Jul 22 2006

Story Structure

In the opening…

Generally, it’s a good idea to show or at least foreshadow the main characters.

Most writing guides emphasize an audience’s emotional investment in the characters.  That’s certainly important, but I think it’s also important for fiction writers to get readers to emotionally invest in the world.   Both of these investments tie in to what’s at stake.  Why should the audience care

The opening should also establish the tone and mood of the piece.  People that buy/read your novel will probably do so on the basis of the first few chapters (maybe just the first few pages).  It’s important not to jilt your readers– if it starts out tragically, it shouldn’t be a light-hearted comedy.

In the body of the story…

If your story is your gun, scenes are your bullets.  Scenes, rather than blocks of exposition that occur in a vacuum, show the characters.  A character in a well-constructed scene will feel a lot more alive to your audience than, say, a character who is described like “Courtney was a middle-aged man that was kind of both proud and insecure.”

Show all the elements the conclusion needs.  For example, if the climax hinges on whether the hero can save the girl, we should see the girl, the hero, and the villain long before the final fight.

I really like plotting by problems.  Your characters have overarching goals and their attempts to reach their goals should create more problems and obstacles.  These problems should be varied, but it will probably be easier to read if the problems get progressively worse.  Save the perfect solutions for the “Happily Ever After.”

In the conclusion…

By the end, your characters should have made some hard-earned gains and your audience should care about whether your hero succeeds.  In the conclusion, show us that everything hinges on success now.

The conclusion, more so than the other parts, depends on how much your villain resonates with the readers. If the villain seems competent or devious or otherwise impressive, your hero will seem much more heroic as he vanquishes him.

Additionally, the villain should only be vanquished by the hero’s actions. For example, this plot would be utterly dissatisfying: the protagonist is held hostage in her home and is finally saved when the cops burst through the door. She isn’t really the hero here because she didn’t actually stop the villain. On the other hand, if she spent the better part of the book trying to carry out a plan to secretly call 911, then she has taken on an instrumental and dramatic role.

Children’s novels are especially vulnerable to the problem that the “protagonist” doesn’t really save the day. Many authors allow an adult step in and solve the problems. This deus ex parentis is a let-down, especially because the readers are kids to begin with.

Throughout the story…

Avoid randomness. One area of particular randomness is naming characters.  For example, one of my professors described a novel where the first character were Alex, Betty, Carl and Donna. Hopefully, you have a stronger reason for naming your characters than that the first letters of their names come in alphabetical order.

The strongest reason to pick a name is that it suggests something about the character.  At its most basic, you’d screw weaker characters with sissy names like “Percy” and “Neville Longbottom” and give stronger characters hard-sounding names like “Jack Ryan.”  For a more advanced look at the use of sounds in character names, please see this article.

Another area that trips up authors is tense changes.  It’s very easy to slip into a different tense, but your readers will probably notice that. I recommend slowly reading through each page immediately after you finish writing it.  This is more effective than finishing the piece and then looking for tense mistakes because your eyes will glaze over after a few pages.  One of my chapters had a lot of tense problems right at the very beginning, mostly because I didn’t really know when the events I described at the beginning occurred compared to the time the story itself was taking place.  I’m pretty sure my latest version has fixed these problems.

Another problem is maintaining a constant narration.  For example, in “Only Human,” the narrator focuses mostly on what Jacob Mallow sees.  But about halfway through, the narrator describes what’s happening across the city even though Jacob Mallow has no idea anything is wrong.  Another awkward narration shift in Only Human is towards the end, when Jacob leaves the greenhouse.  The perspective stays in the greenhouse with Agent Orange.  I knew that was really awkward at the time I was writing it, but I kind of had to show what Agent Orange was doing with his blood.

47 responses so far

47 Responses to “Story Structure”

  1. Martin Monroeon 03 Jan 2008 at 5:13 pm

    Sorry but I hope you don’t mind a little constructive feedback. This refers to the posting under “story structure” on 7/22/06 by bmaccomic. My idea: That the character names “gangrene” and “Agent Orange” could be strengthened by having them refer more specifically to YOUR story, “Only Human.” For example, Agent Orange is a generic term for a defoliant noted for its use in Viet Nam. It makes me think of Viet Nam, not your story. Gangrene is the same way.. it’s a generic medical term that doesn’t make me think of a character releasing a chemical.

