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Monday, October 30, 2006

More on first pages

First can I say that Blogger is being werid. My sidebar has gone south, and the coments are appearing the comments section but not necessarily being forwarded to me or showing that there are some.

There is a new clustermap on the sidebar, and it is wonderful to see where my visitors are located.

Now a little about my theory about first pages. A first page needs to draw you into a story. Its main goal is to get you to turn the page. You need to have some sort of tension there. The story can not be static. Most readers, including agents and editors read the first page first and if it does not capture their imagination, they do not read onwards. The first few pages must draw the reader into the story and get them hooked. The writer wants to force the reader to keep turning pages to find out more. Questions need to be asked, and a few of them answered.

Bridging conflict is the conflict that happens BEFORE the main conflict or problem is introduced. In the case of a romance, the main conflict is between the h/H and concerns the growth of their relationships. Sometimes, however, you do need to show a little of their life before that first meet.

The First Meet is not necessarily when the protagonists meet, but when their relationship changes and begins to grow.

Because in most romances, the First Meet is what the reader is longing for, looking for and there is not a lot of narrative action before to sustain the bridging conflict, so the writer will probably be best moving the first meet as close to the beginning of the novel as she can.

A very wise publisher once said to me: Never Let an Opportunity for Good Narrative Action Pass You By.

In other words, don't start in the immediate aftermath of a battle, start as the battle begins as it will be exciting and tense. BUT also make sure that it has direct bearing on the relationship and is not simply backstory that the author needs as the main reason you are writing a romance is the relationship. Backstory and the witholding there of is a whole other topic.

Ideas to jump start flat First Scenes:

1. Make your first scene be about the h or H who has the greatest conflict at the beginning of the story. Who is in the most trouble? Who will the reader have the most empathy with? Who is in a dynamic or fluid situation? Who is under the most pressure?

2. Once your protagonist is there, what business must the reader know BEFORE the main action begins? Why? How can you make it more tense?

3. Look again at page one, have you done everything to make the situation seem immediate to the reader? Are you operating in real time? Does your protagonist face a choice? Why does your protagonist think his/her life is about to change?

4. How can you make it worse for your chosen protagonist?

You can repeat this exercise for other parts of your novel that fall between plot development points. These are the points that bridge, and the conflict there should be immediate and tense.
The writer is aiming for tension on every page and certainly in every scene.
As my editor said in her latest revision note -- sometimes, it is just TOO Domestic. -- ie nothing much was happening. I had to go back and up the tension.

I plan to include more of my writing theory in my newsletter. The first one will be going out in the begining of November to celebrate the publication of A Noble Captive in hardback. The sign up is on the sidebar, can be found (if it is not immediately visible by scrolling down.

5 comments:

Jessica Raymond said...

Fabulous tips, Michelle. I'm going to copy and paste them into my "Things to Be Aware of While Writing/Editing" document!

Maybe it is the map that has made the sidebar shift?

Jess x

India said...

I'm stuck in chapter one hell at the moment, Michelle, so this is much appreciated.

Looking forward to the newsletter!

allyblake said...

Hey Michelle - I think perhaps the Bravenet logo is too wide. You can change the width in the html. I had the sanem problem myself when playing around with it ;).

Off to read your first page now...

Ally

Michelle Styles said...

Thank you Jess and India. Glad it proved of some use.

And THANK YOU Ally. You were quite right, playing with the width margains in HTML template worked! Ah the things one learns!

Anonymous said...

Great tips Michelle.

Thanks,

Liz