Your story opens. Here comes your heroine, in all her glory. Then she proceeds to wander around, telling us all about how she got here–for several long pages, until you’re tempted to nod off. But wait! How can you keep your story alive long enough to get it started?
Writing Tip for Today: One of the simplest ways to keep readers reading is to PUT ANOTHER CHARACTER ON STAGE. A telltale sign that your opening isn’t working is this single character, alone on stage. The fix for this problem, I call the WILSON PRINCIPLE.
- Get a Wilson for Your Story. In Tom Hanks’ movie, “Castaway,” he’s marooned on a desert isle for a lot of the film. Alone on stage, he will either have to talk to himself (which might get a little creepy) or find someone to talk to and interact with. The solution? WILSON, the volleyball that floats up. Hanks’ character talks to Wilson, dresses Wilson and uses Wilson to keep his sanity and keep the movie from total boredom. You can do this too. Instead of letting your character languish alone as he explains everything, START THE STORY. Get a second character on stage as soon as you can do so. Preferably in the first couple of pages. Then, learn to weave in back story on a need-to-know basis.
- Dialogue is Energizing. Another good reason for employing the Wilson Principle is that if there’s a conversation, there’s dialogue. Dialogue energizes the reader. But be careful. Avoid talking heads by cutting back and forth between “camera shots” of the setting and the characters body language.
- But My Character’s LONELY! You say you must keep your heroine isolated to illustrate her alienation? Think again. Have you ever felt lonely in a crowd? Or even worse in a hostile meeting with your nemesis? Use the characters in your story to build tension, introduce conflict and keep the story moving. Use the Wilson Principle and you’ll be far more likely to show, not tell.