SCBWI's Blueboard - A Message & Chat Board

Grounding the reader in fantasy

Discussion started on

I'm working in a new world, one we haven't really seen before. I want to convey that point quickly, but I'm also very aware that my character/voice should come first. This is for middle-grade, so I keep debating my opening para. Starting with world context seems too distant, but the character/voice doesn't make much sense without the context either.

Do I start with character or context? Which is more grounding?
#1 - November 19, 2013, 02:01 PM

Member
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region longislandny
You need to find a way of weaving the voice and the setting together. They aren't separate entities. Voice should permeate the whole novel.  Slant your writing -- your whole novel-- through the eyes of your characters.


Best of luck with it!

Stella
#2 - November 19, 2013, 07:26 PM
« Last Edit: November 20, 2013, 05:52 PM by stella-michel »

You might try choosing one aspect of the story world to explore in the opening paragraphs so that you have room to introduce us to the mc at the same time. The Book Of Dead Days comes to mind--we learn about one single magic trick the mc is helping his master perform, and we come to understand the character and his situation through it without being overwhelmed with too many details about all of the magic, etc. right away.
#3 - November 19, 2013, 10:05 PM
The Echo Room (Tor Teen, 2018)
Where Futures End (Penguin, 2016)
www.parkerpeevyhouse.com

I agree Stella, and I am going to slant the whole novel. I guess I'm deciding if I start with a slanted emotional situation or physical place. Just trying to decide what grounds more. Thanks, Whizbee, I'll look at that book as well.
#4 - November 21, 2013, 02:21 PM

Global Moderator
Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region longislandny
The emotional and physical are not mutually exclusive. We react to emotion in physical ways. Those ways can involve the setting.

Jane's knees gave out. She leaned on the metal wall to catch her breath, her eyes stayed focused on the corridor behind.

Jane's knees gave out. She staggered to the hearth. The brick was cold despite the roaring fire within.

Jane's knees gave out. Their metal rasped as she took two more steps. Her battle was over.

Each of these could be followed by an internalization that makes the setting and the situation even clearer. Emotion does not exist in a vacuum.
#5 - November 25, 2013, 12:08 PM
Website: http://www.debbievilardi.com/
Twitter: @dvilardi1

Member.
Poster Plus
I've faced this a bit. I'd say that what seems a very different type of world doesn't actually throw the reader as much as one would think. Even young kids are really up to date with many strange settings. You can probably just start with the character as usual and let the reader catch up with the setting as the story goes on. Even if your character is an alien etc.



 
#6 - November 26, 2013, 12:25 AM
Keith McGowan, www.keithbooks.com

Debbie, thanks for your illustrations. Guess I am focusing more on the first line, because I'm asking mine to do a lot. "Jane's knees gave out," starts with a situation without much voice. That's what I mean. Voice is more crucial, and that's what I'm trying to accomplish on line one. I'll keep playing with it, and perhaps I need to combine some ideas.

Keith, thank you. I've thought the same on occasion. I want to trust my reader, but don't want them to sink either. I'm trusting some betas to tell me if things work well or not.

#7 - November 26, 2013, 12:39 PM

Global Moderator
Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region longislandny
Hi Jay,

You're right that my line has no voice, but it does put a question in the mind of the reader. Why? That can be enough to get them to keep reading. Read a bunch of first paragraphs of new MG fantasy novels and analyze how the author did what you need to do. Look very carefully at the ones you don't want to put down after that first paragraph.
#8 - December 02, 2013, 08:56 AM
Website: http://www.debbievilardi.com/
Twitter: @dvilardi1

Members:

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.