Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

My First Poll

I lifted this from saraharonson’s blog for today’s poll.

“Monday morning discussion
Courtesy of David Zuppke

What do your opening scenes resemble?

A dive?
A swim?
A wade?”

In my WIP, the first chapter is, I think, a swim. I introduce some characters and give them a conflict, but not the life-altering problem that will drive the plot – i.e., the chapter ends with the boy’s girlfriend stalking off, and we don’t know why she’s mad.

BUT. The last line of my second chapter is the one that (in theory) will make the reader (metaphorically) gasp. It introduces the central conflict of the narrative.

My question:

Must the first chapter be a dive?

One of my crit group members (hi, Pam!) says that she wants to know in the first ten pages where the story is going. She thinks my second chapter should be the opener.

I’m worried that this is the desire of all editors and agents.

At the 2004 New York SCBWI, I remember Michael Stearns (of Harcourt, at the time) saying, “If the voice is right, you’ll follow it anywhere. You don’t even care what the story is about. Plot can be fixed. Voice is harder to capture.”

I think my MC’s voice is strong. Happily, so do my crit buddies. But I’m plagued by doubt.

So here’s my poll:

Poll #555095 Getting the characters in the water

Must the first chapter be a dive?

Move stuff around and open with the chapter that will give the reader a jolt
Leave it the way it is – the MC’s voice is funny and his parents are quirky
Rewrite to combine the two
Stop bothering me with your navel-gazing poll
You’re at work – stop goofing off


( 6 inscriptions — Inscribe a note )
Aug. 19th, 2005 05:22 pm (UTC)
Maybe you should try it a few different ways and see which one works best? I got a similar reaction to my WIP and am faced with slashing the first chapter and just diving in with ch. 2.

Good luck!
Aug. 19th, 2005 07:05 pm (UTC)
I heartily disagree re: the "dive" in the manner that you are describing it.

You are writing a novel, not a screenplay. That 10 page rule refers to screenplays.

Plus, (I presume) you are writing chick lit -- essentially romantic comedy. Yes? (Excuse me if I'm incorrect.) If so, you probably want to introduce your characters in the first chapter. But do you HAVE to? No. You don't.

Pick up Bridget Jones's Diary (the masterpiece of the genre) and notice how it starts. I don't have it in front of me ... wait! Here you are: http://www.businessweek.com/chapter/fielding.htm (GIYF, translated Google Is Your Friend.) Notice that nothing MONUMENTAL happens. Just Bridget's usual life. Her mother introduces her to a seemingly forgettable man, Mark Darcy. Do we know this is SIGNIFICANT? Does it feel like a DIVE? No, no it doesn't.

Conversely, The Accidental Tourist does start with a dive (the discussion in the car -- the marriage is ending). But it does not have to be done that way.

The very best book to read on plot is Robert McKee's STORY. Even better, take his intensive weekend Story Seminar: http://www.mckeestory.com/ Yes, it's populated mostly with screenwriters, but it's for novelists, too. And McKee explains the differences between screenplay and novel structures. I have taken the class. You will not regret it.
Aug. 20th, 2005 01:41 am (UTC)

It's a Young Adult novel, but your advice still applies, I think.

I wish editors/agents would "swim" for a few pages before the writer feels obligated to push them off the diving board.
Aug. 19th, 2005 10:00 pm (UTC)
I have to agree with MS on voice. If you have it, just follow it around. You can always revise and it might end up that you cut half of chapters 1 & 2 and have a new chapter 1 or throw it all out because by the time you get to the end of the booki you and the character are both different people.

Now this is easy advice for me to give. Not so easy for me to follow. I don't give my trust to people easily, less easily to my characters but in order to follow the voice you have to trust that eventually something is going to happen.

Good luck.
Aug. 20th, 2005 01:44 am (UTC)
Thank you. That's what I want to do.

Then I read an email from a writer/reviewer friend who advised the dive. As someone facing piles of books, she wants to get hooked right away. "What if the voice is good, but not as good as you think?" she asked.

Ha! I think I'm going to make her read the first two chapters and THEN vote!
Aug. 21st, 2005 01:53 am (UTC)
Hubs asked me to post his response:

"Not qualified to comment on the chapter thing, but wouldn't mind if you felt like gazing at my navel."
( 6 inscriptions — Inscribe a note )