1. Arya Stark
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    Arya Stark Member

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    I think I need some help with my opening chapter!

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Arya Stark, Jun 20, 2015.

    Hi there!

    So, over the course of my membership of this forum, I came to realise that the short stories I was writing were essentially fan fictions of other fantasy novels, mainly the ASoIAF books. I've pretty much started from scratch in a completely new world, which was hard at first but I liked the challenge of thinking of a modern city to set it in, the characters etc.

    Anyway, the one problem I am having is with the opening chapter. I wanted it to start off with the POV of the MC's daughter - she, and her entire family of 2 sisters and mother was killed by the MC when he was under the influence and at the peak of his mental instability, where he thought his family were going to get dragged away by demons if he did not kill them first.

    So the problem is, I don't know if I should put that as an opening, since I think it would be a pretty gripping prologue / first chapter, or whether to slowly introduce these incidents throughout the story. What are your thoughts?

    This might not sound very well, since I'm about hit like 28 hours without any sleep. Insomnia FTW! But if there's anything that doesn't make sense, just ask and I'll try to clear it up.

    EDIT: that insomnia joke sounded far more offensive than I meant it to, I'm sorry! I don't even know why I don't want to sleep tbh
     
  2. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Sounds like a pretty interesting opening to me :)

    In any case, openings change all the time - you may come to realise a different starting point is better once your novel is finished and you can see better what the big picture is. You can't really know what's the best opening till your draft is done.

    And so, just write as you feel :) As I said, the opening definitely sounds interesting. Start there, see where it takes you. If it turns out to be the wrong opening, you can change it later. Just get writing for now!

    ETA: you may wanna consider writing it from your MC's POV though, because then we can see his reasoning better and see him as a grey character, rather than pure evil. You don't want the reader to hate your MC from the first chapter. It would also prevent you from having to switch POVs in the next chapter, which is generally a bad idea when it's the very beginning of the novel.
     
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  3. Arya Stark
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    Arya Stark Member

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    I was thinking of opening with the MC's POV. Do you think it'd be a decent idea to tell his story of falling into addictions and becoming targeted by these demons that nobody else sees or feels, and then to show the daughter's POV after the ending, after he's killed them?

    This way of writing would be good, I think, because the main story would show him as a much more grey character, who isn't openly good or bad, but just a regular person with irregular problems. But then the daughter's POV would show him as a typical abusive father with little to no emotion towards anything but that little glass bottle with liquid hell inside
     
  4. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Is the daughter present as a ghost after she's killed? Because a dead person usually doesn't get POV scenes/chapters unless they're presented as a spirit.

    Is the daughter a key character in your novel? Does she return? If the answer is no, then I would not include her POV. Once you make someone a POV character, readers tend to expect them to be important and expect them to return.

    I would avoid changing POVs at least at the beginning of the novel unless there's a very good reason for it and the POV characters are key, recurring characters whose POVs further the plot. Head-hopping done at the very beginning of a novel usually prevents readers from properly connecting with the POV character, resulting in readers disengaging, which leads to the inevitable: they stop reading.
     
  5. Arya Stark
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    Arya Stark Member

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    Yeah, she's key to the story and she returns near to the end to kill the father. She's in the story as a physical being but just in the same state as she was when she died.

    Actually, thinking about it I agree with you. It would make more sense to start off with the Father instead, and maybe introduce her later on, and since this all takes place in a small area, it wouldn't take too long to get to her either.
     
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  6. Rachelle
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    Rachelle Member

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    I like the idea of starting the book with a flashback of the incident itself (with maybe descriptions of sights, smells, feelings, and very emotionally charged with maybe even some dialog before the murder of them begging for mercy or something to get it interesting) . The more intense and emotional, the better... It's like you open the book expecting some intro but no, instead it's BAM! right into a very dramatic scene like some thriller movies have.

    It would really grab the readers' attention and make them want to find out more... Even if the flashback to the incident didn't completely tell how it ended, just hinted that it was bad, and then later they find out more details and how it ends or something like a lot of movies tend to do.
     
