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Having trouble with the opening scene

Hey guys! Haven't been on lately, sorry about that. One issue after another at home...

Anyway, my problem is this: I cannot seem to decide how to start the book I'm working on. I know where I want it to go, I have a lot of things planned out. That opening scene though. I just can't decide what to do.

Start with a little back story, which includes some action, or start with my MC arriving in the new town she's going to live in after the tragedy (the action in the backstory type opening.) which focuses more on getting acquainted with the character and setting......

AHH! I seriously am tempted to just pull my hair out!!!! Which do you think sounds like a better way to start?


Raise your hands and move them slowly away from the hair ;)

I'd go for the second, but it's an opinion based on limited information.

Start with the character arriving. The readers will learn a lot about the character and the setting by moving in. You can sprinkle necessary backstory in as needed--thoughts, dialogue, actions, etc.

Just my two cents. Good luck!
I like the back story to be slowly revealed throughout the text. I like the other idea better; jump in with your character and see where it takes you.
Removing hands from hair now.

So that you can make an opinion based on a bit more info, The backstory would be a scene where she wakes in the middle of the night, unsure what woke her, then is assaulted by a strange, yet intense tingling sensation. Barely a minute after she feels the sensation, she smells smoke. The rest, long story short, she runs to her mother's room, finds her doubled over with the sensation as well. The run through the house, having to find alternate routes several times because of the fire. Her mom gets her shoved out a window, but before her mom can get out, the ceiling collapses.

If I start with the arriving thing, it starts on a bus, the town is a quaint town, kind of old fashioned, the buildings in town square are all connected, like "mayberry" almost, but a bit more modern. She gets that same tingly sensation while walking down the sidewalk towards her new home (paid for by the insurance money and her and her mom's savings.) She looks up and realizes she's standing in front of a wicca/witchcraft/magic (not sure which to put yet) supply store. Blah Blah. You know the rest.


I vote start with the arriving in the new town. Then have some of the fire back-story information revealed in a flashback when she sees a fire or something. Maybe her neighbors are having a bonfire for some reason which brings back the painful memories.
Oh Fun I like that idea. Maybe I could introduce a possible romantic interest at that time. Maybe she feels that tingly sensation (which btw is someone doing magic) and it's so intense that she faints. (You know, the whole damsel in distress thing) and he takes her to his place while she's out to try and take care of her. She wakes in front of a fire. Enter flashback. Perhaps? I don't know, I want to include some romantic parts, not too much, since the focus of the story is her magic "unlocking" on her 21st birthday. Her father coming into her life (her mom was single, she doesn't remember her dad) but he turns out to be the "bad guy"

Sorry. A lot of info, guess I'm just dying for someone to bounce my ideas off of, I don't have anyone in my family that has the same interests as I do, so I never have anyone to talk to....:D


Sorry. A lot of info, guess I'm just dying for someone to bounce my ideas off of, I don't have anyone in my family that has the same interests as I do, so I never have anyone to talk to....:D

That's what we are all here for. Bouncing our ideas of other people, and being the person having ideas bounced off of.
I Love you guys!
What do you think of the whole flashback scenario I posted? Too cheesy? I have trouble committing when it comes to big parts of the story, or twists, etc....
Personally I try to avoid flashbacks if at all possible because they are just too easily mishandled. Also, through conversations on here, apparently a large number of people get cranky when they realize they have just read X pages of dream/flashback/vision. It's all about how necessary it is to the story. Case in point: When you actually read LoTR; Tolkien packed it full of his poetry and songs and whatnot. Personally, I don't give a crap, so I skip them. My understanding of the story is not impaired by doing so.

However, if what she is remembering is vital to the story, you might get away with it. For my own writing, I prefer to have people remember bits and pieces that I can work in slowly, then maybe recap the whole scene just before it becomes relevant to your understanding of the story. At this point, the reader is invested in the story and character and you have a bit more leeway.

If you want to layer it in slowly, have her just be weird about fire, or excessive heat on her skin, smoke, etc. As your story progresses you can reveal more and more, maybe a stranger sees her freak out over a torch that gets too close to her or something and you open a door to an explanation. Character history is a lot like description or plot exposition. A little drip here and there goes a long way, but it doesn't take much to make people choke.

Just my opinions. Take them or leave them as you will.



You know what might be interesting? Have the whole backstory of her mother dying as a recurring nightmare, as she's on her way to this new town. Maybe she wakes up in a cold sweat in the comfortable carriage she's riding toward her new home, or laying beneath that turnip laden, rickety old wagon on a straw-stuffed pallet. I'm not sure exactly what her financial situation is, or what social connections she has, but it might be nice to use the disaster as a little prologue. :)

I also feel so guilty when I kill off a character's parents, since it's usually just so I can get them out of the way. Excess bagage, you understand.
I actually came up with a better prologue, it's posted in the showcase, instead of doing a flashback I did something else. Not too long to keep anyone from getting frustrated and skipping it, but interesting enough to raise several questions. :D I've gotten a good bit of chapter one written, and I've thought of several ways to introduce her take of what happened the night of the first worked in, though most will come in later. Right now I'm reworking the prologue and the partial chapter to add more description. I didn't add much at first, just trying to get the idea on paper, but in skipping the descr. the pacing is off and I'm done with what I wanted in the chapter before the chapter is long enough....If that makes sense...lol.

3AM here, forgive me!


Going to give you an answer you might not like: It doesn't matter that much. You are starting a first draft, so start however is easiest or most interesting to you because by the time you get done with your first draft, if you are lucky, it will tell you where the book should start on the second draft. Don't get hung up on it now. It will probably change.

Honestly, I'm a huge disbeliever in paragraph thick backstory. It looks silly, is bogged down in tenses, and too often gets skipped. Frankly, I would wait until she has someone in her new life she trusts. Write the backstory in a conversation. So A bonfire roars high and the main character freaks. She can hear the roar around her. The friend grabs her and asks what's wrong. The main character says something like. "If she hadn't pushed me out first, she would have lived." The friend is like, "Honey, you are talking gibberish, sit and explain." Haltingly, the story comes out. As the dialogue progresses, in between speaking, the main character has brief, jarring bits of sensory memory.
Actually that answer doesn't bother me at all. That is essentially what I ended up doing. I did do a prologue, but not of the back story, it's not long, maybe a page of average sized book paper. I've decided to start with her getting to the new town (though it actually started at the tail end of her bus ride there) and if I don't like it, I'll change it later. It's working though. I'm liking it.
My issue now is that I don't know if I like the end of the prologue...So I took a friend's advice and just left it be. I'm working on Chapter three now actually, and I may go back later if I think of a better way to end it. Maybe I'm being to critical of my work, I don't know. Blah.
However, I thank you for an honest answer. It made sense to me!