Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I feel better now (I think)

I've had a little niggling worry about the first chapter of my WIP (that's "work in progress").

Normally, I love to hold my nose and jump in the deep end - right in the middle of the action - or as close to it as I can get. That's the "rule" about children's writing - get to the point and get there fast.

But the first chapter of my WIP is all setup.

At the end of the first chapter, the reader still doesn't know what the story is about.

The action hasn't started yet.

The sole purpose of the first chapter is to set the stage for the story that follows.

The "rule" says this is usually not a good thing.

But I really feel like the setup is crucial. (In a nutshell, the first chapter sets up how boring things are for the main character. Nothing to do. Boring. Boring. Until.....something happens - which is why the book is called The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis. He finally has, duh, an adventure.)

So then I'm reading Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One and Never Lets Them Go, Les Edgerton, and agent Julie Castiglia says:

Never ever start with weather, dreams, setup, or a passive scene that takes the reader nowhere.

...and now I'm really starting to worry.

But then, last night, I get farther into the same book (further into the same book?), and Edgerton has a chapter called, "Balancing Setup and Backstory in Your Opening."

He gives some exceptions to that "rule" about not using too much setup in the beginning. One of those exceptions:

"A third instance in which a longer setup is crucial is when a deeper sense of context is needed to establish mood and set the stage for the events to come....A longer setup is essential...because the whole thrust of the novel depends on the contrast we see at the beginning."

So - yay!

That works for me.

It's my setup and I'm sticking to it.

Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One and Never Lets Them Go; Les Edgerton; Writers Digest Books; 2007

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