starting novel with flash forward for action packed kick off?

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MattWard

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hey guys, i had a question. for my new book: Death Donor: scientists invent cure to aging but there's a catch, it takes a life to give one... i have gotten the feedback that the inciting incident is a little too late in the book (~10% or page 35). i pasted the synopsis below

i had a beta reader suggest opening with a bang, and for instance having a quick snippet of Damon (or unknown character) planting the bomb that kills Senator Jordan to set the stage for motivations/Boondock Saints-esque nature of the story early on and keep readers/agents hooked until the inciting incident (when bodyguard Damon's daughter is kidnapped/sold for organs ). i bolded/underlined the the scene/cut-in i could place at beginning of novel

thoughts?

not sure if you have experience with that or reactions etc...

thanks and have a great day/weekend,

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Death Donor Synopsis

It is 2055, and scientists have perfected life extension (LE). The only catch: it takes a life to give one, and only the rich can afford the expensive procedure, the gulf widening as automation eats away jobs and the poor slip into slum-like despair and increasing homelessness.

DAMON JONES, a war vet and bodyguard for ETHAN ANDERSON, the billionaire owner of Defying Death Industries (DDI)—a leading LE pioneer whose company is in a battle with Chinese competitor Shanghai Life Industries (SLI)—and things are running smoothly, if a splintered society of haves and have-nots with twenty-five percent unemployment is smooth until Damon’s daughter is kidnapped and sold to a black market LE clinic by a desperate junkie. Damon’s life falls apart and his depressed wife donates/sells her life to DDI—for $27,000—to escape the pain, leaving Damon alone and hopeless.

Meanwhile, SENATOR MICHAEL SCHMIDT is confronted by corporate lobbyists and political aspirations as SENATOR WARREN pushes for segregating cities, something Mike detests even as learns his ex-wife, AVA, has untreatable cancer. He is nearly killed in an anti-LE protest in an effort to stave off MAYOR RODRIGUEZ’s push for his senate seat, and begins to question the LE industry, earning him formidable foes.

After hitting rock bottom and realizing the perps will never be punished, Damon decides to take matters/revenge into his own hands. He discovers the clinic that killed his daughter—HSU—only to find it is ultra-secure. He enlists the help of an old friend to hack the database and gets the names of several lofty clients. Damon begins hunting down and killing the “offenders,” starting with a media mogul at Ethan’s party.

While scoping a backup headquarters for sourcing Anglo-Saxon donors in Cape Town, Ethan is ambushed by SLI assassins but manages to escape with Damon’s help as tensions between SLI and DDI boil.
Conditions intensify as Damon—the serial killer dubbed by the media, “The Taxman”—strikes again and again and Mike pushes for regulations or bans surrounding LE. Mike meets with SENATOR JORDAN—one of HSU’s clients—in NYC in a possible VP bid and barely escapes as one of Damon’s bombs kills Jordan.

Worried about the fate of his company and mission—and the health of his aging mother—Ethan orders to his team to take care of Schmidt, which is confused as authorizing a hit.
Damon overhears and is able to save the senator, but his identity is compromised when he murders Warren—another of HSU’s clients—and the senator’s integrity questioned. Damon shares further dirt on DDI, leading Mike to push for a full LE ban and Mike tells Damon about VERONICA, owner of HSU who Damon struggles to track down.

As more senators join on board and protests mount, Ethan blackmails Mike with falsified health risks for Mike’s daughter and promises to treat her if he backs down on his proposed bill.

As Mike and Damon build a case against DDI and public outcry mounts, a DDI whistleblower, HENRIK—contacts Mike about corruption and bribery inside the company. Ethan’s IT registers the breach and send a hit team to deal with the traitor.
Mike, Damon and Henrik escape and arrange a meet. Ethan plans an ambush but Damon betrays him, taping the whole thing and arresting Ethan. Ethan connections get him off scot-free and is placed on house arrest while Mike’s elected president thanks to his anti-LE ban.

Sun Lee and SLI capitalize on DDI’s issues to acquire and neuter the company,Lee now Ethan’s boss as operations are shifted overseas and to black markets.

Ethan meets Veronica, looking to join HSU and Damon tails them, killing Veronica and sending Ethan running to Thailand. Ethan setups a new business there, quickly scaling his illicit empire but Damon finds him. Kidnapping Ethan, Damon is jumped by Ethan’s guards before Sun Lee and SLI fighters kill Ethan’s men and Damon executes his former boss.

At the end, President's daughter suffers traumatic brain injury and he must decide whether his daughter is worth sacrificing his morals for an undergoing an illegal LE procedure... Let's not spoil it here :)

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Death Donor

By

Matt Ward

© 2020 Matt Ward
All Rights Reserved
 

benbenberi

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Action-packed flash forward openers (followed by flashback to this-is-how-we-got-there) are a staple -- one might even say a cliché -- of recent films and esp TV. IMO they work best when the audience is already invested in the characters and the peril you've put them in matters. Otherwise it's just kind of a cheap stunt that involves a bunch of people I don't know and have no reason to care about. Of course you can do it if you want. But if your problem is that the inciting incident is coming too late in your narrative, I suggest the structure of the story may benefit from more significant re-thinking than just rearranging the order of the scenes.
 

Laer Carroll

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I am not interested enough in this story to read and comment on it. But I'll comment on the basic question you raise.

I always start with action.

But I dislike flashbacks in general. They are very hard to do right, for me at least, but I don't mind reading them from an outstanding author who CAN do them right. But most writers aren't very good at them, in my experience.

As both reader and writer I want a story that sweeps always forward in time, with no jumping around in chronology. I put a book and an author down forever when most authors uses flashforwards/flashbacks.

