Let me know in the comments if you’d be interested in learning more about the following story:
The year is 1892, and your Victorian overcoat is flapping behind you as you quicken your pace in the early spring air. It is the first hour of dawn. You have been up for two hours already, working in the dark, and the warm sunlight on the garden path around you is welcome after the chills of night. No one can see the papers you have hidden inside a black leather binder, tied up with string, and none could know the important intel you carry inside it. Within the formal gardens of the White House, you are on your way to a meeting with one of the president’s cabinet members.
Maybe you’re not a fan of historical fiction, but I still guess that some aspects of the last paragraph intrigued you. Why? Consider the fact that the story intro was extremely short and to the point. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of places for intrigue. In fact, I cheated a little, using second person instead of third person narrative. Since the intro is so short, third person sounded too aloof. I had to place you into the scene itself. The mystery became the place and plot into which I placed you. In a published book, novels are generally written in third person (sometimes in first, but never in second). The reader is already prepared to follow the main character. Here in this blog post, I had to use shorthand to prepare you for a story.
I surmise, though, that the use of the second personal pronoun “you” was not what made the story so interesting. If you like fiction, mystery, adventure, or history, my guess is that you would be at least mildly interested in learning more about the story. What drew you in?
To add mystery to a scene, you reveal the descriptions and information a little at a time. You don’t start with a wide lens that flattens the image and presents every detail with equal importance. Instead, you reveal a little of your canvas at a time, taking the reader through the same journey as your story character. Zoom into details while brushing past others. As a well crafted artwork will have leading lines that draw the viewer’s attention to a focal point, so your scene should do the same. Draw your reader to a main event, object, place, and person. Use the surrounding detail to support the focal point and carry your reader there. They will enjoy the experience.
Detail is more than just thinking through a story environment. Your story needs cultural context. The details have to match within the cultural setting. They cannot be incongruent. Notice how everything in the story intro spoke of Victorian society. The overcoat, the leather tied with string, the formal garden – one could picture Sherlock Holmes as the character, and if I made London instead of Washington, D.C. the location, everyone would know the character’s name and residence.
So, yes, you need to work more on your story intro than my quickly put-together blog story. Try writing several drafts of it. You will come to understand the cultural details and elements that need to be placed to lead your character to the focal point of your story’s scene. It will make the scene stand out and draw your reader into your story.
Your fellow writer,
Joshua A. Reynolds, Proprietor