Thursday, 24 January 2013

Structure. Opening Scenes and Getting Started

You don't have to begin at the beginning, by the way.
Begin with whatever scene is your favourite. You may have such a strong scene in your head, that if you began at the 'proper' beginning, you'd be writing for months before you got to writing that scene. And by then your writing may have gone off on a tangent.

Like my blog here.

Here's the thing. You need to have an opening scene.
My love of structure tells me this needs to be the scene that 'sets the scene' and shows the reader where we are . . . before departing for a new adventure.

In the first Ondine book, it was Psychic Summercamp, which Ondine then left . . . with her ferret.
In book 2 it was the train station before Ondine, Hamish and Old Col left for the Autumn Palace
In book 3 - which you haven't read yet . . . I do something similar. The normal world of the family pub, right before immigration department inspectors burst onto the scene and threaten to deport Hamish
You get the idea. You start with the 'normal' before launching into the abnormal. Not that anything about Brugel is normal. Which is possibly my greatest mistake.

Hey, do what I say, not what I do. You might make fewer mistakes that way.

Just about every fairy tale begins with the words 'Once upon a time'. That simple beginning shows the reader that the events about to follow happened a long while ago, and then we find out it happened to a sweet little girl who did all the right things and was rewarded for it . . .  Ugh!

Back to structure. If your first scene is not the normal world, but the middle of a battle, it might be wonderful and exciting and all Game-of-Thrones-y in your head, but the poor reader isn't going to know what's going on OR who to barrack for. (Barrack being the Australian version of the US 'root', but also, not really, but the explanation for that is NSFW)

The normal world shows you who you need to concentrate on.

This may or may not be the opening scene.
But it's 'a' scene, so it's as good a place
as any to start.
A rule which I shall be breaking in Book 4, because I have a feeling I need to begin with Vincent and Melody. I've never done Vincent's POV before (Point of View) because until now everything's been from Ondine's POV (and sometimes Hamish's). I don't want readers to be cheering Vincent on, because he's a rolled gold turd. But then again, he's such a wonderful baddie too. And he doesn't think he's bad.

Vincent is going to approach the 'old' families (his distant cousins) for loads of money. That will set the 'normal' for Slaegal.

Then things are going to get weird.

It's a great idea to write each scene down on a note, then you can shuffle and re-stick them to where they best fit. It might turn out that Vincent in Slaegal is not the opening scene after all. But it is for now . . .

You might not have all the scenes yet, but I bet you have a few floating about in your brain. Write each scene on a sticky note, then stick them on a large sheet of paper, or several. Move them around until you're happy with the order.

(Scrivener software does something similar with scene cards and a cork board. I'm still reading the tutorial.)

The important thing is, start your story where it begins. Or preferably, just before it gets going. If you start really, really early, you may have a few chapters where not much goes on but you're 'setting things up'. If you start too late, you'll be tempted to back-fill with history and lose your momentum.

If you start at the very end, you've probably written Inception, and where you're going, you don't need rules.

The important thing about The Ordinary World is it shows what a beautiful world it is, who your main protagonist is, and what they stand to lose if things go badly (which they will). Why does The Hobbit and Lord of The Rings begin in The Shire? Because The Shire is the embodiment of all that is wonderful, safe and nourishing. If Bilbo (or Frodo) don't go off on their adventures, they could lose all they hold dear to dark forces or . . . something.

Let's face it, even if none of this 'structure' makes sense, you know that book in your brain has to start somewhere, right?


Heather said...

LOL! "If you start at the end you've probably written Inception" I love that! So true! Excellent advice. And I love the little tease about book 3!

Ebony McKenna. said...

Hehehe, thanks Heather ;-)

Anonymous said...

There is a public community for Scrivener Users on Google+. Since it is public you can read the community page before you decide whether or not you want to participate or not.

Ebony McKenna. said...

Thanks very much Anonymous, that's a handy link.