    Let me give you an example. I am currently writing a spy story/comedy. The name of my strategic planner is Madame Blueskaya. Why? Strategic planners “blue sky” different ideas and the suffix “skaya” is a common suffix in Russian names and words. Maybe not so funny or obvious if you don’t know these facts but the point is that she’s MY character and conjures up thoughts of my story, not something else.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the website. The title “The Empire State Strikes Back” really cracks me up (I grew up in upstate NY).

    Martin J. Monroe

  2. B. Macon 03 Jan 2008 at 7:35 pm

    Thanks for your feedback!

    I was definitely concerned that “Agent Orange” was too campy. But I think that we’ve the pun to help suggest that he’s a wacky and violent government agent, a useful contrast to the more straight-laced Agent Black. You can see how we use Agent Orange’s name for comedic effect in the first issue of our webcomic here.

    Is there an alternative you would suggest?

  3. Ragged Boyon 30 Oct 2008 at 3:18 pm

    This is irrevelant to my story and I don’t plan on doing one, but I used to be interested in doing this. How much do you guys know about writing plays?

  4. B. Macon 30 Oct 2008 at 3:47 pm

    Absolutely nothing, sorry.

  5. Ragged Boyon 30 Oct 2008 at 3:48 pm

    Aww, Booooo

  6. B. Macon 30 Oct 2008 at 3:55 pm

    This site looks pretty OK for playwriting advice. You can also check out your library. My library has a few books on playwriting, but none on superhero writing. (Hence this site!)

  7. Ragged Boyon 12 Dec 2008 at 7:53 am

    I wasn’t sure where to post this so I’m putting it here.

    I had an idea for Adrian and a “love” interest. Adrian isn’t really in love with the girl (he doesn’t really like her either) despite the fact that she is hot. Her relationship with him would be very Batman to Catwoman, she likes him but he just tries to keep things professional. At on point their forced to work together because the alien she is infused with is one with biological manipulation as its main ability.

    She kisses Adrian being the most effective form of biological interaction, next to sex (no sex for Adrian, yet). In doing so she purposely ties a biological link between her body and his, that way if she gets hurt, he gets hurt, and she can sort of kill him at will. Something happens and the two have to work together and avoid getting hurt or killed. In the end she would kiss him again untieing the link.

    After the event, I wanted her to be a recurring character, but a nuetral one. The Elektra to Daredevil, Shadowcat to Spidey, Catwoman to Batman, etc. She works in her own best interests.

    Personality-wise, she’s a very adamant flirt, she doesn’t take alot of things seriously, and is very-self centered. She is older than Adrian, and looks it too. I don’t want her to come off as a pedophile, I was thinking 18. She is one of the few people to learn Adrian’s true identity, through the kiss.

    What do you think of this character and her relaionship with Adrian? She’s still in development, so I’ll update you on her A.S.A.P.

  8. B. Macon 12 Dec 2008 at 8:24 am

    I don’t know. It doesn’t seem that there’s a lot to her beyond her sex appeal. (She’s hot, she’s flirty, she’s able to seduce him with a kiss [kind of], etc.) I’d recommend building on her other traits, like the lack of seriousness and maybe the self-centeredness. (Self-centeredness may be a bit too obvious for this character, but OK).

    Were you planning on doing anything with the girl who lives near his high school but doesn’t go there?

  9. Ragged Boyon 12 Dec 2008 at 1:09 pm

    Well, regarding the seducer, she’s still in development, I don’t even have a name for her yet, so I’ll be sure to add traits of interest to her. I’ll try to put a fresh spin on the character so she feels new. Maybe I’ll make her philosophical (llike she’s always reading) or something.

    I may consider using Loretta, but that will probably come after I develop the alien races.

