Monday, November 8, 2010

Topic: Advice on Opening a Novel

10-second review: What’s wrong with this opening of a novel?

Title: “Set the Narrative Hook.” WG Tapply. The Writer (October 2009), 30-32.

“Read the following passage as if it were the opening of a novel.” Identify the mistakes in the passage. Revise it, “creating your own opening scene in which a man finds an almost-dead body under the snow in his backyard:”

“When he woke up that morning, his backyard was full of new snow. When he was a child, he loved white cold snow. His mother used to say how he didn’t know enough to come in from the snow, and it used to hurt his feelings. So when he saw all this snow piled up in his backyard, it reminded him of his mother, who was kind of white and cold herself, and he didn’t know that somebody’s almost-dead body was under the snow. Later that morning his dog would start sniffing around and find the body, which was not quite dead yet, and it would eventually cause big problems for him. Get him in trouble. Almost cost him his life, even. But now he was just remembering his mother, who he hardly ever thought about, and he how used to love the snow.”

Quote: “Make sure something is happening in your first paragraph. Put your characters in a specific time and place, introduce them to the problems that define your story’s main question, and threaten them with change.”

Quote: “Every [opening] scene contains these elements:
. A character trying to achieve an important goal.
. Conflict: the obstacles and opposition (from other characters and/or from forces of nature) that make the goal difficult to achieve.
.Failure to reach the goal—it is at least partially thwarted.
. Which lead, therefore, to a new goal, or a redefined goal, and new efforts to achieve it.”

Comment: All that in the opening scene? Good luck.  RayS.

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