Have you ever evaluated how the beginning and ending of your manuscript are related? What about the beginning and ending of each chapter? Each scene?
Other than the obvious facts that these are related by plot and characters, consider the following comments from successful people in the industry:
"The opening image is also an opportunity to give us the starting point of the hero. It gives us a moment to see a "before" snapshot ... there will also be an "after" snapshot to show how things have changed. ... The opening and final images should be opposites ... showing a change so dramatic it documents the emotional upheaval ..." (Blake Snyder, SAVE THE CAT, pp. 72-73).
And, Donald Maass spends pages discussing the topic as well. "Does it matter what is the last line of your scene, or the first? Apparently, many authors do not think it does. ... That's a shame. Like a handshake, an opening and closing line can create impressions and expectations. They can set a tone. They can signal where we're going, or what we've done, or serve any number of other useful story purposes. ... Creating them deliberately, is a discipline worth developing. ... Suppose you did a first line / last line draft, doing nothing but honing the bookends of every scene in your manuscript. Would those little changes give your story a bigger and more effective shape?" (Donald Maass, THE FIRE IN FICTION, pp. 69-73).
What do you think?
Should every scene, chapter, and story have their "bookends" related in some fashion?
I totally agree. Great post.ReplyDelete
When I read that paragraph in The Fire in Fiction I went through my MS and looked at all my first and last lines. And a few I did try and rewrite to make them more potent (and portent) like he suggests.ReplyDelete
I think a good last line of a chapter makes you want to read the next first line right away.
Super post. I completely agree--I need to find those books you mentioned. Thanks.ReplyDelete
I hadn't really thought much about it until I read Maass' book. Now I pay more attention to it in the revision process.ReplyDelete
I'm probably not as aware of it as I should be. I try to keep it in mind while writing the rough draft, but I don't know if I keep it in my head during revisions. Thanks for the reminder.ReplyDelete
Everyone loves this book. It's been on my wish list for way too long!
I agree that ending each chapter with a page-turner, cliffhanger or any type of surprise, makes the reader want to come back for more. The same is true for beginnings, as it's important to reel the readers in. The "honing the bookends" strategy is a great one! JulieReplyDelete
well, in my last MS, I actually did intentionally have the last scene reflective of the opening scene. I thought it worked out nicely, and I always enjoy reading books that show a sort of though-out plan like that. But whether it really, really matters... I don't know! I guess not if the story's strong enough. :o) <3ReplyDelete
Terry Brooks said in a workshop that every chapter should end in a cliffhanger. I thought that was too cliche at the time, but now I see the wisdom in it.ReplyDelete