What elements make up a good Beginning?

Vaz

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Good thoughts Ph about treating is a 300 worded it would help tighten it up. And yes, same story as crits. Thought my main opening was too slow perhaps so I want to start with the actual revenge gone wrong scenario.

Thanks for all the input Chronners :)

V
 

CTRandall

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I wanted the opening to be a slight slow burner, but I also don't want to lose the readers interest. I also enjoy writing and exploring the emotions between my two characters
and

Something Should Be Happening.
These two things are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I would go so far to say that the most interesting version of Something Should Be Happening is an Emotional Happening. If you can show us something that is profoundly affecting for the characters, great! Maybe it's part of an action-packed event, maybe not--who cares! If your characters aren't emotionally affected, the why in blue blazes would you expect the reader to be?

1,000 dead orcs set to slow string orchestra and wishy-washy emotional whining? No! A solitary character caught in the grip of an all-out, scorched earth emotional crisis with devastatingly real consequences? Yes!
 
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The Big Peat

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Further thought that I don't think I mentioned

Pixar (I think) has a rule that every story's first scene with a character should feature them doing the thing they do best. I like this rule. It establishes character very quickly, hopefully providing a hook. I also think a lot of stories do this unintentionally and it doesn't have to be that what the character does best is fight or think or thieve or sing or whatever. If this has unintentionally happened in Harry Potter, the best thing he does is to suffer incredible stress and abuse with even more incredible resilience. I think that's a pretty fair assessment of Potter's main life skills. A Song of Ice and Fire - Jon Snow's best thing is sacrificing his own interests for the good of his family. Again, I think that's a hugely important and correct thematic assessment of him.

You don't have to follow this rule, but I think there's an awful lot of value to be had in considering it.

and



These two things are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I would go so far to say that the most interesting version of Something Should Be Happening is an Emotional Happening. If you can show us something that is profoundly affecting for the characters, great! Maybe it's part of an action-packed event, maybe not--who cares! If your characters aren't emotionally affected, the why in blue blazes would you expect the reader to be?

1,000 dead orcs set to slow string orchestra and wishy-washy emotional whining? No! A solitary character caught in the grip of an all-out, scorched earth emotional crisis with devastatingly real consequences? Yes!
Quite so and I'd take it even further. Something can be Almost Anything. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy starts with a panoramic view of a new teacher taking up post at a school. Magician starts with a boy hunting then going home during a storm. The amount of books that start with very mundane events - more mundane than you seem to be suggesting - is beyond counting. Hell, some people will tell you that's how it should be done. You establish the character's life then you break it into pieces. And while some characters have very dramatic lives to begin with, many don't.

Something Should Be Happening isn't a call for action. Its a call for some form of impetus, some framework to the character's actions and thoughts.
 

Vaz

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I've read that Pixar rule and I do like it.

Well the new opening begins my character hunting/tracking which, is what she does best.

I still have too much exposition in there, though. But when I take it out it just doesn't feel right, or like my voice.

V
 

Teresa Edgerton

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Depends on the book, depends on the readers it is meant to appeal to, depends on how well it is done.

For instance, my first book started with a couple of pages of backstory. I sold it to the second publisher I sent it to, and it went on to not only earn out the advance but to bring in royalties for several years. And I still get fan letters from readers who loved that book. (Although perhaps—who knows?—it is possible that was in spite of the beginning.)

I was about to say that possibly the readers tolerated that slow beginning because that was back in 1989 and readers were more patient then. Then I remembered, the other book that went on to earn royalties over a long period was published far more recently, and also begins with backstory. My books that began more actively did not sell as well. Maybe I am more entertaining when writing backstory than action?

As a reader, I have myself loved many a book that began with backstory, if I liked the author's style.

Find out your own strengths, whatever they are, and play to them in the opening.
 
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M. Robert Gibson

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Pixar (I think) has a rule that every story's first scene with a character should feature them doing the thing they do best.
This sounds like Christopher Vogler's Ordinary World, the first stage in his Writer's Journey The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers - Wikipedia
I remember reading that a lot of Hollywood studios used his pamphlet/book almost as a template and consequently a lot of formulaic films have been churned out. Adam Sandler anyone? I know I've lost interest in a film when I start waiting for the archetypes to turn up or trying to work out which stage is coming next.

