Thursday, June 18, 2015

In The Beginning...

A key question all writers ask is, "How do I begin my story?"  Most of us know the basics of what we want to write, but figuring out how and where to start is always a challenge.  The beginning of a novel sets the tone for the entire book.  Do you want it to be action-oriented, setting a breakneck pace that leaves folks breathless throughout?  Are you looking to start with something poignant so you can immediately establish an emotional connection?  Maybe you want to start off with a love scene so your readers know right off the bat that such things are your theme.

I've heard lots of...well...crappy advice that there are certain things never to start a book with.  Never begin with a battle.  Don't start off with the weather.  Wait until later to introduce a death.  The list goes on and on and on.

The reasoning behind this advice is that you'll either bore your readers(no one wants to read a weather report) or that readers aren't yet emotionally invested enough in your characters enough to care about who wins a battle or who died.  I think these kinds of things are pure poppycock.  The beginning all comes down to how you grab people, not the particular method.  Maybe you're writing a war novel and want readers to know that combat is going to be a continuing theme.  Or you could be using weather to set the tone.  Even the dreaded "never start off with a dream" is misguided since you might want to use it to establish a character's psyche.

The point to remember in how you begin isn't so much what you start off with, but rather how it advances your story.  Describe the weather to set the scene, but don't give us an almanac.  Create a battle scene to let your audience know that the main character is either a reckless hero or a coward, but don't go into the subtleties of how a flanking maneuver works.

In my opinion, the beginning is the most important part, for it usually determines if folks will stick around with you long enough to understand what you want to say.  Plus, it enables the ending, for people want to know how the two tie together - does the main character grow?  Is the ending workable given how it started?  Is the tone consistent throughout?

Another challenge is figuring out where to pick up at.  Star Wars, for example, started off in the middle of the story.  It didn't delve into the vagaries of how the Rebellion began(until the prequels) because it wasn't important to know; it was only important to establish that the Rebels were the good guys and the Empire was the bad guy.  You need to also figure out how much your readers need to know.  Has a crime already been committed, or is witnessing the crime important to the story?  Has the battle ended, thus leading us into where the army goes from here, or are we in the middle of it, thus making us wonder if the country will even survive?  These things will set the tone for the rest of the book.

No comments:

Post a Comment