  10. Holliequon 12 Dec 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Rather than making her the seducer, you could maybe make her more of . . . well, of a potential love interest. I don’t think many readers will feel anything if Adrian decides not to get together with this semi-temptress. However, if it’s a friendly person who truly cares for him, then that could be dramatic. Readers would care about this other character (especially if Adrian still likes her – just not in a romantic way) and that’s the perfect excuse for her to show up again: she’s his friend, so when he needs help he has only to ask.

    You’d have to be careful to make Adrian not seem like a jerk for turning her away (or an idiot), but I think you’re perfectly capable of that. So long as he doesn’t start leading her along – that’s instant jerk territory.

    Personally, I don’t like the name Loretta. It sounds like the name of a Bond girl. I’d recommend something a little more ordinary: Vicky, Yasmin, Laura, Rebecca, etc.

  11. Ragged Boyon 13 Dec 2008 at 4:08 pm

    I don’t want Adrian to actually fall in love with her, but he can generally like her.

    I think Loretta is a nice name for a girl who lives in the hood, it certainly less ghetto than Qwaneisha or Claresha.

    Names like Laura and Rebecca sound distinctly white, in my opinion. How many girls from the hood do you know named Laura?

    Yasmin would work, but I think I’ll stick with Loretta.

  12. Ragged Boyon 29 Dec 2008 at 12:08 pm

    Problem: Is there a minimum to how many characters I need to develop in my first issue? I have Adrian and some of Jimelly and that’s about it. Of course there will be more characters, mainly those in Jimelly’s troupe and some outside. But, as for the first issue should my focus just be on Adrian?

  13. B. Macon 29 Dec 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Yeah, I think focusing on Adrian (with a bit of Jimelly) makes sense. Maybe we’ll see a bit of another alien in the opening shots, and we might see a recurring side-character at Adrian’s school (Eric, or one of Adrian’s friends, etc).

  14. Ragged Boyon 07 Jan 2009 at 1:34 pm

    Flareblade has a long post he wants me to do for him. I have to revise some things for him but his plot is okay. I’ll post it in a few.

  15. […] advice on making comics strips is the structure of the comic. This link over here, might help on structuring your comic strip. Over all i hope this blog entry has been useful for researching or leaning about comic strips (or […]

  16. ShardReaperon 02 Nov 2009 at 7:57 pm

    I need help with pacing and I guess overall structure. Basically, each chapter in “Project Hero” will one or two missions the characters are involved in. But I’m not sure how to end them. I’ve tried dialogue, but I don’t want it to seem cliche. I’ve also thought about having someone think or a twist revealed, but I think that it’ll get redundant. What should I do?

    The other issue is the structure. I have all the characters and events outlined, but I need advice on how to make them all not look cohesive. The whole story is supposed to take place over a few days, maybe a little over a week. I don’t want all chapters to start with “the next day”. Tips would be nice.

  17. B. Macon 02 Nov 2009 at 8:43 pm

    “I’ve also thought about having someone think or a twist revealed, but I think that it’ll get redundant…” Well, it doesn’t have to be a twist. (If you tried twisting us every chapter, it would probably be very confusing).

    But I would recommend ending each chapter by having the characters do something interesting or at least make it clear they’re about to do something interesting. For example, maybe they learn a key bit of information at the end of a chapter and readers will want to keep learning to find out how the characters react. Maybe the detective finds a key clue that completely rules out his main suspect. Or maybe a character is in danger and the readers want to find out whether/how he escapes. Or maybe a character has just made a terrible mistake and readers will want to know what comes of that. Anything that keeps the readers turning pages. Maybe there’s been a sudden surprise of another sort. Maybe a character makes a major decision. Preferably one that creates an obstacle for the hero (“It’s not you, it’s me…”).

  18. Anonymouson 18 Feb 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Um, hi… (waves shyly)
    B.Mac, (or anyone who has an idea on this really) what do you think of flashbacks in a story? I’m considering having my story begin in 1875, with one main character, then cutting forward thirteen years to the other main character, and then briefly cutting back to 1875 before then returning to the story thirteen years later with the two characters meeting. (My apologies if that’s not very clear.) My questions are: would this be confusing for the reader, and if so, how could it be made clearer?

