Friday, February 12, 2010

Your First Sentence

This will be a quick and sweet post, as I'm seated in front of the TV and avidly looking forward to the beginning of the Olympics. I love-love-love to watch the opening ceremonies and the parade of nations.

The other thing is Canada and America share a similar heritage, at least when you think of the First Nations. I'm looking forward to seeing how much of this heritage is shown in the ceremonies.

Moving on, this is a thought that struck me when I was glancing over material at one of my critting groups.

I understand the difficulty in 'starting off' your first chapter. When you are forbidden to begin with a character waking up in bed or meditating on life in general while staring dramatically out a window or gazing at his/her reflection in the mirror... it leaves you scrambling for alternatives.

But you probably don't want to begin your story with your character making declarations like, "She sighed, pondering her ultimate boredom with her boring life." In fact, you probably don't want to have the word 'boredom' in the first paragraph at all. Furthermore, you do not want to spend the first half page expanding on why your character is bored. Because you will bore your reader.

The main things to keep in mind when you are writing your first chapter:

1. Don't worry about getting the first line perfect at first. That is something easily fixed before presenting the chapter to your beta readers to shred. Or you can ask your beta readers to brainstorm with you on the best way to begin the chapter if lounging in bed and reflecting on life is the best you can come up with. <- Yes, I know this contradicts what I said above, but I didn't want people to spend months writing one line over and over.

2. When revising and fixing everything, you can sit back and figure out what would make an 'exciting' or interesting beginning. A really wonderful agent who offered a helpful crit on a novel she rejected said she did not want to see any background information in the first chapter at all. She told me to look at my synopsis and begin closer to the exciting stuff I mentioned there.

3. Don't forget to do your research - the most successful writers out there know how to begin a novel. Something I picked up from the books I like - you don't necessarily have to start in the middle of action with THINGS HAPPENING. But you want your main character to be doing something and on the verge of encountering the THING THAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO THEM.

So like with my 'Marbles' WIP, I have the main character reacting to her longtime boyfriend dumping her. The first scene reveals her character while she and her boyfriend have it out. He's pressuring her to move in with him or else. She's trying to hold out for more while still hanging on to him. The THING THAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO HER occurs next when she stumbles into the house, rejected and dumped, and receives the second shock from her parents.

At no point do I tell the reader that the character and her life is boring. Nor did I stall before beginning the story. As I learned from that fabulous agent, background in the beginning is stalling and stalling is bad.

OK - Olympics is on.

*stares fixedly at TV*

I wouldn't want to live there, but I'd like to visit Vancouver.

So lovely....

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