Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What's In Your Chapter One Suitcase?

Anyone familiar with early drafts of my writing can tell you that beginnings are my biggest struggle. Not because the beginning doesn't come. It does. Boy, does it come. In a vomit of description and character and dialogue and tonal inflections and figurative language, it comes. I want the reader to be right there with me in all the places I have discovered and all those nuances left to discover, often all at once. Sometimes I forget the reader and I are not already friends, that we haven't spoken at least three dozen times about the grand "what ifs" of fiction. Sometimes I even forget the reader is looking for one good excuse to abandon the story.

Author Benjamin Percy compares readers at the beginning of our stories to coma patients. Have a look. I shall picture a reader burdened with a suitcase labeled short term memory each time I revise a story's opening. Since we're all about London this week, I say, "Brilliant."


Rick said...

I'm with you on this, L.A.

the walking man said...

I say Espadrille, not because it's particular British but because I like the sound of the word as it rolls through my head.

I don't know nothing 'bout beginnings I just know they are there but like me someone else conceived them I only watched then wrote.

Charles Gramlich said...

I see that happen a lot with openings. I don't do it too much because I love tormenting the reader and withholding as much as I can from them until the absolutely last second. :)

Todd Wheeler said...

Checked all my stories and not a line of dialog at the beginning (had a sinking feeling there might be one or two).

This may sound obvious, but most of what I've written began with the beginning. That is, the idea for that first scene, those first words, usually doesn't change as the story or book is revised. I may not know what happens next but those first words set the table for the meal to come.

Dixie said...

Her thoughts bathed her, much like a mold upon a cheese. The gracefulness of her Swiss competition made her sigh.

Hi L.A.
Good thing I only write to relieve stress and such(smile). I might become stressed to keep up with...

L.A. Mitchell said...

@Rick...w/b :) Long time, no see.

@WM...We are all about the British around here of late, aren't we? Glad you stopped by :)'s such a fine balancing act: torture vs. hand-holding.

@Todd...I have a few stories like that. I consider those openings a gift, fully birthed and perfect as if they came from someone else. Most of mine, though, I struggle with balance. Glad you stopped by :)

@Dixie...You are too funny. I've had those moldy thoughts before, usually when reflecting on the swiss cheese of my writing career thus far. Always a pleasure to find you again :)