re: How Come The Fault In Our Stars Opening Works?

posted 9/15/14

Dear Editor…

I am currently devouring you Writing New Adult Fiction. You strongly encourage authors to jump into the action from the very first sentence but a few current best sellers begin with backstory or as the day is dawning, as in The Fault in Our Stars and If I Stay. Can you give any insight as to what makes those slower beginnings work so well?

Thank you,
Diane

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Dear Diane…

In media res, or “in the middle of the action,” is about timing your book’s opening so that readers join a life in progress rather than shake your hand and read your cast list. This strategy is coupled with other strategies intended to intrigue readers, like piquing curiosity, startling them, triggering fears, etc. The Fault in Our Stars opens with Hazel going to the Support Group meeting where she’ll meet the love of her life. It’s the right time to enter her life even though the action isn’t bold. John Green then startles readers with first lines that defy expectations: a teen poo-poos her impending death. He then makes sure all teens can relate to that teen narrator even though they don’t suffer terminal cancer: Hazel suffers adults who claim to know how she should handle her problem because they are adults and adults know best. I feel your suffering, fellow teen! Her description of the meeting and how she’s been pushed to go feels more like commiserating with peers than a backstory dump. Slow? For those who want more action, perhaps. But the book’s success suggests its opening intrigues. I love this question and will explore If I Stay‘s opening in the next post.

Happy writing!
The Editor

P.S. For more on this topic, read Narrative Voice, Teen/Middle Grade Fiction
posted by: The Editor
under: Narrative Voice, Teen/Middle Grade Fiction
Comments to "re: How Come The Fault In Our Stars Opening Works?" | Add a Comment
    1. The Opening Page | Mindy Hardwick's Blog wrote (on 09/15/14 at 3:54 pm) :

      […] romance isn’t the only genre discussing the opening page of your story this week. Over on Dear Editor this week, the Editor was asked this […]

    2. Teresa Robeson wrote (on 09/15/14 at 5:30 pm) :

      I’ve not read The Fault in Our Stars yet (because I cry too easily and it will just kill me) but thanks for the explanation as to why it works. :) I’m sure I’d have wondered that if I had read it.

      [Reply]

      The Editor replied (on 09/15/14 at 9:49 pm) :

      My husband, who prefers nonfiction, walked in on me as I blubbered over The Fault In Our Stars and said, “Why are you crying over that? It’s MADE UP.” But it was such a fabulous cry. I’m a tough audience, yet I felt this one deeply. That’s how amazing Mr. Green’s writing is. It was great fun to really parse out why his opening for this book works so well.

      [Reply]

    3. Bill wrote (on 09/15/14 at 9:30 pm) :

      I think it was Hazel suffering adults who claim to understand that grabbed me. Thanks for this post.

      [Reply]

      The Editor replied (on 09/15/14 at 9:51 pm) :

      I too felt that was very effective.

      [Reply]

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