Where story begins
Let’s say you’re sitting in your room next to an abandoned railroad depot where men seem to come and go at all hours ─ people told you how expensive Paris is but you didn’t want to hear it ─ and you’re thinking you’ve made a mistake. If you were in a nice little café near the Boulevard Saint-Germain you could write a more interesting start to your novel, but then, you are reminded, you began the novel in a little café before your money ran out. Now the story seems flat and boring, the reason for which, it probably is. This is where you have to break Rule No. 6. It’s time to narrow your thinking, to mold your vast imagination into story. You need imagination and vision to conceive story but you should have an idea of its scope before you begin. You may not know how you’re going to get to your destination, but it’s helpful to know what that destination is. Once you know your story, in general terms, you can write your own journey, and your story in turn will be altered by the journey. You will enlessly revise and rewrite.
Many novels don’t engage the rearder quickly enough because the stories haven’t yet started. What engages the reader is character and what compels him to continue through hundreds of pages is whether he recognizes his story in the main character’s, or characters, and though it may take a little to make that transition into a character’s head, this is where you want to start. With character. Going to back to why readers read, many people want to experience a new world with struggle, fear, love and overcoming hardship, all from a safe place. The sooner the reader knows the problem or diffuclty the main character or characters face, the sooner he’ll start to make that transition. A reader will follow you anywhere, as long he sees something of himself in your characters. To get the reader down the rabbithole, Alice has to jump in. Start the story on page one.
Engaging the reader is seduction, the relationship with reader one of love and dissention, envy and fear and loss, because that is the writer’s realtionship with his or her characters. Mystery is a key component of seduction; we’re intrigued by the unknown, and when a reader picks up a book it’s the unknown that makes him turn the first page. Let the courship begin.
Once you know what your story is, but not necessarily how it unfolds, follow the story. If you introduce a character with difficulies you need to work them out. A man once jumped out from a stall in a souk and chased me with an articulated wooden snake, a toy, and I ran. What I was really trying to avoid, however, were the real serpents, unrestrained on the ground at midnight, in the Djamaa El Fna Square, in Marrakesh. It’s easy to get distracted. Start with a character and tell us problem and follow his story.
Jump down the rabbit hole.