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Veronica Scott presents: Where Does Your Story Actually Begin?
July 13, 2016 by Veronica Scott
A story starts on page one, right? This post by author Veronica Scott will make you think about where your story really starts…
Welcome back, Veronica!
Where does your story actually begin? “Once upon a time” is a nice intro but maybe even fairy tales include too much backstory.
I’ve been judging various contests for unpublished authors recently and while of course I won’t mention any specifics, the main problem I see is that the author begins with one, two, sometimes even three chapters of material which they feel is necessary to the book. Unfortunately, all too often these chapters are solid info dump backstory or history. If I weren’t judging a contest entry for them, I’d be closing the manuscript and moving on. I’d never even get to the actual story! I see this same comment often in my social media feed from agents and editors, regarding submissions they receive.
(All examples are made up for this post!)
The author runs several risks here. First, while they certainly need to understand the history and events shaping their own world building, the reader is going to become bored fast with the events of the 200 Year War, told year by year, with no immediate connection to a hero or heroine they care about. This technique is even more likely to turn people off early if the author throws in a lot of terms and made-up language details. I’ve had a number of published authors tell me they do write this sort of material, often in early drafts of the novel, because it helps them think through their world building details, but they then delete the material from the final drafts. (I tend to keep scribbly notes on various purple legal pads scattered around the house, rather than write it all out, but that’s me.)
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