For Thursday, January 28, 2016:
“Make everybody fall out of the plane first, and then explain who they were and why they were in the plane to begin with.”
Nancy Ann Dibble
This new novel-in-process that is now in the second draft stage needs a plane. I realized this as I read through the first draft, especially the first two chapters. I’ve spent the past two or three days trying to build this particular equivalent to a plane, but now I’m stuck. After several pages of rewrites and additions, I think I’ve made decent progress, but I still need to figure out a way for one of the main characters to fall out that is believable.
As I’ve noted elsewhere in these posts, this is a tried-and-true technique for many novelists and even some poets: start the story in the middle, or at least with some action. For some of us this is easier said than done.
When I was a young writer – both in age and experience – I wanted to begin with descriptions of place and gradually add characters. Part of that was because I grew up reading novels that started that way. Readers’ tastes and expectations were different then, and they were used to leisurely build-ups in their fiction. If you’ve read William Faulkner or James Michner (to use only two examples, but there are many more), you’ll know what I mean.
In today’s faster-paced ‘Twitter world,’ however, contemporary writers are faced with the task of matching the immediacy of global television and media because it’s what some readers now expect. We’re told we have to grab their attention right away in order to keep their interest.
Without getting into a discussion of the merits of ‘old-fashioned’ versus ‘modern’ writing and stories — been there, done that — in part because I believe there are good points in both styles, I do know this little book of mine needs more action at the beginning. I knew it as I was working on the first draft, so how to do so was always in the back of my mind. Now I just have to figure out how to get over that wall before the plane crashes – although that could make for an interesting twist for the characters who are falling. Hmmm …