  7. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    There are lots of different ways to open a story. First of all, I would follow @Mckk's advice, and not stress about it too much at this stage, because your view may change as the story unfolds. Start the way you want to start just now, and work your way to the end. Then review.

    One bit of caution. So many times on the forum workshop we get confronted with a high-action scene to start a story ...that doesn't really work. It's not that these chapters are badly written. It's just that they're not 'exciting' until we a) know what's going on, and b)care about at least one of the characters or the situation itself.

    That's the trick. We need to care. Just a wham bang whiz slashslashslash ack ack ack opening doesn't work very often if we don't know what's going on. We have to work our way through the chaos to the next chapter, where, presumably, the story slows down and we get some explanation about the story's setting, characters, and the meaning of the action that just took place. This makes for an oddly slow and unsatisfying opening, despite all the slash bang whack.

    UNLESS ...you do a cracking job of showing us this action scene through the eyes, feelings and thoughts of one of the characters! This character can be a participant, or an observer (cowering in fear, or cheering from the sidelines, hoping their champion wins, or somebody who is totally disgusted by what is going on.) If it's presented from a neutral narrator or an undeveloped character, it doesn't usually work very well. It's just pieces moving around on a board. So be careful, if you want to open with action. Make sure it's memorable, make sure the circumstances are clear, and make sure it matters—whether it's out of chronological order or not.

    I think people sometimes have the idea that an opening has to be 'exciting.' I don't know exactly where that notion comes from, but it's not true at all. What the opening has to be is 'intriguing.' The reader has to have their attention grabbed, and then want to find out more. That leaves a lot more scope than slash-bang-whack-blood....
     
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  8. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I concur. I think new writers such as myself have always been taught to start the story out with a bang so we immediately think it has to open up with some random chaos like a battle or a chase scene. But you've summed it up nicely: it really just needs to be intriguing enough for the reader to want to learn more, even if it were just a scene of two old ladies having tea together. It may sound boring until one of them says, "Dora, have I ever told you about the time I met a child with six arms?" No action, no fight scene, but that simple statement is bound to raise some curiosity (or at the least a WTF-moment.)

    Action scenes at the very beginning never works for me because even if I know the name of the characters and what they're fighting for, everything's so incoherent and chaotic that I've no idea what's going on. I've no idea why I should even care about why they're fighting. It's kind of like when you accidentally step into a Michael Bay film in the middle of an explosion. What is going on here? Why are these people important?

    Also, the line in Jannert's sig about not being clever on the first page speaks volumes. Readers kind of get that you've an entire book to set up the backstory so no need to pressure yourself, OP.
     
  9. drifter265
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    drifter265 Banned

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    I think this is a misconception with new writers (me too, maybe) that one should start writing a book with chapter one. After all, it is what we first read when we pick up a book and so I think it's safe to assume that most of us think that's how we start when we write a book too, but I don't think so. You need to plan out much more of the story than just the opening chapter. Once you know the entirety of the story, the beginning - you'll find - will be a synch.

    Or maybe you're just being overwhelmed with where to go now after the first chapter? Just keep writing. Write it all out. In any order. Just know how it ends, how it begins, and have some things in the middle. I feel your question is subjective and coming from self-doubt. We can't answer those questions for you. You have to have faith in yourself and the story your writing. If you feel your opening chapter is bad enough that you have to post it on here for critique and to ask what's wrong with it then you know you already need to change something. I think it's best if you work on that problem yourself or go back to learning how to write a story.

    Don't give up. This is only the beginning of your writing career. If you keep going you'll have to go from hell and back until you become the writer you want and have the story you want written. It's all a learning process. The opening chapter is something we all struggle with but it's only the tip of the iceberg. There's so much more else to writing a story you need to know. If you're ever confused about what to do I think the best advice to give is to just make it simpler, more easier to understand, and more in bite-like chunks. That's what I feel I've always wanted to be told anyway.
     
  10. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    To add to the comments in this thread, regardless of what you start with, writing it is the best way to figure it out. Don't be afraid to toss a chapter later. But these kinds of questions are best answered with the advice: don't know without seeing the way it reads.
     

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