1. MizukiUkitake
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    MizukiUkitake New Member

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    Stuck on the opening

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by MizukiUkitake, Aug 19, 2016.

    So I've been muddling through the concept of a book I want to write, called "Hopeless Gods for Hopeless Men". Basically, it takes the deities of ancient beliefs and religions, and some from current religions, and gives them a human form. The gods and goddesses wander around with humankind, weakened from lack of believers and disguised for the sake of survival.
    In this story, a god's power is based around the number of believers. For example: with few to no worshippers, but people still studying her, a goddess like Bastet, from Ancient Egypt, is weak and can't use any powers other than very basic form alteration to appear human. Yahweh, the story's depiction of the Christian god, can use his powers freely, and can access the knowledge of his followers, thus making him all-knowing. An Aztec deity, however, with no believers, and almost nobody knowing of them, would be on the edge of "death". No strength, no powers, more or less in a deep slumber.
    It's not intended to be an honorific depiction of any particular deity, but rather humanize and personify the deities, making them relatable.

    My problem, though, is I'm completely unsure how to start. For me, the first paragraph is always the hardest, and I'm not even sure which deity I should focus on.
    Originally, I thought that maybe I'd focus on Ptah, from Ancient Egypt, but the depiction I was going to work with was created by a friend that I no longer get along with, and I'm not comfortable using him at this time.

    Some of the deities I've chosen to include are: Ptah, Thoth, Anubis, Bastet, Seht, Horus, Isis, Rah, Min, Odin, Balder, Frigg, Loki, Thor, Zeus, Hades, Hera, Yahweh, Tlazolteotl, Quetzalcoatl, Hermaphroditus, Buddha, Kali, and the Japanese moon rabbit, just to name a few.
     
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  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Just start writing and don't worry about the first paragraph you write being the actual first paragraph. You may need some warm-up time with the writing of the story and the real first paragraph may well present itself to you once the motor is warm, so to speak.
     
  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Just an observation...it seems you've got a really good handle on the characters, but do you have a story for them? If so, you need to ask yourself what that story is and where you might expect it to lead (and, no, I don't mean you need an outline, just a concept). Once you have a sense of that, then I'm with @Wreybies - just write. And don't be surprised if by the time you get to the end, you find you need to change the beginning.
     
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  4. I.A. By the Barn
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    I.A. By the Barn A very lost time traveller Contributor

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    Just going to say, I lurve deity stories!
    But yeah, like @EdFromNY as I was reading your post as was thinking 'where's the story?' You've got lots of potential stories with such a wide range of gods, it's just picking some out and making a story with them that makes sense to those god's powers, belief systems but must also be empathetic, like a god feeling unwanted due to similar gods from other religions or just no one believing in him or something. There's lots of other things you could do with a character set like that. Beginnings are always hard which is why I skip them, write a bit into the story and then go back.
     
  5. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Since stories are about struggle, you might consider focusing on one of the weaker gods as an MC. No point focusing on someone like Yahweh since he's likely to come out on top anyway (him being the strongest and all).

    Just ask yourself some of the basic questions:
    • Who is he/she?
    • What does he/she want?
    • How does he/she go about trying to get it?
     
  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with those who are saying you don't really seem to have a story, yet. No plot, no main characters. The concept is interesting enough (I haven't read American Gods, but this sounds like the same general idea?) but you need to decide what you're going to do with the concept.

    Once you have a plot and characters, I'd suggest starting your writing at the point where things change for your main character. Assuming your main character is a god, s/he has been happily putzing along for however many centuries, and then... something happens. Start your story when the something happens.

    Or if your MC is a human, then what is it that starts that human down the path you're going to be tracing through the book? Start your story when things change for the human.

    I agree with those who've suggested trying to just start writing--if that works for you, I think it's a great idea. It doesn't work for me, personally--I hate rewrites and really try to get things "right" the first time around--but I think it's a great idea for those who can use it.
     
  7. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree, but with one caveat... start just before things change (which is likely implied in @BayView's response anyway).

    That way, the reader gets a glimpse of how life was before it changes.
     
  8. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think this is the best advice you're going to get. Chances are your first paragraph will get dumped anyway, and you'll discover your real starting point is at least a few hundred words in.

    I think a common mistake is to start with a small back story or 'introduction'. Look at most published works and you'll see they start when the story does, if that makes sense.
     
