Facts about Fiction 2

 From The Brain Rummager by Brian Barratt

 Attention Please!

Begin at the beginning

Let's assume that the title of a story has persuaded you to read the story itself. You start in the natural place: at the beginning. Of course, you can cheat if you wish. Some people read the last part first, to see how the story ends. Is that a good itea?

The first couple of paragraphs of a story must hold your attention. There must be enough to make you want to continue reading.

This applies especially to short stories. In a novel, you might need to read several pages before you decide to continue or start yawning.

Point of view

A story can be written from one of three points of view. They are named after three different ways of using verbs and pronouns:

1.   The first person: I.

2.   The second person: You.

3.   The third person: He or She.

The first and third are the most common. The second is not often used. It is more difficult to do.

As an author, you might decide to write your story from the point of view of "I". You are pretending to be the character actually telling her or his story. If you do this, you must be consistent. Here is a rule for you to observe:

If you start a story in the first person, you must continue in the same way.

If it easy to forget this. You might start a story one day, and put it away. When you come back to it, you might change the point of view without realising it. The "I" suddenly becomes "he" or "she". The same rule applies the other way round: If you start with "she" or "he", do not suddenly change to "I".

Three ingredients

A successful, captivating opening will tell the reader something about one, two or all of the following:

...The main character.

...The mood or atmosphere.

...The setting (perhaps).

"Setting" can refer to place and time. It is not always necessary for the reader to know. However, it is important in, for example, historical stories and sci-fi where time and place are vital to the story.

Story openings

Here are examples of story openings based on some by students in Years 7, 8 and 9. They are not in any order which indicates year level or "good". How "good" they are is for you to decide. Read them, study the vocabulary and the sentence structure, and ask yourself:

1.   Does this opening hold my attention? How?

2.   Would it persuade me to continue reading, and why or why not?

3.   Can I predict what this story might be about?

4.   What is the point of view? (I, he/she, or you.)

5.   What, and how much, does this tell me about the main character, the atmosphere or the setting?

6.   As a writer, would I start a story like this?

..........

They were my friends, the creatures of the night. All huddled in the dark, so close together.

..........

One evening my sister and I were walking home and a man drove past a few times. Then it started raining, and the man came and asked us if we would like a lift.

..........

On the night before Christmas I went to bed at nine o'clock and fell asleep at about 9.30. I dreamt about the presents and the food as well as my friends and relatives having a really good time the next day.

..........

She was standing in front of the mirror. Average height, average weight and average shape. There was only one word to describe her: average.

..........

He floated in the cold artificial air of the space-station, slowly drifting around the cabin, eyes still and almost lifeless, devoid of any expression.

..........

Denise returned from boarding school. The sprawling stone mansion stood alone angry, hard, and desolate, like a mirror reflecting her feelings.

..........

One dark night a girl was walking near the cemetery in a town called Maryhaven. This girl was called Rose, and she was very sweet and kind until one dark and stormy night. Then it happened...

..........

Anna clenched her fists in frustration. Click, click click. The other students in the computer room didn't seem at all worried by the noise. But Anna just could not concentrate.

..........

You stand on the doorstep, the heavy panelled door looming overhead like some creature waiting. Waiting to see if you will be tempted to reach up and touch the doorknob.

 

Copyright 2005 Brian Barratt. This material may be copied or printed only for use by students in school classrooms. 

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