False Starts and Introductions to Novels: Too Cliché or A Forgotten Skill?

 

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“At dawn, the sun either shines itself or hides behind clouds, promising what the day will bring. So it is with introductions in stories.” —Ed White

Most agents and editors would balk at the suggestion of a false start intro to a novel. On its own, there’s nothing wrong with an exciting beginning, so long as it’s done well. Then again, the last time I read a false start in a novel was years ago. Is it now a forgotten technique, shunned by writers?

The problem is that false introductions are usually poorly done and give off a flat feeling for the rest of the book. If you’re a writer developing the draft of your novel, then this article is a must for you.

—Introductions—

Those First Introduction Paragraphs

The first few paragraphs of a book introduce an author’s style—his or her prose rhythm, subtle insecurities, and other narrative patterns and issues. A book is like an onion; it has layers of emotional and mental components embedded into the prose.

This is especially the case in early drafts, where the author is still figuring out what he or she wants to do with the story. Analyzing one’s writing patterns in drafts can lead to improvement and growth of a writer.

A Handy Exercise on Introductions in Prose

There’s an exercise in this article that I recommend. You examine the first 250 words of your story. Heavily. Dissect it, break it apart, and ask yourself:

  1. What is the purpose of this introduction?
  2. Why is it set up like this?
  3. Is there a hook for the reader?
  4. Is the introduction short enough for the sake of clarity and pacing, but long enough to express its purpose?
  5. What patterns does this intro reveal about the book as a whole?

These questions are by no means exhaustive. Invent your own questions and discover how many perspectives and shades of grey your introduction can produce.

The first 250 words are crucial to the rest of your story and should let the reader what they’re in for. Most readers picking up a book at the store—or skimming over it on Amazon—will do this to see if the story interests them.

—In the Reader’s Best Interests of Introductions—

Keeping Introductions to Novels Interesting

I once heard a fellow writer say:

“Stories are like skirts. They have to be long enough to cover everything, but short enough to keep things interesting.” —Anonymous

Now, while that might not be the cleverest of examples, he did have a point. Stories, and particularly introductions—since introductions are a significant part of your prose—should be short and sweet, including everything that should be there.

Hooking Readers in the Introduction of a Novel

Here’s a helpful article on hooking readers in the introduction. The author mentions driving the prose with curiosity and conflict—elements that provoke the reader, tempting them to read further.

You can also use internal dialog or exposition to hint at a character’s insecurities, flaws, or other issues. I’m not big on exposition myself—too many writers turn internal narration into a dry monologue that is boring to read through, but that’s a topic for another time.

Stress is…Good for Readers?

Readers love stress and anxiety in a story; they hate it in real life—so, give them what they want, am I right? And do it early on, promising them the reward they will receive if they delve deeper into your story. Dangle that carrot!

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Don’t be Afraid to Use False Introductions

Approach your introduction with a sense of clarity and enjoyability for your reader. Have a plan for your intro, and reflect throughout the rest of your book. The promises you make in those first 250 words should come full circle. Otherwise, your introduction is nothing more than a prop that can not—and should not—stand on its own.

—Concluding an Introduction—

Striking a Balance

In summary, an introduction to a novel is a significant part of the writing process. Take your time with it, and review it on a routine basis. Even after your twentieth read through, you may yet discover new insights about yourself as a writer.

Ask yourself:

Is it long enough to cover everything? Is it short enough to keep it interesting? Does it dangle the carrot appropriately, leaving the reader begging for more?

If you can bond your reader with your main protagonist and the story within the first few paragraphs, then congratulate yourself; you’ve accomplished a feat that most writers struggle with.

Final Words

Beginnings are always the funniest part of a new story, but they can also be the hardest. I hope this article has provided you with some semblance of wisdom in your writing journey—I’m by no means a professional myself.

Thank you for reading. Love and gratitude to my readers! 😀

Hit the “like” button below if you enjoy what you see to stay informed of this blog’s updates. Also check out a recent article I did about meditation, creativity, and writing. Thanks.

 

Personal Thoughts on Writing and Creativity

grayscale vintage typewriter

I once read an interesting set of questions from a fellow blogger and writer: What do you write? Why? What helps you sit in front of your typewriter or computer screen on a routine basis? What exactly makes you a writer? Who Do You Write For? How Do You See Writing?

In this article, I’ll define what writing is, then attempt these questions as they relate to me. I’ll then go on to talk about my own experience with writing and how my perception of the craft has changed with time.

—Defining What Writing Is—

Since time immemorial, writers have existed. From ancient storytellers and cave paintings/etching to modern-day typewriters and word processors, this art continues as a staple of human existence. It would be difficult to envision a society without writers.

