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IV. STORY
 

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1. Beginnings

 
(iii) STARTING ON THE INSIDE
 

Starting inside a scene is very different to approaching it slowly from outside. There’s a special verbal knack to presenting it as the characters experience it.

In real life, if you’re describing a room in a house to someone who hasn’t been there, you say things like:
There’s a long table …
and a painting of a landscape …
and a green carpet …

Similarly with the 19th century novel:
A small village…
a family that …

Note the ‘a’s, indefinite articles—not ‘the’s.

You move to the definite article only after you’ve introduced these things:

There’s a long table and a vase of chrysanthemums on the table …

When you start a novel inside a scene, though, you use the rather than a, because the characters experience these things as already known and familiar. It’s a sort of pretence that the reader enters into.

She paced up and down on the green carpet …
the table was covered in dust, as usual …

This isn’t exactly a helpful tip—living and reading in the 21st century, any author will do it automatically. Interesting, though.

OTHER POINT OF VIEW TOPICS
OTHER BEGINNINGS TOPICS

(i) THE FAST GRAB

(iii) WHERE TO OPEN?

(iv) FEEDING THROUGH A BACKSTORY

(v) COMPRESSION & SHORT STORIES

(vi) POSING A QUESTION

(vii) UNKNOWN OTHERWORLDS

(viii) STARTING FROM A CORNER

(ix) FANTASY PROLOGUES

Other Story Topics

2.Middles

3. Climax & After

4. Narrative Momentum

5. Pacing

 

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Richard Harland.