So this is another one of those posts inspired by Lawrence Blocks Telling Lies For Fun & Profit. Great great book. I highly recommend it!
“This basic technique of starting with action and filling in later is applicable to more than the openings of stories and novels. It can be employed effectively over and over again in the course of a prose narrative. By springing ahead and falling back a writer can create any number of new beginnings and avoid any dull patches that would slow down his story. Any transition may be the opportunity for a new beginning of this sort.” p. 148
I found this a particularly interesting concept because I think very differently about how I construct a beginning to a book than I do about middles. I like to try to start books in the middle of some kind of action. This isn’t a hard and fast rule for me, but most of the time I stick to it. I find that it helps to garner curiosity in the reader about whatever character I am introducing. I’m very conscious when writing a beginning that I have to hook the reader in the first paragraph, the first few pages, the first chapter of a story because not all readers are as forgiving as I (once I start a book, unless it really stinks, I will usually finish it). I don’t know that I have a conscious way I think about middles, but I know that I often get bogged down with What Happens Next, and I don’t always know how to approach the scene to make it say/do/accomplish what I want. But if I take Block’s advice and treat each scene and chapter as an opportunity for a new beginning, I think it will give me a more solid sense of pacing. That way I can start with the action in each new scene and sort of fill in the less than exciting details of what happened in a brief summary. Occasionally telling briefly rather than showing is the way to go, as it’s not always interesting to show everything. I’m going to be applying this idea to the new changes I’m making in the order of scenes in Houses of Cards after last week’s storyboarding. I’m really looking forward to it because I’ve got several new scenes to write in order to make it work, and I’m not 100% certain how I want to address them. I’ll let you know how that works out.