Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Fiction Writing 101: Lesson # 2

Hooks, Description, Viewpoint and Synopsis
By
Molly Noble Bull

This lesson and future lessons include assignments, but obviously, they cannot all be graded here. On your own, complete as many of the assignments as you can, and if you would like, share one short answer each time by clicking comment. One comment per lesson, please.
www.mollynoblebull.com

Here are some examples of beginning hooks from my novels.

She’d seen him again.

(The first line from The Rogue’s Daughter by Molly Noble Bull. Zondervan 1986)

It was now or never.

(The first line from Brides and Blessings by Molly Noble Bull. Love Inspired 1999.)

I’m not one to go without a woman for long, missy.

(The first line from The Winter Pearl by Molly Noble Bull. Steeple Hill 2004 & 2007)

Death to Jews, she read. Death to all Huguenots.

(The first line of Sanctuary by Molly Noble Bull. Tsaba House September 2007)

Question: Do any or all of these beginning hooks capture your interest? If so, tell why. If no, tell why not.

Today, read settings A. and B. below. Then choose the setting you like best.

A. To the east, the sun pushed its way from behind the rocky mountain, dusting the dawn with orange paint. A chilling wind whistled down to the valley below.

B. Joe Travis peered up at the sun as it pushed its way from behind the rocky mountain, and he felt the chill of a whistling wind. Laurel would say that God was dusting the dawn with orange paint. All Joe knew was that he wanted to reach the valley below and home as soon as possible.

Point of View: called POV

Point of view (POV) merely indicates from whose mind and body the story originates at a particular time in the story. We call this person the POV character. Who is the point of view character in Setting B?

In fiction, a beginning hook is often used to capture the interest of the reader. Setting A. is an example of description, but it is not an example of a beginning hook. Dwight Swain (Techniques of the Selling Writer) would say that Setting A. is like a picture on a wall or a painting. Setting A. does not move. Therefore, it appears almost lifeless.
Setting B. is an example a picture that moves or a moving picture. Always describe moving pictures by having your characters move through your settings rather than merely observing them.

Question:

Does Setting B capture your interest? If so, is it a beginning hook? If not, how could Setting B become a beginning hook? Rewrite Setting B., turning it into a beginning hook.

ASSIGNMENTS:

Select a landscape picture from a magazine. Describe your picture in one short paragraph like I described the setting in example A.

Select a picture of a person or an animal from a magazine. Briefly, describe the person or animal you selected as you might describe a character in a novel.

Write a third short paragraph, placing your character in the landscape setting you wrote in your first paragraph.
NOTE: A character in a story setting need not be a human being. Your character could be an animal, an alien, whatever.

The Synopsis:

The synopsis of a fiction novel is a short overview of the entire book that tells what the story is about, a little about the characters and a little about the plot. A synopsis should always be written in the third person, present. Below is an example of a fairy tale—first written in the third person past and then in the third person present.

Third Person Past:
Poor and orphaned Cinderella thought she was in heaven when her fairy godmother arrived and provided her with a new gown, a coach and footmen so she could attend the ball at the king’s palace and meet the prince, but her joy soon turned to embarrassment when at midnight her dress turned to rags and her coach and footmen disappeared.

Third Person Present:
Poor and orphaned Cinderella thinks she is in heaven when her fairy godmother arrives and provides her with a new gown, a coach and footmen so she can attend the ball at the king’s palace and meet the prince, but her joy soon turns to embarrassment when at midnight her dress turns to rags and her coach and footmen disappear.
ASSIGNMENTS:
Write the plot of a fairy tale or favorite story in one paragraph as I did, using the third person past.
Write the paragraph again, using the third person present.
# # #

Two of my two long Christian historical novels are listed below—Sanctuary and The Winter Pearl. If you click on each of them, you can read about Sanctuary and The Winter Pearl, read free excerpts from these novels, read my bio and click to read discussions questions.

Sanctuary

http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?item_no=853505&event=CF

The Winter Pearl

http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?item_no=86115&netp_id=464629&event=ESRCN&item_code=WW&view=details

That’s all for today. See you next Wednesday.
Molly Noble Bull

4 comments:

Cathy West said...

I prefer openings that immediately pull me in to the story and connect me with the character. I know when I first started writing, I just loved long narratives with a ton of description. I thought they were stellar.
They weren't. They were boring.
I've learned to get past my yen to paint word pictures, and jump right in with both feet.
My opening line to my ms I've just finished:

Didn't they know they were shouting so loud the neighbors could hear?

Does this do it? Hopefully. :0)

Molly Noble Bull said...

Dear Cathy,
Yes. That's a great opening. It makes me want to know who witnessed all the shouting and who the shouters were. In other words, it creates interest in your story, and that's what you want.
Good job.
Love,
Molly

Delia Latham said...

Molly: I plan to use your assignments and questions as writing exercises on my own. Thank you for doing this!

What do you think of the following opening scene?

It looked dead, like a ghost town in a B movie. Not a soul walked the dusty Main Street - but then, why would they? Nearly every other door sported a big "Closed" sign. Not even a breeze stirred in the eerie stillness.
Faeri shaded her eyes against the blistering sun and scanned the dirty upper story windows of the Last Chance Inn. She couldn't see him, but he was there. She felt his soulless gaze.

Molly Noble Bull said...

Dear Delia,
Your paragraphy is great, but you need a strong opening hook. How about this?
# # #
She couldn't see him, but she knew he was there.
Watching.
(Insert an emotion here. Example: Her pulse raced.)
Not a soul walked the dusty main street. But then, why would they? The whole place looked dead, like a ghost town in a B movie.
Nearly every (delete other) door - - -
# # #
Keep everything after "Nearly every door" exactly like you have it.
Good job.
Love,
Molly