Start the story somewhere else...

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Start the story somewhere else...

Postby Guardian » 29 Dec 2010, 18:42

I have a little dilemma. When a reader is reaching the third chapter of my WIP, the reader says; this is where the story must begin and I should drop the first two chapters. But when the reader is reaching the last chapter, the reader says, the first chapter is the true beginning of the story and they see and understand why those chapters are there. Do you have any idea how to solve this? Or is there anyone who faced with this sort of problem before?

Right now I'm stuck with my rewrite, because of this, as I don't have any idea how to solve this. Seemingly the story has two beginnings, but in the reality it has only one, Chapter 1. The first chapter seems meaningless in the beginning, and chapter three seems to be the true beginning. But in the end, the readers are always realizing the first chapter is there where it must be and it has a great impact on the entire story. The problem is... the first three chapters together are 70 pages.
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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Postby Holly » 29 Dec 2010, 18:56

It's impossible to really say without looking at the pages. Can you give a tiny summary?

What do the first two chapters cover? Backstory? Important minor characters or events?

Some novels with multiple POV deal with structural problems by jumping between characters.
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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Postby polymath » 29 Dec 2010, 19:03

Sounds to me like maybe reader engagement begins at the third chapter and perhaps the first two chapters start slowly relating setup backstory essential to understanding later action, that might be considered for interleaving into the narrative after the third chapter. Maybe a nonlinear timeline opening beginning with the third chapter and then transitioning back to the first and second chapters might also be worth considering. Sort of a button loop timeline that catches back up by the fourth chapter or later.

One writing wisdom is if it matters to the protagonist's current dilemma, then is when it's timely for the narrative.
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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Postby Guardian » 29 Dec 2010, 19:09

Here is the setup of the first three chapters. The basic rule in this WIP, every chapter has the following setup:
Storyteller, MC's life, Storyteller.

Chapter 1:
Storyteller is starting to tell the story to two children.
Then the main storyline comes. MC, a little girl has a cryptic dream, awakens and along with her family she spends a long day in a Great Feast. She is obsessed with her dream and also she is looking for some answers regarding an exact thing. As this world is a "Conflict free" world, there are very little conflicts in this chapter (I'm improving that now.), while every little detail has an essence in it which is getting it's essence throughout the story. Here, the MC is also meeting with a character who seems meaningless, teaching her something, but later in the story, that character is becoming one of the first true victim. The MC is accidentaly killing him. That event is forcing her to reconsider everything what she ever believed (But this event is few chapters later.).
This is just one event, but there are approximately 14 more little things in this chapter which seems completely meaningless, but getting similar meanings later in the story. So everything is getting the basics here. Then the storyteller is finishing the story of this chapter.

Chapter 2:
Same setup again. Storyteller starts, then comes the MC. MC is half-sleep and she is remembering back the night of that day what about we read in Chapter 1. In the end of the chapter the reader is realizing why the so many flashbacks are in this chapter. The last moments of her life is slowly plays again in her mind as the soul is slowly realizing, she and her entire family is died in an accident. Storyteller finishing the story.

Chapter 3:
Same storyteller setup here. Then MC comes where I'm presenting how she is reborn to a greater being. The best chapter of all three. Here, the readers believe the early life is meaningless, and only the rebirth counts. But as everything has a cause and effect, the previous life and the new life has a connection and the events of Chapter 1 is determining many things in the later chapters.
Last edited by Guardian on 29 Dec 2010, 19:21, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Postby steve » 29 Dec 2010, 19:18

Do some research and find Hemingway's original first chapter for THE SUN ALSO RISES.

It's a good chapter, makes sense, but isn't as weird or ambiguous as the first chapter in the published book. He made the right choice cutting it.

I'd rather read something odd to start a book than something germane.
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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Postby Holly » 29 Dec 2010, 19:25

Guardian wrote:Here is the setup of the first three chapters. The basic rule in this WIP, every chapter has the following setup:
Storyteller, MC's life, Storyteller.

