Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Breaking In To The Bank

The rough stone wrapped around the structure like a limestone blanket. There were no windows. Just craggy edged blocks of rock, making the building into a fortress. "There's only one way in," the masked man whispered to his accomplice.
The answer to this question is the pivotal decision you will make when writing a novel. Where do I start? How do I get in to the story?  What's the opening to the vault?
Advice will vary on this just as it does on any story structure project. Advice like you need a car chase, gunfight, or bar fight to start off with a bang.Advice like a character who is running, crying, or bleeding. What if your story or character is always in bars, or cries at the drop of a hat? What if it's a police story and you can't find the right car chase, gunfight, or moment where someone bleeds? What if no one in your story does anything criminal or life threatening? Then What?
There are a number of craft books you can purchase about story structure, plotting, and finding the bones of your novel. Most professionals agree on some basics though.
This checklist for first page elements can be found at
K.M. Weiland's postings are a  great website for good advice on all things writing.
First Page Checklist

____ Opening Hook: Clever writing and image that grabs the reader

____ Introduction of main character in first few lines

____ Starting the story in the middle of something that’s happened (or happening)

____ A nod to setting; avoid excessive exposition or narrative

____ A catalyst, inciting incident, or complication introduced for your character

____ A hint at character’s immediate intentions

____ A hint at character’s hidden need, desire, goal, dream, fear

____ Unique voice/writing style

____Setting the tone for the entire book

____ A glimpse at character’s personal history, personality—shed light on motivation

____ Introduction of plot goal

____ A course of action/decision implied: introduction of high stakes/dramatic tension

____ Pacing: jump right into present action. No back story

Think of:

·        One characteristic to reveal that makes your character heroic and vulnerable

·        One element of mystery, something hinted at that raises curiosity

·        One element out of the ordinary, unusual, that makes your book different/stand out

·        Concise, catchy dialogue (if in the first scene) that is not boring or predictable

·        A way to hint at your theme.
You, the writers, will need to know your setting, character and conflict well enough to be able to find all these elements in the first page of your story. If not ON the first page, then at least hinted at enough to lead your reader to the next page. Hemingway advised authors to take their first 50 pages and condense them down to five. This can be helpful to show not only what you can eliminate as far as back story, but also what you need to keep in order to develop those important points in the check list. Other helpful sites for working writers include: www.,,, and
So, if you've got a great idea, outline, or series of scenes for your next novel but can't fine the doorway in...
Use the checklist to build the best entry to the vault you can. Before you know it, and after about 50 rewrites-You're in!

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