Ways to craft an effective introduction?

Specifics about craft, talent, technique, etc.
Apollo
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Ways to craft an effective introduction?

Postby Apollo » Thu Jul 16, 2020 3:12 pm

After reviewing critiques from across several projects, I have come to find a trend. My introductions need improvement. I usually hear my work is great...after they got past the introduction.

So, what are some of the ways to improve an introduction?

Reuben
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Re: Ways to craft an effective introduction?

Postby Reuben » Thu Jul 16, 2020 4:30 pm

By introduction I'm guessing you mean exposition. Most stories, you don't want an introduction, because that way you have to hook the reader twice.

And that's basically how to do it, as I'm sure everyone else will agree. Start off with a hook, make the reader curious to read on, and then pepper in hooks throughout. That way, a good writer will make it that there's no point in a story that the reader will be able to put the book down. For this reason, many chapters end off as cliffhangers.

I would suggest reading the WotF volumes, take the first sentences of each and figure out what is has going for it. Then look at all the first paragraphs.

For example, there's a story in Vol. 35 that starts as something like: Would you kill a child? That is one of the questions they ask you. Wolf Moon's story also starts out as intrueging, not because of the content, as in the previous example, but for the voice. I'm Dixie. I'm twelve. Well, almost.

Dave has said that a story should always start as close to the action as possible. My first entry started a with a scene indicating the antagonist and showing how he was evil. Afterward, I erased this scene, because it was unnecessary. Everything that could be learned from it could be learned from the rest of the story as well.

Hope I was of some help. Good Luck!
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disgruntledpeony
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Re: Ways to craft an effective introduction?

Postby disgruntledpeony » Fri Jul 17, 2020 6:40 am

I'd have to read your work to give personalized suggestions, but I can go over the basics:

Generally speaking, the important steps are to establish the viewpoint character (preferably by having them take an action that illustrates something about their character), give a sense of the setting/genre, and show the reader a problem (or, in other terms, a hook) on the first page. It's good to do all of this in the first paragraph--or even the first sentence--if possible, but that doesn't work for every story.

(Important point of note: Every story always presents its own unique challenges. Some stories just start easier than others.)

Good things to avoid include:

  • Excessive exposition. It's best to let information unfold naturally throughout the course of the story as individual pieces become necessary rather than overloading the reader with it at the beginning.
  • A character who is thinking rather than acting.
  • Wake-up openings (the character gets up, showers, brushes their teeth, etcetera) or other every-day acts that seem mundane and therefore lack tension.

It would definitely be a good idea to read some contemporary short stories to get a feel for how they open and what makes those openings work.

There are bound to be some good tips on opening a story in Wulf Moon's Super Secrets thread. I recommend taking a peep at the table of contents on the first page and seeing if anything there catches your eye.

One final note: The best way to get better at beginnings is to write them. wotf007 Keep practicing! And, perhaps, do crit trades with some of the other forum members. I often learn as much, if not more, from critiquing others' work as I do from the critiques I get in return.
If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it at an hour when it isn't expecting it. ~ H.G. Wells

R, SF, SHM, SHM, SHM, F, R, HM, SHM, R, HM, R, F, SHM, SHM, SHM, ?, ?

https://ticknortales.com/

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Dustin Adams
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Re: Ways to craft an effective introduction?

Postby Dustin Adams » Fri Jul 17, 2020 7:29 am

Adam Colston (V. 26) used to write and post opening after opening on the old Hatrack forum. We could only post 13 lines there, but he would get an idea, post it, and get feedback. We have the 450 thread here. Crank out some openings and get some feedback. Even if you don't finish the story. I've done that a few times. :)
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Apollo
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Re: Ways to craft an effective introduction?

Postby Apollo » Fri Jul 17, 2020 8:02 am

disgruntledpeony wrote:I'd have to read your work to give personalized suggestions, but I can go over the basics:

Generally speaking, the important steps are to establish the viewpoint character (preferably by having them take an action that illustrates something about their character), give a sense of the setting/genre, and show the reader a problem (or, in other terms, a hook) on the first page. It's good to do all of this in the first paragraph--or even the first sentence--if possible, but that doesn't work for every story.

