i know first pages and chapters rarely stay the same (or stay in the manuscript at all) from first draft to final, but i'm still agonizing over my current (non-existent) wip's beginning.
i've read posts and how-to writing books on the topic of the beginning lines and beginning pages.
nothing is helping me. (well, it IS, but the knowledge of WHAT to do is not enough to fuel my fingertips into lighting a fire on my keyboard.)
i'm so very stuck.
so, in the name of research and practice, i am writing this blog post for myself. and maybe you. if you need help too. or if you want to try to help me. if you happen to pinpoint a deeper problem in my blockage of words, (yes, i need a writopsychoanalysis.) feel free to let me know.
i recently shared with you that i discovered i need to add more conflict in my stories. to remedy that, i've been reading james scott bell's elements of fiction writing-conflict and suspense (an awesome, helpful read).
in his section on beginnings, he says: "What grabs them (the reader) is a character in motion...." "Readers...will wait a long time for exposition....Act first, explain later. You will never go wrong delaying exposition." he wants us to include conflict right away on the first page and gives examples of how doing this through dialogue can be useful. Confrontation up front will "...make for immediate reader interest."
so this goes along with what i decided, that i need to add conflict and confrontation at every turn.
still, i've started a manuscript in complete action and turmoil before,like i thought i was suppposed to, only to hear that i'm supposed to start just before that, in the ordinary world, just before the world goes topsy turvy.
so then i start too far in the ordinary world and get boring again--
the book i'm trying to write is sci-fi, grouned heavily in reality. so i tend to start in that real world and then the topsy turvy (inciting incident) is when my protag realizes her world really isn't so ordinary. the problem i encounter in doing this is my beginning is boring. boring first lines (or as jsb suggests my problem is in trying to be lyrical or in starting by describing the weather...), boring first pages, boring first chapter(s).
so today i'm examining first lines and how far away the inciting incident is from that first line.
just finished possession (by elana johnson):
"Good girls don't walk with boys."
This is what the protag is used to: rules and not following them. This time, however, conflict occurs within paragraphs, and then within pages. The boy she is with, and is used to being with, is acting a little off. Then, although she's used to hovercopters above--and the worry of being found out by them--, this time she is incarcerated by one. And the story, adventure, action and conflict take off.
just started divergent (by veronica roth):
"There is one mirror in my house."
Again, this is what the protag is used to and the author uses this information, along with the descriptions to follow, to describe the ordinary world of the character. We, the readers, see that her world is different than the one we are used to, just enough, to prepare us for it to change. Within pages, the protagonist's world view will change as it is the day aptitude tests are taken to set the protag on her future path as her grown up self.
in both of these cases, the novels are dystopian. so off the bat, the world is intriguing and different for the readers. i love these types of books and i can't wait to flip, flip, flip through the pages to find what kind of world the authors created.
so...this leads me to think i should NOT start out in a world that is too based on our reality. (unless i'm writing a contemporary, in which case i'd need to start out with how, exactly, the world is different for my protag than others living presently.) but since i'm writing sci-fi, i should start in a different world so it has that feel from the get go. why suprise my readers pages or chapters in? readers should know what kind of book it is, what kind of world they are reading about as soon as possible.
also, i tend to try to draw out the suspense. hence, making the readers wait for conflict. what for? that is the wrong choice. that is the ONLY thing that will make them WANT to turn the pages. that, and and an interesting and sympathetic character.
which brings me to another source of complication for me (character development). and i will address the character issue in a near future post.
shatter me (by tahereh mafi):
"I've been locked up for 264 days."
It's different from our world, yet ordinary for the protag. It begins mere pages before her world changes (she gets a cellmate) and she is set on a path of constant conflict.
hunger games (by suzanne collins):
"When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold."
The first chapter describes her ordinary world and then brings us to the reaping, which sets the protag on an immediate path of change and conflict.
across the universe (by beth revis):
Daddy said, "Let Mom go first."
This starts out in a state of change. As the family (in their last moments of normalcy) is about to embark upon a voyage that will change the protag's life forever.
i'm stopping here. there are other books on my stack that i planned to use in this post, but their beginnings differ (from the ones above) and confuse me (on how to start my own). they're wonderful, and i don't mean anything negative by saying they are different. they use a different approach and a different writing style, styles i admire and wish i wrote with, but they are the ones that lead me to "try" to be poetic and lyrical and overly descriptive (envision purplish words). so, i'll stick with the ones above. 1-start with a simple sentence that shares the protag's "ordinary" world (and shows the reader how that world is different from theirs). 2-don't wait more than a few paragraphs to initiate conflict (whether its internal--a decision to be made, a worry, a fear or external--an exam, a lock-up, a confrontation).
Then I need to start a series of events that follows this outline:
and, again, that will be something i work on in a future post.