While the beginning is a good place to start, I need help to find the best place.

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Garren Jacobsen, Jun 9, 2018.

  1. Garren Jacobsen

    Garren Jacobsen Dark Lord

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    So, I have this opening chapter in my head. But I have it from two POV characters. On the one hand, is a dimension-hopping criminal that was falsely accused of a crime (hereinafter "Hopper"). The other is a guy that is tasked with preventing people from dimension hopping (hereinafter "Javert"). I have two scenes written one from the hopper's POV. The other from the Javert's POV. Both of these people will be POV characters throughout. With a third to be added in later.

    The question is, who is the better POV to stick with for the opening chapter. Javery is the b-list POV character. Hopper is the A-lister. Hopper is the main protagonist. Javert is the main antagonist. So who should I start with? I like them both for different reasons. Hopper, you get to understand her abilities right off the bat. With Javert, you understand the abilities of the antagonist organization while getting a flavor for Hopper's abilities.

    What is best beginning to go with?
     
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  2. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    To me, an opening scene should give the reader a basic understanding of the world works--at least how it works in the eyes of your POV character--a basic understanding of the main character and their goals, and should establish conflict, Sometimes it's the primary conflict of the story. Other times it's something that will lead them to the primary conflict. In addition, it should be representative of what a typical day in the life of the character is like.

    IMHO, pick the scene that best does these things, in the most natural way, without being an info dump.

    That's about the best I can do to answer your question. A lot of factors come into play in deciding how to open a story. The opening scene is going to be the first impression for your reader. It's up to you to decide what kind of impression you want to make, and what's best for the type of story you're trying to tell.

    Bond movies always open with an action scene. Movies like LOTR opened with a prologue, and then a slow buildup, introducing characters, conflicts and then a mystery about a ring.
     
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  3. goldhawk

    goldhawk Master

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    I really dislike that advice. It gives the impression that a whole day needs to written about before the story starts. Instead, write one scene that highlights the differences between the story world and the reader's world. And include a hint or foreshadow of the first conflict.

    For example, consider the first Toy Story movie. The first scene establishes that toys can move and talk. It establishes the Woody is the favourite toy and the leader of the other toys. And it establishes that the day is Andy's birthday and the other toys are worried about being replaced.

    More importantly, it starts when the conflict starts: Andy's birthday. Or to be precise, just before Andy's birthday party where he'll receive more toys.

    Finding the best place to start a story is real hard but ask yourself where is the first conflict that is part of the story. Start at it or one scene before it. And remove anything that is not unusual or unique about the world. It may not be the absolute best opening but most of the time, it's good enough. :)
     
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  4. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    What are the events of the first chapter? Does one character drive the action a bit more? What kind of difference does it make in how the readers perceive it all?

    Sometimes it helps to start with the main MC. Sometimes a villain perspective can help be the "ice monster prologue" that sets the conflict. It all depends on the story.
     
  5. Yora

    Yora Mystagogue

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    I think any story should as quickly as possible tell the audience what it promises them they will get if they sit through it to the end. You don't have to tell them what will happen, but you should establish what type of story this is, what it is about, what style it has, and what kind of development the audience could expect later, based on their existing experiences with the genre. Setting the mood is all well and fine, but don't obscure these actually relevant information that the audience wants to know.
    Because the audience builds expectations during the first parts of the story and it generally ends up very poorly when they get the impression that they were deceived with false promises.

    I'm also a fan of brevity and can fully get behind the idea that the start of a narrative should be as late into the story as possible. If you could still tell a coherent story if you only start it at a later scene, then the scenes before that aren't actually relevant.
     
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  6. Garren Jacobsen

    Garren Jacobsen Dark Lord

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    Javert drives the action. He sends in robots, chases Hopper to the edge of a dam. Tries to get Hopper to surrender before Hopper does a Peter Pan off of said dam then jumps to another dimension mid fall.

    I’m not sure what effect either has in the reader. The same information gets relayed in either POV. You understand who each person is by wayvof their convo their goals vis a vis each other. Their personalities, etc.

    Now that I think about I may just want to draft up an omni-POV. Just to see if that works.
     
  7. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Sounds like you want to go with Hopper to me.
     
  8. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    If you don't like how I phrased things, that's fine, but the advice is sound. Anyone who thinks that they need to write out a whole day, well, they're obviously taking things too literal and to an extreme, and are doing things blindly without understanding.

    Story is about change and without establishing the norm for a character, it's difficult to show that change and how much things have changed throughout the story. Showing the norm, allows the reader to see when the character's status quo is disrupted and when the character enters the story world.

    Just like everything else in a story, you show only what's important. Sometimes what's important may be a whole day. Most of the time it's only part. It all depends on the needs of the story and the character involved. Generally speaking, I think it's best to start with a focus on character. An interesting character involved in an interesting situation is better hook than some general talk about the world.
     
  9. goldhawk

    goldhawk Master

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    Sadly, too many novices will take it literally. :(
     
  10. Yora

    Yora Mystagogue

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    Even then I don't think it's necessary in any way. The opening should explain how the setting works and who is who, but it doesn't have to be by showing how things normally are. Plenty of great openings start directly in a moment of crisis when normality has already gone out of the window.
     
  11. Garren Jacobsen

    Garren Jacobsen Dark Lord

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    That’s their problem.
     