A writer is a person who produces and conveys information, particularly by written characters. There are many types of writers, from academic, to business, creative, and erotica. Fiction and nonfiction make up the general categories, but do we really understand what makes fiction?

—Fictional Universes—

Fiction is the very definition of creativity. There are no boundaries, except for the ones we set for ourselves in the story. Some rules do exist to create a loose outline, but we can define those standards however we chose.

In some ways, the products from fiction are a mirror of our inner consciousness. The things we desire; the things we envision being possible; the things we wish we had; the things we fear the most, and so on.

Writing fiction is like exploring who we really are. One may even consider it a type of pseudo-meditation. We become so engrossed in the art at times, we almost cannot stop. It becomes us because it is who we really are.

Writing fiction wipes away the limitations in our lives, but it can also be a form of escape, for better or for worse; I can personally relate.

—Nonfictional Universes—

On the other hand, writing non-fiction is more about the observation of the universe we dwell in. Non-fiction is limited by what we know for sure, as it’s based more off real life. Unlike its counterpart, non-fiction is objective with evidence to support written ideas. It may not be as thrilling as fiction, but it is also a lot more grounding to the self. It allows us to take a step back and appreciate the reality we dwell in.

Some people consider non-fiction boring, but how can we know for sure?  We have yet to journey outside our own solar system. As incredulous as it may sound, perhaps reality is not as limited as we think. After all, we set the limitations in fiction, but who are we to know what the wildest restrictions are? Only Mother Nature knows that answer.

“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”

-Mark Twain

—My Experience with Writing—

Next, I’ll get to those questions (yay).

What do you write?

I mainly produce creative content via my upcoming trilogy, Ethereal Seals—then there’s some poetry and short stories I’ve sat on for a while. I also write on WordPress here and sometimes do paid commission copywriting elsewhere.

Why? 

Why do I write? Because, if I didn’t vent my creativity, I’d go insane, lol. Jokes aside, writing is an invigorating exercise for me. I don’t have many friends and my family doesn’t do much. If anything it helps organize my day.

What helps you sit in front of your typewriter or computer screen on a routine basis?

I suppose it would be the love for my OCs, Pepper Slyhart, Tarie Beyworth, and others. I can always interface with my creations—and get transported to a world of fantasy and magic. That universe I’ve created is unique, at least for me, and I hold it close to my heart.

What exactly makes you a writer?

That’s a tough one!

My journey as a writer has been a confusing one, to say the least—full of its own ups and downs, periods of enlightenment and depression. Since high school, I’ve dedicated my life to developing Ethereal Seals. The project didn’t take shape until later, well into my twenties.

So, what makes me a writer? I suppose it’s the years-long dedication I have under my belt. Although I don’t consider myself a professional by any means.

Who Do You Write For?

I write mainly for myself and a small collection of friends and fans. I’m not the next Stephen King or anything, just a dude who likes being creative with his free time. Why not use it to create whole universes and tell stories?

How Do You See Writing?

I consider myself more of an artist than a writer, as I get the greatest fulfillment from creating worlds and building characters rather than studying and refining prose.

I don’t like a lot of the tags and stereotypes people associate with “writers” nowadays. Instead, writing should be just a relaxing pastime that stimulates creativity. For a good idea of what I mean, check out this older article I wrote.

—Final Thoughts—

I don’t consider myself a writer in the widely-accepted sense; I prefer the term artist or word-smith (there’s an interesting one 😉 ). My passion comes from creating ideas and expressing them. I don’t write to make money, there’s too much stress in that—and writers don’t make good salaries anyway unless you’re someone like Brandon Sanderson. I’m simply a soul with a large imagination who likes to have fun.

Thank you for reading. 😀


Feeling ambitious? Answer the questions below like I did and post them to your blog. I’d love to read them. Cheers.

What do you write? Why? What helps you sit in front of your typewriter or computer screen on a routine basis? What exactly makes you a writer? Who Do You Write For? How Do You See Writing?

 

 

A Big WordPress Thank You—50 Follows!

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It seems I hit another milestone: 50 follows! I wanted to take the time to thank all of you wonderful people for reading my humble blog. I may not be the best writer or blogger, but it brings a smile to my face to see others delighted by my work.

That said, I also noticed my WordPress yearly subscription just renewed as I hit 50 follows. This is an excellent opportunity to recap on the year’s progress. Doing so may give insight on where this blog heads for the future—and beyond.

—WordPress Beginnings—

How I Started with WordPress

I was halfway through my alpha manuscript for Ethereal Seals when I read good things about blogging—WordPress in particular. Many writers took up blogging, not just for building followers, but also for the sake of the craft. I find it a relaxing pastime, one that brings notice to my writing project—the chance to meet wonderful people like you.

