Monday, October 22, 2012

Variety Is the Spice of Story

While making a final sweep through Claiming Mariah, my historical romance releasing from Tyndale January 2013, I noticed that a lot of my scenes started with the hero or heroine’s name. And those that didn’t, started with some other character.

Sure, we've all heard to start each scene with the POV character, but I don't think the rule literally meant to start with their name. At least not every time.

Once I spotted those repetitions, I couldn’t not notice them. If that makes a hill of beans of sense.

Then it really started to get on my nerves.

The more I considered those opening paragraphs, the more I panicked. How in the world could I fix those beginnings? I got some advice from the Seekers, and some examples showing ways to twist things around, and I started tweaking, rewriting, playing with those beginnings.

Gradually, it started to sink in, and I managed to add variety to my scene openings.

Let’s look at some examples of before and after scene openings from Claiming Mariah.

BEFORE
Mariah felt like sinking through the kitchen floor. Slade Donovan had caught her staring at him. And to make matters worse, he’d stared right back.
AFTER
A rolling flush swept up Mariah’s neck. Now would be a good time for the kitchen floor to open up and swallow her. Slade Donovan had caught her staring at him. And to make matters worse, he’d stared right back.
In the example above, I got rid of starting the scene with my character’s name and the word felt by showing instead of telling.
BEFORE
Slade slouched in the saddle and let his gelding find his own way back to the ranch.
AFTER
The creaking of saddle leather broke the silence, but for once the men were silent. Slade slouched in the saddle and let his gelding find his own way back to the ranch.
Use the five senses to your advantage. I didn’t have to start with “The creaking of saddle leather”. I could have described the setting sun, or “Sweat dripped off the end of Slade’s nose”. Visualize the scene and pick one thing to add color or a bit of spice to the opening line and edge your character’s name away from that prime spot.

BEFORE
Slade hefted his saddle onto his horse, his gaze meeting Buck’s. “I’ve got to go into town and get a few supplies. You feel up to going?”
AFTER
“I’m heading into town.” Slade hefted his saddle onto his horse, glancing at Buck. “You want to go?”

Break up the dialogue. Stick a bit of it at the beginning, so that you don’t start with a character’s name every time.

BEFORE
Mariah rose early Monday morning to gather the eggs.
AFTER
While Mariah gathered the eggs, the chickens pecked at the corn she’d scattered on the ground.

The original tells us what Mariah did. The rewrite shows her doing it and paints the scene of what's happening around her, and it manages to push her name out of first place.

BEFORE
Mariah turned from the stove. Dark circles under her brown eyes made them look bigger and more vulnerable than ever.
AFTER
The pink hue of the rising sun peeked over the horizon as Slade made his way back into the doctor’s kitchen. Mariah turned from the stove, coffeepot in hand. Dark circles under her eyes made them look bigger and more vulnerable than ever.

In this instance, I just rewound the scene a few seconds, again sprinkling a little spice into the mix.



Got it? Here are some examples from Seeker books pulled at random off my shelves. These are some great examples of how to vary your beginnings.

Something slammed into the roof so hard the whole mountain shook. Grace screamed… 
Calico Canyon, Mary Connealy

The clatter of pans brought Elizabeth straight up in bed. 
The Subsitute Bride, Janet Dean

At eight o’clock that evening, Katherine donned the altered gown for the dance. 
A Path Toward Love, Cara Lynn James

“I can’t help but think he didn’t tell me because he didn’t trust me.” 
High Country Hearts, Glynna Kaye

Done! Katie jerked a sheet from her typewriter cylinder and released a silent groan, placing the last page from Parker’s board-meeting notes on a neat pile. 
A Hope Undaunted, Julie Lessman

The night lay thick as Kayla wound her way along familiar roads. 
Winter’s End, Ruth Logan Herne

Okay, that’s the lesson for today. Mix it up. Spice it up. Add a little variety to your writing. But...



DON'T OVERDO IT

Don’t try to twist your sentence structure into something God never intended. If the flow…the cadence, if you will…starts sounding weird, change it back, and keep looking for something that does work, but doesn’t change your voice.

And don’t just look at chapter beginnings. Look at how each paragraph starts. Then look at each sentence, one after the other...after the other. Eventually, you’ll notice those repetitive sentences and adjust them automatically.



DO NOT PANIC

There's absolutely nothing wrong with starting scenes and paragraphs with your character's names. As a matter of fact, the bulk of your scenes will start with someone's name. You want to write in such a way that readers' don't notice how you start each scene and paragraph. Variety will accomplish that.

Would you like to play? Throw up a paragraphs from your wip that starts with a character’s name, and we’ll have fun twisting the sentence structure around to give you more variety.

Today’s giveaway is a critique of the first five pages of a your manuscript to review your opening paragraphs. Please specify if you want to be in the drawing.

