Friday, September 19, 2008

Good Beginnings or Best Beginnings?

I'm doing a crazy amount of rewriting right now. Sometimes it feels like time well spent, others... not so much. I know editing has a big learning curve, but sometimes I wish I was preprogramed to know what effective rewriting was. And I suppose like 99.9% of us, the only way to know is to keep at it. Over and over again.

Anyway, with all the rewriting--especially working on the first few chapters--I've been thinking; what makes a great beginning?

I was at my local Barnes and Noble the other day buying a book for a friend when I began reading the design on the shopping bag. Now some of you will know that they are quotes from famous books, but for those of you that have never read them, this is what I saw:

"All children, except one, grow up."
"Call me Ishmael."
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."
"Happy familes are all alike."
"My purpose in going to Walden Pond was not to live cheaply nor to live dearly."
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

There are others printed on it of course, and though not all these quotes are at the exact first of the book, they have something in common. They are the first statement that set up the reader expectation. Perhaps some will not agree, but I think these sentences are the lights that direct the eye to the center stage. They let us know where the book is going and provide something to draw us into the main plot. And these sentences do it so well that it's hard to think of them being expressed any other way.

Now my problem: come up with my own stage spotlight in my rewrites. I have good ones now, but I'm looking for something unforgettable and inevitable, just as these are.

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