Once I know the next project I’m going to work on it never really leaves me, even when I’m busy doing other stuff (like looking for a car). So it’s no surprise that yesterday as we zipped along the backroads through the redwoods on our way to Santa Cruz, that Frankie and Max popped back in my head. I’ve got about 45 minutes of good thinking time there and I put it to use trying to decide where to start the book. A couple of months ago I thought I knew. I had the opening line even. But yesterday I realized if I started there I would have skipped the day that was different. That day that sets everything else in motion for the story.
“Make it a flashback,” said my husband.
I made a face. “Or not,” he said, quickly changing his mind. The trouble with a flashback when you’re not that far into the story it’s hard to care about what’s happening to the characters. But if I start with the day that is different, the day that changes Frankie’s life, I worry that the focus will be on what is no longer there than on Frankie and Max. I mean, the day that is different changes things for Frankie but it’s not the big black moment that comes later in the book. I started trying to figure out if the day that the really REALLY bad thing happens is the place to start or not. Would it have more impact if we see the characters in a happy normal life BEFORE the really REALLY bad thing happens? I mean don’t you have to care about the characters for there to be a strong impact on you when things happen to them? Then I thought maybe I’d write the big chapter and then after that would be a page that said six months later or one year later but then I wondered if that was cheating the reader somehow.
In my head I backed up the story a bit more, just one chapter I’m thinking to show the relationship with everyone, lull the reader into a gentle read, (which means the voice would have to be 100% compelling, I’m just not sure. Or I could just write a short scene of the
My husband let me ramble for most of the ride and then ventured another suggestion. “I think you should just right about IT and then you can add a new beginning later, if you want to.” And I know he’s right because it will plunge me right into the story but boy, it’s going to be really tough writing. Another thing to do would be to show the black moment right at the beginning and then go back to the beginning of what led up to it all. I don’t know if that would work or what readers thinking about that type of story. I’m going to have to go to my bookshelves and try to find books were written that way. Right now the only one I can think of is When Dad Killed Mom by Julius Lester
This is just me, thinking out loud, and trying to get brave enough to write about the really REALLY bad thing.
You could try starting with a paragraph from each of your options and see which one pulls you to keep writing.
To get myself started on the book i am working on i had to write a really sloppy prologue, just to have the information down. I am going to have to fix it when the book is done, but for now, it let me start.
This writing thing is not easy. 🙂
Yep…this is exactly what I decided to do, start writing from the various points of entry and see where it all goes. Once I have a first chapter, even if it later has to be thrown away, I can keep going, but getting that first chapter down is a big ouch. And it is always harder in times like I’ve had lately when I have so many non-writing things to do that I can’t reach my focus stage.
((((But if I start with …. I worry that the focus will be …. I mean, the day that is different changes things …. but it’s not ….. figure out if ….. Would it have more impact if ….. ))))
I have thought this. Lordy. I have thought this.
Flip a coin.
It helps you decide,
because when the coin is in the air
you know which way you’re hoping it will land.
It’s not just a thought problem you’re working away at.
It’s a gut instinct problem.
Wow – that’s incredibly useful advice, even for me who has no really REALLY bad thing to write about right now.
You treat your characters gently?
I’m mean to mine, poor things.
This is a great suggestion because you are so right, your gut knows but is afraid to speak up. Thanks for this tip!
susan, we are definately having lunch together at the next conference 🙂
Are we twins in angst, Meg? 😉
Personally, I actually like stories that plunge me right into things.
Sort of like jumping on train just as it leaves the tracks, eh? Me too.
I have to agree with faerie, I like stories that jump right in so I don’t have to find it. Some stories have pages and pages and chapters of introductory matter to set things up, but I get lost waiting and move on…my short attention span.
You’re not alone Don and I think our audience of young readers often has the short attention span too. I don’t read adult fiction anymore because I run into too much of the pages and pages of intro and I get bored. Tell me a story, that’s what I want.
to make it real I’d do it like life…
…in life you are going along and everything is fine and then ‘wosh’ something happens. I find that in my life; it has been a rather bumpy one, one minute things are fine and then bang it all changes. |Kinda like a car accident when you’ve been having a good day, bigger impact.
I notice that style a lot in the reading I do.
My writing is not happening at the moment due to domestic overload more than anything. Next year my kids are all at school ft, then I can really get my teeth into some writing and the thinking without interuptions.
p.s. I love that idea given to you about flipping a coin, I must remember that
Where you at, girl?
I’m back. And I have been meaning to answer your email for ages – I kept sending it to myself at work and then never got time to do anything other than work, the nerve! Sigh. I need more hours in my days.