I blogged a while back on openings—that is, how a writer decides how to start a story.
I decided to start the novel currently known as Holostar with a bang of a particular type. “Bang” being a highly technical term for an opening that involves elements of excitement, suspense, surprise, etc.
Well, what comes next? Moving into a novel, a writer has a host of things to accomplish. To wit:
Character development: We need to introduce you, the reader, to the folks with whom we’re asking you to spend several hours of realtime and maybe months of story time. So we want to begin to establish the characters’ … well, character. Personally, I prefer the “show, don’t tell” method of doing this—letting you see Dash responding to different situations and people, so that you get a “feel” for him and his companions.
Setting up the plot elements: Mostly we know where we’re going, in general, when we start writing the book. So we begin pretty much from the beginning to set up the plot elements that will come together over the course of the story to form conflict, danger, intrigue.
Foreshadowing: This is related to setting up plot elements, but it’s also about giving you clues and hints about future action. No, Dear Reader—saying, “Little did Dash Rendar know that he was soon to regret those words” is not foreshadowing. It’s spoiling the surprise. Foreshadowing, if done right, can give readers a great deal of pleasure as they make new discoveries and think, “Ha! I knew it! That was a clue!” It can take the form of something a character says or hears or sees or does. And, yep, it’s lots of fun to write.
Setting the atmosphere: There’s a lot in a story that can’t really be put into words. The atmosphere of dread or hilarity in a scene can’t be conveyed just by saying, “Dash felt sudden dread” or “Leebo was a funny droid who cracked jokes.” We have to try to make you feel the dread as Dash is feeling it, or try to make you laugh at Leebo’s jokes and quips.
Let the world in: And then, because this is a Star Wars novel, we have to be conscious of putting in elements that remind you that you are in the Galaxy Far, Far Away. But we have to do it in such a way that we don’t stop the story to paint a backdrop, let you peer at a calendar, or study the hierarchical charts of the Empire.
Well, now, that doesn’t sound like a very tall order, does it? Piece of cake, right?
Right. So, our job at this juncture is to get you to like, or at least take an interest in, the brash, irascible Dash Rendar and his companions, to put all the ingredients in place so that the plot comes together like a nice curry sauce (hm, I must be hungry), hinting delicately about things to come, filling out the world and making sure the world “feels” like the GFFA you all know and love … well, hopefully with a surprise or two that you’ll like, as well.
And the goal of all this? To draw you into the story. To keep you turning the pages to find out what happens next. Because of all the things we, the writers, have to do for you, Dear Reader, the most important is to weave an interesting tale. To give you threads you will be eager to follow through to the end.
Next time: Reality is in the nuts and bolts…
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