Silver Pen

United States of America

Christian/LOVE Jesus/she/her/big family/scifi/fantasy/Minnesotan/good books/beautiful words/wit/Halo/notebooks and pens/old book smell/coffee/ royalty/honor/love

Message to Readers

Let's get this party started!

Debate: Story Beginnings

December 19, 2018

FREE WRITING

5
    Hey guys!  I'm going to bring WtW's feedback aspect into play and start a debate.  Here's the question: is it better to start out a story fast, or slow?  By this I mean is straight to the action a better idea, or should you give the reader time to get acquainted with and invest in the main character(s)?  What are the benefits and downsides to both approaches?  Which one do you prefer, and why?
    This is not one of those debates where the person who started it has a foregone conclusion and is trying to make a point!  This is me asking for your opinions and hoping that our combined insight on the subject can inspire each other and help us grow as writers.  With that in mind, please leave your thoughts in a civil comment below.  Thank you all, and write free! ~SP
Listen to me sound so serious. :)  Why?  BECAUSE I AM, THAT'S WHY!  I value your thoughts on the matter!

Print

See History
  • December 19, 2018 - 7:41am (Now Viewing)

Login or Signup to provide a comment.

22 Comments
  • Quille

    Soo right :)
    I can't think of any benefits of a slower beginning other than those stated :)


    11 months ago
  • Silver Pen

    Yes, Quille, we all know that you love action and cliffhangers. ;) Personally, I like action too. I just wanted to see if starting a story without action had any benefits all to itself.


    11 months ago
  • Quille

    Looks that way :DD
    But I still advocate for action :D
    "Actions speak louder than words" - I know writing is words, but I think writers could take it as action speaks louder than description? :D


    11 months ago
  • Silver Pen

    I guess the upshot so far is this: we have options.


    11 months ago
  • Quille

    @Paperbird, I think that a skillful writer can probably pull the reader right into the action while still providing exposition. That's one of my big goals anyhow :)
    Also, I've read a lot of books that start with a the character right on the point to of the climax and then flashback for exposition. I didn't find them to be rushed or confusing. And who gave Gustav Freytag the right to tell everybody how their plots should go?
    I think that action in the beginning of a story is more necessary than exposition because otherwise the story has no direction. Reader habitation comes later when you bring in the details to keep them glued--after you get them stuck with action.


    11 months ago
  • paperbird

    i gotta disagree with you, quille. according to fryetag's plot pyramid, which is used in the structure of all basic plots, the exposition comes first. the plot moves very little here. it's a key part of the story, because the reader is introduced to the characters, personalities, and settings. it also gives the reader a sense of default. without some average banter, the reader has no feel as to how different the action is than normal life. i hope that makes sense the way i phrased it. anyway, exposition is a huge part of plot and it's essential to start plots before the action begins. there might be a rare case where it doesn't work that way here or there, but novels that dive straight into the action are often rushed or confusing. there's no sense of reader habitation.


    12 months ago
  • Quille

    Oh yeah! :D I can't think of anything else to say to that comment :DD
    Characters... people stuck in my head. Yes! But then they sneak their way onto paper... :)
    Also, what you said about character development is insanely true! Conflict says as much about book characters as it does about us. A person loses something they love, well that's conflict. How they react definitely reveals character.
    If I was writing that example into a story, I would start right into the situation :)


    12 months ago
  • Silver Pen

    Yeah, I'm definitely one to start with action myself. I think that conflict is actually an important part of character development. How someone responds to a situation can tell you a lot about them -- how a person treats the waiter/waitress, for example. Are they rough, short, or courteous? Are they miserly, or do they tip generously? That's where D.B.Quaginn has a good point about including secondary conflict. Also, a secondary conflict could allow for a plot twist if the reader thinks the secondary conflict is the primary conflict. :)
    While I need to plan long stories to keep them on track (no superfluous scenes and worthless bunny trails), I usually find character change happens on its own. My characters are practically people stuck in my head -- at leeast, the important ones.


    12 months ago
  • paperbird

    part four is up!
    https://writetheworld.com/groups/1/free_writing/95806


    12 months ago
  • Quille

    Well, which of these books would you rather read based on the first sentences?

