Monday, June 27, 2011

Great Beginnings

Have you ever wondered what it is about a novel that keeps you spellbound from page one? It’s not magic. It has to be that you, the reader, connects on a deep inner level with the main character, and you’re living the story as it unfolds, right?

As a writer, how do you capture your reader’s imagination in that way, and so immediately? How do you give readers enough information to titillate the senses, and leave enough enticing tidbits to lead them through the story until their appetites are fully sated at the end? How do you achieve that awesome comment from a reader when he/she tells you they stayed up until 3am to finish your book?

Multi-published romance author, Lynn Kerstan, is here to share her insights into the art of, Great Beginnings:

Robena: You speak, and teach, about introducing irresistible characters. Can you explain?
Lynn: I believe first impressions count. They endure throughout the story. How you first present your main characters is far more important than the opening “event.”
There are six main points:
1. Choose the qualities you most want the reader to perceive in your main characters on the first acquaintance. You can’t show them all up front, nor do you want to.
2. Find the opening scene action that will allow you to show the specifically chosen aspects of your main characters.
3. Recognize the personal qualities most relevant to your character’s story arc.
4. Plan specific ways to “unpeel the onion” and reveal the hidden depths and unexpected (even contradictory) aspects of your character’s nature.
5. Foreshadow character traits in the early scenes.
6. Create irresistible hooks that make readers want to stick with a character they’ve just met and find out what happens to him/her.
Robena: Excellent. I think those six points will be typed, printed, and taped to my computer. Do you have any other words of wisdom that relate to great beginnings?
Lynn: I teach an online class and go into greater depth with the points made above. In Part B, I discuss three more topics:
1. The Inciting Incident
2. The Story Question
3. Other Essential Stuff.
Robena: I like that, “Other Essential Stuff”. Would you care to explain some of that “stuff” today?
Lynn: What Not to Write; False Starts; Prologues; Backstory Blunders; TMI—Too Much Information. I’m always adding material and changing material based on questions from class members. They teach me a lot about what they need and want.
Robena: TMI. Yes, I have been guilty of that, or at least my adult children tell me so. Ha ha. How long does the course run? Also, when will you be teaching the next class on beginnings? Or are you teaching a different topic?
Lynn: Three or four weeks, depending on the sponsoring RWA Chapter or other writerly venue. The next “Great Beginnings” class runs 01August-28August, offered by the Futuristic, Fantasy, and Paranormal Chapter of RWA.
More information and registration available at:
Robena: Tell us a little about yourself.
Lynn: I’m a former college professor, folksinger, professional bridge player, and nun, the author of nine Regency romances, seven historical romances, and several novellas. I’m also a five-time RITA Finalist, with one win, and I’m currently developing a paranormal series.
Robena: Wow! That’s an impressive bio. I’m sure you’ve tapped into that life experience for your novels. And did I hear you say you were once a nun?
Lynn: Yep.
Robena: Care to elaborate? I had two great aunts who were nuns. They were really funny characters, and they had a fabulous outlook on life.
Lynn: Well, I think I’m funny. Others beg to differ. Spent only 2 ½ years in the convent, though, at Mount St. Mary’s in Los Angeles. It was a wonderful experience. I’m glad I went in, and I’m glad I came out.
Robena: Thanks for sharing about yourself, and your incredible writing knowledge. I know that I learned a lot from this interview, and I’m sure my chapter mates will also. I’m going back to the work in progress to take another look at the beginning, and I think my focus will be on your first point.

To learn more about Lynn, or for information on her online classes, please visit her at

(This interview first posted in the LARA Confidential, June 2011.)

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