Saturday, January 26, 2008

Begin the beginning

Why is it so hard to find the right place to begin a story, especially a novel? Do you begin before the beginning so the reader meets the main character before her life changes, begin in the middle, at the moment of change, and what do you think about prologues?

For my work in progress, I tried about four different beginnings before settling on one that's two scenes prior to the big life changing event. I think it works because Mabel's in the middle of a conflict that will pull her through until the big moment. As much as I really like my opening scene, I know that I might still have to change it after I've completed all of the second draft.

How do you know when you've started a story in the right place? Are books out there that just nailed the beginning even though they've broken the rules? What do you think those rules are?

4 comments:

Sarah Matanah said...

I usually skip prologues. Some people deal with this by making the prologue the first chapter. Don't. A prologue is a prologue. Leave us our free will.

Nola J Moore said...

Hmm . . . Prologue vs first chapter. More of a "how to begin" question than a "where to begin" question. Although valid. Care to elaborate on why you'll read first chapters but no prologues, Sarah?

For myself, the "where to begin" question is a two-parter: Where to begin so that I can start writing, and where to begin on the final drafts. :) But perhaps that's a whole blog post. . . .

Sarah Matanah said...

When I first start a book I want to attach to a main character and be immersed in their life. That's what first chapters do. Prologues don't.

Nola J Moore said...

I get it. So by "prologue" you're thinking of the "long ago in a galaxy far, far away" type introductions, which while handy aren't particularly necessary?

What do you suggest for the writer who feels like they need to tell you a few important things about the world/characters/backstory in order for you to understand the story they are about to tell? Is this a sign that they aren't starting the story in the right place?