on Fiction University:
Sometimes really great advice is anything but helpful.
Which it should, as it’s great advice. But it’s also like saying, “show, don’t tell.” We know we ought to do it, but we don’t always know how, and those four words don’t help us with the beginnings of our novels.
This can be especially hard on new writers, because they might think they’re doing everything right, but still get negative feedback or even rejections on their manuscripts. “I do start with action,” they cry. “Can’t you see that car barreling off that cliff there? What do I have to do, blow up a planet?”
Maybe it’s the movie industry and all those summer blockbusters, but say “action scene” and most people envision something Michael Bay-ish—car chases, fights, explosions, people in dire straits. Action equates to people in crisis, so “start with the action” naturally equates to “start with characters in crisis.”
Trouble is, total strangers in crisis are boring. We don’t know who they are, we don’t know what their problem is, and we don’t know why any of the action is happening.
Which means we don’t care.
And opening scenes where the reader doesn’t care = bad.
3 thoughts on “Why “Start With the Action” Messes Up So Many Writers – by Janice Hardy…”
Reblogged this on Just Can't Help Writing and commented:
This piece from @Janice_Hardy echoes some of the best advice I’ve ever heard: Start with conflict, not crisis. How people deal with a crisis is much more interesting than the crisis itself.
Apropos though of making sure *something* is “happening,” Hardy is right on that as well. In my experience as a reader it takes special genius to create a character so interesting I’ll listen to him or her THINK for pages and pages. As a mortal, I’ve found that setting up the story conflict in a scene built around the central characters gets me into the story so much more effectively. I’ve also learned that any introspective scene that goes on for more than a page–or even half a page–needs some other character to jump in and interrupt it.
So check out Hardy’s advice here. I think it’s spot on.
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A good post for anyone starting a book. Or revising it!
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Glad you enjoyed it, Jemima 🤗