Sorry if I digress :oops:
 
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Steve Harrison

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This sounds like Christopher Vogler's Ordinary World, the first stage in his Writer's Journey The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers - Wikipedia
I remember reading that a lot of Hollywood studios used his pamphlet/book almost as a template and consequently a lot of formulaic films have been churned out. Adam Sandler anyone? I know I've lost interest in a film when I start waiting for the archetypes to turn up or trying to work out which stage is coming next.

Sorry if I digress :oops:
I had a couple of meetings with producers in Hollywood ten years ago and the first thing they asked me was if I'd read Vogler's Writer's Journey and Story by Robert McKee. Both books were very much in vogue with producers, managers and agents at the time (and possibly still are). I had read them, but it became clear during our discussions that they hadn't :)
 

Triceratops

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Conflict, whether it's dialogue or action. A sense of urgency. A mystery, a subtle question that leads the reader on--hints of something dire or something that must be solved. It could even be weather--but make it a hell of a storm.
 

Vaz

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Depends on the book, depends on the readers it is meant to appeal to, depends on how well it is done.

For instance, my first book started with a couple of pages of backstory. I sold it to the second publisher I sent it to, and it went on to not only earn out the advance but to bring in royalties for several years. And I still get fan letters from readers who loved that book. (Although perhaps—who knows?—it is possible that was in spite of the beginning.)

I was about to say that possibly the readers tolerated that slow beginning because that was back in 1989 and readers were more patient then. Then I remembered, the other book that went on to earn royalties over a long period was published far more recently, and also begins with backstory. My books that began more actively did not sell as well. Maybe I am more entertaining when writing backstory than action?

As a reader, I have myself loved many a book that began with backstory, if I liked the author's style.

Find out your own strengths, whatever they are, and play to them in the opening.

It's heartening to hear of books starting off slower that have done really well finding a home and a bunch of happy readers. Then again your prose is beautiful and you're a joy to read! :)

V
 

L.L.Lotte

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It really does seem like there is no clear cut answer to this question, apart from: it depends.

I think if the author has a great writing style, then it doesn't matter what they write, it will work, even if it is pages of exposition.

Otherwise, what I feel is, if the target audience is young, then I'd say a faster pace would work better, but the reverse for older readers. From what I can see, younger readers want action, older readers want depth. Of course this is generalising so it doesn't apply to every individual person.

But really, I think people get all caught up with the "correct way" to write novels when really, there is no "correct way", only the way you want to write it. Even if there is one person who doesn't like the opening, there will be other people who love it.

I personally go for that hooking first line. It's all about the very first line... After that, it is up to the writing style of the author to keep me engaged. I don't care what's happening, as long as the author can write.

my 2 cents...
 
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The Bluestocking

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Further thought that I don't think I mentioned

Pixar (I think) has a rule that every story's first scene with a character should feature them doing the thing they do best. I like this rule. It establishes character very quickly, hopefully providing a hook.
I do this with my little kitsune's stories - she's mischievous and always in the middle of some sort of trouble so the beginnings of her tales reflect this.

If ever I get stuck, I always go back to character. I would ask myself: "What would x do in this situation?" This works for beginnings too.
 
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Writersmirror

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Mmh... In my opinion, you should wake up the curiosity of the reader. If you ASK more than you give answers, the reader wants to read more because he/she wants to know the answers.
You should also add sympathy. Many people like the characters, who are created sympathy by their doing.
 
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MikeAnderson

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Too often, I see a problem with writers crafting their beginnings as a whimpering attempt to beg attention to their story. A truly great intro grabs a reader by the collar and forces them to pay attention. Two of my favorite party starters are from Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 (It was a pleasure to burn!) And Andy Weir's The Martian (I'm pretty much f****d!)

Both intros are succinct, and slap the reader in the face right off the bat, letting them know the second they cracked open this fable, they're in for a ride.

The best jump off points of novels don't plead for the reader's interest, they take them by force.
 
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