Readers experience a strong sense of place, whether it’s a house in Sarasota, Florida or a bar in Wilmington, Delaware.
Readers develop a personal relationship with the characters by their ability to empathize, believe and understand the characters to be like real people.
Because of this relationship, and the feeling of being transported to another place and time, readers take on the dilemma faced by the major characters and understand their need to resolve the problem and reach the goal.
Readers want the protagonist to arrive at the conclusion and reach the goal. They pretend, on one level or another, to be the protagonist themselves. You keep readers interested in continuing to read by showing your story in scene after scene with occasional narrative summary to vary the pace.Many beginners feel compelled to tell readers everything that goes on, following the protagonist as they go down the stairs, get in the car, drive to the restaurant, park, and go inside and get a table. Others shoehorn dialogue scenes into every single instance of the protagonist being in a car.
Start now: fill in later.
Another trick ﬁlm director’s use is to whip you right into a scene and then ﬁll in the details later on. That’s common in action movies but can also be done in novels. From Option To Die:
“Okay, here's what I know so far,” Randy said, as Veronica entered his small cubicle at the Sarasota Sun-Times. “I’m waiting for a call back from the cops.”
Here’s a subtle example of opening with action, from Paramour by Gerald Petievich:
The phone rang. Landry reached automatically for the nightstand as he struggled to come awake. “Landry.”
“This is Sullivan. Meet me at Room 5412.”
“I’ll explain when you get there.”
Start in the center of the scene.
Readers are not interested in following the protagonist while he checks into the hotel, buys a newspaper and a Diet Sprite in the gift shop and goes up in the elevator to his room. Don’t waste time spinning your wheels.
All that other stuff is just preparation for reaching the center of the scene and readers don’t want to read preparation. Readers want to get right to the content.
It’s far more effective to do the ﬁction version of a jump cut. From Rapture in Reno:
“I’d be delighted to see you,” Matthew Monroe said. “Can you be here at four?’”
“At ten minutes of four, Veronica sat in the two-story lobby of the headquarters of the Church of the Almighty Lord.”