Author Topic: Can you start a story with desription?  (Read 481 times)

Offline Felines are superior

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Can you start a story with desription?
« on: September 09, 2018, 11:21:48 AM »
Is it a good idea to start a ya story with description for two third of a page of a fictional town that's dangerous, the police useless, and teachers respond to kids complaints about bullying and violence by telling them to hit back.

Offline Mark T

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Re: Can you start a story with desription?
« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2018, 02:13:34 PM »
You can always go back and fill in the beginning at the end. The opening is the most important - it has to grab the attention of the reader, the editor or the agent.
If it is your first book, by the time you get to the end, you are a better writer. So it makes sense (in a strange way) to do the most important part at your best.

I do like the teachers' attitude.

Offline Felines are superior

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Re: Can you start a story with desription?
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2018, 04:39:05 AM »
That was the teachers' attitude when I grew up

Offline Mark T

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Re: Can you start a story with desription?
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2018, 01:20:45 PM »

Makes for strong bones.

Offline geethr75

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Re: Can you start a story with desription?
« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2018, 01:43:48 AM »
The opening should be interesting enough to grab the attention of the reader and to hold it. The description of the town and its way of life may be integral to the story, but you should ensure that it doesn't look like an info dump. Instead of simply describing it upfront, try and see if you can make the reader see it through the eyes of the characters. A good description can make the setting come alive, but too much of it can make the reader lose the thread of the story. After all, we are story tellers first, and the description should add to the story, not make the reader feel that it's holding up the plot. It's a fine balance, but if you can achieve that, your story will be so much better. All the best to you. 

Offline Mark T

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Re: Can you start a story with desription?
« Reply #5 on: September 18, 2018, 03:59:14 PM »

Good advice. Thanks geethr75.

Offline JWHMarshall

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Re: Can you start a story with desription?
« Reply #6 on: October 06, 2018, 07:04:25 AM »
I'm possibly necromancing a thread here but I just thought I'd chime in to say that I agree with Mark T and Geethr75.

If I can add to Geethr75's info - one way I've seen to facilitate expansive descriptions at the beginning of a story is Jordan's work in the Wheel of Time series.

From memory, for every one of the 10 or so books he finished, he began each book with a 3rd person omniscient narrative that followed 'wind' as it crossed the land in which his story was set. In other words he used a narrative device that allowed him to coherently bring unrelated events and imagery into his story, which provided insights into the culture of the world he had created.

Just thinking off the top of my head, this effect could be similarly achieved by describing, for example, events connected with the flight of a bird, the transfer of secrets or knowledge, the evolution of a language or of magic, or the diffusion of a technology, or whatever. If it's just within the scope of a particular town over a short period, maybe a 10 dollar bill as it was passed between owners would see some interesting things  - it could go from policeman to teacher to school kid relatively easily.

I would add though that in my own opinion, extended description brings a risk of boring the reader. I would posit that strong action, good structure and strong characters will generally be more interesting. I also think balance is important - going back to Jordan - there may be a place for extended description in one of the most ambitious fantasy works of its time but in, say, a short story, extended description could possibly skew the structure and balance of a work.

Of course, there will always be examples to the contrary and no rule is absolute. Just my (rambling) thoughts!

Offline Mark T

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Re: Can you start a story with desription?
« Reply #7 on: October 06, 2018, 03:47:18 PM »

Cogently expressed comment, James. I guess description is another term for exposition. It's a bit like mortar between bricks - one needs just the right amount. 

Offline JWHMarshall

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Re: Can you start a story with desription?
« Reply #8 on: October 06, 2018, 04:10:52 PM »
Yep, I reckon. It is also interesting the dichotomy between the creative process - which is messy and includes trial and error, etc - and the re-drafting process, which is where we need to be ruthless in cutting out the unnecessary stuff. We don't want to be paralysed by too many principles or rules when we're trying to get something down to work with. So, what I'm trying to say is, just write the thing first! Then you can see if it works.

Offline Mark T

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Re: Can you start a story with desription?
« Reply #9 on: October 07, 2018, 03:48:14 PM »

Amen. And may I add that (attempted) perfection is the enemy of good.

Offline Gyppo

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Re: Can you start a story with desription?
« Reply #10 on: October 21, 2018, 07:42:32 PM »
You can do anything as long as it works.  But it has to work for the reader, not just you.  You won't please all the readers all the time, but if you please most of them, most of the time, you're probably doing it right.

You may one of those technical type writers who plans every chapter, every scene, and sometimes even every sentence meticulously before you start.  If this approach works for you then it's the right thing.

But many of us do our thinking on the page, and we discover our characters' personality and foibles, and especially their interactions, as we go along.  Which means by the time we reach the end of the story, even if we've stuck closely to our original plot, they will have surprised us along the way.  If they surprise and fascinate us they will also surprise and fascinate the readers.

A consequence of this is that often the first chapter, which we initially thought so important to 'set the scene', may well be totally redundant.  At best it will feel a little 'thin' compared the the later ones where the characters have come into their own, where you have started to see the world through their eyes rather than your own.  You'll probably realise you need to rewrite the beginning, or start the story further in.

It may hurt to throw away those hard won words, but once you realise you don't need them, that they were just a storytellers warm up exercises, it can be surprisingly liberating and your story will be far better.

But don't agonise over this whilst you are still creating, otherwise you'll never get into your true storytelling stride.

Gyppo
My website is currently having a holiday, but will return like the $6,000,000 man.  Bigger, stronger, etc.

In the meantime, why not take pity on a starving author and visit my book sales page at http://stores.lulu.com/gyppo1