My First Year on WordPress

Not much happened with the first few years I began WordPress in 2016 and 2017. At this time, my webpage was an unpaid subscription. I focused on designing the basic framework for my webpage and connecting it to social media. I rarely posted, mostly using the page as an archive to brainstorm and test ideas rather than a blog.

—A Rough Journey—

Enter 2018

The current year, 2018, is when I posted more routinely on my blog. I had fleshed out the skeleton for Ethereal Seals and wanted to spread word about it—early.

Unfortunately, it was rare for me to get more than a few views each week. The road was rough and depressing. Some weeks I was too busy to blog, or I felt unmotivated. Many times I felt like throwing in the towel—and still do sometimes. The feedback I get from readers helps me push forward.

I kept blogging, regardless of my dismal results. With every post, my blogging skills improved. I explored WordPress more, discovering new ways to present my site. I read other bloggers’ pages and networked. Soon, I had a small niche of blogger buddies that I spoke with often.

Leveling Up

Early in 2018, my website had leveled up to a Personal WordPress page. I wanted my own domain for a reasonable cost. I also read that having a domain is like owning your own brand—it shows the world you’re serious about blogging and writing.

Months later, I found a job as a freelance writer. The occupation involved writing articles in a particular format. Some of you may have noticed that my presentation of articles has changed—for improved readability and organization. I’m still experimenting with it.

—A Nice Conclusion to the Year—

A Pleasant Surprise

Towards the end of 2018, I was between jobs, relying on my freelance writing to keep me afloat. I also found a local writers’ group in my village, a place for feedback and networking purposes. So far, I have enjoyed it, and the people there are helpful.

Meanwhile, I noticed my follower count improving on WordPress. I expected to get only 10 to 15 followers by year’s end. With your generous help, I’ve more than quadrupled my goal. Although I still have a long way to go, this is more than I could ever hope for. Thank you.

Looking Forward

I’m happy with the way this blog has turned out—its overall progression. My intent for the first couple of years was a casual blog without a lot of hassle.

I intend to improve my blogging skills and expand my outreach. This will—hopefully—garner more support for my writing project. I’m always looking for beta readers and helpers. If you’re interested, let me know.

Thank you all once again for your support, my little niche of readers. Without you, I may have given up long ago. Comments and even liked articles motivate me to blog and work on Ethereal Seals.

Final Remarks

With that said, I know the writer’s journey is arduous for anyone. I will remain patient and steadfast to my goals. My manuscript has improved significantly—and continues to with every editing pass.

As 2018 draws to a close, my objectives for 2019 are to save up enough money for an editor, find an agent, and begin the publishing process for Ethereal Seals book one. I intend to remain a blogger and attendee to the writers’ group. If things pan out, my book—or ebook if I self-publish—will be available by late 2019.

Thank you again for reading. Have a wonderful Christmas, New Years, Winter Solstice, or whatever it is you celebrate! Cheers. 😀


Hit that follow button if you want to stay connected. Love and gratitude.

 

 

 

Ethereal Seals theory

This is a short essay on my original work, Ethereal Seals. I wanted to reflect back on how ES came to me and my intentions behind it, how those have changed, and the ongoing inspiration for my work.
ES started out as a collection of forum postings back when I was in high school. At the time, I mainly fooled around with childhood favorite TV shows, video games, and stories, such as LOTR, DBZ, and The Legend of Zelda. While initially inane and disjointed, over the years they mutated into something more concrete. Then I got into forum roleplaying. I met a handful of people I would later remain close in contact with for several years.
I continued to develop and refine the concepts behind the story, goaded by my forum and Skype peers. Life circumstances changed and I found myself unable to communicate with them much, due to a new job. Frustrated with unable to roleplay, I began writing my own story. My sole intention was to create a short series of roleplays for ES. Now, nearly a year later, I have over 500 pages of a rough manuscript in development. Sometimes I stare at the document in disbelief. Life can twist and bend in strange ways. With my inability to find a career in my college degree, I believe this is a new route blossoming before me.
So, what are my future intentions for Ethereal Seals? Honestly, I can’t tell you the fine details just yet, but I do have a general plan laid out. This story is too far along not to publish it; whether it will be done traditionally or digitally I am unsure. In addition to my story, I’ve been researching the publishing process. I also set up a creative Fiverr gig on the side, which you can view here if interested: https://www.fiverr.com/energyflux
ES is developing beautifully in my eyes. Currently, at over 320,000 words, I am debating whether I should follow the Robert Jordan route with his Wheel of Time series and conglomerate a massive science fantasy epic. I could also go the Dragon Lance road and split it up into individual novels. Either way, I’m confident it will be a success. Once the first arc is done, I have addition sequels planned. This isn’t going to be a short-lived trilogy, but an ongoing project. ES is my life’s work, I’ve come to realize, and it always will be until the day I leave this planet. Whether or not I can take it with me to the beyond and develop it there remains to be known, but if I can, I will. Still, if Ethereal Seals has empowered humanity and set it on a positive future, that alone will be enough. Thank you for reading.