    1. "Help!" I screamed as I raced down the darkened street, moving faster than my legs could bear.

    OR

    2. One bright sunny day in November, when the sun was shining brightly, I went for a walk with my black and white dog, Giuseppe.

    BTW, the first one is the beginning of my next series on here :)


    12 months ago
  • D.B.Quaginn

    I would say the best thing to do would be to go halfway -- before you jump into the main action, give a minor conflict of some sort that both gives readers action (keeping them interested) and reveals important bits about the character before the major conflict plays out (keeps them informed).


    12 months ago
  • Ryder

    What I do is decide wether my main character is a boy or girl, pick a name for them,
    then I just wing-it from there. :}


    12 months ago
  • janice

    I think you should take time before beginning the story and really think out the characters and plot.


    12 months ago
  • Quille

    Yes :) But my projects are generally novels these days :D
    More debate: Opposition says slow beginnings offer readers a chance to get to know the environment/setting/time period that the book takes place in. Also helps readers get to know characters better and helps move the story along at a IRL-type pace. This style of beginning generally results in a book that reads like a classic where you struggle through the first few chapters and page-long paragraphs that describe the weather.
    (Couldn't help ruining their argument, sorry:) Would love to hear a better one from a real advocate for slow beginnings :)))


    12 months ago
  • Christy Wisdom

    I've tried writing a couple novels, but then I realized that I didn't really know how to write anything other than action and that my novels weren't going to work so I gave up on them. Now I know more about how character development is actually a thing you need to add to novels, so I'm hoping this actually works. Anyone write a piece and then somebody asks you for more and then it turns into a novel project? That's what happened to me... I mean, seriously, I didn't even know where it was going. That happen to anyone before?


    12 months ago
  • Quille

    My first novel started with a slow beginning too. I don't even like to read that part XD. With Elfboy though, I tried to jump in asap. I think it worked out better for writing too because the writer sometimes needs to grab their own attention too.
    Anybody else start a novel sometimes and never finish because they got bored? I spent almost 6 years doing that :)


    12 months ago
  • Quille

    @Christy Wisdom, A 'calm before the storm' scene is definitely a good idea, as long as it's not too long. You should grab the reader's attention with the first sentence. It is possible to do that with description, but action generally works better.
    Don't forget flashbacks are a useful tool for writers also! You can make them work in many different way to provide information/backstory. A good example is the 5th part of @korra4life's Mission, btw :)


    12 months ago
  • pencils.and.paper.roses

    Personally, my stories tend to start off somewhat slowly, and the action starts at about chapter 3. But strangely, I also find stories starting that way to lose me pretty quickly.


    12 months ago
  • Christy Wisdom

    Well, I used to start novels with a sorta long description of what they looked like and how they acted, but then I realized that it's better to draw it out like Quille said. I would say hop into the action quickly, but maybe give a half chapter of the "calm before the storm" where you get sort of introduced to the main character. If you start the action early, it builds the intrigue for the readers. They want to know why the character was kidnapped, or why on earth there's this government guy at her front door. But mostly I just agree with Quille, although I'm sort of new at character change so I need to work on that :)


    12 months ago
  • Quille

    Benefit to the slow beginning is doubtful for me. It's good to give the reader some background info, but wouldn't it be better to weave that in with the action as you go?


    12 months ago
  • Quille

    When I write a story, I like to bring in the characters as quickly as possible and move onto the action as fast as I can while slowly drawing the characters out as I go. I'm not sure if it always works out that way, but that's my general aim :) I think that getting into the action quickly is the best way to hook a reader and that people tend to like characters better if you let them reveal themselves at a natural, slowish pace.
    One more thing that isn't totally relevant to this debate, but character development made me think of it: All the writing books say that your characters need to change from one thing to another during the conflict, whether they change opinions or personality. I find that if I give the characters headway, this happens by itself. Sorry if that was too irrelevant :D


    12 months ago
  • Doktor Habit

    i sorta teeter in the middle-ish? idk


    12 months ago