Award-winning author Pam Hillman writes inspirational fiction set in the turbulent times of the American West and the Gilded Age. Her second Digital First ebook, Claiming Mariah, coming January 2013 from Tyndale House, won the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart contest. She lives in Mississippi with her husband and family. www.pamhillman.com

121 comments:

  1. Hi Pam. Those little tidbits from your book have me wanting more! I think I'm going to have to get that if I have my Kindle by January LOL! :-)

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  2. Coffee will be served beginning at 3 a.m.

    Here's the first example I found. See what you can do with it.

    Jolene watched Riley stride toward the barn, his back ramrod straight. Regret ate at her. Why had she managed to alienate him?

    Thanks for the insights, Pam.

    Helen

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  3. Oh, Helen, can I give it a go?

    Riley strode toward the barn, his back ramrod straight. Regret ate at Jolane. Why had she managed to alienate him?.

    Don't know if that works or not.

    Beginning paragraphs with first names drive me crazy, but I've noticed sometimes it can't be helped, especially when you have several characters in one.

    Here is mine.

    Trey jammed his hands into his pockets and rocked back on his heels. His friend began to undo his belt. McKenzie stopped him. “You can’t go down there, Nate.”

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  4. Thanks the helpful post. I need to work on this as well, I agree we can get stuck in a rut trying to finish a scene and not think about how it flows. I find it helps to read it aloud and then see how to twist it around. By the way...I loved reading "Stealing Jake"

    Tammy

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  5. Christina, Riley is the other main character, so that's still beginning with a main character's name. :)

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  6. Helen, I'm in the middle of edits for Claiming Mariah as we type, but I can't resist playing!

    Regret ate at Jolene as she watched Riley stride toward the barn, his back ramrod straight.

    Why had she managed to alienate him?

    I'd put the last sentence in a new paragraph and possibly change it to "How"

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  7. LOL, Helen. I was so excited about trying that I didn't even realize I used a name. *rolls eyes*

    Pam's suggestion is great.

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  8. Trey jammed his hands into his pockets and rocked back on his heels. His friend began to undo his belt. McKenzie stopped him. “You can’t go down there, Nate.”

    Christina, before I attempt to unravel this one, how many people are in this short piece.

    3 or 4? Trey, the "friend", McKenzie, and Nate? And whose POV are we in?

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  9. Tammy! I'm so glad you liked Jake! Hope you can say the same for Claiming Mariah! lol

    BTW, I've seen the mock-up of the cover for Mariah, but can't share it yet.

    But I LOVE it! Can't wait to show it to the world!

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  10. LOL! Yes, it's one of those multiple character scenes. There are three here. Trey the hero, Nate the friend and McKenzie.

    It's an accident scene and they're officers.

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  11. Pam, have you heard if/when Stealing Jake will be in print? It's a definite keeper. I can't wait to read Claiming Mariah

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  12. Okay, got it now. :)

    You could start with the dialogue in this case.

    "You can't go down there, Nate." Mckenzie stopped him.

    Nate ignored him/her, and unbuckled his belt.

    Trey jammed his hands into his pockets and rocked back on his heels.

    Or...I'm not sure what kind of belt it is? A gun belt? .....

    Before Trey could stop him, Nate jerked his gun belt off and tossed it at McKenzie. Her eyes widened. "You can't go down there, Nate."

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  13. Christina, nothing concrete yet. But there's always hope. Like you, I'd love to see Jake in print too!

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  14. Oooh, I love all these critiques being given away! I want one!

    Ok, I knew this was annoying, vaguely, but didn't realize how much I did it... Ugh.

    Here's a line...

    "Evie could have sworn her heart dropped four inches and settled at an angle."

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  15. Great post, Pam. I like how you show us a variety of ways to avoid repetition in our scene openers. I work hard not to have adjacent paragraphs begin with the same word, either, a technique I learned when I won a critique from Julie Lessman years ago. I've learned heaps of good stuff here in Seekerville. =)

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  16. Virginia,

    my rewrite since I don't know what's going on, I just added a phrase:

    Hand pressed hard against her chest, Evie swore her heart dropped four inches and settled at an angle.

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  17. Hi Pam, thanks for a terrific post.

    Wouldn't it be wonderful if Seekerville put the best of their posts together in a book? I'd be first in line to buy it (hint hint)

    Here's a paragraph from my wip

    Gina nodded and ran outside where she found the old man still pacing. He stopped and stood stock still when he saw her. The color drained from his face. "Are they. . . ? Did he send you to tell me. . . ?"

    Please enter me in the drawing for a critique.

