On Writing & Publishing by Robin D. Owens

Personal notes on writing techniques, writing a novel, my writing career and threading your way through publishing a book.

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Location: Denver, United States

RITA Award Winning Author -- that's like the Oscar, folks! Futuristic/Fantasy Romance and Fantasy with Romantic Subplots.

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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Starting With A Single Character Onstage

This came up as a big "no-no" on the RMFW loop, and since I've heard the advice in critique groups for a while, I wondered who the "authority" was. So I asked as I asked before.

There are "authorities" I will listen to: Debra Dixon, Dwight Swain, Stephen King, James Frey, Julia Cameron....but this wasn't in those. And, darn it, if I want to start with a single character onstage (even literally like in Echoes In The Dark), I think I should be able to do it without scolding.

It IS good to avoid opening with introspective characters thinking about things -- especially with 50 pages of backstory to follow (yes, I have seen this and my long-term crit buddy will never live it down even though it is far in the past).

But opening with two characters and an info dump conversation, "Oh, Billy, we've been friends since we were kids and you know that my evil stepmother who locked me out of the house when it was 20 below and now I have a dreadful disease is flying home for my dad's funereal"...An opening like this can be hard to read/sell, too.

Two characters onstage can be an easy way to add conflict, that I agree with.

Three or more can add confusion -- who's talking? moving? the protagonist?

I think I've opened with a single character on-stage in about 4 of my books, including HeartMate.

Like most "rules" Don't Start With A Single Character Onstage is one that should be considered, but not followed blindly.

May you enjoy all the books you read today.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just as a reader... any start is good if it grabs your attention!
No rules! otherwise it is like looking a painting done by the numbers instead of an original work of art. Boring!!
And most readers, other than 5 year olds, can figure out how many people are in a conversation, provided that it is well written. Dumming down things for us is usually obvious and rather insulting.

12:34 PM  
Blogger FantasyAuthor RobinDOwens said...

Thanks, you make good points. There have been times when I've read too many people on stage and couldn't keep track of 4-5(and written that too) especially in the beginning of a book.

2:19 PM  

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