Monday, February 14, 2011

MFA Monday: Fowl Wisdom

"Readers are like baby ducks at the beginning of the story – they will adhere to whatever they see first (The mommy syndrome). Writers have a tendency to throw too many mothers at the beginning, and the readers don’t know what to stick to."


  1. Interesting post. I think readers are finding out more and more what they want to stick to, so it's smart of us to know our audience.

  2. I did this. On my first draft I think I had fifteen characters in the first chapter.

    I've since cut it down to five.

  3. That's really something important to consider.

  4. You made me smile.
    You and your cute ducks.

  5. Flesh this out for me. I'm someone who needs specifics. ;)

  6. Caroline - I think in the class the author was making a point of not bringing in too much in the first chapter, because the reader won't know what or who in the story to focus on. The first chapter sets up expectations, and you want your readers to be with you, not fighting against you.

    For instance, if you have ten characters, but only two or three of them are going to eventually be important, the reader might spend the rest of the book waiting for one of the other eight to be significant in the plot. Especially if all are given somewhat even time, a reader might become more attached to one and be interested in their story, when it really isn't that character's story.

    Likewise, if you bring in too much plot, a reader might be confused as to which is the central one.

    For instance, in my current WIP I have a murder, two secrets, an old boyfriend who wants to get back together with a girl who is being pursued by someone else, a broken family relationship and a tentative new family relationship. If I threw all this at the reader in the first chapter, or even three of them, the reader might be tempted to latch on to one as the most important, when really it's another one that's the crux of the book.

    There is really one solid and pervasive story/relationship that all the other plots merely add and complicate. That main one has to be the predominant one at the beginning so the reader invests in that.

    Does that make sense?

  7. Interesting idea. I've rewritten my beginning several times, and tried to focus on the important characters while establishing the "ordinary" life of my MC before she leaves on her quest. A challenge, for sure.

  8. Well put. This is definitely a difficult process as a writer, especially if you want the readers to care about several characters, but keep the focus on your MC.

  9. Oooh, now I'm going to have to check and see if I have too many mothers in the first pages of my WIP.

    Great shot, by the way. I love how the water is so clear in front and completely rippled behind them.