    Many thanks

    Ruth Ann

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  18. Sorry about the constant post deletions, but there's no editing button, and since hardly anyone is up at the moment anyway...

    oh my, I was getting scared, the first 5 chapters of my WIP all start with the same word, "Lydia" and I was afraid that every chapter would be the same! But pfew... I started changing after that, and not just to the other character's name. :)

    I've made sure paragraphs near each other don't begin the same, but hadn't looked at this current WIP's chapter starters yet, because, well, it's still not polished. :)

    Please enter me in the drawing.

    Christina, I'd suggest making Trey, your POV guy (I'm assuming), more engaged in the first paragraph.

    Original:Trey jammed his hands into his pockets and rocked back on his heels. His friend began to undo his belt. McKenzie stopped him. “You can’t go down there, Nate.”

    I don't get a feel of what's going on right away. Can you somehow clue me in on Trey's thoughts/feelings right off the bat, maybe something like...

    The stench rising from the basement stopped Trey in his tracks. No way they were going down there. He jammed his hands in his pockets and rocked back on his heels. But his friend began to undo his belt. Surely, he didn't plan to--

    "You can't go down there, Nate." Mackenzie yanked his arm.


    (btw, show me how Mackenzie stopped him)

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  19. good morning seekers....

    another wonderful posting...thanks for sharing.

    karenk
    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

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  20. Thanks for the wonderful advice and samples of what you mean! Please include me in the drawing.

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  21. I just have to echo Ruth Ann's suggestion. Imagine the greatness of Seekerville in book form.

    Thanks for a great post, Pam. With your first example, I immediately thought of Friday's post on deep POV.

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  22. "Don’t try to twist your sentence structure into something God never intended."

    Pam, that sentence alone made my morning.

    I know what I will be looking for in my WIP during this day's writing session!

    Can't wait for your next book.

    Peace, Julie

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  23. Oh, and here is another vote for "Best of Seekerville"! Will be happy to help cull through five years of posts for the best of the best.

    Peace, Julie

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  24. my o my that cake looks good! October is a difficult month to give up sweets.

    I have a long list of things I check in each chapter. It has now become as long as a chapter!

    Thanks Pam for such great tips and examples!

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  25. Hi Pam,

    I'm editing my story now, so thanks for giving me more to look for.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Jackie L.

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  26. Hi Pam,

    Great topic.

    When I'm writing my rough drafts I try to be aware of starting paragraphs with the character's names.

    My rule of thumb is only two paragraphs per page can start with the character's name. Usually, starting the paragraph with dialogue helps this.

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  27. Helen,

    What time of day is it in your WIP. Would a sentence about setting help?

    The late afternoon sun threw Riley's shadow to the ground. Jolene stopped her work, watching him stride toward the barn, his back ramrod straight.

    Just my two cents....

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  28. Oh,PAMMY, opening lines of books, scenes or paragraphs are some of my favorite things to write!!

    I just checked one of my books and discovered that my favorite way to open a scene or paragraph is with either a thought or dialogue. I think I like this because it immediately puts me into the POV character's head, setting the stage for me to write it. But you are SO right about mixing it up!!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  29. LOL, KELI ... glad I taught you something ... seems as if I'm always still learning myself ... :|

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  30. Well you certainly hit a note with this post,Pam. Then there is the allure of that yummy cake.

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  31. One more tweak to add to the mix.


    Regret ate at Jolene as Riley strode toward the barn, his back ramrod straight.

    Why had she managed to alienate him?

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  32. We think that's a great idea, Ruth Ann and we have vowed that the minute we have extra time, we are going to do just that!

    Does 2020 work for you?

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  33. Pammers, Great post and you nailed those first sentence changes. Isn't it amazing how much we've learned these past five years?

    The cake looks yummy too. I want a BIG piece.

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  34. Great post, Pam! Loved this: "Don’t try to twist your sentence structure into something God never intended." I think that's where reading your manuscript aloud really helps--if you get tangled up reading it yourself, your reader will too. And having someone else read your manuscript is so valuable if you have enough time between finishing the book and making the deadline. My mom and sister often help me out--if they have to read a sentence a couple of times to "get" it, they flag it and it gets a makeover!

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  35. Good morning Villagers! It's going to be a beautiful day.

    Helen, the coffee is brewed to perfection, and I'm having apple spice cake for breakfast. As Bill Cosby says, it's got milk, eggs, and even APPLES.

    Sounds like a well-rounded breakfast to me!

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  36. Pam, I loved this post. I haven't started a lot of scenes with names, but I have with pronouns. Your suggestions are most helpful, and I loved the examples you shared. They show your points so clearly!

    PLEASE enter me in the drawing!
    Here's a scene to tweak:

    "Anya had been crazy to offer to go rock climbing with Kevin. Where had her head been this morning? Oh yes, shrouded with tears when she bared her heart to her husband. Anya’s quavering fingertips lung to a sand paper-y wall, with only a rope for protection."