  19. B. Macon 18 Feb 2010 at 8:58 pm


    So, let me get this straight. Your book starts in 1875 with character A and then cuts to 1888 with character B. Then it returns to 1875 with A and then returns to 1888, where A and B meet.

    I think the main problem here is cohesion. Particularly when you switch to character B in 1888 for the first time, I think that readers will be disoriented because they’ve grown attached to character A and suddenly character A disappears.

    One way you could reduce the disorientation problem would be to keep character A sort-of-present even though character B is the new point-of-view character and even though B doesn’t meet A for some time. Maybe character B hears a lot of second-hand talk about character A and perhaps A has even become something of a celebrity. Maybe character B has come across some writings from character A, like a diary or a journal or something he wrote for public consumption. That will help us keep him/her in mind even though (s)he is not physically present.

    For example, in Superhero Nation, the story cuts 10 years between the villain as a disturbed high schooler and as a wildly successful cosmetics designer and chemical engineer. So the papers announce that he has a big new cosmetics breakthrough almost ready and the audience knows that he’s not REALLY working on cosmetics. The question is whether the heroes can figure out what’s going on and stop him in time.

    Also, if possible, it may help to introduce character B in 1875.

    Finally, I’d recommend being clear about which time-era we’re in at all times. If the chapter switches years, I would recommend putting the year right after the title. So, for example…

    [Chapter Title] GROVER CLEVELAND IS A FOOL AND A CHARLATAN or CHAPTER TWELVE or whatever you prefer
    [Year] 1888
    [Begin chapter]

  20. Anonymouson 19 Feb 2010 at 11:52 am

    Thanks for the help! ^_^
    It wouldn’t really be possible for character B (I’ll just use names for the sake of clarity, so character A = Isabel, character B = Tom.) to hear a lot about Isabel- she’s been imprisoned for the past thirteen years. I could perhaps find a way to work the diary in, as Isabel is known for keeping one.
    Seeing as the second scene in 1875 takes place briefly after the first, do you think it would just be simpler to have it in chronological order? I was planning on switching so it would be possible to introduce both main characters quickly.
    I do think it’s a good idea to put down the year underneath the chapter- I was planning to do so, possibly with the location as well.

  21. Caliberon 30 Jun 2012 at 5:46 pm

    I’ve been wondering how “ok” it is to start a story with action or dialog and then explain whats going on later by discription of the scene later on or by a back story. i find that i usual start a story off this way because just explaing in a scene sounds boring. But what do you think?

  22. B. McKenzieon 30 Jun 2012 at 9:59 pm

    “I’ve been wondering how “ok” it is to start a story with action or dialog and then explain whats going on later by discription of the scene later on or by a back story.”

    Hmm. There are a few ways I could see that going.

    1) The dialogue/action at the beginning is easy to understand, and later description adds something we didn’t see or realize before. For example, in The Dark Knight, viewers can easily understand the opening bank heist even before they find out that the Joker is undercover as one of his goons. I think this is perfectly acceptable.

    2) The opening scene is hard to understand later description is used to clarify what was happening during the opening. In cases like these, I’d probably put the book down because confusion (especially at the beginning) is not very encouraging. If this is an issue, I would recommend checking out the Hunger Games books because they set up an unusual premise and an interesting main character very quickly.

    I think the main distinction between #1 and #2 is whether readers can easily understand the surface of what’s apparently happening. If they can, it’s probably okay if there’s something happening beneath the surface (e.g. the goon that just killed half of Joker’s team actually was Joker). Also, it’s okay if the readers’ understanding is not correct. For example, in one scene in Philosopher’s Stone, it appears that Snape is trying to kill Harry Potter. Later we learn that that is very incorrect. Again, I think that’s perfectly acceptable–when I was reading the scene, I never thought “I have no idea what’s happening and/or characters are acting with no readily discernible motive.”

  23. Green Rangeron 12 Nov 2012 at 1:49 am

    Hi, I need an opinion on something. I came up with an interesting story last week, it is still in it’s early stages though but here it is.

