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?