    I tried to bold this, but it obviously didn't work. :)

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  37. Pam that is sort of what I say when I eat Carrot cake too, but this apple spice sure sounds good and I can almost smell the cinnamon.....
    love the way that phrase is reworded to make it so much better, I love to read the ones that make you feel where things are besides just reading words.
    I enjoyed the post today.
    Paula O

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  38. "Evie could have sworn her heart dropped four inches and settled at an angle."

    Oh, I like "settled at a an angle." Trying to work that in.

    I'm not sure what's she sees or hears, so maybe a lead sentence or even some dialogue would work...

    The skeleton dangling in the trees (or The sound of a thump in the attic) scared Evie out of her wits. She could have sworn her heart dropped four inches and settled at an angle.


    "Aaaarrrrggggghhh, take that, you livy-livered piece of scum." The pirate jabbed at her with his rusty sword. Evie's heart dropped four inches and settled at an angle.

    lol

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  39. What's fun about this is trying to figure out what's going on in the scenes! :)

    Can you guys include a sentence or two before the one that starts with a character name, or just give us a very short set up sentence?

    That way, we won't completely rewrite your work, even though I wouldn't put it past Ruthy to do just that anyway. ha

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  40. Hand pressed hard against her chest, Evie swore her heart dropped four inches and settled at an angle.

    Ooooh, I like it, Melissa. That's exactly what I would do if something scared me.

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  41. The stench rising from the basement stopped Trey in his tracks.

    Wow, Melissa, you are GOOD! I'm loving it. I dub you the Rewrite Queen for the day!

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  42. Thank you, Karen! So glad you stopped by.

    Chandra, good to see you too.

    Don't be shy now. Have some coffee and apple spice cake.

    Please.

    Before I eat the whole thing by myself!

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  43. Great ideas for writing reviews, as well. Nope, don't have anything to critique as all i do is write reviews. Love your blog, though.

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  44. Mary Curry, THANK you. Deep POV, huh? I had to go look at my first example...

    The after is definitely deeper than the before, isn't it? And the reader gets a much better visual.

    Hmmm, I wonder if deep POV isn't so much about how deep we are in the character's head, as how deep we are in the reader's head?

    Oh, that's deep.

    Too deep for this early in the morning. Headed over to Helen's caffeine bar again...

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  45. I'm going to interject something right here comepletely off topic.

    I HAVE A NEW BOOK RELEASING TODAY
    CHRISTMAS NOVELLE 2 IN 1, WITH LINDA GOODNIGHT. I AM CRAZY EXCITED TO BE DOING A BOOK WITH LINDA!!!!!!! YAY!!!!

    It's called Candlelight Christmas


    My novella is The Christmas Candle


    Linda's is The Outlaw's Gift


    It's $2.99.
    Buy it HERE
    Candlelight Christmas on Kindle

    Now back to Pammy's spicy blog!!

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  46. Thanks Julie S!

    And here's something else to consider...don't think too hard about your opening paragraphs and sentence structure when you first put words on paper.

    Let the words flow onto the page in the first round of writing and don't worry too much about their order.

    In reason, that is. lol

    But I can see that my more recent work has more variety and texture (spice?) than my earlier work even without me having to rewrite a dozen times.

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  47. Thanks for this post! I've definitely been working on changing up my sentence structure the last couple of manuscripts. I had noticed last week I started three paragraphs in a row with my heroine's first name and changed it right away.

    I'd love a critique, though! My first pages of my WIP feel rough, another eye would be great!

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  48. Great examples, Pam! I like the way you still kept the POV character's name very close to the beginning, because I want to know whose head I'm in at all times! :-)

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  49. Ruth Ann's submission:

    BEFORE

    Gina nodded and ran outside where she found the old man still pacing. He stopped and stood stock still when he saw her. The color drained from his face. "Are they. . . ? Did he send you to tell me. . . ?"

    Pam sez:

    Since I've got to have something concrete to hinge this on, I'm going to go with a wreck, mother and small child, and Gina's just been told they're going to be okay. Hope that’s all right with you, Ruth Ann!

    AFTER:

    “It could have been much worse, but they’re both going to be okay.” The ER doctor ran a hand over his haggard face, looking like he’d been hit by a truck himself.

    Giddy with relief, Gina nodded and ran outside where she found the old man still pacing. He stopped and stood stock still when he saw her. The color drained from his face. "Are they. . . ? Did he send you to tell me. . . ?"

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  50. Debra, I'm doing edits (loving it!), working two part-time jobs (not so much loving some of this), and trying to write my next book, so the exercise plan has gone completely out the window for the next few days.

    And still I'm drooling over that cake.

    Pitiful.

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  51. Jackie, you can do it!

    One bite at a time.

    Your story, not the cake.

