The catalyst begins the action of the story.
It is the moment the story begins. The reader now knows what the story is about.
- The catalyst should come as early in the story as possible.
- The strongest catalyst is an event or action, but it can also be situational (a series of situations that add up to reveal the story).
I'm a firm believer in jumping right into the story. The longer you take to let the reader know what the story is about, the more you risk losing her.
(Often, however, the reader needs to be grounded in setting and character before the story action begins. In those cases, the catalyst won't necessarily be in the first page or two - but a tad later. The operative word here is tad. You'll want to get the action going ASAP.)
During revision, take a look at your manuscript and see if you can literally point your finger to the very spot where the action of the story starts.
Then ask yourself if that spot is as close to the beginning as possible.
Next, take a look at everything that comes before that spot and ask yourself if it can either come later - or be deleted altogether.
Remember my experience with David Small pinpointing the catalyst of my story - which was two chapters later than it should have been?
A lesson I've never forgotten.
Recycled from October 16, 2007