1st Chapter

by Dunn
(Nashville, Tennessee )

Question: Is it ever acceptable to not immediately reveal setting elements like "where" and "when" in the first chapter of a novel? My first scene happens in the woods with the POV character interacting with some animals. It goes quickly into some serious action/conflict involving the POV character and some rivals. If it were a movie scene, there would be few visual clues about exactly where and when. So must one bend over backwards to include them? Seems like that might detract from the action of opening. Is it a sin to keep the reader wondering until chapter 2 or 3 exactly where the story is taking place? Also, just how specific need a writer be about the where and when of a story?

Answer: I think you need a reason for not revealing the setting. For instance, will creating a little mystery in the mind of the readers make them want to keep reading? Of course, this depends on how significant the setting is and if revealing it later will make the story more meaningful. For instance, do you want to mislead the reader into thinking the setting is one thing and revealing later that it is something else altogether?

If it's just a matter of your not wanting to slow or interrupt the action with a lengthy description of the setting, consider scattering just a few details here and there. It doesn't take a lot of words to set the stage, if the words are well chosen.

P.S. Always remember: There are no rules, other than keeping your reader glued to the page.

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