Wednesday, May 23, 2012

SERIES - Your First 50 Pages

Part 4 of 8

Reveal the Genre

Important in the first 50 pages is to let your readers know what kind of a book they'll be reading. Is it a Western? A Sci-Fi? A romance? You must decipher genre, milieu, era, setting, backdrop, and tone. You also need to help ground them by revealing the time and place that the story is taking place in, as well as to set the tone for the story.

For example, look at the opening sequence to any James Bond movie. Through the beginning set of scenes we learn that he is a suave character who is calm, cool, and collected under the most extreme circumstances. We learn that this is a man full of ingenuity, and also a womanizer. We further learn that this is going to be an action packed movie, with the use of nearly impossible gadgets to get him out of most any danger. He can drive a boat, hang-glide, ski, and do most anything else required for the circumstance. We learn that it is set in modern times (for the date of the movie). You see where I'm going with this?

Remember, it's important to ground the reader in the beginning of the book by revealing these things at an early stage. If the reader feels confused, or cannot form proper images in her mind, she is quickly going to get frustrated and become discouraged in reading further.

Let's try to dig down a little further. Take Genre for instance:

Do you know what genre you're writing in? Is it clear to you? Even if you chose not to stick to a particular genre, and decide to write more commercial, where the genre is a mix of various others, it is still important for you to orient your reader into what kind of story this is going to be.

For example, say you have a young man and woman walking through a field of flowers, hand in hand, surrounded by nothing but open fields and countryside laughing playfully with each other. What would you be picturing in your mind right about now? Maybe this is a modern day story -- or something else completely. Suddenly the scene changes and we discover that this is a middle-age horror story where the young coupled are captured and tortured by dragon-riding elves. Hmm, see what I mean? It would be quite a shock to your reader, and not a good one.

Now look at Milieu, Era, and Setting:

Every story, no matter what genre it is, happens in a time and a place. Whatever milieu you choose, make sure you establish it in the first 50 pages. For example, if this is a story set in the Arthurian age in the 500 AD period, show the reader castles and men in armor riding horses. You need to let the reader know when and where the story is taking place. Again, ground them and help them to form images that will propel them through your story.

Now Backdrop:

Be sure to choose a backdrop that helps you tell your story. One of my favorite movies, and saddest, is The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. The backdrop in it shows the movie set against the concentration camps of WWII. Without the backdrop, showing a boy's discovery of how man can be cruel and unjust to innocent people would lend itself to a variety of settings and genres. But when you set it against the WWII backdrop, your story takes on its intended feeling.

Now I know there are writers who choose against backdrops, maybe because it makes them feel limited. But for me, as a reader I like the feeling I get when I can imagine the characters in their surroundings, so as a writer, I write it that way. In fact, I like to pick my backdrop first, and then place my characters within it.

How about Tone?

It took me a little bit at first to understand what was meant by tone. Writers, advisers, agents, and publishers would mention tone, but what the heck did they mean? When someone mentions tone, what they mean is the novel's sense of seriousness, humor, or irony. The mood or flavor of the story. Yes, it's portrayed by voice, message, and theme, but mainly it's the feeling you give the story.

Pay attention to the tone. You don't want to open the story as a serious family drama, and then end with it being a comedy.

So, now you know the importance of picking the genre setting up the first 50 pages. Tie that in with steps 1 - 3 and you'll be well on your way.

Are you having difficulty picking the genre? How about setting the tone, or choosing the backdrop, or anything else discussed here? Let me know. Leave a comment and ask your questions. Either me, or one of my followers will be glad to assist. If you're not having a problem or had a problem and managed to get it resolved, leave a comment and tell us what worked for you. And by all means, JOIN this blog and follow along. You'll be glad you did. :)

Here are a few resources for you to help you along:

How to Choose a Genre for Your Fiction Novel
Identify Your Novel's Genre
Genre Descriptions
Genre Writing
Definitions of Fiction Categories and Genre

I hope you found this post helpful. Remember to share your thoughts.

Until then, all my best for your success.

Dee Ann  :)