What is a Mary Sue?

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“There’s nothing more boring than a perfect heroine!”

DrosselmeyerPrincess Tutu

 

You’ve likely heard of this term before–I’m sure it’s been written about to death, but here’s my take. A Mary Sue is a female fictional character given a plethora of boons without many (or any) flaws. They come off as flat characters without much potential for growth. A Mary Sue (or Gary Stu for the male counterpart) are often author pets, and the plot or other actors may bend around the needs and wants of a Sue. A figure of this caliber is often unrealistic, as most humans are flawed, and this makes relating to a Sue or Stu difficult.  It is vital in fiction to create a character relatable to your audience. This draws readers in and generates sympathy and a sense of kinship with a fictional hero. Here is an excellent article on Mary Sue traits.

You can garner interest within a character by giving a flaw or two. It could be a personality shortcoming like a short temper or a technical inability to perform an action. Whatever it is, have your characters struggle with it throughout the plot. Give depth to your characters’ flaws and weave it into their evolution. Don’t overburden your characters with defects. Otherwise, they may come off as incompetent actors who can’t move the plot at all.

Here’s a website for testing a character for Mary Sue traits. There are many other types of tests available, but here’s the first I found on a Google search.

While it’s okay if your character has some of these Sue qualities, try to keep the amount moderate. Some authors believe that Mary Sues can have a role in a story. While this can be true for side characters, your main actors should be the most interesting ones; if a Mary Sue serves a purpose for the protagonists or the plot, then it should be fine as long as it’s done correctly.

Here are some ways to add depth to a character:

  1. Play against traditional norms. Give your protagonist a unique quality that sets them apart, but doesn’t raise them up on a pedestal.
  2. Seed secrets within secrets. Utilize thoughts or dreams to evoke intimacy within a reader.
  3. Even if your characters are incompetent, give them agency. Have them act upon the plot and move mountains, figuratively or literally.
  4. Switch narratives. Have multiples main characters each with their own perspective. This adds depth to the plot and its actors. It may even sharpen one of your conflicts.
  5. Have protagonists relate to other characters and build trust gradually. This goes with the above tip, but trust does not happen quickly, sometimes not at all. If you find your protagonist garners a lot of respect and admiration from other actors for little to no reason, you may want to reconsider.

All in all, a Mary Sue can seem subjective to some, but there are hard guidelines to follow that help an author avoid this character pitfall. Be sure to get the opinion of multiple types of readers with different perspectives to ensure your character is as it should be.

Thank you for reading. Love and gratitude to my readers! 🙂

 

On Pepper Slyhart, my OC: the warrior-woman path

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Pepper Slyhart is the main protagonist of my series, Ethereal Seals. She’s a young red-haired woman in her early twenties. With her sheltered lifestyle, Pepper begins as naive and short-tempered. As a farmer’s daughter, Pepper is athletic and physically capable of holding her own. She is a robust and reasonable woman who ventures into a broad world of mystery and danger. Her greatest opponents are her emotions, reflected by her draconic curse.

The warrior-woman story is one less visited. It is different and challenging because it twists the typical narrative of gender roles. I created Tarie Beyworth, her traveling companion, a secondary protagonist, and Pepper’s love interest. Instead of the man driving the story, I reversed the roles. While Pepper is emotional and insecure, Tarie is moderate and self-assured. Their polar opposites complement each other and allow both characters to grow from the other.

As the story progresses, Pepper learns more about the spiritual path from Tarie and her spiritual guides. This is symbolic of both the divine masculine with the divine feminine, going by new age terms. Pepper cultivates humility, patience, love, and gratitude as she grows. She treats her foes differently, gracing them with words of compassion and the steel of her sword if need be. 

Tarie also discovers his own inner insights, but that’s an essay for another time. 🙂

As a male author, developing Pepper on this path has been a challenge. I can safely say I know little about it, but I continuously strive to improve her and Tarie, with feedback from both men and women alike. Although I feel I should have been born a female myself, this gives me a chance to have my own children in a fictional sense, with Pepper as my daughter, but I digress.

 I hope you enjoyed this short reflective article. Thank you for reading. 🙂