Beginnings. Openings. Oh the dread.
I mentioned last week I’d gone through four different openings to A River in Each Hand. Too true. I’m not talking about editing four times, but literally scrapping four openings and starting over. Too, I don’t mean the opening line or paragraph. I’m talking about more than a dozen scenes.
I’m not here to teach anyone how to write an opening, but my misadventures might be helpful to some. Too, I won’t punish you by sharing the trashed openings. They’ve already been dropped into the Mariana Trench.
On a side note: There are reports of deep sea creatures going insane in the Mariana Trench.
Finding a worthy opening for A River in Each Hand (Bk2) was a different challenge because it was my first true sequel. I’d already written Torment Surfacing (Bk2A), but it has an entirely different cast of characters.
The errors made in the first three versions?
• I write in Deep (Close) 3rd and I was so far out of that POV I needed a new area code.
• The voice and dialog were…I’ll use the word awful and leave it at that.
• The opening began too soon. It required several scenes before anything of note happened.
• When I reached action it was irrelevant to the story.
• Backstory. Oh my gosh, the backstory. The tidal wave of backstory was partly a result of a needless Bk1 info dump. Don’t do this! It’s counterproductive.
I kept changing the circumstances and then repeating the same mistakes, and the worst part was I knew better. I’m convinced I was so determined to move on that I wasn’t thinking straight.
A temporary insanity plea. Yeah, that sounds good.
When I finally focused, rethought the entire beginning, and applied what I know it fell into place. Not perfect, but workable. What did I do?
• I synchronized my mind with Deep 3rd before drafting. The old versions were more distant 3rd than anything else, though there were instances of 1st. Crazy, but true. I almost fainted.
• Instead of obsessing over the plot I dove into the characters and let them worry about the plot. They’re better at it than I am.
• Though I didn’t leap into heated action at the outset, I began with a critical moment leading up to action. Too, I reduced the first dozen scenes to seven, introducing several important characters sooner. The pacing prospered.
• Everything that happens in those seven scenes needs to be there. Period. No waste. It all furthers character development and the story.
• Goodbye backstory unless it was required. The decision that got me there was treating Bk1 as backstory and only mentioning what was required for understanding the present.
It still needs work, of course, but now it’s normal editing.
I don’t regret those bad openings because I learned a lot. I even backed up and applied what I learned to the other openings. So, for fun, and keeping in mind they aren’t polished, here are all three…
Trust in the Forgotten (Bk1)
In the street’s deepest twilight, Ergain Cursa pulled tighter a cloak concealing the blade a woman wasn’t supposed to carry. Relishing the warmth and strength her horse possessed, she leaned close. “Okay, Doppla, what do you think? Why couldn’t I give Paran the pouch in some creepy alley? Why a meeting?” No answer. Doppla liked to force her to think on her own. “Yeah, he’s up to something.”
She shuffled her feet and flexed shaking hands. Gaining the sense of a place before entering was worth the delay or doorways became snares.
A River in Each Hand (Bk2)
There were the safe places and dangerous places, but Sprawn was a town where safety and danger looked the same and reassurances were meant for victims. Ergain Cursa set a hand over her hidden short sword where it’d remain unless entering the town became a dance with a werewolf.
Best to allow wandering gazes to wander past. A woman carrying a blade meant unwanted attention.
As would the illegal pistol.
As would the magic she possessed and the magic Gliss possessed. Wizards, on the other hand…it wasn’t likely Argus would care who knew what he was.
In the end they’d care less about her weapons and more about what she was protecting that was worth stealing.
Torment Surfacing (Bk2A)
Unseen in the driving rain a dog barked at a hissing gargoyle, thunder sounded, and inside his head her voice returned.
You’re panicking again, Vorthen. Please, let me out. I can get you to the library.
Beneath the meager cover overhead, Vorthen Laust flinched, his head jerking to the left. Scrutiny. Ignoring the downpour, a wiry old man, his bones constructed as though with little care, stared at him from beneath a dripping hat as if awaiting a victim.