Starting the Story

by syaffolee

The first scene of a story is almost always there in my mind before I write down the first word.  Having the first line is another matter entirely.  Sometimes I have the first sentence figured out.  In the case of Sign of the Wyrm, this year’s Julnowrimo project, I wasn’t quite sure what my first sentence would be until I actually started writing.  I had a somewhat vague notion of what was going on, but I didn’t know what to focus on until I decided to make the opening easy–primarily a simple and direct sentence with little to no ambiguity setting up a situation that the reader might find intriguing.

This particular project is a fantasy story.  Perhaps it is far closer to “traditional fantasy” than any of my other projects (except my very first non-Nanowrimo novel which will never see the light of day).  While a lot of traditional fantasy begins with a prologue detailing background, history, and mythology, I did not even consider this type of beginning.  For one thing, as a reader, these types of prologues bore me–they are but thinly disguised sections of info dumping that do nothing to further the story.  I am one of those crazy people who like being plunged straight into the action.

Another type of opening I am not enamored with is the omniscient opening.  I dislike omniscient openings where the first sentence is a description of the weather, part of the scenery, or something in the distance.  The problem with this is that there’s nothing happening, nothing engaging the reader’s mind.  While the description may be prettily worded, there is a certain distance with this panoramic view.  It’s like a Thomas Kinkade painting.  It might scratch the artist’s or author’s ego in constructing the thing, but the audience and reader find it no more substantial than cotton candy.

While an opening with dialogue may seem to solve the problem of distance, I don’t find this ideal either.  Beginning with speech without any description of the speaker gives one the feeling that there is a Voice in the Void.  I admit, while I did not technically start this project with dialogue, I did have dialogue in the second paragraph without describing the speaker first.  This would probably be the first thing I’d fix once I get around to the editing phase.

But as to beginnings on a whole, well, it’s a bit slow going at the moment. I’m still feeling out the characters which I had not defined during my planning stages.  Hopefully this will get easier as I go along.  For tone, I’ve decided to aim for amusing adventure romp.  While any serious meaning and symbolism might sneak into the story, it will definitely not be deliberate.  I want the story to be fun and entertaining.  Most of all, I want to have fun writing this.  I have other things in real life that fulfill my quota for tediousness.