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Raphee
03-06-2007, 10:39 AM
I am worried about the first 50 pages of my WIP (literary fiction).

I have gone into setting up characters and too little action/conflict. Actually there is only one chapter where the actual conflict starts.
I do like what I have written as all the info comes in handy later when the conflict starts in earnest in the novel. Ironically at page 60 onwards.
Also since this is literary, I thought there was scope for more characterisation and less plot.

My problem is that say I was asked for an agent to send in a partial of 50 pages; then am I setting up myself to be rejected, since the sample pages might have a great voice or writing but no or little conflict.

How should I tackle this, if at all?
I know you guys have not read my WIP but what say you?

Dani Dunn
03-06-2007, 11:34 AM
I'm with you. I don't know either, but I'm thinking about re-writing my first chapter to make it more lively.

blacbird
03-06-2007, 12:24 PM
when the conflict starts in earnest in the novel. Ironically at page 60 onwards.

Make page 60 page 1, and find a way to get the material you consider essential in pages 1-59 into the story as you proceed from there. I'll venture that you'll be able to condense those first 59 pages into about 15-20 pages worth of truly essential material as you proceed. But you're shooting your foot with 59 pages of character set-up, even in a "literary" novel. I read a fair amount of novels that would be considered "literary" by most, and I'm having real trouble coming up with an example of a successful one in which the conflict doesn't begin until page 60.

caw

zornhau
03-06-2007, 12:37 PM
I'm with Blackbird. Whatever the genre (unless it's Mystery), it's best not to give readers information ahead of when they need it.

Suggestion: Chop the 1st 60 pages and send the novel to a somebody who hasn't read it before. Don't tell them about the cut.

Insert Name
03-06-2007, 12:54 PM
Make page 60 page 1, and find a way to get the material you consider essential in pages 1-59 into the story as you proceed from there. I'll venture that you'll be able to condense those first 59 pages into about 15-20 pages worth of truly essential material as you proceed. But you're shooting your foot with 59 pages of character set-up, even in a "literary" novel. I read a fair amount of novels that would be considered "literary" by most, and I'm having real trouble coming up with an example of a successful one in which the conflict doesn't begin until page 60.

caw

Were any of them a Kunstleroman?

kristie911
03-06-2007, 02:45 PM
As a reader, I must say, if a book has set up and characterization for the first 60 pages...well, I'd probably put it down before I got to 61.

Linda Adams
03-06-2007, 02:54 PM
This is actually why the agents ask for the first fifty pages. A lot of writers spend about that just doing set up and introducing the characters without really getting their feet into the story until much later--almost like the they're trying to get themselves oriented into the story.

But with agents overloaded with manuscripts, they aren't going to read long enough to see that you started your novel on page 60. The story has to start on page one and draw the reader into it. That's why the first three chapters are so difficult to write. They have to pull the reader into the story itself and then gradually filter in enough details and backstory to keep the reader involved without giving it all to them up front.

Like the others said, page 60 is where your story starts. Start there.

Raphee
03-06-2007, 03:30 PM
Thanks for the advice. Back to the drawing board.

Michael Dracon
03-06-2007, 04:31 PM
While I agree with the others I want to give a different tip to you just in case you want to save (most of) those first 60 pages.

Try to see if you can introduce the conflict early on already and slowly build up towards it. Give people something to look forward to until it actually happens. That way you keep them interested, and give the agent an indication that bug things will happen after those 50 pages.

For instance, in my current WIP I have one of my main characters finds out that her boss is about to do something very nasty. This happens halfway chapter 1, less than 10 pages into the book. But she knows it's going to be a few more days until he attempts it. She also needs several days to prepare to stop him (because the police doesn't believe her). So the actual conflict stays dorment for a long time while I write several chapters of introduction and her preparing (there is other stuff that also happens that fill even more pages). The actual first confrontation won't be until about halfway into the novel.

