July 24, 2008 at 4:11 am 4 comments

One of my favorite romantic comedy’s is How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days. It’s brillant on so many levels, but this time when I watched I came at with a writer’s eye. I just finished judging contest entries. Out of the five I read, two started in the right place. One writer had minimal backstory and infodump. I love him/her for it. But as the opening scenes of How To opened I realized this movie did the same thing.

Yes, the little magazines float by and you see snippets of her acting out the research for her articles. Yet in the first ten minutes you know the goal, the motivation, and the conflict on the horizon.

Now I’m not saying being succint is best for every story. Some need to start slow. Like Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson. With the writer’s eye I can tell you the NOW story doesn’t start until the very bottom of page two. But up until that point she’s building you up for the rest of story. The tone. The underlining conflict. Heck, characterization and understanding how the character ticks. For the life of me I can’t see how she could have grabbed me with “Burt had his feet propped up on my battered coffee table….” VS. “There are Gods in Alabama…” *Now if you haven’t read this book please do. It’s a book that I wish deep down in my writer’s bones that I wrote. That some good writing. Also, it shut the writer in me up. Again, that’s some good writing.*

Now what am I really saying?

Don’t think your job is done once you’ve written a fabulous hook. Make me stay around for the story. You know how you can do that? By not boring me to death with backstory or infodump. Please I’m asking you as a reader. Just don’t.

Am I guilty of this?

Of course, but I’m not reformed. I’ll just bore you with backstory later. Just not in the first chapter. I promise.


Entry filed under: first lines, good books, opening scenes.


4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Pam  |  July 24, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    Amen to Gods in Alabama–that first paragraph should be engraved somewhere.

    And I’m with you–now that I’m watching movies with a writer’s eye, I’m learning about layering and when to start and all kinds of good stuff. (That means watching movies is now research. Bliss!)

  • 2. Melissa Blue  |  July 24, 2008 at 9:42 pm

    Amen to Gods in Alabama–that first paragraph should be engraved somewhere.

    I know. It’s one of paragraphs that makes you sit up and pay attention.

    Hmm, and maybe I can find out if movies can be written off for tax deductions….I’ll let you know when I do πŸ™‚

  • 3. Jess  |  July 25, 2008 at 12:48 am

    I’m a HUGE Joss Jackson fan-girl. *squeals*

    And I’m EMAILING YOU about the post from the 22nd. *G* You asked for it, sister. πŸ˜€

  • 4. Melissa Blue  |  July 25, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    Joss is the greatest. I’m hoping to pick up one of her books for the train ride.

    And aren’t you supposed to be packing? πŸ™‚

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