First impressions are so important. We all know that.
Likewise, the beginning of your book is where you set yourself up for success or failure.
I’m not just talking about your first line, or first page, or even your first ten pages—although these are all very important.
(I actually have a special one-on-one coaching offer where we go over your first ten pages to make sure you’re on the right track, and diagnose any writing craft issues that should be nipped in the bud early—you can learn more about that here.)
No, I’m talking about your first act. If you're new to story structure, what we call the first act is the first leg of that three-part storytelling journey commonly known as beginning, middle, end.
The first act is where all the rules of the game get set up. It's where your main character’s need for change is established. It’s where the central motivation, or mission, is identified.
Every story has a moment early on where the hero is presented with the chance to do something new and difficult. Let’s call it the adventure.
But adventures are scary and hard, and your hero may refuse—at least, temporarily.
The sudden appearance of outside obstacles is part of this powerful stage of storytelling, too. We call these archetypes the threshold guardians.
All these inner and outer refusals are a good thing. Today we’ll discuss why the hero’s refusal is my favorite stage of the hero’s journey, and how using it skillfully can deepen your storytelling and your reader’s bond with the protagonist.
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Tone is everything, isn’t it?
If I say “what’s wrong with you?” in a rude way, it implies both that I think there IS something wrong with you, and that I have an opinion about it!
Yet a different, warmer, more curious intonation might be an expression of care. I can see something's wrong, and I want to know more.
This kinder, gentler way is the stance we must take toward our protagonists. I like to call them heroes, for reasons that will be made clear as these tips progress. Protagonist, main character, hero — look, you know who I mean. Your story is bound to have one.
And whoever that hero is — something’s wrong. Something is drastically, urgently, things-can’t-go-on-like-this wrong.
It might be something obvious (your horrible uncle hates you and makes you live in a cupboard under the stair, oh and you're an orphan too, long story! ) — or more subtle (you don’t actually mind being a...