Chapter 1:
Storyteller is starting to tell the story to two children.
Then the main storyline comes. MC, a little girl has a cryptic dream, awakens and along with her family she spends a long day in a Great Feast. She is obsessed with her dream and also she is looking for some answers regarding an exact thing. As this world is a "Conflict free" world, there are very little conflicts in this chapter (I'm improving that now.), while every little detail has an essence in it which is getting it's essence throughout the story. Here, the MC is also meeting with a character who seems meaningless, teaching her something, but later in the story, that character is becoming one of the first true victim. The MC is accidentaly killing him. That event is forcing her to reconsider everything what she ever believed (But this event is few chapters later.).
This is just one event, but there are approximately 14 more little things in this chapter which seems completely meaningless, but getting similar meanings later in the story. So everything is getting the basics here. Then the storyteller is finishing the story of this chapter.

Chapter 2:
Same setup again. Storyteller starts, then comes the MC. MC is half-sleep and she is remembering back the night of that day what about we read in Chapter 1. In the end of the chapter the reader is realizing why the so many flashbacks are in this chapter. The last moments of her life is slowly plays again in her mind as the soul is slowly realizing, she and her entire family is died in an accident. Storyteller finishing the story.

Chapter 3:
Same storyteller setup here. Then MC comes where I'm presenting how she is reborn to a greater being. The best chapter of all three. Here, the readers believe the early life is meaningless, and only the rebirth counts. But as everything has a cause and effect, the previous life and the new life has a connection and the events of Chapter 1 is determining of many things in the later chapters.


Okay, it's still hard for me to tell, but it looks like the first two chapters are mostly explanation or setup for the rest of the story. You might pull out the important events -- the character who teaches her and later dies, and the death of her family -- and cut as much of the rest as you can. Shorten it.

That's one approach, anyway. I believe in cutting scenes if they're too slow or just don't work.

I also believe readers don't need explanations at the beginning of stories. It's better to start with action, as if we are walking into the middle of real life as it is happening, and let us find things out as we go along.

Ny two cents, without looking at the real pages. Best of luck to you.
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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Postby Guardian » 29 Dec 2010, 19:30

Steve.

I can't cut the first chapter as the present setup... as a whole is paying off greately (It's not paying off only if you read the first three chapters.). it's also odd, while it's also germane. But right now the beginning, the first two chapters are requiring patience. Unfortunately the present problem is... readers wants to know everything and they're quickly becoming bored. Yet, in this story everything is paying off sooner or later (It's a trilogy with around 384000 words.). And here, you also learn what the beginning of these events were (Instead of just getting a short hint about it. This is giving a greater impact for the readers.).

Holly.
I also believe readers don't need explanations at the beginning of stories.

Here it must have, because this is not a typical fantasy world. The only thing what is got a really-really positive, A+++ mark in the first two chapters is the world building (And the MC herself). The world building was praised the most. Here, the world building and the explanations is also a must and based on the reviews, they're working out very well. Who read it, already knows why. Here, you don't have knights, elves, dwarves. Here, the reader is facing with a new world with it's own rules and society. If it would be a standard, a LOTR based fantasy world, yes, explanations wouldn't be necessary. But here, it's necessary.

It's better to start with action, as if we are walking into the middle of real life as it is happening, and let us find things out as we go along.

This story is about a life from the beginning to an exact point. Plus I don't really like the "into the action, without any background novels", especially if they're forced. In this story the reader can understand exactly why the character is doing what she is doing, what is connecting her to certain events, because of these infos. As some reader said, it's an interactive world. The reader is going to love or hate the world or even see it on the very same way as the MC loves or hates and sees. Here, the reader is evolving along with the main character.
Last edited by Guardian on 29 Dec 2010, 20:11, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Postby cheekychook » 29 Dec 2010, 19:47

It's difficult to know for sure without having read your pages, but from what you describe I think you are probably best served by leaving your current chapter order but doing something in the first two chapters (both) to make certain your readers are fully engaged in the story. If readers who have read from beginning to end can see the full-circle nature then I wouldn't mess with that---just make sure you don't lose readers before they get to that point. If you can't come up with ways to "punch up" the first few chapters a little, try getting a few beta readers and ask them what would pull them into those early chapters a little more. Trust your instincts---you know where your story needs to begin, you just need to make sure your readers know it too. Good luck.
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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Postby Holly » 29 Dec 2010, 19:51

I can't come up with any more advice, except just write what makes you happy. I would just listen to my heart and my instincts.
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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Postby Guardian » 29 Dec 2010, 19:55

just make sure you don't lose readers before they get to that point.

