A community of like-minded (and slightly deranged) writers. See the world through our eyes.
Saturday, 2 April 2011
I said it before, and I definitely mean it: the fellow writers on this blog are amazing, and I respect each one of them immensely. Everyone here has a very specific and unique style of writing they use, which suits them well, but that I could never pull off myself. In particular, KB uses a very distinctive style, but one that I think would counter my own so horribly I'd never be able to draw from it.
The main reason behind this is her lack of chapter-breaking. She does it in such a way that makes you hesitant to stop reading. Personally, though, I need chapter breaks in anything I write for more than 5000 words, so despite admiring KB's work, I could never do anything like it myself.
I think the reason I need chapter breaks is that I enjoy starting things. This isn't to say that I don't like finishing them, because I do, but I love to start things. Anything, really. I'm pretty sure the use of the phrase 'Want to start...' could be used to talk me into about anything.
The start of a story, though, is unique and, for me, always a challenge. When you start a story, a chapter, or, really, any form of writing, storytelling, or entertainment, you need to be able to hook people. I like to use sound for this effect, though there are dozens of ways to go about it, and I'll try to cover some of the more common and (in my opinion) effective ones below:
BOOM: Not sure if there is a word for this. But, in essence, start your story/chapter/scene with a powerful onomatopoeia. If you are walking down the street, and hear a loud "KASHOOM!" echoing from the street, you aren't likely to look away. Same applies to when you're reading. If there's one thing I learned from my years as a comic-book-enthusiast, it's that some good POW, BANG, WHAM, and SOCK is enough to keep people reading, if only to find the source or results of the noise.
Pretty colors: This is another fairly common one. You present the reader with a powerful or striking image that burns itself into their minds. This is one I see a lot in post-apocalypse settings, and it is also a favorite to movie makers. Sunset over broken cityscapes, blood sprayed across the snow, and even a well-done description of a character all fall into this category, and serve to feed the mind's eye with enough candy to get them reading a bit further. In general, I oppose taking time to simply describe and describe, but at the start, you can get away with it a lot more.
The ____ is ____: Give us the setting/plot. Bluntly. The president is dead. The world is green. My cat is sick. I am a robot. (These are not related, by the way. Though if anyone gives me a story which starts like this will probably earn bonus points.) "Why should I read this?" the reader asks. Sometimes, it's best to just tell 'em, and tell 'em good. You can cater the intensity of this to fit your story, theme, and mood, but I always did like to start with a blunt punch to the face. This is another one I see a lot with post-modern settings, or disaster/incident-stories.
Pants on my head!: An unusual scene is always a good way to hook the reader from the beginning. Because if your story starts out in the middle of a crazy situation, who could resist reading, even if only for the sake of curiosity? I know the only reason I got past page one of some books is because it started out with something so unusual, ridiculous, or intriguing that my curiosity got the better of me, allowing me to swallow that worm hard.
I don't know. Maybe I'm the only person around who enjoys starting a story this much. And obviously there are lots of other ways to open up a story, but these are all fairly common, safe, and effective. Maybe this all seems rather cut-and-print textbook, and has you saying, "We already knew that, Seth, I can see why you get stuck on the end of the week," But it's all quite fascinating to me, and loads of fun.
And who knows. If I can help you guys out the next time you are stuck on an opening for your chapter, short story, or book, all the better.