In previous posts I talked about research, using celebrity pictures, and creating an outline. Now I’m ready to write my book and put some words together to create a story. I proudly type, “Chapter One.” And smile in anticipation.
Oh crap, this isn’t right at all. I’ve struggled and come at it from all sorts of angles but I finally give up. It’s not the blank page or writer’s block…I haven’t found the right intro yet. The story needs to start somewhere else.
Back To The Drawing Board?
I refuse to start over, I know I have a good outline. But I’ve missed something. Kemp riding into the Western town of Vail or into an Army camp is not the place the story needs to start.
If you want to hook your readers into your story you need to give them a gripping intro, almost a “What the heck?” kind of moment that makes them want to keep reading. I know the story will be a good one, I can see it in my mind. The setting, the characters, the conflict. They’re all there…I just need the opening.
Outlines and brainstorming notes are not just to help you get going, they’re also to keep you focused on the story you’re telling. I’ve read this over and over so I figured the answer to how my book starts was buried within my scribbles and bullet points.
The Bird’s Eye View
This is something I often do in my writing, especially when I’m stuck. Whether I go for a walk, work on something else, or, more probably, go over my notes and outline again, I need to go back to the bigger picture of my story.
- What’s it about?
- What is the conflict?
- What are the goals of the main characters?
- Who are my characters?
There it is, the characters! I believe in letting the characters participate in telling the story so why not let them help me come up with the best opening?
Now I can’t give away too much here or I could spoil some of the story. But it was actually 10 year old Amy that held up her hand and said, “I could open the story.” Hmm, this could be interesting.
So I went through her character outline and reviewed what her role in the story is…and sure enough, she offered the best opening for the book. There needed to be some foreshadowing in what was to come and why a 10 year old girl would be on her own in a western Arizona town.
Play With Your Opening
I think I wrote about three drafts of the opening paragraph alone. It was time well spent, though, because when the right sequence of events emerged the rest of the chapter pretty much wrote itself. Granted, it’s a shorter chapter than what most of the chapters will run but it was long enough to say what it needed to. In fact, I recall thinking, when I wrote what would be the last line in the chapter, that it needs to end with this. The line was perfect (in my writer’s mind anyways) and it was a theme that I could pick up later in the story.
Once I listened to Amy and let it be all about her to start with, the next chapter flowed a lot easier. Of course, it needed to be about the main character, Matt Kemp. But “Amy’s Chapter One”, as I call it, needed to set up the scene for what he was riding into across that hot Arizona desert.
Oh, it’s not the most pleasant chapter for her but she seemed fine with how it went (therapy is helping). Thanks for reading.