GUEST POST: WRITING LESSON 5 BY DAVID KUMMER

 Welcome to this lesson of David Kummer’s writing course. That’s me, by the way. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, success stories, or just something fun to say, email me at davidkummer7@gmail.com. I’d love to talk about anything and everything, especially if that everything has to do with books, basketball, or Chinese food. I am a teenager, after all. So that’s that! Head on down and read what might be the best writing course of your life, but also might be the worst 😉 You won’t know until you try!

Beginning

Give them a taste of what’s in store, make it appear awesome, and then make it awesome.

 

For this section of the course, we will study the basic plot structure of a book and how you can use it to make the work better.

 

While there are many, many, many different plot structures, I’ll be using the simplest one, the Five Point Plot Structure. This is something my eighth grade English teacher taught me, and it’s effective, simple, and easy to remember without needing any fancy diagrams.

 

The parts: Beginning, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, Resolution

 

These parts can be arranged in two main ways that are really hundreds.

 

1- They can be like a triangle, with the climax at the highest point. Like any triangle, one side may be longer. It may take longer to get to the climax, and then only a short time to wrap up the story. Or a short time to get there and a long time to wrap up the story.

 

2- They can be like a roller coaster, with many ups and downs. There can be multiple climaxes to the story. In many Fantasy epic novels, this is the case.

 

Included in these two are plot twists and surprise endings. These can be diagrammed if you want, but are best to be simply remembered as plot points. We will discuss these further in the lesson, too!

 

As you can see from above, this lesson is over Beginning. I’ll discuss what it is, of course. Also: how to hook a reader, what the Beginning does, what the Beginning doesn’t do.

 

Let’s get started!

What Beginning does

 

Beginning can do many things for you. First of all, it will introduce your characters. Also, it will introduce your setting. It will set the stage for the rest of the book. And lastly, it will set the tone of your work.

 

As I said, the Beginning will introduce your characters. This is a crucial thing to do. In every movie, book, play, and more, you will see that the Beginning introduces the main character. In most cases, it will even introduce two or three.

 

When you introduce these characters, keep in mind what we talked about with description. While showing new characters that are important, the goal should be to have the reader relate to and like them. If you attach the reader to the character, they’ll keep reading. You don’t do this by describing the character; you do it by making them life-like. Which means they have to do stuff. Talk, move, think, cry, laugh, all that.

 

Secondly, the Beginning will introduce your setting. Now, I know your book will have multiple places that stuff happens, but this setting will be important, at least for a while. In my Fantasy novel I’m writing, the first setting is a town. After it gets burned, you never see it again, but it’s still important for those first few chapters.

 

This setting should be described fully, depending on how long it is important. Once again, it’s better to let the reader imagine for themselves and merely get them started and guide them with your words.

 

As well, the third thing the Beginning does is set the stage for the rest of the book. Now, the Rising Action does this more, but everything starts here. The Beginning is where, for example, you set up the world to be in a war. Or you set up the detective to solve the mystery. It’s the start of the storm.

 

Lastly, the Beginning will set the tone for your book. Certain authors just have certain voices. Take these two passages for instance:

 

First Passage-

The rain was a fine drizzle upon the earth, as it poured in sheets. There was no fire in the camp, as the world was besieged by watery fountains from the skies. We sat under tents, listening to the pounding. All we knew was that during the storms came lightning, and after the rains came floods. They would die.

 

Second Passage-

We hunched in our tents, all shivering and soaked. The rains had continued for days now. I wasn’t sure if they would ever end. All around our campsite, there were little patches of floods. Constantly, the night sky was shocked with lightning. But the storm wasn’t our fear. We knew what came next, and what waited not far away. The destruction of our home, the death of our families.

 

In these two passages, the author (my alter ego Mr. Waffle-Burger) has two very different tones, and that affects how you read the story.

 

Now, tone isn’t something you need to worry about. Your tone and voice will emerge by itself. Just write like you want to. Try to keep it consistent, and above all don’t spend long hours trying to write like somebody you’re not. Just let yourself write.

Checklist

 

Here’s a checklist for when you write/edit your Beginning! I even made boxes because I’m that talented (or immature).

 

Checklist for Beginning:

 

Introduce 1 or 2 characters [  ]

Make the characters relatable/likable [  ]

Describe 1 setting (as much as is needed) [  ]

Set the stage for rest of book [  ]

Clearly set the tone [  ]

What Beginning doesn’t do

 

The Beginning can pretty much do whatever you want. There can be major plot points in it or just some early material. You can show the main character, or the main character plus three or four or lots. It all depends on your story, what you want to convey, and a plethora of other options.

 

What I’m saying is this: Don’t limit yourself. Your Beginning can be fantastic! And if it is, that’s a major plus. Just don’t make it a bad start, or they won’t read on.

How to hook your reader

 

This, ultimately, is the goal. To hook your reader. I’ll give you my thoughts, and then put some links in the back material for further reading.

 

First off, you have to hook your reader with the opening sentence/paragraph. Which means it has to be something… exciting, kind of.

 

Dialogue is great for this. Descriptions, not so much. Actions, too are good. Memories… Nah. You just have to make a judgment call, which is best done by reading and getting people’s advice. Send a message out to your platform of followers asking, “Would you read the rest of a chapter that started like this? (insert paragraph)”.

 

After that, your first page needs to be good. It needs to expand on that first paragraph, and keep the reader’s interest high. This is why your Beginning will probably have some type of important plot point: Without one, it’s hard to entertain the reader.

 

Readers can get attached and interested in a multitude of ways. You can get them with their emotions, by making the story powerful. Or you can make the characters likable. In essence, this is where your work becomes either a story-driven book or a character-driven book. That simply means whether people keep reading because the plot is engaging or because the characters are engaging. It can also be both. Neither one is right or wrong.

 

Hooking your reader, basically, is a mixture of things. The most important sentence is the first one. The most important paragraph is the first one. So on and so on. This means that for the Beginning, you’ll have to put in a lot of work. But all that work will translate directly to sales, and that’s the best part.

Conclusion

 

Don’t limit yourself with this. Take your ideas, your imagination, and let it really grow. The Beginning is where you feel fresh and full of vigor. The words flow, you feel thrilled with what you’ve written, and every sentence seems to be a jewel.

 

Take advantage of this feeling. Write with passion, and get well into the story before the sensation leaves. In the end, you have to make a commitment to the book, whether you’re writing, editing, or editing for the seventh time. There has to be something about the story that keeps you going, and it’s the same for the reader.
Give them a taste of what’s in store, make it appear awesome, and then make it awesome.

 

The Beginning is their teaser, it’s their taste. And when they read on, don’t let them be disappointed.

 

In the next lesson, we’ll study Rising Action, and what causes this action to rise. The subtle beginnings become epic tales, and we will study exactly how that happens!

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