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marthawells

Martha Wells

My Flying Lizard Circus


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marthawells

Writing Beginnings

Michael Mock said: Heh. I've got a different problem: I can't find my opening. I know the characters, I have (I think) a pretty good feel for the world, I know what I want to have happen, or at least a loose sequence of events. I know my antagonists, I know how they connect to the characters, I know how they fit into the larger world. I'm pretty excited about the journey, and I feel like if I can just get it started it'll go pretty smoothly. (I could always be wrong about that, of course.) I just... can't seem to get myself onboard the train, so to speak.

I realize there are people who write the opening last, and at this point I totally understand that. I don't think I can do it, but I totally understand it.


There's a lot of reasons why this can happen. There may be something about the story you haven't figured out yet, and your subconscious brain is dragging your conscious brain's feet until you realize. Or you may just not have come up with the right point of attack yet.

I would try focusing in on your main point of view character. Try to get into their head and think about when the story starts for them. The moment where things change, or when they notice something strange is happening. There are writing advice books that say you always need to open with an action scene, and this is not true. You need to open with something happening, but it certainly doesn't have to be action. (Like the way the Lord of the Rings starts with Bilbo's birthday party, even though Frodo doesn't leave the Shire until much later. Bilbo acting on the decision he's made to leave and not take the Ring is the start of the story, even though Frodo doesn't know it yet.)

A good place to start is often with the character leaving a familiar place and arriving at a strange one. (This also gives you a lot of opportunity to describe your world, since your character will definitely be noticing things that are different compared to what they're familiar with.) The arrival of a stranger is also a good start, or a friend or enemy returning. But you need to think about what begins the story for your POV character.

Sometimes it helps to just start freewriting scenes you know you want to have happen and see if that jogs anything loose. I've had books where the first scene I wrote, intending it to be the beginning, actually ended up in chapter eight.

Previous Post: The Writing Middle-Slump

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Thank you SO MUCH for responding to this.

It certainly feels like a point-of-attack issue. I've been working on it with what I'd call "brute-force problem solving" -- writing an opening scene, realizing it didn't work for me, writing a different opening scene, wash, rinse, repeat. But I really like the idea of stopping to figure out where it begins from the POV character's perspective; hopefully that will get me better results. The moment when things change... hm...

for something completely different

Sometimes remote sensing pictures remind me of something....
Here one https://www.planet.com/gallery/bahamas-oolites/
you might be reminded too.

Re: for something completely different

Oh, cool!

By the dark and forgotten gods, I found it! I found my opening.

Thank you so much!

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