My advice is to start with action and keep going forward. Any backstory or background I feel needed I do, and want done if I'm the reader, as short summaries, never fully worked out scenes. Telling rather than showing, to use literary mystispeak.
 
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Chris P

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I agree with benberri that they are indeed cliche, and I echo Laer that I don't care for them. To me, it comes across as a cheap trick to hook the reader and are often followed by infodump backstory that I struggle through.

I would be fine waiting to the 10% mark (Really? Someone complained that they had to wait a whole 35 pages to reach the inciting event? Lol. Instant gratification, much?). However, what I read before then needs to be interesting. Not having read your book, I can't say if a flash forward is the right tool or not. If I were in your shoes, I would keep it in reserve and see if I couldn't come up with another opening altogether and try to leave the inciting incident where it is and see what I come up with.
 
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Laer Carroll

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I would be fine waiting to the 10% mark [for the inciting incident] ... . However, what I read before then needs to be interesting.

Very much DITTO for me as a reader.

As a writer I usually start with the II. Or even have it in the past. So obviously I'm of the writing school that likes to get the story moving immediately. The pace does not need to be fast, but the forward motion needs to be there.

To repeat. This is me the writer talking. As a reader I'm perfectly happy for a long setup, and a leisurely one. Some of my favorite authors do and can do them well.
 
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Polenth

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I don't like flash forwards in most cases. The only time it really works for me would be if it's a situation that seems weird, so it raises the question of how things got to there. Putting one in because you think your opening is boring is the worst reason for doing it.

It's possible that your reader is right for the wrong reasons. It's not that you need to start with an explosion, but it might be that the opening could do with a little more to hold interest. Check the characterisation is as strong as later in the book (the opening is often written first, before that's really settled). Make sure there are hints and open questions to keep people reading. Cut any bits that are explaining things that could be explained later. If you can't find anything to change, and other readers haven't raised this concern, it could just be this isn't the right book for that reader.
 

Cindyt

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It's your book. You do it the way it wants to roll out. And after you complete x number of drafts, you might see where you can begin from the beginning with a hook that draws the reader in.
 
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Roxxsmom

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They can be risky, because they show the reader where the story is going, and don't start the story where it actually starts. IMO, they work best if they raise a question that is so intriguing the reader or viewer wants to figure out how the character got there, and if the pathway is not what one would expect at all. There's often a paradoxical challenge in introducing a high-stakes outcome and getting a character to care for a character they've only met in the context of this action-packed scene.

I don't like them when they feel simply like cheap gimmicks or attempts to start the story with action instead of where the story actually starts. Your premise sounds interesting, but like any story, it's all in the character building. writing, and execution.

Like Cindy, I'd suggest you start writing your book the way that makes sense to you. If it doesn't work as well as you'd hoped, you'll likely see a way to re-organize or change the structure in subsequent drafts.
 
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Laer Carroll

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Like Cindy, I'd suggest you start writing your book the way that makes sense to you. If it doesn't work as well as you'd hoped, you'll likely see a way to re-organize or change the structure in subsequent drafts.

As often with Roxx, she says it better than I could. I especially agree with the above. Our job is to FINISH the book, including everything we wanted in it. If that means starting off with a flash forward or a kitchen sink prologue, fine. The first draft is for us, using whatever tactics that will motivate us to write write write.

I often don't know what I've got until near the last few chapters. In the third book of my Space Orphan trilogy, I literally did not truly understand the book and the others which came before it until the last sentence of the last paragraph.

When you can put the book on the shelf till you can objectively re-read it, that is the time to worry about details such as how the book starts. Not before.
 

Fiender

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I've found the openings to my books are what get revised more heavily than any other section. It's good if you can pinpoint a nice starting point for your story but like most things, it's probably better to just write it and work it out later than lament over it to the point of paralysis.

To actually answer your question, I hate flash forwards. Always seems like a cheap trick to me. You don't need to start with "action", I just think you need to start with momentum, and those are different things. Even if the actual inciting incident doesn't happen until later in the book, you can set it up, show the characters being interesting and doing interesting things without the need for running or violence.
 

dickson

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In the third book of my Space Orphan trilogy, I literally did not truly understand the book and the others which came before it until the last sentence of the last paragraph.
An interesting situation for a writer to find him/herself in. I'm reminded of Manil Suri's The Death of Vishnu in which the last sentence changes everything--including the damn' genre.
 

MonsterTamer

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Check out Mark Lawrence's Red Sister trilogy for a well executed example of this.
 

MaeZe

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I didn't read the OP. Welcome to the forum Matt. :welcome:

Just as an FYI, most writers' forums, including this one, expect new members to contribute a bit before expecting other people to give them detailed feedback on a lot of writing, be it a synopsis or an excerpt.

On the other hand, new members are often very excited about their writing. That's excellent! Don't be discouraged and don't worry too much that people are not reading your full post. Hang out a bit and get to know people. We're all here to support each other.


That said, my two cents: Starting with a 'bang' doesn't mean you have to start every story with an action scene. You want to get right into the story, but read a lot of books in the genre you are writing in. See how other authors do it.

Octavia Butler started Kindred with a flash forward. She's in the ED with her husband and her arm is missing and there is no way to explain that to the staff. So you get hooked on the story because you want to know how it happened. It works because it is short, intriguing and fits with the story which involves unexplained time shifts, (not flash backs).

Of course, Butler is an incredible author so it takes a bit to pull that off.

You have to be careful the flash forward doesn't mislead the reader into thinking the story is about one thing, then it turns out to be about another.
 
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