Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Where the story begins, part 1

I recently began writing Part IV of my fantasy monstrosity, Disciple, and unlike the previous three Parts the beginning of this one was more difficult  to pin down.

Part IV begins -- really begins, and I'll get to how I know that -- about three and a half months after the end of Part III and my narrating character, Kate, pretty much pitched a fit about all the stuff that would be skipped. (Now, I blame this on Kate but honestly, it's my gut talking to me. And I trust my gut, in general. See also: G: Gut.)

I let Kate present the case for all the skipped stuff, which is to say I sketched out everything that happened in those three and a half months in the process of outlining Part IV in general. As things began to come together, I figured out which parts of the skipped stuff would, in fact, be important for the reader to know. These scenes would:
  • Introduce characters and situations: One of the scenes was a chance to properly meet a supporting cast character. It also set up a situation that will be used in Part V (though exactly how is a little hazy at the moment.) I should note here that it's always a good idea for more than one thing to be "happening" in a scene. That's a whole 'nother blog post, though.
  • Track progress: One of the through-lines of the whole series is Kate's developing magical ability. On the feedback of my betas, I've started writing supplementary scenes that track Kate's progress and help explain the magic system in more detail. What will become of these scenes and how I'll get them to the reader, I'm not sure yet. But they have their uses despite not being integral to the plot.
  • Set start parameters for a plot: This was the weakest scene, in many ways, except that it explained the starting situation for the primary plot driving Part IV. That's a useful thing to have, given how Part III ended and the time gap between the two. 
I put my foot down and told Kate no on the scenes that didn't do any of the above. But none of the scenes above contribute directly to the various plots in Part IV, either. Every page you spend not directly developing the plot is a risk -- a risk that the reader will get tired of waiting for something to happen. ESPECIALLY at the beginning.

Being a control-freak writer, I did write the scenes in the bullet list above. I'll decide what to do with them later.

Stay tuned for part 2 on how to figure out which of your story's several plots determines the starting point. Meanwhile: how hard does a scene need to work to be included in your story?

Go to Part 2.

2 comments:

Alicia C. said...

My scenes need to flow. They need to hold my attention, and have a rhythm from beginning to end. They drive the story forward (or backward if the case may be) so I try to make every word count. Which is hard for me as I tend to be a tad bit wordy. (No way!)
Voice is very important. If the voice doesn't feel true I ditch it.

Libby said...

Back story can be great but can also slow a novel way down. Good luck finding the right balance!

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