Monday, April 16, 2012

A Matter of Time...

Fictional Time

While reading "Writing Fiction" by Janet Burroway and Elizabeth Stuckey-French, I came upon the chapter about writing fictional time.

This really clicked with me because I recently rewrote my story and started it right in the middle of the action.

"Checkov advised his fellow writers to tear the story in half and begin in the middle..."- Writing Fiction (p.226)

And that's what I did!

Hook 'Em

I changed my approach because I wanted to hook my readers into the story as soon as possible. My story is YA Fiction and most readers in this target audience do not want paragraphs of detailed narrative right at the beginning.


They want action...immediately!

YA Fiction is immediate. Most adult fiction is considered nostalgic in that the reader spends most of the time in flashbacks or reading how the main character remembers.

However, in YA Fiction, the target audience lives in the immediate and wants the immediate.

So, I had to change my approach and set my reader right in the middle of the action in the first paragraph.

It's not an easy task for me usually, but with this story is made more sense.

That first scene provides your reader with the point-of-view, the establishment of the world they will be in, and the reality of that world you've created.

That's what's so fun about writing!

Concluding it All

Now, just because you may have an incredible beginning...full of action and intrigue....doesn't always mean you'll have an incredible ending.

Sometimes writers struggle with that crisis moment at the end.

 I know I do.

I struggle with visualizing that big confrontation scene that must happen between my protagonist and antagonist. I worked all weekend trying to write it out as a scene.

I finally finished the crisis moment, but that final climax really stumped me. I had to take a few moments and visualize it.

Burroway and Stuckey-French even write about acting the scene out if it helps you! I suppose I could.

But I was able to get the scene down and will review it for clarity later.

Failure to include these climactic scenes will result in an unsatisfying ending and leave your reader disappointed. And a disappointed reader will not want to pick up your next book!

"Just as in a poem, the first lines has a lot to do with the last line, even though you didn't know it was going to be."  - Doris Betts

A Matter of Time

So give yourself permission to start your story with action or start it right in the middle and hook readers in with that first line.

Then, really visualize that crisis moment that leads to your final climactic ending. Tie it into that intriguing first line you gave the reader up front.

Try it and see what happens!

Your turn: How does your story hook in the reader? How do you keep them reading to discover what happens next? 



  1. The first few drafts of my story didn't have a great hook, but I've tried to be more purposeful with this. Good advice and great stuff!

    1. Thanks! Yes, that all important hook can be tough to write. But it does make a difference...

  2. Good post, Ruth. I'm teaching a class on beginning your novel with Les Edgerton, the author of HOOKED. Les recommends the Burroway book highly. Anyway--I think he would definitely say you're on the right track! Best of luck with the ending. Another good approach is to close your eyes and pretend you're at the movie of your book. When it's over, open your eyes and write.

    1. Thanks Jenny! Great idea. I'll have to try it. I am good at pretending! Ha ha!

      I am amazed at how good this book really is. If I taught writing, this would be my textbook.

      Thanks for visiting!