Friday, April 08, 2011

G is for Great Beginnings

A Great beginning.
Last year I went to a conference and editors read and commented on first pages. What worked, what didn't. What surprised me, even in that small selection, was how similar some of the beginnings were.
Just in that small selection a couple started with the first day of school. Imagine how many submissions a day an editor reads that start the same way.
Which got me thinking about successful beginnings. Harry Potter could have started with Harry packing his spell books and wand for the first day of Hogwarts but it doesn't. Harry Potter starts with a description of the Dursley's. We follow Mr. Dursley through his day. We see the strange things he sees. We see what kind of person he is. He's the type of person who sits with his back to the window at work. At the end of the chapter Harry is left on the Dursley's doorstep. He is The Boy Who Lived and we want to know more about him and what makes him different from the Dursley's.
Elvis and Olive by Stephanie Watson starts on the first day of summer vacation. Remember how you looked forward to summer when you were a kid?

When I started revising my WIP I realized I'd fallen into the "First day of school" beginning. I was in denial at first. I said things like "Oh my first day of school is different from all these others. I'm sure mine will stand out."
But I wondered, would it really. If mine was the fifth "first day of school" beginning the editor read that day would they keep reading or would they run screaming from their desk vowing never to read a "first day of school" beginning again?
So I changed it. It's taken me a while to get used to my new beginning but I like it and I think it showcases the characters better than the original first day of school beginning.

Where does your story really start? Does it start three chapters into the book? Does it really start at the homecoming dance or cheerleading tryout or the most important basketball game of the season?

G is also for Ron Gardenhire, AKA Gardy, 2010 AL Manager of the Year. So far the Twins haven't had the greatest beginning of the season. We're 2-4 so it isn't like we're the Red Sox or anything but yesterday the Yankees broke our new second baseman, the day before Home Opener. Bummer. But I'm a Twins fan and I like dramatic beginnings.


Deirdra Eden-Coppel said...

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Alicia Gregoire said...

Good point about the first day of school thing. I do that a lot in my first drafts. Doh.

Sarah said...

I saw somewhere online that agents gets way too many submissions beginning with the character waking up. Same kind of idea.

I guess on some collective level all our brains work the same way. It can take some thought and effort to break free from those tendencies.

Hannah Kincade said...

None of my characters are in school. LOL! In all seriousness, I used to write like this. Every step beginning was from the moment someone woke up, the start of the day...not the start of the story. Love this post!

emy shin said...

Great post! It's very true about first days of school and other like-minded beginnings -- though they seem interesting to us, editors must've encountered dozens of them before.

Lynda R Young said...

I wrote 2 WIP last year and the first one started 3 chapters in (doh!) but the second one started at the first chapter (phew!). Gotta love progress ;)

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