Being a Better Writer: Hard and Soft Openings

This post was originally written and posted July 28th, 2014, and has been touched up and reposted here for archival purposes.

So, a few weeks ago I talked about writing an opening chapter. It wasn’t a bad blog post, but as some pointed out, it was purely about structure and structure alone. There was nothing covering any of the other bits and pieces that went into an opening chapter.

This was, admittedly, a failure on my part. One that today I mean to rectify. So, once again I’m going to talk about openings, but this time from another perspective. I’m going to talk about the type of opening you choose to have for your work.

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Being a Better Writer: That Opening Chapter

This post was originally written and posted June 30th, 2014, and has been touched up and reposted here for archival purposes.

So this weekend I discovered my legal theory on what constitutes an explosive of reasonable size is a lot shakier than I thought. Also, that brick walls aren’t nearly as sturdy as you’d think when you’re dealing with homemade fireworks.

Untrue, actually. None of what you just read up above actually happened. At least, not in that particular order, or to that extreme. But, it was a bit of an interesting opening, wasn’t it?

Good, because today, that’s what we’re going to talk about: Giving your work a strong opening chapter. Because let’s face it: Every story starts. Your challenge as a writer is to start things off in a way that not only grabs your reader’s attention and interest (you want them to keep reading, after all), but also gives them a good idea of what to expect in the chapters ahead.

As I thought about this topic (quite a few of you have asked me about it), I realized that at least, for me, the subject was fairly simple. Not because the act of creating the first chapter isn’t difficult, but because over the years I’ve built a pretty solid guideline for what an opening chapter should include, a guideline that starts right where at the beginning and then expands through the chapter, guiding my writing process. So today, I’m going to explain that process that I go through, what each of the steps are, and how they come together in then to build a cohesive first chapter that gets your reader right into the story and keeps them reading.

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Being a Better Writer: The Prologue

This post was originally written and posted January 19th, 2014, and has been touched up and reposted here for archival purposes.

Today we’re tackling one of the most misunderstood (at least in some circles) literary tools in the writer’s arsenal: the prologue.

The question of “what is a prologue?” seems to come up quite a bit in various group forums online, and unfortunately I can tell you that pretty much most things that have been posted in response to those threads have almost always been wrong. For instance, a prologue is not a substitute for the first chapter of a work. You do not title your first chapter “The Prologue” and then “start” with chapter 2. This is not what a prologue is. Nor is it the chapter in which you need to introduce your main character. Nor the chapter where you reveal your plot hook (separate from a narrative hook, a subject for another blog post).

No, a prologue isn’t any of those things. A prologue is actually an introduction, one designed to introduce your reader to a large world and help set the scope of what’s to come. For example, the scrolling text at the beginning of each of the Star Wars films is a quick-and-dirty example of a prologue. Each one catches the viewer up on relevant background information and little bits about the universe that the viewer wouldn’t have known otherwise, before sending them on their way.

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What to Expect from Unusual Things

So, things are still getting settled around here (for instance, I’m not so sure I like the theme yet, and getting all the categories put together could take some time), but regardless, if you’ve just stumbled across Unusual Things, well, you’re probably curious about what you can expect. If this post is the first thing that you’re seeing, well then, I’d do well to point you either in the direction of the “About” section at the top of the page, or at this site’s initial post, which does a pretty good job laying out who’s typing all these words.

Once that’s out of the way—or if you don’t care and just want to skip right to the content—here’s the meat of what you can expect:

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A New Day: Pardon the Construction

What’s this? Well, at the moment it’s a bit of a placeholder. Also, a bit of an introduction, something to sort of tide you over while I get things officially established.

First, a bit of a greeting. If you’re here because you’re already a fan of my works, than you already know the gist of things, but for those of you who don’t, a welcome anyway. I’m Max Florschutz, author and writer of assorted science fiction and fantasy novels, and this is my blog, where I’ll be discussing and posting a wide array of things from updates on my newest books and progress to my already-popular-elsewhere weekly writing guides and helpers. And, at the core, that’s pretty much it. I mean, this is an author’s website, after all. So if that succinct summary of what this site shall entail entertains you, then just go ahead and click that bookmark button hidden somewhere in your browser so you can find this place again easily. If you’re looking for a bit more of an explanation than that, however, you’ll have to click the link below to open the full post.

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