    But you can have some cake too.

    lol

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  52. Good reminder. I'm pretty particular about not beginning and structuring my sentences the same way, but it's easy to do without realizing. Sometimes it really takes a lot of thought to figure out HOW to change it!

    Please enter me in the critique drawing :)

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  53. Amy :)

    My rule of thumb is only two paragraphs per page can start with the character's name. Usually, starting the paragraph with dialogue helps this.

    Good rule to follow, Rose. I don't guess I have a specific rule, but that one definitely works. I'm just glad I'm finally even aware of the problem!

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  54. Jeanne T.

    BEFORE:

    "Anya had been crazy to offer to go rock climbing with Kevin. Where had her head been this morning? Oh yes, shrouded with tears when she bared her heart to her husband. Anya’s quavering fingertips lung to a sand paper-y wall, with only a rope for protection."

    AFTER:

    Rock climbing? Anya’s quavering fingertips clung to a sand paper-y wall, with only a rope for protection.

    Where had her head been this morning? Oh yes, shrouded with tears when she bared her heart to her husband.

    Pam sez: And I love the sand paper-y wall. I can feel it. See it!

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  55. Pam said:
    My rule of thumb is only two paragraphs per page can start with the character's name. Usually, starting the paragraph with dialogue helps this.

    Mary says: This is a good rule. It seems like this is the kind of thing I have trouble noticing until I'm revising. If I'm not careful those paragraphs just seems to kick off with the characters name all the time.

    And if it's the hero and heroine alternating, it can SEEM like you're mixing it up but you're not really

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  56. Paula, you just had to mention carrot cake, didn't you?

    Marianne, you are a very important part of the writing world. Writing reviews is not an easy task. Thank you for writing those reviews! You rock!

    Whoo-hoo! Congrats on the new release, Mary. Can't wait to read it!

    Melanie brings up a good point. Heed her advice, and do get the POV character's name in there as early as possible so the reader isn't guessing whose head she's in. Sorry, us readers want our cake and to be able to read it too.

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  57. Okay, peeps, I'm out of here for a few hours. Will check back in around noon. Sorry about that.

    Everybody feel free to jump in and help with the rewrites. Melissa, you're awesome at this! I'd love to see more from you.

    Hint, hint! lol

    And please shove...uh...offer that spice cake to everyone who stops by. It must be gone, GONE, I tell you, when I get back!

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  58. Well Pam, I don't seem to have a problem with starting scenes/paragraphs with someone's name. My problem seems to be starting paragraphs with he or she...which is probably worse. I know who I'm referring to but will anyone else? : / Probably not. Thank you for helping me catch this. Please don't enter me. I know everything I want to happen in my WIP except the beginning.

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  59. Good morning Pam,

    Reading those tidbits makes me want more so your books are on my must read list. As a writer it seems we all can rewrite and make our sentences better.
    Thanks for sharing
    Melinda

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  60. Great post! I'm going to be looking at this as I edit my WIP. Thank you. And your beginnings sound great!

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  61. Elizabeth AlexandreOctober 22, 2012 at 10:42 AM

    PROLOGUE
    “I don’t think I should leave you alone−” the cab driver glanced uncertainly, the barrenness, isolation and concern furrowed in his brow.
    Why did he have to be chivalrous? “My son will arrive soon.” Hanna St. Clair cringed, the lie she told quickly erased when the driver’s frown implied she suffered dementia. She had resented that look in the eyes of nursing home attendants. She turned her back on him to conquer the dune in front of her. The muffler backfired and a seagull screeched. Her gut twisted. Hanna shielded her eyes and watched the cabbie disappear down the road, her last link to civilization. She didn’t care. She had come to die.

    I would love to win your critique.

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  62. Elizabeth AlexandreOctober 22, 2012 at 10:45 AM

    “Can you hear me, Simon?” Rachel demanded.
    “I got ears.” He pulled his ears from his head at right angles. “You ain’t going in that room with that man no more. He’s awake now, and I don’t trust him. I smell a rat, and you’re going to find yourself bound in a trap.”

    I would love to earn a 5 page critique!!!!

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  63. whoa! Elizabeth, that is a really powerful opening.

    Yikes! I was completely hooked.
    You can play around with it, I suppose but anyone who reads that small bit is going to read on I promise you.

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  64. Elizabeth this:
    “Can you hear me, Simon?” Rachel demanded.
    “I got ears.” He pulled his ears from his head at right angles. “You ain’t going in that room with that man no more. He’s awake now, and I don’t trust him. I smell a rat, and you’re going to find yourself bound in a trap.”

    I like all of it except this: pulled his ears from his head at right angles.

    This really stopped me because on first reading it sounded like he pulled his ears off his head. Painful.
    He must have? grabbed his ears and tugged on them? Right?
    You can change that, maybe even forget the whole ear tugging thing and leave the rest of it alone, because I like the trap part and Simon's voice is unique.