Raphee
03-06-2007, 05:01 PM
As all of have said and rightly so that the conflict has to start early. Should the conflict start as early as the first chapter OR
do I try to condense the sixty pages into something like 15 pages. and then bring in the conflict.

In my WIP written in First POV, the narrator is a boy of 12. His story revolves around the changes that happen to him and his village in the course of one summer. The first sixty pages are the ramblings of the idyllic life in the village and then his life gets torn to pieces when the conflict arises. [60 pages of non-conflict thats embarrasing.]
Its this sense of peace that the boy has before things happen that I want to preserve. And also to have readers bonding emotionally with the narrator.

To make things complicated: Now if I shift to 3rd person it won't be that necessary to have an emotional tie with the boy as in the first person. or am I wrong? [ I actually started the novel as a mix of first and third before shifting to first all the way.]
My emphasis is that in first person the reader has to empathise with the narrator.

CaroGirl
03-06-2007, 05:16 PM
Hi Raphee. I don't believe you have to dump the first 60 pages. And, although the main conflict in your story might start late, there are plenty of other opportunities for different kinds of conflict. In the chapter of yours that I read, there is conflict between the narrator and the grandmother. It's gentle, but it's conflict none-the-less. Not only can you set up character and setting, you can have conflict of personalities to keep readers interested.

For the second part of your question, I think you can get almost the same empathy and emotional bond with a character using either 1st-person or close 3rd-person narration. The choice comes down to what works best for the story, and only you can answer that.

Best of luck!!

Melanie Lynne Hauser
03-06-2007, 05:24 PM
One of the biggest mistakes authors make - and I include myself - is an eagerness to tell everything up front, right away. Slow down. Bits and pieces of info - including backstory - can be revealed over the course of the novel. Every single page must have some kind of conflict on it - not "Hit 'em up" conflict, but some reason to turn to the next page in order to see what happens next. This can happen with literary novels, too, through characterization - little tidbits that you reveal here and there, that tantalize the reader. But if you dump all the information up front, you'll have nothing left for this.

I agree with the above - sounds like page 60 is your actual page 1.

maestrowork
03-06-2007, 05:38 PM
Having no conflicts until page 60 is a problem, not characterization. If you're a name (such as John Grisham), you can do that (as he did in A Painted House). But even John Grisham lost me and I promptly put the book down multiple times before I finally decided to finish it (because it was John Grisham). Even if it's literary, you need something hook and hold a readers right off the bat -- a crisis, death, betrayal, whatever... once you hook and hold your readers, then you can relax a bit to do some exposition. But not before. In The Hours, Cunningham started with the Virginia Woolfe's suicide -- now that's riveting to see how the "back story" unfolds.

You need to reexamine the first 50 pages and see if you have enough to hook and hold your readers. Are their any conflicts? Is there anything to make the readers want to go on reading. The first few pages tell an agent if you can actually write, but the first 50 pages tell an agent if you can tell a story that sells. Even literary fiction needs something; just because it's literary doesn't mean you have to bore everyone. (That said, I have read literary fiction that really was boring with nothing happening, and of course, I stopped reading them.)

PeeDee
03-06-2007, 05:39 PM
The first thing you should do is run your character up a tree, not show how much he hates trees, heights, and loves his wife but harbors dark secrets about lost love and enemies.

Run 'im up the tree, let him think about that stuff while he's up there, trying to dodge the rocks you're chucking.

KAP
03-06-2007, 05:39 PM
Hey, Raphee -- I agree with all the advice you've been given. With the additional info you provided about your story, and keeping in mind I still know very little about it, CaroGirl's comments sound like a great possibility. The boy can be shown in early chapters facing conflict after conflict -- little things that paint the picture of the area, characters, family, personal challenges... Then the big challenge arises.

If you can hint at bigger things to come throughout the first 60 pages, that'd be great.

And if you can start the novel later or condense the 60 pages, and add conflict to them, and hint at the bigger conflict to come, even better.

My two cents (mostly borrowed from those who already posted).

