I’ve been thinking a lot about beginnings as I stare at my revisions for Reapers 3. Mostly because I hate the way this book starts. Which is what revisions are for, after all, to fix what sucks and make it better.
I started thinking about what I liked and what I hated about beginnings in books that I read–because that’s what you do when you’re avoiding working on a book. LOL. Okay, maybe that’s just what I do. But I like learning new things…
Honestly, it’s all subjective, what works and what doesn’t. What’s a cliche and what’s not. Everything I came up with on this list, I’ve probably read and liked in a book in the past. So take this list with a grain of salt, because any of these cliched beginnings can work in the right context.
(As an aside, none of these are how Reapers 3 starts… ????)
1) The Dream Sequence
Your story opens up with an exciting James Bond-esque action sequence with our protagonist doing all these amazing death-defying things… and then they wake up and we learn it’s a dream.
What a cheat. I’m not going to tell you how much this pisses me off. I love big action sequences. I love being flung into exciting places with exciting characters doing exciting things.
Can I say exciting more times in one sentence? Maybe. But that’s a challenge for another time.
Anyway, this type of beginning sets up the reader with a bang, introduced this character dreaming as someone they’re not and then flipped the coin and put us back into their normal life. Sigh. Of course, I’m sure there are ways that you can make this work, but it’s risky, and you don’t want to ruin the promise you make to the reader.
Honestly, it makes the real opening of the book–the point at which the character wakes up–sluggish and the reader has to wait longer to get into the real part of the book.
2) The Normal Every Day
Your story opens up with the character waking up in the morning and starting their day.
So the character wakes up, goes to the bathroom where they agonize over that pimple that just randomly appeared on their nose while describing their own features, and then burns the toast that was the last thing in their cupboards that was edible besides the cat food and somehow that’s the perfect beginning to their day…
Do we really need to see all that?
Unless of course, a gaggle of pixies breaks into the house and steals the blankets, forcing the character out of the bed. Then one of them hits the character in the nose, causing a mark that looks like an infected pimple, and then distracts the character while they’re cooking until they realize the toast is burned and the pixies have stolen everything except the cat food.
That’s way more interesting. Because now I’m wondering why there are pixies, and why they’re ticked off at our character.
If your character is waking up on the first couple pages of your book, what are you doing to make it interesting for your reader? Where does the action really start? Would you lose anything if you let the reader assume the character used the toilet and managed to put their clothes on?
3) The Backstory Sequence
The story starts with reflection. The character sits and thinks about her own backstory and how she came to be in whatever present situation she’s in.
If your character has time to reflect, to sit there and think, you’re not doing your job. That character needs to be doing something. Can she be thinking about her situation? Sure, but it needs to relate to whatever action is going on around her. This type of beginning tends to lend itself to InfoDumpLand, a magical land where books go to die before they get started.
Think about what you want to get across to the reader
Of course there’s more. This is just a taste.
But I did say a few, not all. Otherwise, this post would be 4000 words long, and I promised myself I’d keep them under 1000 so I didn’t spend all my writing time blogging. See? This post is only 813 words long. I’m responsible… somewhat…