Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Writing The Opening Scene of a Novel

With the release of my first novel just around the corner (January 2010), and my second novel finished for now, it's time to start a third book. I've been mulling ideas for months but none were exactly the story I wanted to tell.

The time has come. I had some characters itching to tell their stories, and they wouldn't leave me alone. Only one problem. I didn't know where to begin. I needed a dynamic opening scene. Which isn't to say that scene won't be changed in the future, but for me as the author to feel ready, I needed a good opening.

Well, I came up with something. It was dynamic and thrust the main character into serious trouble right from the get go. I was ready to begin it. But then I started thinking about the novels I've read that didn't allow me time to connect with the characters before they threw them into a tailspin. Those novels were easy to put down.

This made me re-think. In order to care about a character, you need to get to know him/her if you're going to read about their predicaments. Which isn't to say you begin a novel with a slow scene, but I realized I was thinking about starting this novel too far into the story. I needed to back up, just a little bit, and create some empathy for my character.

I envisioned another scene which took place before the scene I'd originally planned. It too had some action, but I hope it allows the reader time to care about the main character.

I'm going to do something I don't normally do---share with you the rough draft opening paragraph of this novel. Keep in mind that it will probably change, and most certainly be tightened, but here it is:

The car door slamming startled Brynn Taylor awake. She crawled on her elbows up to the zippered door of her two-man tent, swallowing hard against a wave of nausea. She unzipped the flap and peeked out. Parked at the edge of her camp was a white police car, and walking toward her tent was the cop.


Janet Ursel said...

LOL! Sounds like you started her out in a predicament anyway, even if it's not THE predicament. Those who like dramatic starts will be happy. But are you certain you want nausea in the first paragraph?

~Brenda said...

I'm already hooked! :)

~Brenda, aka PrairieLady

WordVixen said...

Well, you know my feelings on nausea in an opening paragraph. ;-)

Katie Hart - Freelance Writer said...

C.J. Darlington novels: Once upon a time there was a woman, and then a cop shows up . . .


C.J. Darlington said...

Janet--No, I'm not sure. LOL Though there is a reason for this.

WordVixen-- :)

Brenda--I'm glad you're hooked!

Katie--I'm really chuckling here. You are so right! I wondered about that. My second novel doesn't start that way though... Too funny. Maybe I should make that my tag line.

Koala Bear Writer said...

Well, right away I'm curious about why she's nauseious--is she pregnant? But as you say, beginnings are tough. One thing I learned from writing academic papers is to sometimes just start writing with the idea, and to come back later and figure out what the perfect beginning would be.

WordVixen said...

Bwahahah! CJ, you so should use that as your tagline.

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