Sunday, December 08, 2013
The craft of rewriting-Technical Flaws-Chapter and Scene
By OFW chief editor:
Carlos J Cortes And Renée Miller
Published: March 23, 2013
At the end of a chapter or scene, comes the beginning of another. At each beginning, the writer must hook readers all over again. We’ve all heard how important the first lines of a novel are. We also know the first chapter is crucial. We agree the first pages are what initially spark interest in the readers, but writer’s don’t always recognize they must keep reader attention throughout the story.
Chapter and scene openers must grab the reader’s attention immediately. We have mere seconds to latch onto the reader and hang on. It doesn’t matter that she’s bought the book; we need to make sure she stays with us until the final page. The opening of each new scene must ground the reader in the scene right away. She needs to know when and where the chapter or scene takes place and who is involved. The opening paragraphs should anchor the reader firmly in place and time.
Stories should open with a dramatic or interesting situation or character and jump into the action, dragging the reader into the moment. This creates immediacy from the outset. Also important is to ensure that chapter one opens in a different way from chapter two, and the first scene should begin differently than the second. Like sentences, which we discussed in section XXX, writers should vary how we open every scene and chapter. Believe it or not, despite the brilliant stuff happening in between, if we begin each new scene with the same structure (John walked to the door/John flung the torch/John stretched) the reader will notice the echo and find it boring.
Just as our opening lines must hook readers, chapter and section endings must also grab them and propel them to the next chapter or section. Endings that work tempt readers to stay up that extra twenty minutes to read more.
In the following sections we’ll discuss common mistakes writers should look for when rewriting openings and endings.
Renee Miller & Carlos Cortes
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