  9. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like to start RIGHT AT the change, myself... I figure readers can usually figure out what life was like before the change on their own. If there was something really unusual before the change, I guess it would make sense to start a bit before, but even then I wouldn't want more than a paragraph or two... I'm a get-to-the-good-stuff kinda writer/reader!
     
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  10. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yup, me too. Although, if I start earlier than that, I lay in some foreshadowing and raise questions the answers for which the reader will itch. (Man, that was a hard sentence for which to nail the wording. Phew!)
     
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  11. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    I don't want to derail this threat, but from a logical standpoint: To have change there need to be two opposites. Two levels, so to speak, a gradient (change) to get from one to the other. Which kind of implies that the reader should get a (brief) glimpse of what life was before the slide starts ;)
     
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  12. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    But if the life is just a standard life, I think the reader already knows what came before. Alternatively, it can be easily deduced by hints dropped in later passages.

    If Life A was remarkable and then the story is about the shift to Life B, I agree that we'd need to see a bit of Life A before the shift makes sense. But most of the time we're dealing with unremarkable Life A - I don't think it's important enough to deserve the first couple paragraphs of your story. It can be explained as much as is needed with later bits and pieces.
     
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  13. Scot
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    Scot Active Member

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    'In this story, a god's power is based around the number of believers.'

    Your idea is the premise in Terry Pratchett's Small Gods. (Not one of his better works IMHO).

    There's plenty of scope though, using known, historical and current deities.
    Do you intend to include the occasional comedic touch? Some of the gods (small g) you mention were subordinate to others when they were in vogue. It would be interesting to see the tables turned if a minor deity had a greater following than a superior deity.

    Me? I'd go with Bacchus as my MC. :twisted:
     
  14. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    I think every life is different from each other, that there is no such thing as 'unremarkable'. And to truly let the reader experience the gradient, the reader needs to experience the 'prior'. Yet I understand what you are saying, and I agree that dragging it out too long is not a good thing at all.
     
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  15. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Does it need to happen at the very start of the story?

    Those first couple paragraphs are valuable real estate, man! I want them to be good.
     
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  16. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    :D Hah! And that's the challenge, isn't it? To make an unremarkable life interesting ..
     
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  17. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure I would. As a 61-year-old retired civil servant, I'm likely to measure a standard life quite differently than my gay neighbour who's a 24-year-old waiter at an upscale restaurant. And I say that despite the fact that both he and my wife are both up in the wee hours playing online video games (but not the same game and not together).

    I'd even go so far as to guess that most people think of 'a standard life' as being something that, if measured objectively, would differ quite a bit from almost everyone else. Similarities might crop up if you measured across a single age group or by using some other classification system (native tongue, country of origin, sexual preference, etc.) but even they would vary quite a bit.

    We could use the media-created ideal of a standard life, but that's a moving target. It presented as one thing during the TV shows of the 1950s (Father Knows Best), then shifted ever-so-slowly over the next five decades to... whatever it is now... The Big Bang Theory, maybe? And perhaps that's just the standard life some wish they had rather than the standard life they actually have. And if some actually have it, are they in the majority or the minority?

    Bottom line: I think the definition of a standard life is like the definition of religious beliefs. The number of definitions is going to come very close to matching the population of the world. Just my opinion.
     
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  18. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    But isn't that what foreshadowing was invented for? :)
     
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  19. Siena
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    Siena Active Member

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    If you've got characters that change, you can start with who they are in the beginning.
     
  20. MizukiUkitake
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    MizukiUkitake New Member

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    How about this:
    Bastet wakes up to find Isis (the goddess) standing over her. Isis explains that in order to preserve her existance, Brahma, the Hindu god of creation, made a human body for her, and the other deities. However, due to Bastet's lack of power, she's stuck in the form of a child. In this helpless form, she sets off to Anubis, her lover, in hopes he can comfort her. She finds out that Anubis's brother, Min, was left severely deficit in effort to preserve his powers. So, they must find someone who can restore Min to his old personality.
    Meanwhile, Yahweh finds out the "gods of old" are trying to make a comeback, and seeks to stop them. He knows that if they regain popularity among the humans, he will lose his power. (so there's the antagonist).
    In order to fight back against Yahweh, they track down Loki, the Norse god of mischief....

    and that's all I got. That's good for maybe half a novel at best?
     

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