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  65. Jeanne T, I'd throw your last sentence up first and move the prepositional phrase:

    With quavering fingertips and only a rope for protection, Anya clung to the sand-papery wall. She'd been crazy to offer to go rock climbing with Kevin. Where had her head been this morning? Oh yes, shrouded with tears when she bared her heart to her husband."

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  66. Melissa, thanks. Wish my guy was going to the basement, but I think I can get it to work.

    Here is the line before.

    “The old man called it in.” McKenzie pointed to a man sitting on the hood of a car, a blanket wrapped around his shoulders. “From the looks of it, the vehicle skidded one way then the other, slammed into the tree then through the guard rail. Bobby and Jake are in the water now.”

    Trey jammed his hands into his pockets and rocked back on his heels. His friend began to undo his belt. McKenzie stopped him. “You can’t go down there, Nate.”

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  67. Congratulations, Mary, on the release! I got a double shocker yesterday when I discovered out not one, but two of my manuscripts finaled in Show Me the Spark contest.

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  68. Oh, I'd love to be entered in for a critique.

    Rose, I like your rule.

    Everyone is leaving great suggestions.

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  69. Christina, congratulations on your double final!!!!!

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  70. I love your rewrites, Pam! What a difference. The rewrites paint a picture and that sticks in a reader's mind.

    Your pictures are great, especially the cake. I wish I could have a bite right now. Please send some my way.

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  71. This is amazing stuff! Just love all the examples -- it's help me 'get' it even if just fleetingly. LOL. I'm bad for starting out with a name and then using a whole bunch of 'she'/'he' -- nearly every sentence!!! I'll have to work on that.

    I have a question about introducing a character. Again a likely silly one, but then here I am a-wondering. Do you use their first name and last name or just their first? Like at the beginning of the book do you say Nancy Drew the first time you mention her name or just Nancy and work the last name in somehow later?

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  72. Oh -- and since Mary says she has a new ebook out -- I'm having difficulty downloading a kindle-to-pc book. I followed the instructions to download the ...software? whatever it's called...but when I click on a book to download it, I just get the option to download the Kindle software thingy and never get a chance at the book. Anyone know what I'm doing wrong? (If you can understand my garbledness.)It's that kind of a day.

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  73. Fun post, Pam! Love playing with different ways to open the scene. Upon occasion I've found the second sentence is more "hooky" and can go first. No matter how you start the scene, the main thing is to grab the reader and keep her turning the pages.

    I'm wanting a piece of that cake!!

    Janet

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  74. Wahoo, Mary!!! So excited about your Christmas novella with Linda Goodnight. Thanks for the link. Will be ordering it today.

    Janet

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  75. What a great post, Pam!

    I've been enjoying reading all the examples and the fixes. It gives me the incentive to work hard on my own edits :)

    I'd love some help with this one:

    Hannah Yoder pulled her shawl more tightly around her shoulders and ran to catch up with the old Conestoga wagon ahead of her. Daed wouldn’t like it if he arrived at the Lancaster market without her. Liesbet didn’t have the knack for selling like Hannah, and she got bored so easily.

    It sounds so pedestrian when I read it, but I can't get my brain to work on it!

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  76. What great advice and examples, Pam. Thanks so much. These are the details that help us polish our work. I am going to review my WIP and see how I'm doing.

    I just had a Seeker critique of the first five on my WIP, so will sit this one out so others have a chance. What a nice prize, though. It really opened my eyes to what I was missing. If anyone out there is thinking they'd like to say 'yes' to the critique, but are afraid, just do it!

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  77. I gained weight just looking at the picture of that yummy cake, Pam!

    Great blog and I'm enjoying the comments. How fun to see the changes and the improvements made with a little extra work.

    Need to write 25 pages before I get to play or eat cake. Later...

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  78. This post is a timely reminder for me, Pam! I finished my wip last week and am sitting down today to start on revisions. Scene and chapter beginnings are definitely areas I'll be looking at.

    Congrats on the novella release, Mary! Looking forward to reading it!

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  79. Hi Seekerville!

    Are we using Pam's suggestions to make fixes. I cringed when I saw this one in my WIP.

    Champion Bates had faced many more fearsome moments than this one, but still, he was very nervous at the prospect of meeting Jay Evans. Times were tough just now, and he wanted to keep fighting. Fighting was all that he knew, and he was good at it.

    How about this:

    Boxers don't know fear. Yet, the cold trickle of sweat that streamed down the back of his neck betrayed Champion Bates. That little drop of sweat tracing a pathway southward on his back was fear, trying hard to get on a friendly basis with him.

    Please enter me for the critique. I obviously need it. Meanwhile, I will help myself to the apple spice cake--my favorite birthday cake. Thanks,

    Piper

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  80. This is something I've paid attention to for a long time so I *think* I'm pretty good on it. Both for paras and sentences. Haven't checked chapters yet...

