Today I’m super happy to have author & friend Lisa Gail Green in for a visit. Lisa is the author of The Binding Stone (The Djinn Series). She’s looking at problem story openings and offering ideas on how to make these work, so please read on!
We’ve all heard the tips on what NOT to do in an opening. But I can boil it down to one key word for what you DO want.
That’s right. Let’s take a closer look so I can explain.
What NOT to do:
• Start in the middle of a huge action sequence. Why not? Two questions:
Where do you go from there? And why should I care?
• Start with paragraphs of lovely description. ZZZZZZZZZ. I want to meet your character and know what their problem is!
• Start with waking up or a dream. I don’t know why – maybe because that seems like a natural place to start if we don’t know the real start – but everyone does it.
• Exposition. Back story is a tool you’re using as an author to get your head on straight. But you have to find a way to tell the story that’s happening in your book, not the one that happened to get there. Again, I want to know who your character is and what their problem is.
Now. Insert some balance and let’s see what happens.
ACTION: If you want to start with action, you’re probably a plot type person. Go ahead! You do need to SHOW your MC in an interesting situation (notice I didn’t say dangerous, just interesting) where their own personality shines through. Thus the balance. Pick something that showcases their unique voice. Show them doing something that’s different than what most others would do in the same situation.
DESCRIPTION: If you like description, chances are you are a world builder. That’s awesome! But make sure to show your world through your MC’s eyes and use it to highlight whatever is going on. Again, deliver description by filtering it through the character’s eyes, showing the world as they see it, not how others might.
WAKING & DREAMING: If you start with waking up, ask: must I? The truth is I HAVE. In my short story, BLACKOUT, for example I DO start with my MC waking up (naked in the backyard with ravens circling above and a creepy neighbor next door.) In other words, it’s okay to break rules, but only if you understand why they’re there in the first place and have a good reason. My reason? I wanted to show that her actions set her apart from what other people might do the same scenario.
EXPOSITION: Now that’s tough. You have know whether it’s absolutely necessary. It certainly doesn’t belong in the beginning though. The start should indicate who your character is and at least hint at what issue they will face. Right now. In THIS story. Whatever they are doing or thinking, it should be unique and relevant to the here and now.
Balance is the key to a great book and a great beginning. World, plot, and character should combine to immerse the reader right away and make them care. What’s one way to do that? Say it with me… Show the MC doing something or thinking something that’s different than what most people would do in the same situation!
And now I get to show off Lisa’s wonderful book cover and blurb:
Tricked into slavery by the man she loved, the Djinni Leela has an eternity to regret her choices.
Awakened in the prison of her adolescent body, she finds a new master in possession of the opal that binds her. But seventeen-year-old Jered is unlike any she’s seen. His kindness makes Leela yearn to trust again, to allow herself a glimmer of hope.
Could Jered be strong enough to free her from the curse of the Binding Stone?
Sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it? I love the gender swap on the traditional Genie story. If you like, you can add this book to your Goodreads List, of find out more on this series by visiting Lisa on Facebook, Twitter or her home stomping grounds, Paranormal Point Of View!
Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.