Tuesday, March 2, 2010

In Which I Set A Hook



So since I have to cut my prologue in Foxfire, that means I have to start my story elsewhere.
And though it seems like it should be an easy decision (just remove the prologue and start at chapter one) it really isn't.

One of the most important things you can do to give your novel a starting chance, is to give it a great opening. After all, when an agent is looking at your manuscript you want him/her to get as far into your story as possible. You don't want them to read the first paragraph or page and then set it aside.

So a strong opening will strengthen your chances.

The best way to craft a strong opening is to start with a hook, and an inciting incident. The hook is something that catches your reader's eye. Something like "Fred thought things were going great until the monkeys attacked," or whatever. I'd keep reading after that, because, I mean, monkey attack!

The inciting incident is the moment where your character starts on the path to change. What is it that happens to your MC (or, better yet as we discussed in my posts about passivity, what is it your MC does) that starts that change?

Hopefully this will also set in motion a surface problem. A surface problem is just what it sounds like, a problem on the surface of the story. Typically these are solved but then another one arises, etc.

So for Foxfire I'm struggling a bit with wondering how I want to handle my inciting incident. There's two places I could start it and I originally thought it would be when Fox has an accident and injures himself. I still think this would be a great place to jump into the story. But the issue I have with that is that I would lose a big big chunk of Fox's story before that and I would like to build him up a bit before I stick him with the first disaster.

So it's looking more and more likely that the inciting incident will have to go earlier (coincidentally, in a chapter one scene) and I'll have to rewrite that chapter to start with the hook and bring about the inciting incident.

I'm really excited to dig into this part of my revision. It seems to me it will be like playing with clay, and I get to smash it all around before the clay comes out looking like a horse head (that's pretty much the extent of my ability to shape clay...)

So what's your inciting incident? And does it happen early enough in your story?

27 comments:

Your Friendly Neighborhood Palindrome said...

I don't really have a good beginning for my NaNo but my current WIP is going to start with BANG! Okay not really. But I'm going to try to amp in up.

I like it when there are incidents pretty early though, monkey attacks are great beginnings. I think I'm going to do that...wait, my book doesn't have monkeys. *sad face*

Your Friendly Neighborhood Palindrome said...

Oh! and TAKE THAT ANNE!! FIRST COMMENT!!! BOO-YA!

Falen said...

Palindrome - it's funny you should mention that because i'm trying to write a 250 word story and was thinking of propmts and monkeys came up in my head more than once

Your Friendly Neighborhood Palindrome said...

Monkeys it is!! Oh and I totally requested the book you're reading at the library and it just came in!! We're going to be reading the same book. Like, OMG!!

Falen said...

Wha? CRAAAZY!

Southpaw said...

You are so write about the hook. A novels really is just a bunch of hooks all strung together.

SonshineMusic said...

In my historical WIP there is definitely not an early enough inciting incident. This is why the rough draft is gathering moss in my computer files. I can't figure out how to move later into the story without losing important stuff. grrr...

Teebore said...

Hmm...I'm not sure.

In my NaNo book, the inciting incident (does Tommy become a criminal?) is setup in the first chapter, but probably not the first page.

In "Fate Lost" the inciting incident is WAY later. I like to think the opening has a strong hook (bombs are going off! Soliders are fighting!) but the main plot doesn't really get introduced until the second chapter, and Malcolm isn't presented with his big choice (does he buy into this super power crap?) until the third.

Nicole Ducleroir said...

Great post! An opening line will hook a reader more surely if the sentence describes action. I don't know about you, but when an opening line talks about the setting, or describes what the character looks like as she sits quietly on a bench, it does nothing for me. You have to come at the reader with action if you want them to read on.

Hey, congrats on winning Kristin's contest!!! Too cool!

Summer said...

I like my hook in one of my WIPs. The whole chapter sets up one of the main subplots of the story and gets in a bunch of action, plus shows the MMC's character quite strongly.

