Last post I discussed the danger of having too many open questions in your first pages, because customers haven’t signed up for a survey and they don’t owe you their time to complete one. (For more on what on earth I’m talking about, see the post here: (http://beyondthehourglassbridge.blogspot.com.au/2012/03/hooking-readers-with-dullest-subject.html) This post I’m talking about one of my favorite catch-phrases: pitch it before you post it. Despite frequent eye-rolls from the sales rep’s I teach it to, this one’s important. (And for my next trick, I shall attempt to segue into how it’s relevant in a book)…
Just because the customer hasn’t seen the information pack and has no idea what the call is about, doesn’t excuse stalling the call flow to confirm their address and re-send the brochure. People don’t expect you to grab their interest and they’re not going to wait around hoping, so whack ‘em with a few tantalizing features (aka pitch it), then get to the nitty-gritty later (aka post it! See?). In story terms this means not explaining your character’s entire life story and all their particular emotional traits within the first page. It means not stalling the writing to intricately describe the way something works in the fantastical world you’ve created. Instead, it means giving them little snippets of what’s to come, without going over the top.
The reason I say don’t go over the top is because in the same way that too many questions can take a story from intriguing to just confusing, too many answers can do the same thing.
So how do you stop a stop-action explanation in its tracks?
Read through your opening pages and note every new piece of information you deliver.
For each piece ask yourself, am I only telling this to the reader because I feel obliged to at this point? If I cut this, will it still make sense? If the answer to either of these is yes, you might wish to consider weaving the information in more naturally somewhere else.
If one of the new pieces of information in your list is a description, can you cut it down so the reader gets a thumbnail image that doesn’t interrupt the flow? (Don’t mourn the details you’ve cut – a good way to bring reality to your writing is to scatter those details throughout it later on. For example you could spend your opening paragraphs explaining that your protagonist has long, unkempt blonde hair, riddled with split ends because she plays with it constantly whenever she’s nervous – and see how that stops the action. Or you could create a thumbnail by showing that she’s blonde, and then halfway through the chapter you could show her picking apart her split ends, to build tension as well as a stronger mental image).
If the new information on your list is delivered through dialogue, read it aloud. Does it match the character’s personality for them to say that, or are they just saying it to tell the reader?
The idea is that unless a piece of information is important to the story right then and there, you might want to consider getting rid of it or working it in another way. But again, keep an open mind as you do so. Don’t just say ‘nope, that has to go in the first page and I’m not changing it.’ Say ‘ok, so I definitely need this information here, but what if this character says it instead… or what if this happens to show it… or what if…?’
Who knows what if? That’s your job. 🙂
Like this post? Part 3 coming soon…
P.S. This is a new blog. Anything you could do to spread the word would be much appreciated. Thanks!