Monday, August 22, 2011

Asking For Trouble

According to Les Edgerton, who wrote HOOKED:

It's imperative that you understand what stories always have to be about.

One thing and only one thing:
TROUBLE.

That's it. Period. There is simply no reason for a story to ever exist unless it's about TROUBLE.

So your story shouldn't begin at any other time than when the trouble really begins. The story doesn't exist before that point.



Hmm...so why do writers continue to struggle with beginnings? Maybe we have to ask ourselves a couple of questions first.
Edgerton says, in your opening scene (the first 1-3 pages), an inciting incident creates trouble in the form of the initial surface problem, which then leads to the deeper story-worthy problems revealed throughout the novel.

The protagonist's world alters profoundly by some event-not material or surface things. Instead, the character's inner psychological world significantly changes for the worst.


That's where your story starts!

14 comments:

Christine Danek said...

Hooked is a great book. What a great reminder. I kept thinking about my beginnings--are they starting at the right place. I think so.
Thanks.

Sarah said...

I like the specification of the first 1-3 pages. I've read things that started mid-action, and I'm not sure that's such a fabulous place to be, as the reader has so little context and reason to care about the characters. So the trouble has to start early on, but it's great to give the reader a sense of things (as efficiently and creatively as possible) just prior to launch.

K. M. Walton said...

I agree with Sarah - I like to read well crafted beginnings that show you who the characters are before the trouble begins - just enough so I care about them. Beginnings are definitely an art!!

Christina Lee said...

Definitely an art! I agree Kate and Sarah!

storyqueen said...

Some of the best writing advice ever! (And I think I look a lot like that thinking monkey when I am planning where to begin my story.)

Shelley

Maddy said...

Beginning are important. If you don't grab my attention from the beginning, there's a good chance I may not finish the book at all.

blueviolet said...

I think that would make for a GREAT story!

Emy Shin said...

Great reminder! I've a copy of HOOKED, and can't wait to dive into it to find great nuggets of advice.

Abby said...

I've heard this and completely agree. We've got to start somewhere where there is action and trouble so we can keep the reader engaged. Slow reading is no fun.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Great advice -- and I will join in with everyone who agreed with Sarah: Start with a peek at the climax and we don't really connect with anybody. I don't care if a vampire IS about to chomp down on her neck, I don't know her so I'm not invested.

So yes, start with trouble -- but make it be the inciting incident.

Peggy Eddleman said...

I've actually never heard it said that the initial surface problem that leads to the deeper problem should happen in the first three pages. The only thing most people talk about is that main inciting incident, which is a shame. This is great advice!

Kelly said...

I need to read Hooked. Great recommendation!
And Thanks for the great tips from it!

Lourie said...

Sometimes I think my life would make a great book, but nobody would believe stuff like could or would ever happen! hahaha

Medeia Sharif said...

Great advice. Over the years I've improved in putting the inciting incident earlier in the book (I used to wait too many chapters in).