Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ordinary World-- Theresa's points

That's a great graphic, Theresa! And you and I both keep going back to Aristotle... I think the old guy really got drama. :)

I think too many writers now think they have to leap into the action -- and yeah, for action-adventure novels, that might be right. (We should talk about, at some point, how different types of openings "promise" different sorts of stories, even for the same basic plot.) But novels that are more about character should probably first establish that "ordinary world"-- because it tells a lot about the character when we see how she interacts with the world she lives in-- before that world changes with the plot.

The OW isn't just about setting-- it's a characterization opportunity too. The Ordinary World might not be what the character has chosen... but it's what the character has adapted to and accepted. So the Ordinary World tells us what she's willing to live with, what concessions she has made for the safety and routine and ordinariness, what she values, what she fears-- and why she can't grow unless she leaves.




Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Interesting viewpoint. Many of the blogging agents say they don't want this sort of grounding and that you SHOULD jump right into the action.

This is obviously a matter of taste -- and a fine line to toe.

Renee Lynn Scott said...

I hear the same from all over-start where the action begins, get your h/h together in the first chapter. Of course, I write romance and rules seem to be different for each genre.

I wrote five different beginnings for my current wip because I couldn't get into the action just right.

Thanks for the insight, and like Susan said it's probably a matter of taste.

Ian Thomas Healy said...

Great blog, you two - I'm glad I got the hint about it!

One of the things I've found most challenging as someone who writes science fiction (-esque) tales is establishing an Ordinary World which is possibly quite unfamiliar to the reader without it becoming essentially an info-dump. I'm working on it, but it's tough!


Edittorrent said...

Well, I'll post something about what I mean about the ordinary world (which we're borrowing from Vogler, who borrowed it too-- this is getting to be like my Tupperware :). I don't think you have to make a choice between opening with action and opening with the Ordinary World, and it's not so much a matter of taste as a matter of what's best for this story and this sub-genre, which you emphasize.

Anyway, I'll do more Ordinary World tomorrow, or tonight, depending on how sleepy this cold medicine makes me. :) But anyway, I am NOT talking about a boring scene, but a good scene that happens to show the character and the world before the events of the plot change things. You can hardly understand the import of the plot if you don't get a sense of what life was like before.

Patricia W. said...

We should talk about, at some point, how different types of openings "promise" different sorts of stories, even for the same basic plot.

Yes, let's. A lot of writing advice, especially that in craft books and online, is generic. But these things vary by genre and even sub-genre. It would be helpful to examine the differences.