June 15, 2008

Enter Stage Right - On Being a Professional Amateur

It’s been a little while since I posted! Business travel, completing my MBA, and deciding to travel to the Dominican Republic this summer have been taking up my time. But, I am excited to complete Maya’s series this week. Today is the sixth installment, and later this week I’ll post the seventh. Enjoy!

Enter stage right
By Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff

Many new writers I've worked with insist on walking characters into every scene. Literally.

It goes something like this: Van entered the house from the back door and set his lunch box down on the kitchen table. He walked across the room and opened the refrigerator where he took out a can of soda. He opened it and took a drink. Then he went into the living room and walked toward the bottom of the staircase. He entered the front hall and realized the front door was wide open. Someone had entered his house.

Cataloguing every move Van made when he got home from work before we get to the key Moment he discovers his house has been violated just softens the impact of that Moment.
To get off to a faster start, we might try something like this: Van was halfway across the living room, his mind on the can of ice cold soda he'd just opened, when he realized his front door was hanging wide open. He stopped and stared at it. Dear God, what if...? He realized he was holding his breath, listening to the house.

You may have heard the advice to start your story where it actually starts—that is where the action, suspense, conflict, etc. kick in. This is also true of individual scenes within the story. You don't have to describe your characters entering a room together and sitting down before they begin conversing. Bring us into their conversation as the first really important issue is raised or the first critical question asked. Bring us into the action the moment before something happens.

If you want the reader's heart to race, write the moment your character's heart begins to race. Whether it's the start of a book or a chapter or a scene, you want to get off to the most engaging start you can.

Thanks for stopping by! There’s only one more segment to Maya’s series, so please stop by later this week to check it out. After that, I’ll be starting a series on applying business principles to your writing to increase your chances of success! Sign up for the RSS feed so you don’t miss it!

1 comment:

Sherer said...

Cool stuff J., Maya. Always a pleasure to stop by and learn more about writing.