My lastest article in JMWW:
In my article last fall, we discussed character and what yours needs to sustain a reader's interest and incite their passion. Whether that is hate or love. Both will keep a reader reading.
Let's take on conflict, as that's the next biggie when building a story or book.
Conflict is what drives your plot and should be set up immediately. Ideally in the first paragraph (using "show," not "tell") when you're also setting up your character(s) and setting. Your inciting incident (what changes the status quo of the story and starts the plot rolling forward) may also appear right away. This is called starting in medias res, Latin for "in the middle of things." Your inciting incident may also start a few pages later but, for a novel, it should begin in the first five to twelve pages (your average chapter length). The sooner the better!
Agents and editors read the first two pages max (sometimes just the first paragraph) to decide if it's worth their time to keep reading. Make it pop from the beginning.
For a short story, conflict would have to show up much sooner. This is where in medias res comes in handy. It's just plain efficient and more interesting. Without it, you're in danger of beginning with too much exposition and killing the reader's interest.
Some ideas for the inciting incident that demonstrates conflict...
To read the rest of this post: JMWW, Spring