Thursday, March 16, 2017

Storyteller’s Rulebook: Your First Sentence is Probably on Page Four Right Now

Oh shit, you have to start writing, but how do you do that? Do you really have to right to create your own world? To create something from nothing? How can you make these character talk when they haven’t talked to you yet?

The tendency is to just kind of dump the characters on the page and let them mill around for a bit while you get to know them. Eventually they clear their throats and begin to speak, which freaks you out, because you created them, but soon, wonder of wonders, they come to life. You’re doing the work: You’re creating someone the audience can believe in, care about, and invest in.

Now it’s time to go back and cut out the milling around. Slice out your first four pages or so. If it’s first person, cut out the pages of the character introducing himself to us. If it’s third person, cut out the character going through a typical day. Start when the story starts.

(One of the best things you can do is jump to the first decision. Choices, more than anything else, show us who a character is, in a way that “Hi, here’s who I am” just can’t accomplish.)

There’s often a great opening sentence hiding on page four that you wrote when you were feeling comfortable and not so formal. Slice out the rest, including that first sentence you labored over for a month.

1 comment:

Harvey Jerkwater said...

A famous example of this in practice: the first sixteen pages of The Sun Also Rises were cut after F. Scott Fitzgerald strongly recommended to Hemingway that he do so. You can read those missing pages if you poke around the internet or a library. Fitzgerald was absolutely right.