Wednesday, October 27, 2010

beginnings

Beware the false beginning. It’s easy to start in the wrong place. A lot of times we authors even need to start in the wrong place. We need to get out some ideas or ground ourselves in the story or think to the tap tap tap of our fingers hitting the keyboard. We need to find out who are characters are and what they’re doing. So we write a lot of back-story in our beginnings.

What we need to do later is look to see if we really began the story where it should begin or are the first few or ten or twenty pages really just a dump of information or a stumble in the dark? Always be a little suspicious of your beginning. Not necessarily the first line or two which might be perfect, but the first ten pages where your story is trying to get started. You want to jump into your real story as quickly as you can. You want to start your story as close to the heart of the story as possible.

For example, you don’t want to tell all about Bubba’s troubling childhood and fights he had and the wins and losses and his fascination with Sumo Wrestling (a sport he has always loved even though no one in Cowtown, West Texas, knew anything about it) for the first fifty pages if your real story is about Bubba opening a flower shop and meeting Wild Wanda, the woman of his dreams, when he turned fifty. Maybe you want to work in the Sumo Wrestling (who wouldn’t?) but the reader should feel momentum in the beginning and confidence that the writer is taking them someplace. Most of the time this means starting the novel as close to the heart of story as possible.

Or so I think today.

14 comments:

Andrea Mack said...

Great post, Brian! The beginning is the part of my novel I spend the most time on, and I often write several versions.

brian yansky said...

Thanks. I do the same, Andrea--especially those first few sentences and paragraphs. I really need the tone of the novel to come out in them.

Rusty Fischer said...

Great post; beginnings are so vital. I agree with Andrea; a lot of times I'll "think" i've got a great beginning, but then kind of "move the starting line" later to make sure that I'm starting "in the middle" of something versus putting a lot of expositary stuff up there.

Great reminder to always reconsider your "beginning." Thanks for the post... glad I stopped by!!!

Micol Ostow said...

It's pretty typical for me to have to cut the first three chapters of my first draft once I've got a complete draft in hand - I'm always "writing my way into the story" and those first few chapters end up being total preamble. By now I've just accepted it as part of my process.

Sarah Fain said...

Thanks for this. I've been struggling with finding the right beginning for my new book, and you've just reminded me that I don't have to have the "right" beginning yet. I just have to begin.

Kristin said...

Thanks for this. I was going back and forth between two opening scenes and this helped.

Anna said...

"You want to start your story as close to the heart of the story as possible."

So true. It's finding the heart that can be the tricky part! Sometimes it requires a very large stethoscope.

Lisa Gail Green said...

Always good advice and important to remember. Where does your story really start?? Nice Post!

brian yansky said...

Thanks for all the great comments.

octoberdaniels said...

Too bad my story is heartless. :-)

imagine said...

"..the reader should feel momentum in the beginning and confidence that the writer is taking them someplace."
Great point.

blueeyedadri said...

Hi Brian, It's been a while but, as always, I loved your post.

I posted a link here for our YALITCHAT readers.

http://yalitchat.ning.com/group/firspagescritgroup

Mary Jo said...

Poignant post. I love @octoberdaniel's comment and think my story is missing its heart, as well. Or at least a steady beat.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Great post, especially the last line! I'm struggling with beginnings on TWO novels right now, and it is tough. And some days it's difficult to see the path forward.