Writing Wednesday: Thrown in the Deep End

20 Apr

One of the big MFAisms is: “Start with the action.”

As a journalist, I understand the importance of strong titles and hooks.  You need to entice the reader, draw him in.  I don’t believe, though, that the hook and action are synonymous.

As a reader, I feel flung into the deep end of a cold swimming pool when a story starts with the action.  I splash around trying to figure out where I am and where I can find some solid ground.  Once on dry land again, I feel like I was needlessly jerked around.  I would’ve loved to swim around, but I prefer to stick my feet in first, test the waters.

I felt relieved then when I read Jane Friedman’s article “The Biggest Bad Advice About Story Openings” on her Writer’s Digest blog There Are No Rule.  Friedman states that an opening with lots of action and little characterization, “Delivers a stereotypical crisis moment that’s full of action or pain, but without a center.”

Isn’t that so true?  Doesn’t it seem like all action stories are the same?  The reason action matters in any type of story is because we are intrigued by the characters.

What are your feelings about starting a story with the action?  What does a great hook look like?

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