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Where and how and when to start???

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Thu Jan 12, 2012 4:49 am
Paracosm says...



I'm breaking into my first short mystery with a new character, and I'm facing a major predicament. I keep coming up with beginnings that suck, big time. This is always the hardest part for me, so I though I'd ask for you guys' (I think that's right?) for help.

Here's the deal, my main character is your perfectly cliched defective detective. He's got social anxiety disorder, depression, and suicidal tendencies. He's a certified genius (of course.) and he's under going therapy after an attempted suicide.

His neighbor is a busy body, but like a mother to him. She drags him out of bed every morning and forces him to look for a job. She decides to invite her niece on a date with Mr. Stetson. He accepts reluctantly, because he feels obligated.

Here are my options: 1. It starts with him waking up. Boring huh? Mrs. Hawthorne, (motherly neighbor) wakes him up, drags him out of bed, and gets him ready for his first session of therapy and tells him he's going on the date. Then it commences to the therapy scene, then the date, then he finds Mrs. Hawthorne dead.

2. It starts out at his therapy. His therapist is reviewing his record, and talking to him about his past. Mrs. Hawthorne is mentioned, but not introduced, until she's found dead in her apartment.

3. It starts with the date. The two get back and find Mrs. Hawthorne dead, and then he goes to therapy.

4. None of the above. This really isn't quite an option, since any ideas you guys give me won't be my own, and I'll feel guilty.

Any way, thanks for reading, give me your opinion, and I'll give you a hug.
Review unto others as you would have others review unto you.

Don't panic!

Also, Shino!




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Thu Jan 12, 2012 4:03 pm
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RachaelElg says...



Normal, standard Theory of Beginnings goes something like this: When it comes to beginnings, the thing you have to consider is the kick-off point where the action all starts, and your beginning's relationship to it.

Your options are basically this:

1. Before the kick-off point
2. At the kick-off point
3. After the kick-off point

And of those options, none is better than the other.

Your first three options all fall under the category 1. They differ in the time-distance between the start and the kick-off, from a long time to a relatively short time. The modern trend in a large number of books is to start just before the kick-off at the earliest, more often at it and sometimes even after it, mainly because a lot of readers these days seem to be impatient, as evidenced by the number of fantasy-lovers I know who haven't read Lord of the Rings. But that's another rant.

So, in the perspective of Standard Theory of Beginnings, I'd recommend you start as close to the kick-off as possible, if not at it or past it, and filter in all the backstory later. I'd recommend your option 3 or a variation with therapy preferably later on, after a chapter or two.


The thing is, though, that I really hate Traditional, Standard, Theory of Plot and in those sorts of Plot Theory is the Standard, Normal Beginning Theory. I don't like it, Sam I am, because it wants you to have this "kick-off" point but that implies that your plot is this banal, linear, basic thing. You know, like the plot curve you have to talk about in English class? With the rising exposition and the climax and the declining exposition and all that?

Hogwash, I call it.

Instead, I belong to the "Start where things are interesting" Camp, which is sometimes known as "Start where the story starts" camp. Which means deciding what your story's really about and starting there. Because maybe it's not about who killed Hawthorne and why but Mr. Stetson? Or maybe it's about his cat. Or his relationship with his cat. Or maybe he's sitting in therapy the entire time.

I don't know. It's your story. And so thus I give you my final bit of advice, which is basically what I do: Start wherever the heck you want to.
If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that certain dogs I have known will go to heaven, and very, very few persons.
—James Thurber




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Fri Jan 13, 2012 2:45 am
Paracosm says...



Thank you for the help! I think I'm going to start off at the therapy, that's where things really get started. Thank you a ton!
Review unto others as you would have others review unto you.

Don't panic!

Also, Shino!