Friday, November 9, 2007

Back To Plotting – ACT I

The beginning of your novel make the first important impression on your reader. The same way an introduction to a new person gives you a feeling of connection—the "I think I like this person" or "I think I won’t like this person"—is the same way a reader or editor reacts to the beginning of your novel.

We’ve all heard that both editors and readers scan the first page of a novel or manuscript and know immediately if this story appeals to them, if they like the writers voice, and if they see the kind of plot they enjoy. Authors face the reality that if you don’t hook the editor or reader in the first few paragraphs, you’ve lost them forever.

So what can you do to hook that reader at the beginning of Act I? The key to this issue is leave the reader with questions, arouse their curiosity, titillate them with humor, or scare the pants off them. Also important if you want to capture the reader or editor from page one is using these techniques:
1. Open the scene with action, dialogue, or a curious statement.
Example: Keryn Willis was in the shower when she figured out how to kill Josh Trenton - from Randy Ingermanson’s Double Vision
2. Open at the point of change in a main character’s life—an unexpected visitor, a letter arrives in the mail with a proposition, a problem drops on the doorstep, a dead body appears in the trunk, or an amazing awareness changes the person’s life. Open with a day that’s different.
3. Give the scene a sense of urgency—the unexpected, the curious, a conflict
4. Create a character who intrigues the reader, or set up a horrible/humorous situation.

While you’re capturing your reader’s interest, Act I is also the time to provide certain information in the story’s plot:
1. Introduce the major characters as well as providing bonding details with the reader (make the characters likable yet vulnerable, flawed yet intriguing
2. Set up the first goal with realistic motivation.
3. Present the first conflict both internal and/or external
4. Establish setting which includes location and time of year

By the end of Act I, you should leave your main characters having to make choices, and once the choice is made, there is no turning back. This creates tension and new conflicts. These decisions can be made based on beliefs, needs, morals, and/or values that create internal conflicts affecting the character’s outlook and thought processes, or they can be external affecting what the character will do, what step he will take next. When you place characters in a vulnerable position, especially once readers are attached to the characters, they will be drawn in and want to know what will happen next. This is a hook that will draw the reader or editor into your story and make it a page-turner.

Hooks come in three kinds: opening line, theme or premise hooks. I’ll talk about that next time.


Jess said...

Great blog, Gail. I've linked you to my blog so I can refer back easily. :) Hope you can keep it going. And I'm looking forward to your NF book.

Gail Gaymer Martin said...

Jess - I'm glad you find the blog helpful. I hope to add entries at least 3 times a week. Once I'm in heavy deadline it will be harder but I plan to do my best.

If you want to pre-order the book on Writing the Christian Romance (since it won't get into the stores for a while), you can go to my website and order from there. You should get the book in December then. First it goes to the Writers Digest bookclub before it goes into the stores - but my editor said it will be on sale on Amazon. I have a direct link at
Thanks for writing,