KAP

Prawn
03-06-2007, 05:39 PM
The first 60 pages of my book were slow, and it didn't get cooking until chapter 4 or 5. It wasn't until I wrote a synopsis that I really was able to focus on the theme of the book, and with that theme in mind, I was able to rewrite the beginning of the book. With the theme as my guide, I was able to do it very quickly, because I knew exactly what I was looking for. I am not sure mine is a model you want to follow, but I'd advise finishing the whole book, and then editing the first sixty pages to match the theme and tone you want for the book.

maestrowork
03-06-2007, 05:42 PM
In my WIP written in First POV, the narrator is a boy of 12. His story revolves around the changes that happen to him and his village in the course of one summer. The first sixty pages are the ramblings of the idyllic life in the village and then his life gets torn to pieces when the conflict arises. [60 pages of non-conflict thats embarrasing.]

Sounds exactly like A Painted House. I must admit I put down the book many times even though I think Grisham did a good job describing the setting and the idyllic life... there was just no story until way into page 70 or so when the first conflict occurred. However, he did set up some tension -- mostly racial and socio-economical -- right off the bat. Even then, the book had a hard time holding my interest. Once the first conflict happened, the book read great (for me).

scarletpeaches
03-06-2007, 05:43 PM
Funnily enough that's exactly the way I do it, Prawn. I write without an outline straight through, just get the damn thing finished. Then I read it through to see what themes present themselves and those are what I concentrate on in my re-write.

I changed the beginning of my WIP as well, to make the action start straight away. Well, it's more of a supernatural thriller, but I wanted to start dropping clues earlier in the book to draw the reader in, and I was only able to do that when I had a complete view of the whole book - i.e. after the first draft was done.

maestrowork
03-06-2007, 05:47 PM
Literary fiction has a bit of a leeway -- you don't have to start with bing-bam-boom and they can be much slower than other genres. However, 60 pages is too long for a set up. I will give you 20 pages. But if after 20 pages there's no tension, conflicts, suspense, or some kind of plot, there is trouble.

Judg
03-06-2007, 06:10 PM
As all of have said and rightly so that the conflict has to start early. Should the conflict start as early as the first chapter OR
do I try to condense the sixty pages into something like 15 pages. and then bring in the conflict.

In my WIP written in First POV, the narrator is a boy of 12. His story revolves around the changes that happen to him and his village in the course of one summer. The first sixty pages are the ramblings of the idyllic life in the village and then his life gets torn to pieces when the conflict arises. [60 pages of non-conflict thats embarrasing.]
Its this sense of peace that the boy has before things happen that I want to preserve. And also to have readers bonding emotionally with the narrator.
Well, you definitely have to read Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. It's the story of a 12-year old boy and the changes that happen to him and his town in the course of one summer...

It is a wonderful story, but I strongly suspect it wouldn't sell if it were written today. There is no central conflict, although there are all kinds of smaller ones. There is a central metaphor. Like its title, it's a book you read to sip at and savour. But again, I think it would be a hard sell in today's market.

You do need to draw the reader in before page 60. A good voice, some humour, some foreshadowing, and minor conflicts could all be useful. Or just getting the conflict in there somehow...

You might watch Flight 93, for an example of a movie that is mainly setting up for the first while. It is the foreshadowing that saves it. All the little details of daily life become almost unbearably poignant instead of crushingly boring. I've read novels (sorry, no titles come to mind) where much the same thing was done. The nasty event was told right off the bat, and instead of killing the suspense, it augmented it. I'm not sure if this can be used in your novel, but it might bear thinking about.

Have you tried giving those first fifty pages to beta readers to see how they react? Or are you still working on the first draft?

PeeDee
03-06-2007, 06:14 PM
Dandelion Wine, if my memory serves, was written as various short stories that were then collected into the book form. Much like The Martian Chronicles, or most of Bradbury's books. Actually, he's written very few novels that, upon closer inspection, don't turn out to be linked short stories... :)

PattiTheWicked
03-06-2007, 06:22 PM
I recently dealt with a similar thing in one of my WIPs. I ended up cutting like the first 20,000 words when I realized there was a lot of backstory in there. Turned out what I really needed to do was open the book with a house exploding, instead of having it three chapters in.

