Monday, October 12, 2009

Editing Fiction by Jeanne Marie Leach

This Manuscript Monday, please welcome Jeanne Marie Leach to share some great tips on the elements of fiction. She's here with a two-part series. This week: the first chapter.

Part One
by Jeanne Marie Leach

Part one of two – The first chapter

The first chapter sets the mood of the entire book and must contain certain elements of the story. Although the back cover will reveal the basics about the book, the first chapter must be written as if there were no cover.

First, the book must open with a ‘hook’ that literally hooks the reader and keeps them reading the next sentence, and the next, and the next. If the first page of the book is boring to you as a reader, it will be boring to everyone else too. A good rule is to find the first actual exciting scene with lots of emotion or conflict and plunk the reader right down in the middle of the action.

The end of the chapter must also grab hold of the reader and force them to want to keep going, even if they really don’t have time. The writer must leave them with a cliffhanger. Always leave the reader wanting more – now!

There are more elements of the story that the reader must discover in the first chapter.

** What genre is this?

** What time period is the story taking place? This can be revealed by the way the character is dressed, or their speech, or perhaps through the setting. In fact, most of these will be used by the end of the first chapter.

** Is this light reading or deep and thought provoking?

** The main character(s) must be introduced in the first chapter. The first time each character is mentioned, their entire name must be revealed. It is best if the reader gets a physical description of the characters. The reader must “picture” the main characters in their minds as early as possible. That way, as the story unfolds, the reader can ‘see’ them going through each event. However, don’t give a whole paragraph at a time of descriptions. Rather, drop tidbits into the story as it progresses.

** What are the main conflicts the character(s) are facing, or a foreshadowing of what they are going to face?

** What is the main characters’ primary desire in life and what is keeping them from attaining it?

** What is the faith element? Are they a practicing, faithful, believing, trusting Christian, or do they have doubts? Had something happened along the way to zap their faith from them, and now they are struggling? Have they no faith at all?

** Setting, setting, setting! The reader must have a sense of where the characters are at all times. Descriptions of rooms, sense of space and flow are important. Again, don’t take up two paragraphs in a row to describe a room and its contents. Make sure the readers understand the “blueprints” to the house. I’ve read numerous manuscripts where a person is inside one room in the house, then they go through “a door” and they are outside, and I had no idea how they got there. How many other rooms did they have to walk through to get outside? Are they in the front of the house or in the backyard? These must be clearly written.

Jeanne Marie Leach
lives in the mountains of Colorado with her husband of 35 years and their two, large Alaskan Malamutes. She is a published author of Christian historical romance novels, newsletters, and articles, and is a full-time freelance editor. She has successfully helped unpublished Christian writers since 2002. Five have won Christian writing awards, and most are now published authors. Her editing specialties are Christian fiction novels and short stories, and she has been a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) since 2000. She teaches a workshop for beginning writers and editors on Editing Fiction. For more information, visit Jeanne Marie Leach at her Web site.

* Much of the material used in this lesson is taken from Writing Basics for Beginners, by Jeanne Marie Leach, copyright 2007. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.

1 comment:

  1. Jeanne, thanks for visiting! Looking forward to next Monday's post.



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