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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Gimmicky Openers

I'm writing, not piddling (or fiddle-farting), I promise. But I had to take a break and vent a little. I am deep into this manuscript, but I keep going back to the opening scene. It's driving me bonkers! Why? Because I stripped the whole thing out and rewrote it and now I'm not satisfied with it.

Okay, let me back up. Back when I attempted the first rewrite of this story everyone was writing books that had some sort of gimmicky opening. First paragraph, the hero and heroine thrown together in some kind of ridiculous situation. Something to grab the readers attention right from the get-go. Action! So, that's what I wrote. All my crit buddies loved it. Then, I got some in-depth feedback from an agent who said the opening scene did nothing to enlighten the reader about the characters (except for the hero, whom she loved) and was just filler (more or less) that delayed the real beginning of the story. Also, the action scene I'd concocted made my heroine appear slightly less "intelligent" than the hero. Ahem... Well, we can't have that, now can we?

So...I ripped out the entire scene and began the story where the agent thought the story actually should have started. I agree with her completely, by the way. The story DOES start there, but now that there's no big action, it just sorta lays there and seems dull. The chapter ends with a bang, but a reader isn't going to skip to page 15 and start there. Errr... So, I keep going back to it, trying to improve, adding in reaction and some hints about what's going on inside the hero's and heroine's heads. But I'm plagued with doubt. I know how all-important is that first page, indeed that first paragraph. If you don't hook them on the first page, they probably won't read any farther (they being editors, of course). The only thing that gives me hope is that the first 100 words were enough to win an opener contest over at Bookends. I've altered those beginning words only slightly. Will they be enough to keep someone reading long enough to get to the call to adventure, which happens near the end of the chapter? Who knows. It's really bugging me.

Okay, so I've gotten that off my chest. Now, I'm getting back to it.




  1. Devon, I don't think you were really asking for advice, because you know what you're doing...and I, for instance, really don't.

    Still, because I can, I'll plop some advice down here. You can always delete the comment. Seriously, it's okay--I won't pout.

    I too have been given the advice to start the ACTION!!!! on page one. I'd guess that, for many books, that may be a great way to start. But not all. And not all readers are into that (me, for instance).

    I'm much more likely to be sucked into a story by an incredibly well-turned phrase that makes me wonder about what's GOING to happen. And I want to immediately care about the characters.

    Or the single character. It's okay with me if only one of the main characters is introduced on page one, or even chapter one. If I care about him or her, and what he or she might be heading toward, I'll likely go along to see how things shake out.

    For me, the emotional investment needs to begin on page one.

    Okay, I'm closing my eyes. Delete me if you want.

  2. You know, everybody hollers about hook and catching the readers attention, but I don't know that it necessarily has to begin with action. I've read several books recently that did not start that way. They started with internal dialog that built up to the action scene, yet I continued to finish the book. I think every reader is different, with different things that appeal to them. Not everybody likes action-packed slam-bam-thank-you-mamb stories. Some like to sit down and delve into the characters themselves. I think every piece of advice you get you should take with a grain of salt.
    Write what you want. There's bound to be somebody out there to read it.

  3. Magdalena, what on earth makes you think I would delete you? What you said makes perfect sense. Besides, I LOVE input.

    I don't pay attention anymore but, back when I did, I noticed those hooky beginnings kept getting farther and farther out there. It was like everyone was trying to one-up themselves and everyone else. It was getting ridiculous.

    I, too, can wallow in and thoroughly appreciate a well-turned phrase. Give me a wordsmith who touches my heart any day over a gimmicky writer.

    I think I've just been panicking a little because when I mentioned taking out the action sequence, several people oh-noed it and told me it just wouldn't be the same. (Yes, my middle name is obsess and sometimes even spazz.) But that silly scene doesn't even fit the tone of the story anymore. It really needed to go.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write such a thoughtful comment. I really do appreciate the input and advice. :o)

  4. Jennifer, yes, I absolutely agree with following your heart and instincts for your own story.

    The scene I took out (and writing pals didn't want me to) was a bunch of useless fluff designed to throw the hero and heroine together in an oddball way--because... the idea of having her arrive on the train and him meeting her at the station didn't pack any oomph, or so I was told. But having her arrive and him meeting her (like normal people do) was exactly what J. Faust suggested I do. So, that's what I'm doing. The setup for the big "gosh, what're they gonna do" will just have to be enough. My biggest problem is, I second-guess myself right out of business. I know this, yet I can't seem to stop myself.

    Thanks for your comment, and I'm glad you like character driven stories. Mee, too, but I also gots to have me some kick-butt action occasionally. ;o)


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