I took the really great bits that I'd cut out, and incorporated them in later on. So far it's working. I think from now on I can just pretty much plan on deleting the first three chapters I put on paper.

britwrit
03-06-2007, 06:37 PM
Literary fiction has a bit of a leeway -- you don't have to start with bing-bam-boom and they can be much slower than other genres. However, 60 pages is too long for a set up. I will give you 20 pages. But if after 20 pages there's no tension, conflicts, suspense, or some kind of plot, there is trouble.

That's right. People cut literary fiction a lot more slack in those areas. On the other hand, the writing has to be a lot more crisp.

The test comes in the first five to ten pages of a manuscript. If you were in a bookstore or a library and read them, would you want to buy the book or take it out? If the characters and setting aren't enough to draw a reader in, the manuscript needs some work.

Imelda
03-06-2007, 07:22 PM
Suggestion from someone who has never had a request :D:

Can you get any conflict into those pages? Personally, I don't mind character development--but I'm a very character-oriented person. My novel started off with one chapter of character development, and then the actual plot started in chapter two. My beta readers told me to expand the first chapter because it was too narrative, but did contain interesting stuff (though that wasn't necessarily related to the plot)--now it's three chapters, and it has conflict and characterisation ... and they're telling me to make the project a four book series instead of a trilogy. :rolleyes: After I'd finished beating them around the head (metaphorically ... though perhaps it wouldn't have been if they weren't reading via the net :p) I was convinced that it was a stronger beginning, despite the fact that the plot of the trilogy doesn't get started until chapter four now. So, I made those three chapters have a purpose beyond the characterisation. I rewrote them again and included information that will come in handy later on, because I won't have to do several annoying infodumps.

And somewhere in that ramble, I think I was trying to say you might be able to alter your chapters, keep the structure that you like, but still make it saleable. Possibly.

blacbird
03-06-2007, 07:45 PM
It's not purely an issue of "conflict". It's an issue of getting the reader, right quickly, to trust that you have a story worth reading. I've always thought that "tension" is a better word than "conflict" for what needs to happen on page one. "Conflict" generates this vision of bombs and car chases.

caw

maestrowork
03-06-2007, 07:46 PM
I actually gave a workshop at Barnes & Noble last November on the first 3 chapters of a character-driven story to hook and hold an agent/editor. If anyone is interested, let me know and I will send you the material.

CaroGirl
03-06-2007, 07:50 PM
"Conflict" generates this vision of bombs and car chases.
If you think 'conflict' is just bombs and car chases, you haven't been to my house during PMS. I agree that tension is a good word. But conflict isn't a bad word either.

maestrowork
03-06-2007, 07:52 PM
"Tension" stems from conflict. Can't have one without the other, even though they're not the same thing.

Judg
03-06-2007, 08:02 PM
We have to understand the word conflict as a technical term here. As such, it is used differently than in a newspaper. It is where two opposing objectives butt into each other, for a definition off the top of my head.

Insert Name
03-06-2007, 08:09 PM
Thesis vs. Antithesis = Synthesis

Repeat process until The Absolute.

josephwise
03-06-2007, 08:19 PM
I'm of the opinion that the best stories introduce their main conflicts on page one.

As has been mentioned, conflict doesn't have to be explosive. It can be very very subtle.

I'd be surprised if you can't keep all of your first 60 pages, yet still introduce the main conflict on that first page.

What kind of turmoil occurs in this village to break the peace? Is there a war going on somewhere nearby, that soon sweeps through?

If that's the case, maybe the main character has a friend who is interested in going off to fight in the presently distant war. Itching for it. And the main character doesn't want to talk about it. Doesn't want to hear about it. Keeps trying to change the subject, and the other guy changes it back. There's a lot of conflict in a conversation like that, and it would be easy to start page one with it, yet still have 60 pages of relative peace.

