elizabeth_rice: Snoopy typing on his typewriter (Journal 2)
[personal profile] elizabeth_rice posting in [community profile] writers
Hello! There is still a lot I need to learn about fiction-writing, so I've come to you with a question.

What should the starting point be in a novel? Writers always say to start the story at the point where something important happens. Does this mean that the starting point should be the inciting incident?

There are other writers who suggest starting with the second major plot point. What is the second major plot point of a story? For example, in a romance. ETA: using the three-act structure as a guideline, the first turning point (signalling the end of act 1) is the point where there is a personal stake for the main character, it is the point where the outcome of the problem matters to the main character. Would this be the second major plot point? And is it advisable to start a romance story this way?

Also, would the starting point in a romance be very different from the starting point in a slice-of-life story? ETA: I mean, if the romance story doesn't start with the two main characters meeting.

The starting point in a mystery novel, or fantasy is pretty obvious. It's the romance story or a simple character piece that really confuse me.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-31 04:31 pm (UTC)
jazzfish: artist painting a bird, looking at an egg for reference (Clairvoyance)
From: [personal profile] jazzfish
It's my understanding that the point of 'start where something important happens' or 'start with the second major plot point' is to chop out all the bits that are nothing but setup, because the reader doesn't care about setup if you haven't given her a reason to care. Start with something interesting happening, and give just enough information to make sense of it.

"Interesting" is different depending on the story, of course. In a character piece I guess "interesting" would be something unusual, something that makes the character think or act.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-31 06:41 pm (UTC)
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
From: [personal profile] jazzfish
Not exactly. More like, make sure your first act has something going for it other than just setup. If all you're doing is saying "bear with me, this will be REALLY COOL in fifty pages!" the reader is going to get bored and find something that's REALLY COOL right now.

And really, the only hard-and-fast rule of writing is "if it works, it's not wrong." :)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-01 04:22 pm (UTC)
arcanelegacy: (comma chameleon)
From: [personal profile] arcanelegacy
I've been told a few times that the best place to start a story is as close to the end as possible. You really just want to make sure you're not wasting words (and potentially squandering your readers' attention!) by bogging the first (or any) leg of the story with information, details, and scenes that are completely irrelevant to progressing the plot.

In the case of a romance story, I'd say that potentially (because this point is always debatable) means starting the story as the main character is meeting or setting up to meet the love interest.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-02 01:25 pm (UTC)
arcanelegacy: (art icon)
From: [personal profile] arcanelegacy
In writing, I've found, everything is debatable. Even spelling and grammar conventions!

In some cases, they start with one version and end with something completely different. I've sometimes written five different openings for a story and not known which one to use till about halfway through the rest of the plot. Sometimes I've even combined different versions and come out with the right one. Sometimes it's just a matter of getting some kind of beginning down on paper, knowing that you might have to rewrite it later. (I once read a post by an author who said he [might've been a he, it's been a while] fully expected to have to rewrite his beginning once he'd finished the book and knew what the ending sounded and felt like, so he just dashed something off and went from there.)

POV is a tricky little beast. There's a ton of debate around it, too, and it's so much a matter of personal preference (both on the part of the writer and the reader) that it can be hard to manage. I find that I write stories using whatever POV makes most sense to me, knowing that if later editors think it should be in a different POV I can change it.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 07:32 pm (UTC)
arcanelegacy: (hey bubs)
From: [personal profile] arcanelegacy
I'm sorry for my late reply! My weekend got all eaten up by life, as well.

One of the best pieces of advice I've ever gotten on writing goes like this: "You'll never get it right the first time."

Nothing you ever see published is a first draft. It's a second, third, fourth, fifth, seventeenth draft. Those writers took their initial scribbles and polished and cut and added and polished and cut and changed things around until it was the very best they could make it. So you don't need to get it exactly right the first time through, you just need to get something out on paper. You can change it later, when you have a better idea of what the story is really like.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-01 10:48 pm (UTC)
anthimeria: Open book, says "sometimes you reach what's realest by making believe" (Books)
From: [personal profile] anthimeria
The question I always try to answer about where to start a story is "Why are we writing about today?" And the answer should always be: Because today is different.

It's that inciting incident that makes it worth it. You can always backtrack, remember. Writing doesn't have to be linear so long as it makes sense for the story to unfold like a paper crane instead of a fan.

I am actually a huge fan of the three-act structure, though as mentioned, you have to make that first scene worth it to keep going. We care about characters who want things.

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