Friday, August 12, 2011

How to Write a Book, Part 1: The Very Beginning

This week, we are learning how to write a book. Everyone has read a book. Today, we are writing fictional books. This means it isn't a true story. If might be realistic fiction, where is could have happened, but didn't, or historical fiction, where the events and maybe some of the people were real, but the main characters most usually were not. Sometimes it is a real person, but not usually.

First of all, think of an idea. It could just be the first few sentences of a book. You might to have an idea to begin with. Just write. I can almost guarantee to you that by the next couple of paragraphs, you will be incubating an idea in your head, fertilizing it. Soon, it will grow into an elaborate set p for your characters, situations, and ultimately, the climax.

"If you wait for inspiration to write, you're not a writer, you're a waiter."
--Dan Poynter

Also, once you have the faintest sliver of an idea in your head, you ned to make the beginning interest the reader. Later, once your idea is fully grown, you will almost have to go back and change it a bit to fit the story, but even before then, you need to figure out a first-draft way to get readers interested. Here is the first few paragraphs of an untitled book I am currently writing:

It was a morning much like last week’s in the city of Starna in the great land Grimfalia. Not too hot, not too cold. But is was too... Something. Dark? At least, that’s what Belva LeRenard thought as she got ready for Evening Day. Evening Day was when the people of Grimfalia celebrated the coming of night, which lasted one thousand years.
By now, Belva was ready. She was wearing the Red Shawl of Livetronte. The shawl depicted a raven holding six snakes and six swords in it claws. Belva was also wearing the official robe of Lockenesk. The robe was black with stars and had the raven embroidered on the front. She picked up her satchel.

Next, once you have written your first couple of paragraphs, you will have a hatching idea in your mind. Above, I had only barely created the essence of Belva. Later in the novel, though, she had taken a her own shape. She was fun loving, adventurous, and rushed head first into everything without a second thought (which she usually ended up regretting afterwards). Soon, your main character will take shape to, growing and changing in your mind. Pretty soon, control will be out of your hands in into theirs. At least for me, they do everything of their own accord, and I only write it down. (Yes, yes. It seems like I m trying to show off or something, but I'm not!)

Anyway, after you have written your first paragraphs, the story will start. The mystery, or the problem, or the situation will come into focus, come into play, or begin. These next paragraphs of my novel were the ones that began the story.

She went downstairs to say good bye to her grandmother.
“Minniline?” She called to her grandmother. “Minniline, are you in here?”
“Minnie weft,” Belva felt a tug at her gown and look down to see her brother Peter clinging to her, tears in his eyes.
“Petey, what did you say?”
“Minnie weft.”
“Where did she go?”
“There,” The five-year-old pointed to the ground.
“Peter,” she said, crouching down to look him in the eye. She grasped his shoulders. “Where did Minnie go?”
“She went down. She said, ‘No more of this. I will go now.' She said, 'Say bye-bye to Bevvie.’ And she went down.”

See, above, the mystery, the situation started. Now the readers are wondering. Where is Belva's grandmother? What does Peter mean by saying that she went 'down?' Also, if you want (all of this is only a suggestion), you can make it a bit tear-jerking. This wasn't really, but it is a bit of an example.

Peter, I-” Revelation poured over her. Minniline was dead.

A better example would be: (This isn't from my novel)

  "But where are you going?"
  "I don't know."
  "Where will you live?"
  "I don't know."
  "What DO you know?"
  "I love you. Take care of everyone. America is our last hope. Wish me luck, Eva. Goodbye," He gave her a quick peck on the cheek and a hug. Eva was too shocked to say anything.
  "Goodbye," Eva said, her voice cracking. She watched her brother walk away from her, head high, shoulders back. He is so brave. She thought. Eva had grown up with her brother. She had always looked up to him, looked to him for advice. And now he was gone, and never coming back. 
  He disappeared into the sea of bodies. Is this the last time I will ever see him?She watched him board the boat, and it began the set sail. She saw him leaning over the railing, waving to her. 
  She shook her head and turned away, failing to see her brother waving to her out of distress, signaling to help her. A man grabbed him and they disappeared.

  I don't think you will have cried, and if you did, you are a sissy. ;) Anyway, you see how I started it out where it just jumps into the story? And then you kind of start reading, because you don't know what is going on. I made it a bit tear-jerking, but not so much that it was sappy. I also thought I'd just start it out where it is all, Who grabbed him? How did he know he needed help? Why didn't he ask anyone else for help? Why just her?

  That is all we are doing for now on the beginning. In the next installment of How To Write a Book, we will learn a bit more on the beginning. In the next next one, the rising actions, and then the climax, and then the falling actions. Also, in another writing workshop, we will learn about character development. 

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Thanks! (I don't bite!)

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