Though, I'd advise peppering those 60 pages with similar conversations here or there, of an escalating nature.

Prawn
03-06-2007, 08:22 PM
Funnily enough that's exactly the way I do it, Prawn. I write without an outline straight through, just get the damn thing finished. Then I read it through to see what themes present themselves and those are what I concentrate on in my re-write.

Could it be that great minds think alike?
I can't take credit for this method, it is just what seemed natural to me. I changed the beginning of the novel to focus more on the most important relationship in the book. The fact that it was the driving force of the narrative was not clear to me until the book was done. After the re-write, it should be clear to the reader from page 1.



Originally Posted by Joaquin Phoenix
Nichola is the only woman I'll ever love. She exhausts me with her innate sexiness, biting wit and endless supply of kitkats.

Curiously enough, Joaquin sent me the same message, only what he liked about me was my Cadbury Eggs, not my kitkats.

PeeDee
03-06-2007, 08:23 PM
Curiously enough, Joaquin sent me the same message, only what he liked about me was my Cadbury Eggs, not my kitkats.

He was still asleep in the other room, so I helped Joaquin with sending out those letters. Don't tell him. Shhhh!

Prawn
03-06-2007, 08:27 PM
I'm of the opinion that the best stories introduce their main conflicts on page one.


I think that's true, but it can be overdone. I recently started reading a book about an American Detective living abroad, and the opening went something like this:

"So, you are a American detective famous for solving that case with the serial killer, will you help us with this string of bizarre serial killings here in our country?"

"No."

So we are hit with: what are the killings? why are they bizarre? who is the killer? who is the detective? why is he famous? who was the serial killer he caught? what is the detective doing there? why won't he help?

All on the first page.


It was too much for me, and I put the book down

Prawn
03-06-2007, 08:30 PM
He was still asleep in the other room, so I helped Joaquin with sending out those letters. Don't tell him. Shhhh!

So its you who likes my Cadbury Eggs?

What was he doing asleep in your other room?

blacbird
03-06-2007, 08:34 PM
"Tension" stems from conflict. Can't have one without the other, even though they're not the same thing.

I agree, although in a lot of works I've seen, the tension is evidence of the conflict, but the real conflict itself may remain hidden for quite a stretch. But mainly, I was just thinking in terms of terminology. I've seen more than my share of manuscripts in which new writers seem to think they do need explosions or car chases or grisly murders happening in paragraph one of page one, otherwise they don't think they can "hook" a reader. Sort of the literary equivalent of "Shock and Awe". That didn't turn out so good, either, did it?

caw

PeeDee
03-06-2007, 08:36 PM
So its you who likes my Cadbury Eggs?

What was he doing asleep in your other room?

Well, he was tired out, obviously.

Prawn
03-06-2007, 08:39 PM
Well, he was tired out, obviously.

If it wasn't from Peaches' kitkat nor from my eggs. what had tired him out?

scarletpeaches
03-06-2007, 08:40 PM
I actually gave a workshop at Barnes & Noble last November on the first 3 chapters of a character-driven story to hook and hold an agent/editor. If anyone is interested, let me know and I will send you the material.

Me!

And no, this is not an excuse to get your email address.

Layla Nahar
03-06-2007, 09:02 PM
1)Should the conflict start as early as the first chapter

2)if I shift to 3rd person it won't be that necessary to have an emotional tie with the boy as in the first person. or am I wrong?

1) Yes - you could start it after the first paragrah - in a short, tiny burst that gives a hint of what is to come. for example, the "now" time of your story could be moment the conflict breaks, or gets open, but you just give us a flash of a keyhole view - and then go back to the ramblings - you could reveail how he is *remembering* his idylic life.

