How the Pros Do It

currently playing on my iPod: Set Fire to the Third Bar by Snow Patrol

When you begin reading a good book (and by that I mean not just a silly fun book that allows your mind to drool placidly after work but a book that draws you in and fascinates you until the end and replays within your mind’s eye over and over), you find yourself learning the characters and the scene slowly but surely. There is no sentence stating characters’ full description, their likes and dislikes–that sort of nonsense. You discover the opening scene, the setting, without a blantant mention on the author’s part. I am glancing now at Lois Lowry’s GATHERING BLUE. I see the structure as this: 1. current scene of action with only the protagonist’s name and her immediate emotions along with a short part on her setting/culture as it ties in with the current scene. 2. protagonist’s thoughts on potential future and mini flashback that occurred just before the opening scene. This bit informs the reader of the protagonist’s strengths and weaknesses. 3. back to current scene for just a moment of tension and then a flashback written as dialogue. 4. Back to current scene with protagonist’s worries and then continued action. 5. Introduction of another main character during the action. 6. Introduction of second antagonist (the first is the prot’s culture) by way of a mention of the ant’s actions. All this occurs in the first chapter–11 pages. Ms. Lowry did not waste time on describing every detail of the village, the prot’s hair color, the history of the culture, but deftly she painted a picture, explained the basic conflict, and developed the characters involved. Pros (published authors, editors, agents) suggest that writers must study good books like this one in order to learn the art of storytelling and the craft of writing. For myself, writing the beginning of a novel is the most challenging part of the whole gig. Hopefully, more exercises such as this will aid me in my first chapters. I think I’ll log off here and get to work.

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