My other is definitely a character-based story. I don't want to do one of those "the day my aunt Julie died would change my life forever" kinds of things, so I'm still trying to figure out what would be the right hook. (Hehe...right hook...)

Tina Lynn said...

Inciting incidents are tricky little blighters. It's difficult to decide exactly where it should be. I would say definitely in the first five pages or so. Of course, I think mine is on page six or seven, so I've broken my own rules. Oops.

Anne said...

I'll have you know, Palindrome, that i read her post waaay before you commented- i just had nothing to say

Your Friendly Neighborhood Palindrome said...

@Anne- oh sure, sure. I completely believe you.

Kay said...

Like your hat. Hope it helps you revise the nits and the problems.

As for prologues, I'm finding I'm not reading books where they seem superfluous and unconnected.

Falen said...

Southpaw - indeed. those surface problems just keep popping up until the end

Sonshine - yeah that's a bit of an issue i'm going to face once i tackle the beginning of Foxfire. Ah well, knowing there's a problem is half the battle

Falen said...

Teebore - keeping in mind that it's been quite a few years since i've read all of Fate Lost, i actually don't think that Malcom's big choice (or how he changes) is whether or not he buys into the superhero stuff. I think that's a book long surface problem, but i don't think it's the problem that defines him as a character. For example, when he does accept his role, (and i'm speaking strictly about the first book here) it seems to me (from what i can remember) that he doesn't change as a man or a person because of that revelation, but because of others.
Eh, we'll have to discuss later

Falen said...

Nicole - indeed. I'm ok with slow openings, but there better be some sort of hook within a few pages or i'll be peeved. First sentence is the best if you can pull it off

Tina - LOL well rules are made for breaking. Yes i agree, Hook as soon as possible, Inciting incident can follow a bit after that

Anne and Palindrome - come now, there's plenty of me to go around (Mwahahaha)

Kay - thanks. And yeah, that can indeed be a problem.

Teebore said...

knowing there's a problem is half the battle

And the other half is shootin' stuff!

Yeah, we should discuss that again at some point. Especially now that I'm breaking the first part out to stand on it's own. It could use some, shall we say, structural appraisal.

I'm also thinking, thanks to this post, of chucking the first couple pages; you know, they're riding along, get out, comes across enemy soldiers, fight. Screw that, I'm thinking, let's just start with the fighting and catch everyone up from there.

I need to re-read it with that in mind and make sure it works, but I think it will, and will make the opening stronger for it, so thanks!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Mine has a prologue, but there's a couple places in the first chapter where I could start. Would be awkward, though. One happens two pages in, so that might be okay. Of course, I guess that pretty much DOES start the chapter!

Good luck with yours!

Falen said...

Teebore - yeah just let me know when you're ready for me to take a stab at it

Alex - yeah i'm totes jealous that your book has a prologue

Barbara Ann Wright said...

I would also keep reading about the monkey attack. I think you've got your new beginning all sewn up right there!

Tara said...

Monkeys? I'm in!

I'm killing myself trying to get my first chapter rght. Urk.

There's something over at my place fr you :)

Falen said...

Barbara - what is it about monkeys that just draws attention?

Tara - thanks! I'll pop on over right now

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

Good luck on finding that sweet spot to start with. That is always such a challenge--where to begin.

Falen said...

Roni - thanks. And of course, it's so important, so there's even more pressure

Donna Hole said...

My inciting incident is an unexpected kiss from a stranger, which also introduces another MC. Comes about the third page.

I'm totally bad at beginnings. I've re-written the first chapter - and especially the first three paragraphs - so often I'd like to just put a note where chapter one begins that says "this chapter deleted by popular approval", and move on.

How well do ya think that would go over with the agent?

.......dhole

Falen said...

Donna - i guess that would depend on the agent? Also, i think an unexpected kiss from a stranger is an awesome inciting incident. I'm a bit in awe and a tad jealous...

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