22 July 2008

Absent Because of Beginnings

Today's title is somewhat non-sensical, but I like the sound of it, so it's staying :P As it suggests, I have been a little absent from the blog this past weekend because of beginnings - one hundred and fifteen first pages, to be precise, as posted over on Miss Snark's First Victim. I'm proud to say that I've read and commented on every one, and also read what no-longer-secret agent Holly Root had to say about them all. And I'm especially proud because with the ones that I commented on before she did, we agreed on nearly every one ;)

Why is this worthy of a post, you ask? Well, my good friend and Twin of Darkness and Good, who goes by the name Liana Brooks, posted a couple of days ago about which openings she liked and why. Which made me think I ought to do a similar post, since similar thoughts have been coruscating throughout my brain for the last few days. (Yes, coruscating. They're very shiny thoughts.) I'm amazed by how much this competition has taught me, and I know that once again my own writing will be made stronger because of it.

So, what struck me about the openings that I loved, versus the openings that were just so-so? Firstly, and mostly, voice. Stories that opened with a unique, identifiable voice that was in some way quirky had me immediately. It almost didn't matter what the subject of the story actually was, if the voice was great, I was hooked. (I say almost because there was this one that had a great voice, but was about a visit to the dentist... Others liked it, but I just couldn't feel that interested. Probably because I've never had a negative experience with a dentist, I'd say.)

And this is something that I know I need to work on for TP - Heather's characterisation is still all OVER the place, and she needs a solid character with a great voice to really make the book sing. But it has potential, and I'm glad of that much :)

Other things I noticed:

* Big paragraphs of description really suck. I skim. That even relates to paragraphs that may not actually be description, but look long and dense. Hoorah for small paragraphs!
* Punctuation, grammar, and spelling really, really, really count. Especially comma slices. (Death to splices! *waves pitchfork*)

And finally, the other biggie: conflict. You may recall that I wrote an article on conflict a while back, basically saying that there are lots of types and that it's the meat and bread of a story. Beginnings are no different. Even if the beginning has a good voice, is clear of mistakes and has nice sized paras, there has to be conflict. And more, the conflict has to be relevant. There has to be a sense that the conflict portrayed matters somehow within the context of the story.

So, personal checklist for beginnings: voice, conflict, bite-sized paragraphs, and no errors. Easy! :D


Beth said...

Yeah, easy :P

As always, great food for thought.

(((warm hugs)))


Inkblot said...

Indeed. Now, if only I had time to think on it.... :D

Yunaleska said...

Nicely summed out! (still annoyed i missed 2 spelling errors on my entry...)

Just_Me said...

People need to learn to love white space. That was the biggest killer for me. I'd see huge paragraphs and my eyes just glaze over.

And reading through the entries (96 of 115) I see where I need to tighten things. Which is good and bad... it's good because I know what needs to be done. It's bad because I've still got a whole heap of editing to do. :P

TerriRainer said...

You are a far better person than I! I think I made it to #50 and then my eyes glazed over. It makes you appreciate what agents do on a daily basis, and really drives home the importance of that horrid query!

:) Terri

Inkblot said...

It really does, doesn't it.

Though I must say, I actually had a lot of fun and found myself thinking - gee, I could so do this for a living! :P If only that was all there was to it...

White space - oh yes. White space is a must :S

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