When the Beginning Isn’t the Beginning
Writers have a number of commandments. Fundamental truths that apply to any type of writing genre or medium. The commandment I’m going to talk about today is this: a good beginning is imperative to the success of your story.
Does that seem a bit too obvious? Maybe so, but that doesn’t make it any less true. If the story does not capture a reader within the first couple of pages (some say the first couple of paragraphs) they will put the book back on the shelf in the library or bookstore. Now that digital sample chapters are one-click away for readers, this truth is even more the case. The beginning needs to draw the reader in.
But hand-in-hand with the whole ‘good beginning’ mantra is another truth: beginnings are very hard to write. Well that doesn’t seem fair now, does it? So how about if we delve into some of the reasons why beginnings are hard to write. Because when we understand the why, we can then learn how to fix it.
- Backstory. Both a writer’s friend and enemy, backstory is necessary to establish the reason why the characters act the way they do. However, that doesn’t mean that the first chapter should be chock full of what they have done in the past. With backstory we often fall into the trap of telling rather than showing. And telling equates to passive writing, which is not what we want at the beginning of our stories. Often for many writers (myself included) that first draft of chapter one is really a character analysis. If that is the case, then move that chapter into a folder marked ‘characters’ and start again. This time don’t give the reader paragraphs of hearsay or what has happened in their childhood, instead tease the reader with hints of the character’s life through dialogue and action.
- Starting at the wrong place. This one happens a lot. Some of this goes hand in hand with backstory since as authors we have a misplaced belief that everything needs to be explained up front when it can actually be layered into the story later. Often it’s a matter of finding when the writing starts to ‘click.’ No one is going to immediately write snappy, full-developed scenes when they first sit down and start a new story. But maybe after a few pages or chapters, the story finally comes alive and starts to flow. Don’t be surprised if that’s where your story truly begins.
- Trying too hard. There is a lot of pressure to write the perfect first line, first paragraph, and first chapter. When sitting down in front of our computer and watching that blinking cursor flash on that empty page, we panic. To help with that panic tell yourself that the first words you write, heck the first couple pages you write are a warm up. They will be re-worked or discarded before you finally have the ‘right’ beginning for your story. If you keep that in mind, typing those first words isn’t as daunting a task.
What I find often happens is that as the story progresses and the characters come alive on the pages, the beginning no longer fits with the rest of tale. Don’t be afraid to go back and rework those first scenes so that they are now in line with where your story has evolved. Any way to make those pages memorable means that you have a better chance of a reader NOT putting your book down until they read ‘the end’. And that’s every writer’s wish. Another commandment, if you will.
AE Jones’ newest release is a box set of two novellas from her Mind Sweeper series:
Vampire Jean Luc Delacroix has been alive for nearly four hundred years. Alive, but not really living. This changes when he meets newly turned vampire, Talia. Feisty and beautiful, Talia is the first female Jean Luc has been attracted to in centuries. But when he finds out she is also a bounty hunter who is interfering with his investigation of a supernatural serial killer, he pushes her away for her and his own good.
Bitten and thrust into the supernatural world against her will, Talia wants nothing more than to do her job. She doesn’t have time to deal with an overbearing, ridiculously sexy vampire. But Jean Luc and Talia butt heads on their single-minded crusade to stop a murderer. And unless they can set aside their troubled pasts and learn to trust each other, they may never have an opportunity to explore their true feelings. Especially when they face off with the killer.
The Pursuit – A Novella
Thirty years after their initial meeting, Jean Luc Delacroix and Talia Walker once again cross paths. After seeing Talia again, Jean Luc’s feelings reignite. This time he will do whatever it takes to make her a permanent part of his life. Talia learned everything she knows about love—and about being a vampire—from Jean Luc. And when she comes face to face with Jean Luc again, she wonders if her continued independence is as important as being with the vampire she still loves.
Before either can acknowledge their feelings, they are embroiled in a deadly case of a vampire draining humans. In the midst of an investigation that threatens the very foundation of the vampire nation, can Jean Luc and Talia finally find the courage to follow their hearts? Or will the killer destroy them first?