2) wrong. You want to have emotional ties with all your characters. (that's part of the challenge)

David McAfee
03-06-2007, 09:48 PM
I have to go with the majority on this one. There needs to be something early on that draws readers in and forces them to turn the pages. You have 60 pages of how great this 12 year old's life was before your story even gets started? That's far too many. There's setting a mood, and then there is overkill.

I have to say I agree with blacbird. Your story starts on page 60. the rest is just backstory. Keeping in mind I am going by your description, since I have not read any of it for myself.

blacbird
03-06-2007, 10:01 PM
On a related issue, most manuscripts I've seen (I'm thinking especially of a couple I critiqued in a writing group recently) that have a lot of backstory jammed up front also suffer from the malady of excessive detail in that backstory. I think it happens when the writer has a particular vision of the characters and setting that seems like it just has to be there, when it doesn't. The question you always need to ask is, Does the reader need to know this? Does the reader need to know that the protag's father is bald? Drives a blue Honda Civic? Bowls every Monday night?

There's no categorical answer for such questions, only one that derives from the context of the story. But they are questions a writer must be able to answer positively; if not, throw the verbiage out.

caw

maestrowork
03-06-2007, 10:10 PM
A good rule of thumb (it's just a guidance -- there are always exceptions) is to start your story right before the first major conflict/event/call for action, and within the first 100 pages you should come to a point of no return. The earlier the better.

Everything else is back story and it can be easily included in the main story.

gp101
03-06-2007, 11:45 PM
Having no conflicts until page 60 is a problem, not characterization. If you're a name (such as John Grisham), you can do that (as he did in A Painted House). But even John Grisham lost me and I promptly put the book down multiple times before I finally decided to finish it (because it was John Grisham).

Ahh, you're far more patient than me. I did the same thing, tried, even forced myself several times to read that book and could never get past page 20. I would not have done that with a writer I had never read before. Book would have been discarded after the first bumpy ride. Bastard. Now I read the first few pages of most books before purchasing. No more trusting an author's rep. Unless it's Elmore Leonard.

inanna
03-06-2007, 11:49 PM
It's not purely an issue of "conflict". It's an issue of getting the reader, right quickly, to trust that you have a story worth reading. I've always thought that "tension" is a better word than "conflict" for what needs to happen on page one. "Conflict" generates this vision of bombs and car chases.

caw


That's exactly what I was thinking. Does tension=conflict=action? Are we conflating conflict with action? Because a story that has me asking questions I want know the answers to will keep me reading. There doesn't necessarily have to be a lot of stuff happening.

That said, I think that sort of thing is a bit harder to pull off. But someone who aspires to literary fiction ought to be able to handle it :)

ETA: Oops, looks like I missed about twelve posts or so when I wrote this, so this may have been addressed to some degree already. Sorry. I'm high on nicotine gum right now (and I don't smoke...long story).

maestrowork
03-06-2007, 11:50 PM
Again, we cut literary fiction more slack, but the language has to be extraordinary to hold my interest if it lacks plot/conflict/suspense/tension/etc. -- the sip and savor thing. Even then, I admit I have put down a lot of literary fiction and never gotten a chance to finish them. I think that's a shame -- books are supposed to be read, not sit on my shelves. But if you lose the reader's interest early on, you may never recover from that. At the end, story trumps everything.

icerose
03-06-2007, 11:55 PM
Another option and I don't know if it's been mentioned, but if your main conflict can't start until page 60 and you have to have 1-59 before it to make sense, you can have the tail end of another story or conflict within that person's life before introducing the main conflict.

IE Tomb Raider.

She's in a "temple" blasting things to pieces, which turns out to be really just practice in her home introduces the characters, sets up the scene, but the main conflict isn't introduced until later.

