Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Where Do I Begin

Three people have read my novel. All three of them have suggested a different point to begin the story. One scene is the essence of the book but would require two immediate flashbacks. The second possibility is the scene that points out the dilemma but it's a talky scene. The third is a driving scene that's in reaction to her discovery of her dilemma. The last possibility casts her in the most negative light so maybe it's not a good place to start. If a unlikable person puts a reader off, this would be most likely beginning to do it, but it does allow me to move forward instead of doubling back.
Do you have trouble knowing where to begin your story?
P.S. Now two recent readers have told me I am writing a rumination on an artist's life with crime elements. WTF. How did that happen? How do I pitch this?


Todd Mason said...

Really, if none of them is an editor who will buy the novel, and you're happy with the novel as it is, I'd ignore them. Or take what bits of advice for minor revision that you like.

Do you like the novel as it is?

socalledauthor said...

i agree with todd, but with one caveat-- sometimes we're too close to our own work to smell that it stinks. (Kind of like if you're bumming around in the same shirt for a week, you don't really notice that you, and the shirt, smell vile.)

I also have an aversion to most flashbacks, but that's a personal thing. Same as my hatred of coconut.

What do YOU want to get out of the begginning? Besides just starting the story... how do you want it to introduce your story? And does it do that?

Sophie said...

Wow, is this ever timely. I just did a major renovation to my WIP, moving a scene to the start to counter-act a soggy hook. I *think* it was the right thing to do.

As time goes by...and with it many discarded manuscripts...this problem becomes more focused for me. I can see it in other people's work (ruthlessly cutting away backstory, flashback, and narrative until we're at the quivering breathless collision of events that kicks off the story problem) but it's a lot easier to tell other people what to do than to do it myself. :)

I hate to say this but there seems to be always, *always* a little more that we can pare away from the early pages to make it grabbier...

pattinase (abbott) said...

In a sense all three of the first chapters would grab someone. It's not that their filler-ish. It's just whether I want to begin with her quest, her need for the quest, or how she reacts (badly) to the need. I feel like I am constructing some sort of puzzle for you guys to solve here. I don't mean to be enigmatic.

John McFetridge said...

For me, I like talk. I like to hear the characters' voices. I don't mind going back and forth in the characters' lives.

I also like the idea of starting with her need for the quest, it seems like that's what kicks everything into gear - she then reacts badly or whatever.

Of course, I'm often completely wrong.

pattinase (abbott) said...

That's pretty much what I thought, John. Establish the need and then have her find how to meet it. I like talk too and the book is loaded with that. Very little description but some interior thought. Thanks.

Josephine Damian said...

Patti: In my thriller WIP, I was gonna start with the typical prologue - the killer killing someone.

Ditched that idea.

Was gonna start with the male lead/criminal investigtor being interviewd by a hoard of reporters cause he's been threatened by the killer.

Ditched that idea.

Decided to start with MC a woman who is stopped by a cop and ordered to show her ID before she enters a building - a nice quiet scene that hopefully shows her conflict/anxiety over having a secret identity.

I say start with the MC in some way that signals their biggest conflict.

pattinase (abbott) said...

It's kind of strung out in an odd way. But you're right and I will struggle to find the exact moment.