Thursday, June 23, 2011

Beginnings Begin Here

Beginnings. When I open a book, I wan to be “into” it immediately. I want to be in the nitty gritty of it all, no explanations, no world building. Let me figure all of that on my own.

To me, the best stories just start. They don’t seem overworked, and yes, just as they tell you in the writing rule book, the best books start at the action.

My favorite books, or the most memorable books to me, all started without hand-holding. There wasn’t any time given to catch the reader up; we were just part of the ride. What we did need to know, we needed to figure out and we needed to do that quickly.

You might think this would confuse a reader, that they need to at least know where they are before they are whisked away by the character on some mission, but I completely disagree.

Having the reader slightly disoriented in the beginning is nothing but a good thing to me. Why? Because he or she is going to try to figure it out. They will automatically (in most cases, if done well) be engaged more so in the story because they were getting caught up in the action before they had time to realize why it was happening.

Here are the perks to starting “in” in the story:

1. Immediacy, the character is in the weeds trying to do something, and the reader is coming along, from the inciting incident.

2. No time for the reader to become bored with the world you’ve built.

3. They will look more at the details that they are given to figure out the world around them. If you leave them just enough breadcrumbs to have them follow the leader (your MC), they will follow, regardless of if they have heard of the place, your world.

4. Immediate investment, the reader will, by following the character, be invested in how the character will do, because they don’t have time to worry about he background, the little details. They only have time to worry about the plot at hand and how the MC will get out of whatever we evil writers put the characters into.

Here are some immediate examples that come to mind for me:

            The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins: The reader in me was into it from the 1st page. The FIRST page. The writer in me kept flipping back to the front and asking myself, am I really this into a book already? Did I literally become invested in the first, oh, three pages? Yes. Yes, I did. [Which also makes me scared about the movie because my investment makes me emotionally attached, I’m afraid]

            The Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead: In the first book, the MC and her best friend are being caught from running away. You hear them freaking out that they’re being found and brought back to blah blah blah, read it.

            Tenderness by Robert Comier: A young, attractive teenage killer is being released from jail; a girl with a history of wicked obsessions that have to be met becomes fascinated enough to have to find him. (I didn’t do this one justice. I LOVE this book. So much. No words.) The point is, we see them, the MCs, and we know them because we are with them intimately before we get the run of the mill descriptions.

            We All Fall Down by Robert Comier: (Yes, he’s on here twice because he’s amazing): We start with a break-in, as the teenage robbers. They run a muck; you feel the chaos; you see a girl be broken during (=READ, no regrets afterward for time spent).

These books did beginnings well*. What books grabbed you? Did they do any or all (or none) of the things I listed? Let me know by comment or email.

Now, to leave you with a song to write by: “There's a good reason these tables are numbered Honey, you just haven't thought of it yet” by Panic! at the Disco. (Love that band name…)


 *I highly suggest clicking the links and reading the first few pages, even if you don't feel like reading the whole book (and don't tell me if you hate anything by Robert Comier (particularly those two) because I will die inside partially.)


  1. Thank you!!! I had someone critique my first three chapters once and they kept asking me to explain everything and they told me I was trying to hard to be criptic. What? It's way more fun that way!

  2. Jen, yes. yes. And totally. Writers have to be careful not to be too withholding, but I love jumping in and figuring things out. All of my favorites do it.

  3. I'm glad I found you! We seem to be on the same wavelength. I just commented this morning on Nathan Bransford's blog about this very thing and I swear, you took the words right out of my mouth. Hunger Games was amazing and I too became wrapped up in Vampire Academy pretty quick. I'm currently reading Gone by Michael Grant and I must say, you get sucked in immediately. Love the music, too btw :)

  4. Charissa, Gone? I know I've picked that up before, maybe I should do more than just pick it up then? lol. I'm glad you like the music too, and I'm alllways happy to hear someone else agrees with me. Never ever ever (ever) gets old. :)

  5. I love being thrown right into the action and being a little confused in the beginning. My writing group probably hates me, because I tell everyone to cut the beginnings of their novels and start at the excitement. And then when they don't and they give me the "edited" version I yell at them more (well, I don't yell, but I do write in all caps).

    And I agree with the Hunger Games. It had me right from the beginning!

  6. lol, sticky. I'd probably be hated the same amount, I'm sure.