Monday, May 21, 2012

How to Worry Over the First Scene

  Writers talk about how essential that first sentence, first paragraph is in hooking your reader. Does it have to be full blown action-packed? Elana Johnson and James Scott Bell both say no. Let’s find out what it does need.
  At the LDStorymaker Conference I recently attended, Elana presented the beats of a novel as adapted from Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat books. The first beat is the opening scene. “You show your main character in the ordinary world in which they live,” Elana stated. Speaking of the opening scene for Possession, she adds, “Mine was a walk in the park.”
  James writes that people read to worry. Put your character in some kind of discomfort or danger, big or little. This is a disturbance, not high levels of action. The reader will side with someone in trouble and their connection to the character begins. The faster we worry, the faster we bond.
  So, while Elana shows the opening image of Vi’s normal world—a park, she also hints that trouble will follow her as she breaks the rules and that it will be recorded by the government. We have an immediate disturbance and our curiosity is peaked.
  Go back to that first page of the book you are reading or the novel you are writing. Does it have a disturbance by the end of the first paragraph? Do we have someone starting a new school, losing their job, or worried about an exam? Hopefully yes. Is there tense action already? Will the building suddenly explode or is the heroine tied to the railroad tracks? Probably not.
  Events will soon build, but first we want an intriguing disturbance in the character’s world. Happy worrying.

Top: Local friends Me, Angela Milsap, Brenda Sills
Middle: My Roomies Angela and Emily
Bottom: My door prize win - With Karen Hoover who signed her book,
Misadventures of a Teenage Wizard. I also won Possession and Texting Through Time.


Tamara said...

Great post! Love Save the Cat, and Elana! I didn't make it to Storymaker's so I'm glad for the workshop recap!

Tamara said...

Great post! Love Save the Cat, and Elana! I didn't make it to Storymaker's so I'm glad for the workshop recap!

Rebecca H. Jamison said...

Thanks for the recap! I didn't make it to that class, but your recap helped me.

Renae W. Mackley said...

Thanks, ladies. It's a great point to remember, but that was only one of fifteen Elana talked about. I hope to recap more of them in the future. Stay tuned . . .

Small Town Shelly Brown said...

Those are fabulous wins!

And really great advice :)

It was so great to see you there Renae!

Liesel K Hill said...

Looks like you had fun at the conference, Renae! I wish I could have gone. Elana is always full of great knowledge. I especially like the line about 'the faster we worry, the faster we bond.' What a great think for us writers to keep in mind! :D AND

Lisa said...

This is from Renae, even if it says Lisa. I couldn't change my ID.
Shelly, I was pretty excited to win 3 books! It was great to see you too.
Liesel, glad you could get something from my notes. I'll be sharing more tips in the future.