Show, not Tell

There are 3 rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

The Very First Page

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A Car Crash

A Car Crash: Prime Example of Starting with Action

The first page of your manuscript is often the hardest to pin down. Actually, even writing the first page of your story is hard to do. Where do you start? Sometimes the best way to start writing is just to do it but often times that means we’re not staring where we should be staring the story.

So, even though the first pages are dumb, even though they’re so hard to do, they’re still super important. It needs to be perfect, even if a perfect first page isn’t going to save you from massive fail on the 150th page (just saying).

Theresa from edittorent posted up some great tips from her secret agent friend about opening scenes about first pages. I’m going to tell you a secret about them. But first, let’s list them! Fun time.

Eleven things your MC should not do in the first page (or ever, really):

  1. Travel.
  2. Look in a mirror.
  3. Trip.
  4. Fall.
  5. Reminisce.
  6. Bathe.
  7. Get dressed.
  8. Eat.
  9. Clean.
  10. Wake up.
  11. Not even be in the scene.

Now, why?

Because none of this is starting with the action. Here’s what I mean:

  • Your MC is driving to her lover’s house to see if he is cheating on her or not. She gets there and finds out yes, he is. Think about starting: when she finds out he’s cheating.
  • Your MC is staring at a mirror in a bathroom in the middle of a fancy dinner with a man who’s about to propose to her. Think about starting: when he proposes.
  • Your MC trips or falls on her way to class where she’ll meet Edward Cullen Mr. Right. Think of starting: when she meets Mr. Cullen.
  • Your MC thinks about the past. Think of starting: after that. We don’t care about the past, that’s back story, that’s information overload. Skip it.
  • Your MC is bathing, dressing, cleaning, or otherwise doing a meneal and boring thing. Think of starting: after she’s done doing it, when she’s finally gotten to where the conflict will start.
  • Your MC is just waking up and will go about her day. The conflict will start that night. Think of starting: that night when the conflict starts.
  • Your first page is a prologue that features the MC’s parents or anyone who isn’t your MC. Think of starting: with your MC, with the conflict.

I think this should work for your first page. I think it should work for your second page. I think it should work for your twentieth chapter, even. Just remember: always start with conflict! That’s why your MC should never do those things… often that’s not where the conflict is!

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Written by Jessica Lei

September 30, 2010 at 6:00 am

Posted in Writing

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