(Important point of note: Every story always presents its own unique challenges. Some stories just start easier than others.)

Good things to avoid include:

  • Excessive exposition. It's best to let information unfold naturally throughout the course of the story as individual pieces become necessary rather than overloading the reader with it at the beginning.
  • A character who is thinking rather than acting.
  • Wake-up openings (the character gets up, showers, brushes their teeth, etcetera) or other every-day acts that seem mundane and therefore lack tension.

It would definitely be a good idea to read some contemporary short stories to get a feel for how they open and what makes those openings work.

There are bound to be some good tips on opening a story in Wulf Moon's Super Secrets thread. I recommend taking a peep at the table of contents on the first page and seeing if anything there catches your eye.

One final note: The best way to get better at beginnings is to write them. wotf007 Keep practicing! And, perhaps, do crit trades with some of the other forum members. I often learn as much, if not more, from critiquing others' work as I do from the critiques I get in return.


Thanks for the feedback. The general consensus is it takes too long to get to the action.

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disgruntledpeony
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Re: Ways to craft an effective introduction?

Postby disgruntledpeony » Fri Jul 17, 2020 8:34 am

Apollo wrote:Thanks for the feedback. The general consensus is it takes too long to get to the action.

Glad to help. If you're having a hard time getting into the action right away, it might be good to make that a focus during edits. I wouldn't worry about it so much during the first draft--that's about getting the bones of your story assembled so you have a framework on which to stitch the rest of the monster together later.

If a lot of stuff slows the story down before it gets to the action, a good solution to that can sometimes be to cut everything before the action begins. It's a difficult thing to do, but potentially worthwhile. (I horde all my old drafts with their discarded prose in case I need something from them later. Sometimes there's a solid description or factoid that ends up being a good fit for a different scene later on.)
If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it at an hour when it isn't expecting it. ~ H.G. Wells

R, SF, SHM, SHM, SHM, F, R, HM, SHM, R, HM, R, F, SHM, SHM, SHM, ?, ?

https://ticknortales.com/

Apollo
Posts: 24
Joined: Thu Jul 09, 2020 8:04 am

Re: Ways to craft an effective introduction?

Postby Apollo » Fri Jul 17, 2020 9:11 am

Reuben wrote:By introduction I'm guessing you mean exposition. Most stories, you don't want an introduction, because that way you have to hook the reader twice.

And that's basically how to do it, as I'm sure everyone else will agree. Start off with a hook, make the reader curious to read on, and then pepper in hooks throughout. That way, a good writer will make it that there's no point in a story that the reader will be able to put the book down. For this reason, many chapters end off as cliffhangers.

I would suggest reading the WotF volumes, take the first sentences of each and figure out what is has going for it. Then look at all the first paragraphs.

For example, there's a story in Vol. 35 that starts as something like: Would you kill a child? That is one of the questions they ask you. Wolf Moon's story also starts out as intrueging, not because of the content, as in the previous example, but for the voice. I'm Dixie. I'm twelve. Well, almost.

Dave has said that a story should always start as close to the action as possible. My first entry started a with a scene indicating the antagonist and showing how he was evil. Afterward, I erased this scene, because it was unnecessary. Everything that could be learned from it could be learned from the rest of the story as well.

Hope I was of some help. Good Luck!


Thanks for the reply. And yes, it was the exposition. It is never bad, it could just be better, so it matches the quality of the rest of the story.

Apollo
Posts: 24
Joined: Thu Jul 09, 2020 8:04 am

Re: Ways to craft an effective introduction?

Postby Apollo » Fri Jul 17, 2020 9:13 am

Dustin Adams wrote:Adam Colston (V. 26) used to write and post opening after opening on the old Hatrack forum. We could only post 13 lines there, but he would get an idea, post it, and get feedback. We have the 450 thread here. Crank out some openings and get some feedback. Even if you don't finish the story. I've done that a few times. :)


I think part of the issue is I am building the scene in my own head. Some of which is unnecessary for the reader. I've been reworking the start of my story and I think it is flowing better now.


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