    I looked through the first 3 pages in my hero's POV and only 2 paras start with his name. In the 3 pages of my heroine's POV, 4 do and 2 are only a para apart. Here's the second one.

    Rebekah brushed back dripping tendrils of hair and peered toward an apple orchard. On the others side, she spied a farmyard through the grove of trees. Tucked behind the barn was a clapboard house with smoke rising from the chimney. Not the big white house Billy promised her, but a welcome sight nonetheless.

    Would love to be in the drawing.

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  81. I'm with Julie Steele,
    this was fantastic and made the lunch hour so much better.

    Don’t try to twist your sentence structure into something God never intended.

    Good thing I haven't sent in my first impressions entries yet, so I'll go fix them myself and thank you!

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  82. Nancy Kimball ==ain't that the truth?

    one thing I like about writing is the continual growth in skills, but gosh, I just get one thing right and see that I've slipped somewhere else. Best wishes on your entry to the First Impressions contest!

    I wish brain olympics counted for calorie burning.

    Butt in Chair is good for work count but not the waist.

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  83. CHRISTINA, okay It might just be me, but hmmmmm....this......

    >>>>Trey jammed his hands into his pockets and rocked back on his heels. His friend began to undo his belt. McKenzie stopped him. “You can’t go down there, Nate.”<<<<<<<<,,

    Sounds faintly X-Rated.


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  84. I agree with Mary, Elizabeth.

    I'm hooked already, and you didn't start with your character's name.

    Great job!

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  85. Congratulations on finalling with TWO manuscripts! Yay Christina!

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  86. Kav, when I first introduce main character, I use their full name.

    If it's a very minor character that only appears once or twice, then you might only refer to them by the name the character calls them.

    Example...

    Tossing her purse on the counter, Susan eased her tired body onto her favorite stool at the diner.

    "Long day?" Jennifer swiped at a greasy spot, concern on her face.

    "You don't know the half of it."

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  87. Before:

    Hannah Yoder pulled her shawl more tightly around her shoulders and ran to catch up with the old Conestoga wagon ahead of her. Daed wouldn’t like it if he arrived at the Lancaster market without her. Liesbet didn’t have the knack for selling like Hannah, and she got bored so easily.

    After:

    Pulling her shawl more tightly around her shoulders, Hannah Yoder ran to catch up with the old Conestoga wagon. Daed wouldn’t like it if he arrived at the Lancaster market without her. Liesbet didn’t have the knack for selling like Hannah, and she got bored so easily.

    Pam sez: That was a really quick fix, but you could do so much more with it. I like the visual! I can see this so easily.

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  88. "Aaaarrrrggggghhh, take that, you livy-livered piece of scum." The pirate jabbed at her with his rusty sword. Evie's heart dropped four inches and settled at an angle.


    Now THAT made my morning!

    But the worst thing about all this hilarious creativity is I want to write something ELSE, not series romance, when I read stuff like that.

    So, closing my eyes to all the pirates and zombies...

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  89. MElISSA,


    Want to go through my entire ms? It's only 68K.

    I'll pay you in cupcakes.

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  90. MARY!!! Yay for release days!!

    And wow for working with Linda Goodnight!


    CHRISTINA-- double final????

    Go, baby, go!!!

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  91. Great post, Pam---and one I sure needed. Am now realizing that so many paragraphs in my historical WIP start out with statements about the weather. YIKES! Definitely need to change that. ~ Thanks for these great examples in your post--it helps me so much when I can actually see an example. *smile* ~ YUM! That cake looks so good. Blessings, Patti Jo

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  92. Thanks for the great tips and examples, Pam.

    Will keep this in mind as I revise-revise-revise!

    Congrats on your new release, Mary! Sounds great. And love Linda's books, too!

    Cheers,
    Sue

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  93. Pam and Melissa, love the ideas for my scene. Thanks so much. :) It's been fun reading everybody's scene intros and the tips for improvement.

    LOVED this today, Pam!

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  94. Debra, YES, LOL.

    I put those babies in deep(er) POV after Jill's great post last week and I'm still having the CP's help get that back contest ready and now I'm going to go drop this on them again because I have about every third or fourth paragraph start with the names. And I'm not changing them for the sake of changing them, but because now that I see the noticeable pattern, I see I want to make it better.

    And butt in chair is great for word count and I've found that if you swap the chair for a balance ball, you get the toning along with the writing. But I discovered after two weeks and three pieces of duct tape that didn't hold I can't keep the chairmat clean enough to have a balance ball chair. :-p

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  95. MARY!!!!!!!!!!!

    Now that I read it with your input it does sound x-rated. Guess I do need help. ;)

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  96. Mary -- Congratulations! Will definitely be reading the new release soon. You're working on another Kincaid book I hope?

