Monday, 29 March 2010

First words


First words, first pages, openings, call them what
you will, they're often difficult.
I thought that once I'd fnished the first complete draft of my wip, I'd go back to the beginning and go through again and make a much more thorough job of it. The thing is, I keep tinkering with the first lines.
Should it be dialogue? Action? Description? Or something completely different - if there is anything that would not fit into one of those three boxes. Well, all right; it could be internal dialogue ~Last night I dreamed I went back to Manderley. Personally I'd slip that into the dialogue box for my purposes here, but you may feel differently about it.

Thinking over the possibilities, I grabbed the book I'd last read and admired and knew to be sucessful, and opened it at the first page. Then I got out 3 mini magic markers in diferent colours (I hasten to add that this book belongs to me)

and marked out in orange all the bits that described the lead character. With yellow I marked any hooks that hinted at forthcoming problems - the things that keep the reader turning the page - and marked the second sentence of the book, and another just before I turned over the first page. With pink inhand I looked for backstory, and found one sentence. The rest of the first page, plain as the printer left it, could be called Action.

Action occurred at regular intervals and broke up the coloured passages. Orange (character description) covered almost as many words as Action. That was interesting in itself, because it wasn't obviously description; no blue eyes or shining locks mentioned at all. No, this was character description - he owned a house, kept an old horse, took pleasure in the weather, had an ambition, mentioned his profession, felt shame at a fellow worker's behaviour. All of that told me more about the character of the man than all the high cheekbones and snub noses in the world. By the time I got to the end of the book, I still didn't know what colour eyes the hero possessed, but it didn't matter; I knew him.

The hooks (yellow), slid briefly across two sentences and took up little space.

The backstory (pink) was one sentence and took up as much space as the two hooks.

Even more interesting.

But I sat and looked at the page, and thought how cleverly diverse and interesting information had been delivered to the reader. I wondered if I could emulate it.

The pic is the Falkirk Wheel. The website will tell you more! And I'm so happy that panda looked pleased at last.

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