Thursday, February 3, 2011

Writing the Instigation

Instigation, inception, opening, the beginning.

The beginning of any project is also the crux of the project. The first words, first sentence, paragraph, even chapter become the measure by which a project is evaluated. While it is important to consider the inception of a story from the carefully chosen words used to open it, it is even more important to consider it from the internal perspective.

When a story opens it is with characters and most importantly a singular moment that is responsible for instigating the story. Concepts may breathe life into a story, give it a theme and purpose but when examining the story from within it is important to identify the true instigation for the story.

The characters in a story have lives that begin at birth and end with their deaths. It is the writer's decision to choose the moment a that is the opening of a story. Where does an ordinary character's life diverge to the point where their life merits a story? Is it important to show how normal their life is through fifty or sixty pages of normalcy before the event? Or is it more important to start with the moment that instigates the story and move forward? 

First words are chosen and continuously refined but what about the moment? What about the instigation of the story? The moment can be defined as the 'hook' for your audience but what makes it worthy of note in your character's lives?

Opening with your main character in the middle of a crime scene is more poignant than having them in a diner drinking coffee.  

When you present a story it's no different than placing your character on a precipice. Your audience will want to know where they go from there and then ask how they got up there in the first place.


Jill Kemerer said...

I like how you described placing your character on a precipice--that's it exactly! It took me a long time to understand the right place to start a book. I would either dump backstory in or clutter the opening with unnecessary junk. I'm much better now!

Nice post!

Jill said...

Drinking coffee in a diner could be in the middle of action, depending on the story. If a work starts with a crime scene, I automatically think it is going to be cop or crime fiction, which I may not want to read. So I'm not really sure why a crime scene is more poignant than a diner scene. Have you ever worked in a diner? All sorts of drama occurs in one, and on a daily basis.

PW.Creighton said...

Thanks for your comments! Very true, much like the 'Double-R Diner' it can be very intriguing but my point is, it's also equally important to think of that moment that instigates your story not just the words you use to get there. I love the insight, keep the comments coming.

Michele Shaw said...

First sentences/paragraphs make me crazy. I spend more time on them then any other part of the story because, I agree, they are SO important. Establishing the tone and voice right away can make or break your story IMO. I like to start somewhere in between the "POW" opening and the quiet "get to know you" one, introducing my character(s) and hinting at what's to come. Great post, Phillip!

K.M. Weiland said...

Great timing with this post! I actually just finished writing a chapter (in my book on outlining) about the importance of placing your inciting event as just the right moment.

Cheryl Reif said...

I'm with Michele--I spend can spend as much time on the opening chapter as I do on the rest of the book! I don't worry too much about it on the first draft, though. I find that I have a much clearer idea of the story I'm telling--and therefore the story I need to set up--after I have the first draft down on paper.

PW.Creighton said...

Thanks for your comments Michele, KM & Cheryl! I always love delving into an almost psycho-analysis of narrative... could be why I also favor messing with my character's perception of reality. Heh.

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