Tag Archive - first scene essentials

3 Ways to Not Lose Your Readers on Your First Page

Readers will often stop reading before they finish the first page of your story. While this has always been true, in this fast-paced age that foments impatience, it’s even more true.

If a writer doesn’t deliver what a reader hopes for on that first page, it’s going to be tough to convince the reader to stick around for the whole chapter—let alone the whole book.

We’ve been looking at all the things needed on a first page of a novel or short story. And while it’s not a hard-and-fast rule that all these elements have to show up on page 1, the more elements a writer includes, the better.

This, of course, is going to vary a lot. And if a writer is starting with a prologue or some scene that doesn’t introduce the protagonist, that makes a difference as well. But the overall objective, regardless of opening scene, isn’t going to change. And that is to engage the reader. Continue Reading…

First Pages of Best-Selling Novels: The Invention of Wings

Let’s dive into this week’s examination of another best-seller’s first page. In this post we’re examining Sue Monk Kidd’s novel, The Invention of Wings, based on a true story of two women linked by the horrors of slavery: one a daughter of a wealthy South Carolina plantation owner and the other a slave in this family’s household.

Told in first person, the chapters alternate between the two main characters’ perspectives, which we saw done in The Time Traveler’s Wife (and a structure used in Gone Girl as well). This book is akin to a family saga, as it follows their unlikely friendship from childhood to middle age. Not a standard novel structure, which uses a short period of time to showcase a character going after a short-term goal.

But many novels fall into that “memoir” structure, which creates a challenge for the author. Why? Because while there may be a goal reached at the end of the book, a saga like this isn’t so much about the destination but the journey. Continue Reading…

Scenes as Capsules of Time

We’ve been looking at scene structure for a couple of months now. My aim is to help you nail this so you’ll never write a weak scene ever again. So in this post we’re going to talk about capsules. If you wrap your mind around this concept, you’ll be way ahead of the game.

The best scenes are enclosed in capsules of time. What does that mean? That you begin your scene in a specific, clearly identified moment in time and you move forward some “screen time” minutes, then end.

Picture a movie scene. With most scenes, unless it includes a flashback or some creative device, you are watching real time action. A character gets out of his car, runs across the highway, scoops up the terrified dog, runs back to his car, throws the dog into the backseat, then gets into his seat, shuts the door, and heaves a big sigh.

That might be a complete movie scene segment. Maybe it takes thirty seconds to watch from beginning to end. If the director wanted to heighten the tension more (for a specific reason), that scene might take two minutes to watch, with viewers biting every nail to the nub in fear for that dog’s life. Continue Reading…

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