    The team consists of six people: Titan/Alan Moss: the leader of the group (super strength, durabilty & flight), Blazette/Nina Snow (fire manipulation, teleporation), 4 Cast/Rex Snow: the older brother of Nina (Control over the weather), Lady Midas/Angie Dixon (the ability to transform her body into gold; granting her strength, endurance, durabilty), Mr. Impossible/Danny Reyes (technology manipulation, skills in firearms and swordsmanship) Wesley Grant: the only hero not to use a codename or costume (has multiple abilties from an unknown origin, no one knows about it accept for him, he’s also the main character out of the group)

    Years ago, A team of teenage superheroes named The Renegades went against their morals when they beat a child molester to death after they found out that he was not guilty of the crime. The team had to pay heavy consequences, so each were separated, sent to an unknown prison away from society, their powers were also temporarily stripped from them until they got out, except for Wesley. In present day, our heroes are living normal lives. Alan’s a teacher, Nina is a mother of three, Rex is a bartender, Angie is full time student in law school, Danny is a technician while Wesley is battling his addiction of alcohol. Neither know of each other’s whereabouts. Until one day they each get a call from the government to investigate the recent disappearances and murders superheroes…….this is all i have for now, I just want someone’s opinion on this story so far before i decide to put it all on paper. All criticism is accepted.

  24. B. McKenzieon 12 Nov 2012 at 2:20 am

    I think it sounds interesting, GR. I haven’t seen many superhero stories where the characters are ex-superheroes for more than a few months and I think it’d be interesting to see how they’ve changed since they were last superheroes. The angle about the government turning to them after that whole prison thing sounds sort of promising–I wonder what sort of carrots and sticks they’d have to deploy to get the characters interested, and how they keep the characters on board when the going gets rough*. (For example, I think the prison stint might lead to some members on the team pulling punches and/or losing cases because they were too fearful or disheartened to push the envelope).

    *Granted, you can make a bartender’s life rough by threatening to take away his bar’s liquor license, but it might take something a little bit extra to keep someone going if he’s grimly certain that cooperating will get him killed.

    Is there any particular reason the government turns to these washed-up heroes rather than a more conventional selection? One possibility: the government handler has reason to fear that more than a few superheroes have already been compromised in some way–perhaps ideological turning a la Magneto subverting previously law-abiding mutants, mind control, blackmail, enemy surveillance, or shapeshifting imposters, etc–and is handling some sort of super-secret investigation. He turns to these ex-heroes because they disbanded before the enemy forces started compromising heroes, so he can be relatively sure that they are not working for the enemy. Whether or not they can effectively work on his team is another matter altogether, though… Alternately, perhaps they are beyond suspicion because their powers/origins are different than for most other superheroes. (E.g. in The Taxman Must Die, characters with organic/biological superpowers might be pulled together for an emergency task-force to take down an enemy that is very skilled at disabling and subverting mechanical/electronic elements like robots, powersuits, and vehicles).

    PS: Minor point of clarification. “The Renegades went against their morals when they beat a child molester to death after they found out that he was not guilty of the crime.” It might be more precise to rephrase “child molester” as “suspected child molester” because (as far as I can tell) it turns out that he wasn’t actually a child molester. Second, “they beat [him] to death after they found out that he was not guilty of the crime…” They beat him to death AFTER they found out that he was innocent? What was the motive?

  25. Green Rangeron 12 Nov 2012 at 3:10 am

    The molester was acquitted of all charges by the court due to lack of evidence. This frustrated The Renegades very much, so the leader Titan had Mr. Impossible find information about this alleged child molester. They found out that his name was Maxwell Hunt, head of a genetic research facility. The Renegades felt that Mr. Hunt paid the judge to acquit him of all charges since he was a very very wealthy man. The team finds out where he lives and on that same day they brake into his house and brutally beat him to death. The next day, The Renegades turn themselves in the next day and to make matters worst and dramatic. Maxwell Hunt wasn’t the child molester, so they killed the wrong man. Maxwell Hunt was innocent. The reason the government calls on the former superheroes is because they are the only ones left. All the other superheroes mysteriously vanished.

  26. Atom Normalon 12 Dec 2012 at 10:00 pm

    Hi, I was thinking of doing a superhero story in the form of a journal entry. Could that work? If so, any tips?