So create a tail end of a conflict if you have to, but I agree with others, 60 pages is far too long for just characterization.

maestrowork
03-07-2007, 12:03 AM
... think they do need explosions or car chases or grisly murders happening in paragraph one of page one, otherwise they don't think they can "hook" a reader. Sort of the literary equivalent of "Shock and Awe". That didn't turn out so good, either, did it?

caw

Oh yeah. When I did the workshop, one of the things I mentioned was that you really didn't have to shock and awe right on page one. Some writers believe they must start with some major events: in character-driven fiction, that usually means death, sickness, accident, sex, etc. I argue that it's not necessarily so. The bigger your opening, the harder it is to follow... how many more big, loud explosions are you going to have? Plus that sets up unreasonable expectations, unless you really do have bigger, louder explosions to deliver.

Jamesaritchie
03-07-2007, 12:17 AM
Rather than worrying about conflict or tension, I think the trick with the first fifty pages is to make certain the reader knows what the conflict is going to be, and where the novel is going.

Slow start or fast start really isn't the issue. There are wonderful novels with slow openings, and wonderful novels with fast opening, but there are no wonderful novels with aimless openings.

Getting the reader involved with the main storyline is the issue. This is the real reason most new writers are given the rule of thumb that it's often better to throw away the first two chapters and begin with chapter three. The later in the story you begin, the more likely it is the reader will understand where the story is going, and so become involved.

There must be an opening situation, along with a a character the reader cares about, that makes the reader see a good story is underway, and that makes him wonder what will happen next.

A slow opening doesn't stop this from happening, and a fast opening doesn't make this happen. In fact, a fast opening that slows down to a bunch of characterization or description is often worse that the slowest opening possible. Good pace is important, which is one of the reasons so many have problems with middles, and it doesn't matter whether you blow the pace in the first fifty pages, or the second fifty pages, or the third fifty pages, it's still blown.

It isn't necessarily conflict or tension that makes for a good opening, though both are useful, it's an opening that makes the reader care, that lets him know just what the story is, and that gives him a character he can latch onto and follow throughout the novel.

blacbird
03-07-2007, 12:27 AM
Rather than worrying about conflict or tension, I think the trick with the first fifty pages is to make certain the reader knows what the conflict is going to be, and where the novel is going.

Speaking from a reader's perspective, I disagree to some extent. What the reader (moi) needs isn't to know specifically what the conflict is going to be, but just to know with confidence that there is, or dang soon will be one. Likewise, not to know specifically where the novel is going, just that it is clearly going somewhere, and that the ride getting there will be sufficiently entertaining.

Put another way, the writers' responsibility is to gain the reader's trust, right out of the gate. Without that, the book gets put down. Which is more what JAR says near the end of his post.

caw

scribbler1382
03-07-2007, 03:37 AM
The first thing you should do is run your character up a tree, not show how much he hates trees, heights, and loves his wife but harbors dark secrets about lost love and enemies.

Run 'im up the tree, let him think about that stuff while he's up there, trying to dodge the rocks you're chucking.

No real comment, I just thought what PeeDee said was so damn succinct I wanted to see it show up again. :)

Raphee
03-07-2007, 08:44 AM
In the chapter of yours that I read, there is conflict between the narrator and the grandmother. It's gentle, but it's conflict none-the-less. Not only can you set up character and setting, you can have conflict of personalities to keep readers interested.
Best of luck!!
Yes I do have other things happening in the first 60 pages. The antagonist is introduced. The first encounter between MC and antagonist comes to happen. There is a death. But all of these are building to the major conflict on page 60. But there is a lot of characterisation as well.

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=55412

Here is the link to my chapter in SYW. Its in Literary.

Raphee
03-07-2007, 08:54 AM
Have you tried giving those first fifty pages to beta readers to see how they react? Or are you still working on the first draft?

I have the first draft done and on my edit I realised the structure of what I had penned down.
I have only given it to one beta: [saving others for the final version.] The verdict on page 50 is that the beta likes the voice and the personalities I have built. For the beta it read well. Main criticism was that I had repeated myself in a few places and needed to tighten that and some criticism on dialog. The missing major conflict has so far not hit this reader hard.
But this is someone who loves Thomas Hardy. :) Is that good or bad.

