Sunday, March 13, 2011

A chance for new beginnings and endings

It's good to visit with other writers. It gives you an opportunity to talk craft, consider ideas and to write. I did a little of this on Saturday.

The Pikes Peak Writers hosted a workshop: Novel Beginnings and Endings with authors Angel Smits and Karen Fox.

Both Angel and Karen shared how beginnings and endings are linked. They are intertwined. They are crucial to entice the reader, to entertain and to get the reader to return for another story, another book.

Angel shared techniques from the book Hooked by Les Edgerton. She used Edgerton's book to help write her most recent book A Message for Julia.

An opening scene has four elements:  introduces a story-worthy problems, hooks the reader, establishes the rules of the story and forecasts your ending.

Angel said the opening is the only scene where a character doesn't enter with a goal. There's no problem to solve and it's the only time a character can be reactionary. She discussed several components of a story like an opening sentence, backstory, voice, setting and foreshadowing.

Karen said endings are original, dramatic, sums up the story and linger in a reader's mind. She said writers should aim for their ending from page one.

Karen reviewed different types of ending. She warned us not to take the easy way out of our story like don't allow your hero to suddenly (and conveniently) remember he has a gun in the desk drawer.

During the workshop, we looked at the following elements of beginning and endings through the Wizard of Oz story.

For the beginning, we looked at:
  • Opening backstory
  • Setup
  • Inciting Incident
  • Surface Problem
  • Surface Goal
  • Story-Worthy Problem
  • Story-Worthy Goal
For the Ending, we looked at:
  • Climax Crisis
  • Possible Decisions
  • Lessons learned along the way
  • Use of lessons in solving problem
  • Resolution
  • Twist/Surprise
  • Last Line
After we looked at Dorothy's journey, we looked at our own. It's an interesting exercise to look at your characters and consider what backstory people need to know from the very first page or what is the story-worthy problem that the hero is dealing with throughout the story. And, what the heck will the last line be!

I mostly scribbled notes and ideas on my worksheets. I flipped back and forth at my notes. I listened to the questions other people asked. I paid attention to how I clumsily described my story to my table mate and considered her thoughts and suggestions about the beginning I offered.

The information was very helpful and pointed out the mountain of work I still have to do. Happy writing.


  1. Fascinating - thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks Julie. I love workshops. They really give me time to think about the work ahead.

  3. Sounds like this was a great workshop. I'm all for workshops - I've been fortunate to get to some great ones, too, and they've helped me so much in my writing. (PS - Good to meet you in the twittersphere. :-) )

  4. Thanks Pam. I'm unable to attend a conference this year, so I've been getting my fix with local workshops. Yes, great to connect on Twitter.


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