  27. YellowJujuon 12 Dec 2012 at 10:22 pm

    The idea is pretty original, but I’m only 14 so what do I know? lol
    My only question about the idea is do superheroes have time between beating up bad guys and saving the world to keep a journal?

  28. wonderstruckwriteron 13 Dec 2012 at 12:07 am

    You could do a Holmes/Watson style thing where the main character is the best friend or something and he writes down the superheroes exploits…just a thought 🙂

  29. B. McKenzieon 13 Dec 2012 at 1:07 am

    The superhero might keep a journal (or case notes) in case he observes any usable evidence. Depending on the character’s personality and voice, his attempt to document cases and/or his life might be really interesting. One of the main characters in The Taxman Must Die writes up his arrest reports like overblown action novels.

    Alternately, perhaps the main character is recounting the story to the reader/listener. I don’t think readers will give you a hard time over whether he’d come up with the time to talk through his story.

  30. Nayanon 13 Dec 2012 at 3:34 am

    The story of ‘Watchmen’ was told through Rorschach’s journal.

  31. B. McKenzieon 13 Dec 2012 at 6:24 am

    Ah, good call, Nayan.

  32. Dr. Professoron 13 Dec 2012 at 6:57 pm

    ” If your story is your gun, scenes are your bullets. ”

    That sentence needs to be on a t-shirt. At least, I think so.

    I think a pretty decent way to structure a story is to explain the bulk of what happens in each chapter, and have lines plotting out the beginning, middle, climax etc..

    An example is:

    Chapter One- explain what happens here. If there are any important foreshadowing moments, stick them here.
    Chapter Two- explain the bulk of what happens here.
    Chapter Three- Use foreshadowing event from Chapter One, here.
    Chapter Four- With occurrence of foreshadowing, have the character experience a couple of things outside of his regular life.

    So on and so forth. I guess one would refer to these as ” mini-synopses ” because it helps look at the entire story while it’s still in the raw. This is also a pretty big time-saver if you were to ask me.

    But I only use this if the book is projected to be longer than at least twelve chapters. Sometimes I break the rule and just use it if I have a story about five chapters long.

  33. The Capon 28 Mar 2013 at 4:44 pm

    I didn’t know where to write this but i was thinking about creating a revenge story with superheroes but people say that revenge stories are always one-dimensional. Any advice?

  34. B. McKenzieon 28 Mar 2013 at 6:54 pm

    “People say that revenge stories are always one-dimensional…”

    1) Some revenge stories are incredible. Off the top of my head, I’m definitely feeling The Godfather, Hamlet, Cask of Amontillado, Unforgiven, The Count of Monte Cristo, Moby Dick, etc. I’m not comfortable putting Batman in that tier, but in terms of lasting impact, he’s definitely A Big Deal.

    2) I feel it is generally true that the revenge submissions I’ve seen tend to have VERY thinly-developed protagonists and (especially) antagonists. “X killed my family and now I have to kill him” is a pretty forgettable premise by itself, and generally sets up the characters to be forgettable as well. Assume that the publisher’s assistants reading your submission have read at least 50 revenge submissions and rejected 49-50 of them. Your characters and plot will need to bring some considerable steak and sizzle to stand out in a good way from the scads of rejects here. It would help if the nature of the original grievance is unusual and/or fresh: e.g. Top Ten is about a serial killer who’s gravely offended by the FBI ranking him #10 on the 10 Most Wanted List, so he decides to off the 9 posers ahead of him. That’s so much more memorable than “John Doe brutally murdered my wife, my dog, and yoga instructor because he is a really bad person.” Scott Pilgrim and Homeland also had super-fun takes on revenge.

    3) I think it’d be helpful if the villain had some motivation besides just being pure evil. Most of the revenge manuscripts I’ve seen don’t get that far.

  35. Dr. Vo Spaderon 29 Mar 2013 at 7:50 am

    I know it had some flaws, but Four Brothers is a good revenge movie.


