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Now back to our regularly scheduled programming...
I was recently thumbing through my copy of Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell, and read an interesting chapter on beginnings, middles, and ends. Now, this sounds basic, but I think many of us have read (or written) a novel and struggled with at least one of those three. For me, it's the middle. I know when I hit about 100 pages that I'm going to start wandering and a lot of what I write will be cut. My next few posts will be about these pieces; today we'll start at the beginning.
Beginning: It's the job of the beginning to start with the question, "Who?" Imagine if Gone With the Wind started in the scene where Sherman is marching on Atlanta. You wouldn't know anything about Scarlet, or Rhett, for that matter (and that would be a crying shame!). You wouldn't feel a connection to either main character, but you might actually like Ashley. Blecch! According to Bell, the beginning has four main goals.
1. Present the story world. We know from the get-go that Gone With the Wind is set in the antebellum South.
2. Establish the tone the reader will rely upon. Some books start out humorous, others are deadly serious. Some are more languorous, while others hit off running at a break-neck speed that never stops.
3. Compel the reader to move to the middle. And don't lose them there. (More on that next week!)
4. Introduce the opposition. These could be internal or external forces. Or both.
Which pieces of a novel do you excel at- beginnings, middles, or ends? Which do you most struggle with?