Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Don't Bore the Reader in the First Paragraph

“This [inciting] incident should make the character have to act. Here's where the story begins. The sooner the writer gets to this point, the sooner the story can get started.” -- Randall Brown in Thursday Flash Craft: Writing the Monomyth into the Short Short, Part II, The Inciting Incident.
I often read unpublished stories that begin in the wrong place. The author feels it’s important to provide the details of the setting, or give the reader background about a character, when what the reader wants is to get started with the story.

In my beginnings, I introduce the main character and give him a problem to deal with. It doesn’t have to be a matter of life or death, but it should be important to the character. I opened one story with a wife nagging her husband about finally starting his diet. Another opened with a teenage boy upset about being forced to move to a new city. Neither is an earthshaking event, but both are problems the characters must deal with in some way. The reader knows what to expect, and, hopefully, I haven’t put her to sleep with rambling descriptions and unwanted -- at this point --backstory.

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