Raphee
03-07-2007, 08:58 AM
I actually gave a workshop at Barnes & Noble last November on the first 3 chapters of a character-driven story to hook and hold an agent/editor. If anyone is interested, let me know and I will send you the material.
Yep I am interested and thanks for the offer as well as for all the advice. Literary= boring; that hurts. :)

kdnxdr
03-07-2007, 09:13 AM
I've read through all ya'lls' posts and have gleaned alot. I, too, don't have one of those slam-bang-em-up kinda storylines. I do have a conflict and great story potential with my premise and now I just need to work it out. When I pitch the story idea to friends, I get alot of questions and interest in the story concept. I'm sorta stuck at about page 40 and have been spending time reading through alot of different threads. I've gone back and started editing with the porpose of building the story. When I began, I only had a blank piece of "paper" and my keyboard. The story is telling itself.

Everything you all have posted in this thread is helping immensely.

Raphee
03-07-2007, 09:30 AM
Another option and I don't know if it's been mentioned, but if your main conflict can't start until page 60 and you have to have 1-59 before it to make sense, you can have the tail end of another story or conflict within that person's life before introducing the main conflict.

Thats a good idea icerose and it just might work in my case. thanks.

By the way, if there is someone interested to do a beta for me for the 50 or 60 pages, can you please let me know.
James , Blacbird and all the others thanks for the advice. My mind is starting to function again.

Akuma
03-07-2007, 12:34 PM
God, I hate back story.

I mean, I really don't know how to present it without using something totally clunky and lame like a flashback.

Any tips on this? Wasn't there a thread a while ago about this?

Sean D. Schaffer
03-07-2007, 05:54 PM
God, I hate back story.

I mean, I really don't know how to present it without using something totally clunky and lame like a flashback.

Any tips on this? Wasn't there a thread a while ago about this?


Read PeeDee's first post on Page 1. That, IMO, is the best way to start a book out.

In the case of my present WIP, I have the story going before Page 30. Heck, I'm not even to Page 25 yet. The secret, like PeeDee pointed out, is to tell the backstory while telling the story. Let the characters think about the backstory while they're going through the story itself.

It took me a long time to realize this, but I'm glad I finally did. I hope this helps, and good luck to you.

maestrowork
03-07-2007, 06:48 PM
God, I hate back story.

I mean, I really don't know how to present it without using something totally clunky and lame like a flashback.

Any tips on this? Wasn't there a thread a while ago about this?


Some of my techniques, as outlined in my workshop, include: dialogue, reflection (silence) during the scene, and somehow revealing in the main plot (bits and pieces of information). You may also start your story immediately, and once the central conflict has been presented, you can slow down with a few bits of flashback. If you do it structurally, I think it's fine.

Judg
03-07-2007, 09:53 PM
I am starting my story with the childhoods of both protagonist and antagonist. I'm doing this for several reasons: It's fantasy and this permits some world-building without infodumps. I'm setting up characters, setting and conflicts. Some rather interesting things happened in their childhoods that seem germane to me.

I am trying to ensure that each of these chapters does something to advance the plot, reveal character or support the theme ( ;) ). I'm also working in some foreshadowing and trying to make sure that there is conflict on some level or another and that each conflict meets one or more of those three goals. In my mind, this isn't boring and will be engaging.

I hope I'm not delusional. I am definitely going to run this past a variety of beta readers to see if it works. I'm a notoriously poor focus group.

Akuma
03-08-2007, 04:58 AM
Read PeeDee's first post on Page 1. That, IMO, is the best way to start a book out.

In the case of my present WIP, I have the story going before Page 30. Heck, I'm not even to Page 25 yet. The secret, like PeeDee pointed out, is to tell the backstory while telling the story. Let the characters think about the backstory while they're going through the story itself.

It took me a long time to realize this, but I'm glad I finally did. I hope this helps, and good luck to you.

I can't interpret PeeDee's metaphors; he's too deep for me.

But I'll take your advice and let the back story come out when it needs to. Bare bones with writing are essential, right?