About Me

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I am an aspiring writer living and working in Hull. I working on a novel, as well as writing short stories to keep my writing skills fresh. I decided to start a writing blog to connect with other writers. So please, take a look around and leave some comments - I'd love to read some of your writing blogs too. Nari X

Monday, 6 December 2010

The Beginning And The End... A story with a mind of its own...

So I started writing this a few days ago. I've been so busy writing that I didn't get time to finish it off. The snow is now receding...slowly. The roads are pure ice, though. It's really quite cool. Might invest in some skis...

There is now no escape from Hull. We are trapped. Encased in snow. And I'm reading The Shining... I find it difficult to take my eye off the bath when I'm in the bathroom these days...

I've been working on my beginning this afternoon, with Rob's help. Beginnings are important, obviously. As a reader, I like to do what I call the 'first page test', which doesn't take a genius to work out what it is. Essentially, I'm the kind of person who will quite happily sit cross legged on the floor of Waterstones or WH Smith and work through a shelf reading the first pages. That is, of course, if I like the look of the blurb. 

You can tell a lot from a first page. And what often makes me cringe is 'My name is.... I'm this tall' etc, or the equivalent from third person. Or big, boring, long-winded descriptions of a setting. Sometimes, this works. But the thing that makes it work is the hook. If there is a good reader hook, something that makes the reader want to read on, then that stuff doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. 

Take The Lovely Bones for instance. It opens like this:
'My name was Salmon, like the fish. First name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.' 
It works because there's a hook. Why was she murdered? Who did it? You want to read on. 
I've often been told that it's a good idea to start with dialogue, which I find does work because it's snappy and gets you straight into the action. 

The point is, you need to have enough information there to get the reader interested, without bombarding them with introductions and background information. This is what I'm trying to do. My original beginning was a dream prologue, which I worry could be too cliched, especially as it is followed with the classic 'getting up in the morning' routine. I'm having my doubts about it. I wrote that beginning in my first year of University, which is a long time ago now. Scarily so. 

Recently, I decided that we should come into the story a wee bit earlier, so we see the break up between Anna and Ryan. That way I'm not constantly needing to give backstory. I think it was in a Writers' Forum article ( I will check and update), that it's all well and good to have lots of flashbacks, history and back story, but if there is nothing, or barely anything going on in the present in the story, then it can get a bit tedious. If there is so much back story that is more interesting than the actual story, you might as well cut the boring stuff and set it earlier.

I remember as I read Obsessed by Ted Dekker, I was on the edge of my seat reading about the women in the concentration camp, drawn in by their wonderfully depicted characters, strengths and struggles. But I'll admit, I got a bit frustrated with the present-day storyline. Not that it was dull, but that it was a bit samey and a wee bit unrealistic, I thought. 

At the same time, I'm also working on my 'ending', which is becoming bigger and bigger... further away from the end. I can't help noticing that this story has become something entirely different to what it started life as. I'm trying to convince myself that that's not a bad thing. I've cut a major character and given a leading role to someone who was originally wandering about in the background - this person is now the antagonist. Is that the right word? Villain, bad guy... psycho. The person who pits himself directly against the protagonist. 

So what I'm wondering is, does anyone else find this with their ideas - that they warp and morph into something that strays entirely from the intial idea?


  1. Hi, Nari,

    Yes my ideas rarely stay the same after I've worked on them for a while, and sometimes I'll have a wonderful surprise as a character suddenly throws something at me from nowhere!

    I loved The Book Thief - fantastic book. I don't think I've ever read The Shining, Though - too scary for me!

    Julie x

  2. Hi Liz, I have often found myself writing something completely different to the idea that first formed in my mind. Characters can re-write books - they can refuse to die or to be nicely married off once they are fully formed.
    As it happens, I am currently writing something that was not planned at all. At least, I planned one thing and quite another has appeared on the page.I am quite excited by the turn-about!
    My third novel was completely written by its main character. I got to the point where I looked forward to sitting down at the computer and seeing what she would do today. I am still editing that one. It has gathered dust for years although it originally received a very good review from 'Hodder Headline'. No novels published as yet by the way, in case you are wondering, just short stories and a hotch potch of articles and columns!

  3. In my experience, once you have given a character enough "Life," they will write their own story. All we writers can do is watch helplessly as our fingers run across the keys. One of my latest characters (invented early last year) has somehow developed himself so well I often feel like I'm merely typing while he dictates.

    I think David Gemmel (don't quote me, I heard it from one of the ladies at Waterstones!) once said in a interview that he had been happily typing away when he realised that his main character had managed to get himself killed! So it would seem that even the seasoned professionals can get driven by strong characters.

  4. Good to know I'm not alone. That's interesting 'HC Clarke', what you said about David Gemmel - I'd be very cross if that happened! One of my characters once kissed someone she wasn;t supposed to, but I managed to talk her out of it, thank goodness!
    Just finished the Shining - horrible! But brilliant :) The Book Thief seems wonderful so far, such an intriguing premise. I'll let you know what I think!

  5. Hi Nari. I'm putting the finishing touches to my first attempt at 'surreal' and my main character has managed to develop from 'naughty' to 'evil' in the last three editing sessions.
    I'm not going to specify because by tomorrow morning the story goes forward for a competition and I'd like to keep the tale a secret.
    Between working on my autobiography (posted piece by piece on my blog) and short stories I've come up with a personal theory.
    The metamorphisis begins when you alter viewpoint. Not as you write, but when you edit.