This is the reason why I'm asking this, because I want to find a nice balance, but I'm out of ideas. And I never faced with this before that a novel is not working if you're reading only the first three chapters, but it's working perfectly when you read the first nine chapters together (Volume 1), and works the best if you read all twenty-four together (All three volumes).

try getting a few beta readers and ask them what would pull them into those early chapters a little more.

I have around eight, just from this forum. Half of it has no problem with it, the other half mentioned this problem. That's 50-50%. So I'm intending to find a solution which is going to make the other 50% happy too.

I can't come up with any more advice, except just write what makes you happy. I would just listen to my heart and my instincts.

Thanks! Unfortunately this "listen to my heart and instincts" created these two cursed chapters. So, my heart and instincts are not working properly in this case. :)
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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Postby polymath » 29 Dec 2010, 20:13

The term exposition first was used to refer to the opening act setup, introductions, outset, of a dramatic situation. In time, exposition came to mean backstory details setting up the dramatic situation. Later, also to mean a mode of writing for providing details essential to understand the main action. Backstory is not only a time previous to a story's opening action, it's setup plain and simple, not mere stage dressing. Traditional exposition acts opened with backstory that set the stage for dramatic complications facing focal characters. Modern conventional exposition acts open in medias res, not in the middle of the action, but in the middle of an emerging complication.

Of the several essentials of an opening one is introducing the main dramatic complication or a related bridging complication. Plot movement and thus reader engagement begins with a complication introduction, which is either an inciting crisis or leads into an inciting crisis that upsets emotional equilibrium for the characters and for readers.

For chapters that start quietly, quiet not slow, introducing a complication relevant to a final outcome portrayed in an ending is a First Principle. Without a complication, tension, antagonism, and causation don't develop into character and reader compeling larger-than-life passionate clashes. Contemporary cultural coding conventions demand no less.
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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Postby lmjackson » 29 Dec 2010, 20:34

Here is the setup of the first three chapters. The basic rule in this WIP, every chapter has the following setup:
Storyteller, MC's life, Storyteller.

Chapter 1:
Storyteller is starting to tell the story to two children.
Then the main storyline comes. MC, a little girl has a cryptic dream, awakens and along with her family she spends a long day in a Great Feast. She is obsessed with her dream and also she is looking for some answers regarding an exact thing. As this world is a "Conflict free" world, there are very little conflicts in this chapter (I'm improving that now.), while every little detail has an essence in it which is getting it's essence throughout the story. Here, the MC is also meeting with a character who seems meaningless, teaching her something, but later in the story, that character is becoming one of the first true victim. The MC is accidentaly killing him. That event is forcing her to reconsider everything what she ever believed (But this event is few chapters later.).
This is just one event, but there are approximately 14 more little things in this chapter which seems completely meaningless, but getting similar meanings later in the story. So everything is getting the basics here. Then the storyteller is finishing the story of this chapter.


Bolded the parts that concern me.

Starting off with a "conflict free" chapter is dubious even in the best of situations (well known author, 2nd/3rd/4th/etc book in a series). Most readers will go to sleep.

Little details have their place, but if your expecting these minute details and minute characters to be remembered by the reader several chapters later... fugetabouittt (fake new york gangsta voice). One or two things in the midst of conflict are things that the reader can go back and say, "Ohhh, that's why that happened". But "every little detail" will be not only overlooked, but make for a lot of unnecessary text.

Guardian wrote:Holly.
I also believe readers don't need explanations at the beginning of stories.

Here it must have, because this is not a typical fantasy world. The only thing what is got a really-really positive, A+++ mark in the first two chapters is the world building (And the MC herself). The world building was praised the most. Here, the world building and the explanations is also a must and based on the reviews, they're working out very well. Who read it, already knows why. Here, you don't have knights, elves, dwarves. Here, the reader is facing with a new world with it's own rules and society. If it would be a standard, a LOTR based fantasy world, yes, explanations wouldn't be necessary. But here, it's necessary.


