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Topic 0: The Introduction
cap, captain miss america
I had an idea this year, for something I wanted to do for LJ Idol, but that I felt would be inappropriate to do as an actual contestant, so I thought it would be better to do as part of the home game.

What I'd like to do, for as many of the weekly topics as possible, is to ruminate on the topic of writing as it pertains to the subject for the week.

Here's Topic 0: Introduction.

Many people say that the introduction is the most important part of a piece of writing, but I disagree. The introduction is an important thing, but a perfect introduction doesn't make up for a plodding pace or poor word choice or lack of a narrative arc throughout your writing, and a horrible introduction doesn't ruin a respectable book.

I'd like to tell you a story from when I was eight years old.

My best friend moved from New York to Chicago, and I missed her desperately. I remember crying so much when I found out she was moving that I didn't go to school the next day, and my mother had to convince me to go to school at all before she moved.

So my parents paid for me to fly out to spend a week with her family in Chicago. It was so exciting, my first plane trip by myself!

Turns out, that plane trip happened to be during the biggest flood in the history of Chicago. Or one of them; I'm not sure that's part of the story that my parents didn't make up, but it was a pretty big flood- a lot of people had to be rescued from the plane in inflatable rafts.

So, as you can imagine, I was stuck on the plane for a really long time. Long enough that I read all of the books I had packed for a round-trip flight and a week away from home.

One of those books was The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander. I had tried to read it once before. If you know anything about this book, it's loosely based on themes from The Mabinogion, and the opening of the book stars an Assistant Pig-Keeper who mostly deals with a pig and a master who naps and calls it "meditating."

Anyway, to eight-year-old me, it was pretty boring.

But then I got stuck on that flight, and being eight, my mom had packed some extra books for me, and The Book of Three was one of them. Reluctantly, I opened it back up, and slogged through the boring pig-keeping introduction.

And then I realized how silly I had been to put it down. I learned about hairy Gurgi, and Fflewdur Fflam's lie-detecting harp, and the resourceful Eilonwy of the red-gold hair. The plot raced, much farther than a little white pig could ever run.

So an introduction isn't everything. But it is a big thing. Because if it hadn't been for that act of desperation on a flooded flight, I would never have picked that book back up and discovered how much I loved it. And from there? I read every single book Lloyd Alexander wrote, from the Chronicles of Prydain to the Vesper Holly series to The King's Fountain.

All because of a flood in Chicago.

An introduction is more than just a "hello, I'm so-and-so." It's not just what you say, but how you say it. In person-to-person interaction, it might be the grip of your handshake, the sparkle in your eyes, the eye contact you make. These things say "this is why you should hire me; this is why you should be my friend." In writing, the first few beats of your story say "this is why you should read on."

When you're writing something serialized, like a blog, every post is an introduction. You never know what piece of your writing might be the first that someone sees. Maybe today is a boring post, but for someone reading you for the first time, that might be the only post. Every post should in some way incorporate your voice, every post should tell the people reading "this is who I am; this is why you should read on." Remember that a lot of people reading are reading for the first time. You don't know where they'll jump in, or what order they'll read in from there.

Now, I will say right here that I'm not saying I *do* this. I write some pretty silly blog posts; I write some pretty mundane ideas without putting much spirit into the writing I'm doing. That's a flaw of mine. But a good editor recognizes weaknesses, whether they're in someone else's work or their own work; a good editor is objective. We can all tell each other that junk food is bad for us, and knowing that junk food is bad for us doesn't mean we don't eat a pint of ice cream for dinner and a bag of potato chips for dessert.

And the flip side to the coin is that if you write one bum post, your next one can always redeem you. Because for every person whose first introduction to you was bland and uninteresting, there is someone else whose first introduction to you will be the post after that. People don't always have to read the chapter about the pig-keeper to find out about the magic harp.

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I could never get past the assistant pig keep either. :< Perhaps if there'd been a flood with only books for company I would have, I mean I read a LOT as a kid. I never read the Dark is Rising either. And the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe's beginning is pretty dull reading too.

I freaking loved the Dark is Rising. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was read to me (as was all of Tolkien) so I was a rapt audience.

My mother read me Dark is a Color and A Wrinkle in Time. They're still two books I cherish. X3

This is an interesting thing to do, and I look forward to your takes on future topics. :) I've definitely come across this problem when I read, so I try to give every book a chance because they can be such good company. I don't think I got into The Golden Compass until the second read, maybe even the third. But once I finally settled into the world, I was hooked. I'm trying to think of something with a strong introduction that falls apart in the middle, but I always struggle to think of books that fall apart.

I loved The Golden Compass but the other two books spoiled it for me.

After that little The Book of Three incident, I started making myself finish any book I started, a practice which persisted until I read Gone With the Wind.

I might not do it every week, but I wanted to spend time thinking about writing and what makes good writing, and this seems like a good way to do it.

It will be interesting to me to see how you apply it to each prompt.

I think anyone who writes (or anything else) should think ABOUT it too:) Great idea!

I only read the Harry Potter series because of a flood.

I read the first book in the summer of 2000, but I really disliked it. Although several of my friends loved the series, I refused to touch them again until my house flooded in 2002 and I was forced to spend the week with one of my HP-crazed friends. I read CS, POA, and GoF all in that week. So I guess in my case SS was the introduction - the introductory book - that I couldn't get past.

I loved Lloyd Alexander, though. :) Pig-keeper and all.

Edited at 2010-10-28 04:36 am (UTC)

For me, I couldn't get past the first chapter in the beginning. But then I finally went to read it and once I got to Diagon Alley, I was hooked. :)

I liked the beginning of the book a lot better when we read it as a class in the sixth grade.

I wasn't all that jazzed about SS, either, when I read it. I only continued the series because I had a friend at work, who was much older than me, who told me that if I could slog through the first one, they would get better.

Being fair, though, silly and mundane can also be pretty revealing, even if not as exciting as the rest. Sometimes you need a simple bridge to take you into the next verse.

Also, I really do hope you keep up with these home game/meta posts. But you knew that already.

Yeah, I think those were poor word choices and you brought up something I meant to mention and didn't. Even mundane activities can be made into wonderful stories. When I said mundane and silly I meant them in a dismissive way toward the content of the post: that they were posts that didn't communicate much, not that they were about mundane or silly things.

Ah! Didn't mean to misconstrue. But, yeah, I totally dig what you mean there, too.

People don't always have to read the chapter about the pig-keeper to find out about the magic harp.

Damn straight.

I'm going to like reading more words from you. :)

Excellent approach and excellent post!

I'm about to start reading the intro posts in earnest now that I've got mine up, and I'm looking forward to seeing all the different approaches people take--some try to tell all, others tell a story, still others present a persona or a mood. I've read a couple so far, and they've been so varied--just as I expected--and I'm looking forward to seeing how things evolve this season.

Heh, my friend lent me that and... I also couldn't get past the first few pages! Loved this entry, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with each week :D

Did you manage to spend much time with your friend after all?? I was worried you were stuck on the plane all week!

This is an excellent way of approaching LJI. :D

go Home Game!

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