometimes leave the reader bogged down and not very interested. You need something quick to start them off with, maybe a smart quote or a descriptive seen. Here's some examples:

This is a smart quote one from Louis L'Amour's book Lonely on the Mountain:

"There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning."

That makes you want to read more, find out the reasons behind the quote.

For a descriptive start, I've chosen the first paragraph of Kenneth Oppel's book Airborn:

Sailing toward dawn, and I was perched atop the crow's nest, being the ships eyes. We were two nights out of Sydney, and there'd been no weather to speak of so far. I was keeping watch on a dark stack of nimbus clouds off to the northwest, but we were leaving it far behind, and it looked to be smooth going all the back to Lionsgate City. Like riding a cloud.

This sets the scene nicely, but it does not give too much information off the bat. This is the kind of setting up, I usually like to do. If you don't want to waste time at all, you can always start off right into the action. Here's the beginning of one of my own stories:

I had never used a sword before, but I have many times since. Being the daughter of one of the greatest swordsmen in the Scottish Highlands, it seemed natural enough to me. I quickly glanced over to my companion and saw his raised eye-brow as if to ask, 'should we?'. I winked back at him and then we turned to face the oncoming soldiers, our blades raised in such a way that I hoped they would think twice before meeting us today.

I put a bit of description in, but mainly, I was trying to get the story off to a start a soon as possible. A lot of times, when you start off a book like this, you will have a flash back perhaps as the next chapter to explain the circumstances of the first one. It might be a bit confusing at first, but once the readers realize what it is, they will appreciate it more.

You must realize when you are writing, that you're readers are not stupid. They can pick up on things just as well as you can. Even if you are writing children's books, you do not need to spell everything out for them. Your job is to leave clues that are not so vague you can't follow them, but vague enough so they are not simply screaming out what they are. I personally do not like to read books that state things for me. I think it's annoying. I like to be able to figure things out for myself. This is especially important if you write mysteries. A good mystery will have you guessing to the last page, a bad one, will give you all the answers before it's half done.

So when you start a book, think about what kind of beginning will work well for you. I mostly write action-adventure novels myself, so that is that I have mainly been referring to, but the same goes for all kinds of books, even simple romance stories or just day-to-day life novels. Whatever the conflict is, base your story around it and do not swamp it with unnecessary description.

As an exercise, take one of your most favorite books and read the first few chapters again, seeing how the authors takes you into the story. Write down at least five reasons why you like their writing and try to think how you can incorporate those things into you own writing. Every writer has their own style, but if you have just started, it takes a while to find your own, so until you do, practice fashioning it after one of your favorite authors. Eventually, as you write more and more, you will find that more and more of your style is showing itself in your writing!

If you ever have any questions about more of what I mention in the posts, or something you personally have trouble with, don't be afraid to leave me a comment or drop me an email. I am here to help!

Cheers, Hazel


  1. I think you've picked some really good quotes to talk about and you've given some good'd make a really good writing teacher.

  2. Well, I try to know what I'm talking about :-P It all comes from experience really.