My belief that opening portions of a book are vitally important not only has anecdotal proof - in this case, me, because I use them as an indicator of the book as a whole - but of late I've been reading from an industry professional that insists that a great opening is necessary to avoid being rejected out of hand.
It gave me an opportunity to look at recent iterations of my opening moments of my work and see how it flows. Here is a look from my second draft:
“Mommy?” I called, sticking my head around the corner, I couldn’t have been more than six. She was standing over our kitchen sink, washing dishes and humming to herself.Right off the bat I must note that almost every piece of fiction I ever write starts off with dialog. I think it's to fight my desire to lay out fifteen pages of backstory before I let anything interesting happen. Now, I like my opening scene a lot. I think it's pretty strong. But I'm not sure if a description of someone washing dishes is as powerful as I want. Oh, and I think the prose is a bit awkward there too. Could use some cleaning up anyway.
So I scrapped that opening in my third draft of this chapter and it went like this:
I tip-toed through the hallway towards the kitchen, stifling my laughter as well as any six-year old could. I snorted and hiccuped my way into the room as I fought down my desire to shout in excitement.Sigh. Did I actually use the word "hiccuped"? I "hiccuped my way into the room."? Geez. I was trying to inject at least a hint of excitement. I figure that if I'm going to have the scene about the mother washing dishes a few paragraphs down then some sort of movement was necessary. But after looking at it several times I think its not really an improvement over my previous version.
So I tried again:
The mind of a child is a curious thing. That my six year old mind was entirely abnormal was a fact unknown to me at the time. Such is the blissfulness of youth. Knowing this then however, would have saved me a great deal of pain.Ugh. was I high? I like the concept, introducing a speculative element to the story, however vague, at least hints that something is atypical in what is to follow. I'm not quite sold on the execution though. I mean, I use 'mind' twice in the first two sentences and the phrase "knowing this then however" is about as nonsensical as they come. That's okay for me though, if I had decided to stay with this line of thinking I would have made it read much better. I decided to abandon it pretty quickly after I wrote it though.
The mind of any child is a curious thing. My mind however, was abnormal even among the young. Being ignorant of this fact did little to make it less painful when I hurt those I loved the most.Is that better? I used 'mind' again twice in the first two sentences again, I may be writing in circles here. I decided a different tact might work better, so here is #5:
Joan of Arc claimed to speak with God. At the age of six I had her beat. Because God not only spoke to me, but I could prove it. I sure hoped Momma would be surprised.That is my latest attempt at an opening. I waffled a bit on this one, as it gives something away that was previously only revealed at the end of the scene. They mystery that I hoped was inherent in the earlier versions is gone. Replaced, I hope, with the tension that comes from knowing that this naive child is going to do something that will not go over well.
Is it a better opening? Did I make anything better, or only different? I don't know. I'll keep on working to make it as good as I can. I'll read it again tomorrow after I had a night to reflect and see how it looks then.
Until then, happy days my friends.
Until then, happy days my friends.