The first scene in a book must have the following things added in:

  • Your protagonist. Just as a duckling will assume that the first moving thing it sees is its mother and follow it around, your reader will assume that the first character encountered in your book is your protagonist. You, therefore, need to ensure that your readers can identify with this character. Give them something about your main man (or woman) to hang their hat on, be it memorable, endearing, quirky or flawed.
  • The catalyst. Put your protagonist slap, bang in the middle of the action at the start of the book. Give the hero something dynamic and scary to be doing as they are being introduced to your reader. Make it exciting and put us in some doubt as to whether your star can get out of this fix, but leave your readers in no doubt whatsoever that they want the protagonist to triumph.
  • Your protagonist’s core need. Let us know, right from the get-go what your lead’s fears, needs, dreams, and/or goals are. At the same time, show us what kind of obstacles stand in the way of those goals, and let the reader know why these present a problem.

That same first scene should have, by the time you have finished redrafting, the following things deducted:

  • Excessive exposition. Resist any urge to discuss at great length the reasons why your main character finds him or herself in these particular circumstances. This information is best inserted, piece by piece into ongoing action – the more dynamic the better, as long as it does not distract or detract from the reader’s enjoyment of the story.
  • Backstory. Maintain focus, at the beginning of a story, on what is happening in the here and now. Your reader will, at some point, want to know why your protagonist is so bitter and twisted about life, but spare us the story of his or her difficult childhood until (much (but not too much)) later in the story, at which point the reader will (hopefully) be hooked.
  • A long narrative passage. Don’t begin your story with a long description of … well, of anything at all, unless you want your reader to put the book down immediately. Save descriptions for the quieter, less dynamic middle part of the book where our hero has lost his way and has no idea what to do next (and then put a metaphorical bomb underneath his chair).

These are not hard and fast rules that have to be followed obsessively; you will find works of great depth and strength that ignore them completely, but they are good to keep in mind as you begin writing.

32 thoughts on “Mathematics

  1. She could see the clouds below her, the excitement was so big she barely heard the wind flapping her face. The heart was pumping and she was so scared but felt so alive!
    I’m actually flying! – she thought. – Or am I falling?
    Anna tried to reach the parachute – Please, please be kind and open for me, will you? – It didn’t.
    – Oh my gosh! What do I do now? Why am I so unlucky? Damn you, clumsy!- she tried to reach the string once again. Success.
    Now that Anna is on the floor she reaches her husband: Never, but never put me in this situation again, OK? – And then hugs him strongly. Death can really give a new flavor to love.

    Your tips inspired me to write this. Hope you enjoyed it. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Well, I am currently writing a novella and I’m fairly confident I’m not following any of the points you put in this post at all! Try something different 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I certainly will. To date I have written 2 novels, published a short story, written numerous short stories and I haven’t followed this piece of advice even once … yet.
      Maybe if I try it, I will have even more success than I have already. 🙂
      Thanks for stopping by Katie – I appreciate your comment. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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