The “Establishing Shot”–and 9 More Ways to Strengthen Your Story’s Beginning

Just for the record: I hate beginnings. The first fifty pages of my novels are inevitably torture to write. I’m always sure I’ve lost my touch, convinced that every successful story in the past was a fluke, absolutely certain I’ll never make these opening scenes gripping enough to hook a reader. And it’s no wonder. […]

Secret Storytelling Weapon: The Book’s Back Cover

What’s the first thing most readers look at when they pick up a book? If they’re anything like me, their attention is first snagged by the cover art, the title, and the author name, and from there they flip the book over and a take a gander at the back cover or the inside jacket […]

Character: The Most Important Part of Your Story’s Beginning

If all of writing was as difficult as the first 50 pages, I probably would have wimped out years ago and found myself a new vocation. (Something easy and safe—like being a Walmart greeter or maybe the collector of the quarters from Laundromat machines.) Despite the fact that I already know every plot turn that […]

when not to skip the prologue

When Not to Skip the Prologue

If you read last week’s post, “Skip the Prologue,” you’ve hopefully seen some of the reasons prologues are often a bad idea. Even prologues that escape being boring information dumps tend to delve into the dangerous waters of distancing a reader from the main story. Having invested their interest and emotion in a prologue, a […]

Skip the Prologue!

Writers have an ongoing love affair with the prologue. You know, that chapter before a chapter inserted at the beginning of a book, intended to fill the reader in on important need-to-know info, so that he and the writer will be on the same page when they dive into the “real” beginning of the story. […]

dostoyevsky and the art of in medias res

Dostoevsky and the Art of In Medias Res

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s short novel The Gambler never reached the popularity and renown of his other works (Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, and Notes From Underground, most notably), but it deserves a spotlight of its own for several reasons. The most notable reason is undeniably its stunning and incisive portrayal of gambling addiction. Dostoevsky, who […]