Harry Potter is not a typical fantasy world. 1984 (while not fantasy) is not the world as we know it, and especially wasn't the world as they knew it in 1949. Feed is not the world as we know it. Even LOTR, as much as it has been a precedent for fantasy writers is NOT a typical fantasy world.

No offense meant, but this is not a unique situation. However elaborate and atypical your world may be, there is a way to present it that doesn't mean sacrificing the first two chapters (especially that incredibly vital first chapters) of your WIP.

I say axe them. Even the summary of the first two chapters sound boring to me. There has to be another way.
Last edited by lmjackson on 29 Dec 2010, 20:36, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Postby Guardian » 29 Dec 2010, 20:36

Of the several essentials of an opening one is introducing the main dramatic complication or a related bridging complication. Plot movement and thus reader engagement begins with a complication introduction, which is either an inciting crisis or leads into an inciting crisis that upsets emotional equilibrium for the characters and for readers.

This sounds great. But... and here comes the but. The complication introduction, which is either inciting a crisis is there. The problem is, hmmmm... how should I say this. As one of my beta readers said, the problem with the first chapter could be the following... as she written... "I am afraid you may have a really good intellectual peice of art here, but no one is going to get to the point of understanding it because of the beginning (Chapter 1).". And the problem is... the intellectual piece is actually comming from the beginning itself as the basic conflicts which is leading up to the crisis, to the complication, the emotional equilibrium are there, but some of the readers (50%) are somehow don't or can't notice it by some reason, which is my fault as I written this thing. So everything is there, yet it's not there. Maybe the present slow pacing is making this difference, but I don't think so (Do the pacing can make this sort of difference at all?).
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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Postby Guardian » 29 Dec 2010, 20:46

lmjackson wrote:Starting off with a "conflict free" chapter is dubious even in the best of situations (well known author, 2nd/3rd/4th/etc book in a series). Most readers will go to sleep.

That's what I don't want, but as this world is a conflict free world in the beginning, I won't add forced situations or actions, because it's a demand. I want to find a hack-around to solve this problem.

Harry Potter is not a typical fantasy world. 1984 (while not fantasy) is not the world as we know it, and especially wasn't the world as they knew it in 1949. Feed is not the world as we know it. Even LOTR, as much as it has been a precedent for fantasy writers is NOT a typical fantasy world.

Harry Potter is a typical fantasy world. I've heard few similar ones in audiobooks when I was a child. The difference is, those ones wasn't that hyped. But HP, regardless I love it, it's nothing special and it's a typical fantasy world. But it's good that you mention 1984. Now CSA, this WIP is similar to it on one way... it's not a world or a society that about you ever read. It's not even close. That's what few readers missed in the beginning... where is the money? Where is the fear? So, the problem is, I've created an utopian civilization, which is not forced as it's in Equilibrium or 1984. It's a true utopian civilization, where peace rules. And the problem comes with it... as it's peaceful, as there is no conflicts... as you said, it's boring for few readers.

No offense meant, but this is not a unique situation. However elaborate and atypical your world may be, there is a way to present it that doesn't mean sacrificing the first two chapters (especially that incredibly vital first chapters) of your WIP.

I'm glad it's not a unique situation, because in this case, it's a solvable situation. :) But as I written above, the first two chapters has the same importance, even if not greater, then the last ones. The problem is... it's not visible in the beginning, just when the reader is reaching the end and they say... okay, I see it now.

I say axe them. Even the summary of the first two chapters sound boring to me. There has to be another way.

I'm trying to find another way, but I won't axe them, rather rework them. They must be there. This WIP is builing on the contrasts (The title is also representing it... Crystal = Brilliance, light, Shade = Darkness, shadows). The first chapter must be the most peaceful chapter and the last one is the darkest of all (And the first chapter is the complete opposite of the last one. Even some elements and scenes are returning there to present this contrast. And this is how it looks like right now.).
Last edited by Guardian on 29 Dec 2010, 20:49, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Start the story somewhere else...

Postby lmjackson » 29 Dec 2010, 20:49

If the world is "conflict free" then what's the problem? And where's the story?

If it's "conflict free" in that it's too-good-to-be-true, then the first chapter should somehow highlight that.
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