by Deren Hansen
you start with action--explosions! riots! mortal combat!--your readers
won't have any reason to root for the hero (aside from the fact that he
or she is the hero) and will likely be confused.
start with an exposition about each character and why they matter,
readers will likely lose interest before they get to the exciting bits.
stories set in the real world, you have the luxury of relying on common
knowledge and convention. In a political thriller, for example, it is
sufficient to say that the conspirators are working to topple the
government and proceed on the assumption that the reader agrees such an
outcome would be a bad thing.
With fantasy, you have
the additional problem of introducing a reader to a world that
contradicts or extends their common experience. In order to care, the
reader needs to know what's at stake (otherwise the action is
meaningless). But in order to know what's at stake the reader needs to
understand the fantasy world (which interferes with the action). The
problem of finding the right mix of action and information isn't unique
to fantasy, but it seems that a fantasy author walks a finer line
because of the additional burden of revealing information about a new
The best practice I know is to weave action and
information together: start with a small action that, in addition to its
intrinsic interest, provides a way to share some information with the
reader. Of course, both action and information are most interesting when
we experience them in a way that tells us something about the
Deren blogs daily at The Laws of Making.