6. Conflict and Plot

Page 4 of 10 | What Is a Story? | Originality Counts | Gotta Have Structure | Set the Hook | Reel 'Em In | Land 'Em |
| What If I Don't Know? | Other Times, Other Worlds | Events Follow Character | Try This at Home! |

Beginning: Set the Hook
I told you in an earlier section that a story needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. Some things are worth repeating, and this is one of them.

A beginning. A middle. An end.

How hard is that?

Harder than it sounds, apparently, because lots of people forget it. I know I did, when I was first writing.

1. Beginning: the Hook

I don't just mean the first words, though that's certainly a part of it. I mean the point at which the reader plunges into the story. The point at which you grab his interest, and make him want to know more. Think like a fisherman. Those readers swimming around out there have other things to do, like surfing the net or watching TV or reading other stories. If you want them to read your story, you have to hook them fast. Preferably in the first few words. Certainly in the first page.

One of the hardest things for many writers is deciding where to start a story. I don't mean just figuring out what's happening; you might, after all, be joining the story in the middle of some event that's already well under way. (The fleet's under attack. The symbiont and its host are in the middle of an argument about an old problem. The teenager has just blown up at his mom.) I mean figuring out at what point to open the curtain and show the reader what's happening.

It's often best to open in the middle of an action; just throw the reader into the story and let her figure out later what it all means. At the same time, too much confusion can put your reader off, so you're often juggling between getting things moving and explaining what's happening. Learning to do this well is largely a matter of practice. But when in doubt, you're probably better off going straight into the action: shoot first, get your hero into trouble, and let 'em ask questions later.


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