Tag Archives: fiction

Where should you start your story?

11 Jun


My second draft manuscript has been in the breathing phase for two months now, while I’ve been mulling over the feedback I received from my critiquer. When she told me my story started in the wrong place – despite having prepared myself to hear this – I was crestfallen and frustrated, mostly because I had already deleted the first three chapters and reworked their content into the story.  Realizing that the first 18K words of your precious novel could in fact be superfluous is hard to swallow, and more so if you think you have actually followed the ‘no back-story’ and the ‘start in the action’ rules.

With my writing confidence somewhat bruised, I had to embark on a self-imposed reading exploration to find out where my story should actually start. My critiquer and my beta-readers indicated ‘somewhere around chapter six or seven’ as they felt this was where the story got really interesting.  Had I really filled the first six chapters with banal waffle so boring that it rendered the first fifth of my novel redundant? For two weeks, all I could think about was that I had worked on 18K words that were now useless to my overall 100K words. But then this is why there are third and fourth drafts, right?

Lagos Egri’s ‘The Art of Dramatic Writing’ has now spent about six weeks full-time by my side. I needed to fully understand conflict in all its power and how it drives a story forward. When I reached the chapter titled ‘Point of Attack’, my eyes and ears shot open. Egri states that ‘the curtain rises when at least one character has reached a turning point in his life.‘ At the end of the chapter Egri states that ‘It is imperative that your story starts in the middle, and not under any circumstances, at the beginning.’ 

With these two notes in mind, I had to think about all my main character’s conflicts that served my novel’s premise and decide which ones were actual ‘turning points’ in my protagonist’s life. There were lots of conflicts, but I had to go through the process of pin-pointing which events where so forceful that they revealed strong, true character traits witnessed only when a person faces a life changing conflict situation. Would it be when she makes a hard decision about a job, when she decides to accept less than stellar behavior from a loved one or when she makes a decision so pivotal that the outcome of the decision will determine the direction of her life, and also the novel story? Identify this conflict situation and this is where you start your story.

American Science Fiction author, Nancy Ann Dibble advises to ‘Make everybody fall out of the plane first, and then explain who they were and why they were in the plane to begin with.’  Back story is okay once the action is set up and being played out. Egri also states that ‘In conflict we are forced to reveal ourselves‘ and it is this character revealing conflict that will keep readers interested and move your story along for the get-go.

I’m still re-structuring and editing and not quite there yet but in simplest terms it looks like I am taking the first half of my novel and flipping the content on its head. Maybe I’ll get it right by the fourth draft!



Main image via here

The Eleventh Hour

2 May

Elliott turned away from her and walked out of the room. Kate bit her lip and then shook her head from the inside. His presence hung on in the air of the room afterwards, shadowing her thoughts. How was he able to pull the air from her chest just by looking at her?

Elliott’s frustration quickened his step up through the dark streets. Flashes of blonde hair and the soft smell of her perfume clouded his mind. The pull towards her essence disarmed him every time he looked at her. Tonight had been no different to all the other times that were slowly driving him crazy.

Days later, Kate opened the door and met his determined stare. He wanted to be sure, beyond any doubt, that she knew. Standing silently, he reached out and took her hand in his, entwined their fingers and clasped their hands together tightly. She held his breath in hers and their eyes found the souls. Then, dropping his stare to the ground, he let go. Melancholy washed over her as she watched him walk away. ‘Elliott….wait’ she screamed in her head. He never looked back.

‘Who was that at the door?’

‘Just Elliott’

‘Is he not coming in?’

‘No, he was just checking if there are ribbons for his car’

‘Well hurry up Missy, in two hours you’ll be Ms. Simon Blake!’ Her mother busied around the kitchen.

‘I can’t do this Elliott.’ She wasn’t even sure he’d reply to her text.

‘Neither can I Kate?’



Stranger than Fiction

23 Apr


Writing fiction based on true events? I spent most of late last night and today researching this issue and to my absolute relief I found this very interesting post entitled “Could I be Liable for Libel in Fiction?”on the blog Rights of Writers.

I was fraught with worry in relation to aspects of novel writing that I didn’t really understand, considering this is my first venture into writing – that of libel, defamation or other scary legal words I had stumbled across in relation to writing about real persons or events.  Despite my fiction novel being based on true events and real people, it contains no falsities, malice or ill-will towards any of the main characters (well, apart from myself perhaps!). For the most part, it is  a thoughtful psychological analysis of how certain events, people and instances can effect the human psyche from childhood through into adulthood and up until self-discovery.

In truth, the human mind is the antagonist of the novel and it is the only ‘character’ that receives heavy handed treatment by me. And so, I am going to stop worrying, continue on and focus on getting my re-editing done over the next few months instead of worrying about things that are not relevant right now, and may not ever be.

Truth can sometimes be stranger and that is why it is so important for creative writers to embrace it, don’t you think?


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