  12. Garren Jacobsen

    Garren Jacobsen Dark Lord

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    What about this, splitting their POVs. I start with Javert sending in the robots and such, switch once the action gets got. Jump. Switch back to Javert to close. New chapter with Hopper walking around in “our world”
     
  13. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Dark Lord

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    Write the book, then figure out where and how it starts best. That's advice I didn't use myself, and probably should have, LOL.
     
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  14. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    This. Do you have a draft finished yet? An ENTIRE draft? Like from Start to THE END? If the answer is "no" then don't worry about it right now. Just pick a place and start there. Do an entire first draft. The whole thing. Start to finish. THEN decide if it was the proper place to start. Do you need to add stuff before the start you have for clarity? Then do that. Could you start later, without losing anything? Or even move that information to a different place in the book? Than do that. But until you have an entire draft I wouldn't worry too much about having the perfect start.
     
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  15. FifthView

    FifthView Istari

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    I like this idea, if you are going to experiment with different beginnings.

    I suspect that, generally, you are going to want to start with the POV that drives the reader.

    This is not necessarily "the character that drives the story," depending on how we define drives and who/what gets driven.

    Your antagonist, Javert, may well be the one driving the action, the proactive character at first, relative to plot; but who drives the reader to care about what happens? Chances are good that you'll want the reader to identify with Hopper, feel Hopper's pain and conflict and desires, more than you'll want the reader to identify with Javert's journey. So I think you'd be better off starting with your A-list character.

    Essentially, the reader's expectations will be set by who starts the car for him, so to speak. Unless you do some sort of prologue-ish thing before the main story starts and make it feel like an obvious prologue-ish thing--a viable approach, with the antagonistic situation introduced before the A-List character is introduced--then starting by letting the reader get inside the car with the A-list character sets the journey up to be what it is going to be.

    I also think there's an effective difference between showing and hiding. Readers will begin to identify with what is shown to them and will feel resistance re: identification to what is hidden. So if you hide the A-list character for a bit at the beginning, readers are more likely to identify with what they are shown -- the B-list character -- and view Hopper as some kind of strange unknown factor. Vice versa, if you start with Hopper and leave Javert a bit in the shadows.

    Of course, if you want equal identification/sympathy for Hopper and Javert, things become a lot trickier, heh.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2018
  16. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

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    My suggestion is to start closest to the action. Of course, this depends on the type of story you are writing and the audience who it's designed for.

    So, for example, it could start slower yet closer to the action, or fast and closer to the action. It all sort of depends. What's your book about? Maybe we can brainstorm from there. (and by close to action I mean like, a chapter or two before the call to action)

    An idea:
    -chapter one: introduce main character 1
    -chapter two: introduce main character 2 or, if only one mc, make this the call to action chapter
     
  17. Garren Jacobsen

    Garren Jacobsen Dark Lord

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    So, I know the moment that I want to start. It's where Javert finds Hopper in a dam. They have a conversation about some stuff. Then Hopper does a Peter Pan off of that dam and into another dimension. The goal for Hopper is to show that Hopper wants to be free, that she didn't purposefully start an apocalypse, and that she didn't kill her hubby. The goal for Javert is to show that he doesn't care. He is a strict letter of the law kind of guy. This is to set up a struggle for the "soul" of some guy that Hopper pulls into her misadventures to see if he will be a Hopper or a Javert. At the end of the book, he goes with Javert because Hopper is an arrogant dick and starts another apocalypse but saves some 8 billion souls. By the end, all three of them will synthesize their views to make for a happy ending. Also, there are some crazy extradimensional monsters that eat universes and can enter into a universe if a person screws up their dimension hopping or hops to a dimension too much, hence the various apocalypses.

    So really, my question is which POV to go with, should I split it, or should I write a book in the dreaded omni?
     
  18. pmmg

    pmmg Dark Lord

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    I always tell it, start at the moment everything changes. So which character is having everything change? I suspect it is the Javert character, but what do I know? This would go along with, don't start with a day in the life of...but, ya know...every rule has exceptions.
     
  19. Garren Jacobsen

    Garren Jacobsen Dark Lord

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    Who changes? Hmm, it'll be Hoppper since she jumps to another dimension and meets said third individual. Javert doesn't change much. He just continues the chase. And they have met like this a few times before. But either change is fairly limited. The biggest change for her happens before when her universe gets merged into a universe wherein another she killed her husband and that throws her for a loop. But that happens further back. Then she causes an apocalypse, by accident, in the merged universe because she visits there often allowing the beings to enter the universe and eat it. But that is more backstory information in my head (or a whole novel).

    Javert's change won't happen until later in the series, I think. So, the biggest forward looking change is this new guy. But introducing him first doesn't set up the overarching themes and conflicts and other stuff for the other two, who, for a time, are the drivers of the story.
     
  20. pmmg

    pmmg Dark Lord

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    So...third individual supplies something that changes the trajectory of Hoppers story?

    If hopper does not meet third individual does she just run some more and hop around? But third dude give her something else to try for?

    If the story, but for this meeting is He chases, she jumps away, he chases, she jumps away, and repeat, then the meeting is where things change. A quick action sequence and then everything is different. Cant say as I know, but I think I would want to end the first part right after third dude says something that changes her way of looking at it. That makes her the POV to me.
     
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