    Christina -- TWO finals?? What a terrific accomplishment!

    Pam -- Your examples are wonderful. I can't get over the vibrancy and sense of 'being there' that happens in the rewrites.

    Now to prowl my WIPS and see if I have enough courage to ask for help with an opener rewrite :-)

    Nancy C

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  97. Oh gee ... I have so many choices in what I just read in one of my WIPS. I have some major work to do. Here's a string of 'his' and 'he.' Suggestions anyone?

    He turned out the lantern after the boys settled in their bedrolls. The light from the full moon seeped through the air vents high in the walls melting into hazy, rippling strips of blue-white across the stall. Taking up duty, sitting on the straw, he stretched his legs and stuffed his rolled jacket behind his neck. He’d been in worse positions in his life, but he’d also been younger. He’d long lost the ability to curl up on a hay-covered hard surface the way Charlie did beside him.

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  98. These are some of the best before and afters I have seen on Seekerville yet.
    I got a Kindle for my BD in Sept. I will be watching for your book Pam.
    I bought Mary's new one today!
    That one click thing is too easy.

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  99. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  100. Howdy folks! Just got home from work, got supper in the oven (bbq chicken, mashed potatoes, and baked beans). Y'all come!

    and...

    I'm about to go dark for 2 1/2 days to finish the edits on Claiming Mariah. Whoo-hoo!

    Gotta practice what I preach.

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  101. Virginia - ie. the pirates. I had to ad lib since I didn't have enough to go on! lol

    Patti Jo, isn't it crazy how we do stuff like that? Opening with the weather is great, but in moderation.

    I start one scene like this: The breaking of dawn brought rain.

    But we don't want to do something like that every time. The reader will notice, and if she ever notices, then it will grate like nails on a chalkboard.

    Screeeeeeechhhhhh!!!!

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  102. Great post, and so true. I recently had a person critique one of my chapters and call me out on the number of times I use the word "it." I had never even noticed "it" before. Just like Pam said, now when I see "it" show "its" ugly head in my work, it grates like nails on a chalkboard :)

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  103. Such good information today. I enjoyed everyone's before and afters. They are great!

    Christina, congrats on the double finals!!

    Mary, Candleight Christmas looks like a wonderful holiday story. I can't wait to read it!

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  104. Late to the party... again. I love before and after examples. Great information Pam.

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  105. Wow I feel left out of all the fun but I'm having a nice time reading your do-overs! I see some great books in progress LOL!

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  106. Annie, Donna, Jamie! So glad you stopped by. Did you get some of that yum-bo-licious spice cake???

    I'm in edit city, but I'm having a ball! Who knew editing could be this much fun? Hard work, but so satisfying at the same time!

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  107. Helpful post! Thank you. :) I'll be searching my scene openers in the morn!

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  108. Always something to learn.

    marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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  109. This was very helpful! Thanks so much for sharing, and yes, a critique would be a wonderful prize.

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  110. Very helpful article! Please enter me in the drawing!

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  111. Oops - I forgot to mention I'd like to be in the drawing. :)
    nicnac63 AT hotmail DOT com

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  112. Apple spice cake looks good! What part of MS is Pam from? I'm from Ms!Don't want to be in drawing

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  113. Oh, man! Can't believe I missed all this fun. I have a habit of writing in certain patterns. I get tired of reading it and I know a reader would. Great suggestions for spicing things up!!!

    That apple cake looks positively sinful...I've got to find the recipe. lolol

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  114. Writers who write for the middle age group start with the first names a lot which plays on my nerves. A lot of books for children also tell instead of show.

    I studied composition of sentences which added so much to the variety of sentences by painting more vivid pictures, showing instead of telling. Also, you don't really have to start with the name of the protagonist. You can start with the subject described by the POV character. Choices are endless. But that's the mistake new writers make.

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  115. I'm sorry. I found it difficult to focus on your wonderful writing lesson because of all the pictures, particularly the apple spice cake.

    Actually, I did your post and it gave me pause. I love to read stories written with just the type of variety you mention, but I'm not sure I do it as much in my own writing. Have to be mindful of that.

    I too am driven crazy by chapters that begin with the character's name.

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  116. C.E., Mary, Kathy, and Edwina, so glad you stopped by!

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  117. Sheila, great to "meet" another Mississippi'an! Welcome to Seekerville. Hope to see you again. We're a lively bunch. lol

    Natalie, I've also found that I get stuck on certain patterns and words on any given writing session. I don't even see the pattern until someone else points it out.

    Anonymous: Exactly! :)

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  118. Patricia, now that we've talked about it here, I'm sure you'll notice it even more, huh?

    Sorry about that! lol

    God bless, Seeker Villagers!

    See you on the flip side. Just click on Seekerville home page to see what we're talking about today...

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