    I just went through my story’s outline and I don’t have my primary and secondary characters at odds in any point. Do you think I should throw in some confrontation? (Keeping in mind that they’re dealing with the same problem, but different aspects of it. They’re only in the same scenes about five or six times.)

  36. Dr. Vo Spaderon 29 Mar 2013 at 7:52 am

    Also, about the movie: A) in my opinion and B) good revenge-action movie.

  37. Isaac Einstein Teslaon 19 Oct 2013 at 8:05 am

    I’ve got some feedback for this article as a whole. Please refer to the following image:


    It doesn’t just show the pacing of the story structure of SW IV, it shows the pacing of a wide, wide variety of successful stories, ranging from the entirety of the plot to the scenes to the individual actions. For more detail, you could also watch this six and a half minute video: http://www.penny-arcade.com/patv/episode/episode-07-pacing

    The video is specifically referring to video games, but they at least imply if not state that it applies to all sorts of stories, such as films. From what I can tell, it would probably apply to written works as well. I don’t have any actual examples, but the explanation of the graph matches the general idea of catching the reader’s attention, but not jarring them with too much action too often (which novels aren’t the best at anyway).

    It’s some food for thought. What do you all think?

  38. B. McKenzieon 19 Oct 2013 at 10:31 pm

    I’ve seen some manuscripts fail because they opened too slowly (e.g. not urgent enough or too much exposition). More often, I think, I’ve seen manuscripts fail because they attempted to open too quickly and the author couldn’t handle introducing the story/characters/world/plot at that pace.

    The first of the Star Wars movies (“episode 4”) started with scrolling narration to help viewers orient themselves to the plot rather than just starting out on a high note (the action scene of Darth Vader seizing the rebel ship). Do you feel that including the scrolling narration was an effective choice? (I notice that the scrolling narration was not included in the diagram of the movie).

  39. Isaac Einstein Teslaon 22 Oct 2013 at 7:14 am

    I’m not familiar with the concept of scrolling narration. Please elaborate.

  40. Thalamuson 22 Oct 2013 at 8:59 am

    Isaac: Haven’t you seen Star Wars? Scrolling narration is referring to the words that scrolled up the screen at the start of the film, explaining the basic premise of the story and some background knowledge. You can probably find it on YouTube.

  41. B. McKenzieon 22 Oct 2013 at 7:15 pm

    Isaac, this is what I was referring to (starting at :30 of this clip).

  42. Isaac Einstein Teslaon 25 Oct 2013 at 12:56 am

    Ooohh, okay. Yeah, I’ve seen that before. Didn’t know what it was called.

  43. Bluron 12 Jun 2014 at 6:56 pm

    Hey B.mac my writing is currently sub-par , I was wondering if you had some ideas on how to improve it?

  44. B. McKenzieon 12 Jun 2014 at 9:13 pm

    “Hey B.mac my writing is currently sub-par , I was wondering if you had some ideas on how to improve it?” Hmm. 1) What do you see as your biggest obstacles or challenges in writing? 2) Could you email me 1-2 pages of your work at superheronation-at-gmail-dot-com?

  45. Artemison 15 May 2018 at 7:10 pm

    I’ve read a bunch of your articles but I don’t know how I should start my book. Should I introduce the characters first or what’s happening?

  46. B. McKenzieon 16 May 2018 at 10:55 am

    Artemis, I think you have a lot of options here, but generally I’d recommend starting with the main characters doing interesting and/or distinctive things. That will also generally create ample opportunities to develop the plot and setting.

    One alternative approach that sometimes works is starting with a minor point-of-view character (usually one that dies early for reader orientation) — the most classic example here is probably someone getting killed at the start of a murder mystery, but if you’re familiar with Game of Thrones, I’m very fond of the brief glimpse we get of the supernatural enemy we get from a watchman running for his life from a faceless, terrifying enemy. (For his trouble, he gets executed by probably the most honorable/virtuous nobleman in the series for cowardice before the enemy AND nobody believes the watchman anyway). Also, the minor character here segues really smoothly into the nobleman’s perspective, who is one of the main characters of the work.

  47. Artemison 18 May 2018 at 7:27 pm

    Okay. Thanks for the advice!

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