Beginnings (And why they’re such pains)

So obviously its been a while since my last post. But there’s a good excuse! I still have writer’s block and it’s driving me nutz. That’s right, nutz with a Z. That’s how bad it’s gotten! However, there’s hope…a light at the end of the tunnel… well maybe not a bright light, more like a match flickering in a damp cave…or even just a solitary glowworm on the verge of death. But it’s still a light. I’ve renamed my blog and I’m working on a new graphic layout so at least I’m getting a bit more creative. So I tried writing a story the other night and you know what I realized, starting sucks.

And do you know why? Well I’m going to tell you. Its your fault! Yes yours! And yours! All of you. You readers, you just don’t understand the plight of us writers. You make me sick!

Okay, well maybe it’s not all your fault, but allow me to explain.

You see when you start reading you have a set number of pages that you’ll put up with before you decide to chuck the book in and move onto something better. For some people its a hundred, others fifty and still others if they’re not hooked after the first page its over. So while its usually impossible to hook those 1-pagers, though I live in hope, its imperative that we get the 50-100 page people. Anyone who’s willing to stick it out longer than that will usually just read the whole thing at that point. But you can’t just get hooked on the knowledge of how we writers suffer for our art, oh no, you guys want us to work for it. You cruel and unfeeling people!

To be serious for a moment (and it’ll take a monumental effort on my part to be serious at 1:30am) the beginning is the hardest part of a story. You see within that margin of how many pages you give a book to get you interested we writers have to stuff a lot of content into. We can’t fill all of it with fast paced action with guns, explosions and excitement because without a reason to care the violence has no meaning and hence no reason to keep reading it. For instance, one of the big reasons I think I was kind of put off of the second Eragon book Eldest in the first couple of pages bam two major characters from the last book are swept away in the fighting. Dude, chill, give us a moment to get reacquainted with your world and characters. Opening like that is a sure fire way to get people flipping through the first couple of pages trying to figure out if they missed something.

You can’t fill it all with character building either because really, no one wants to read internal monologue and exposition for fifty pages. This was one of the reasons I had such a difficult time getting into Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It has a great opening line but then it goes into a overly long look at the main character. In some ways its a very effective opening, but unfortunately he delves too deep into his character. I mean when you start talking about how the character chose the floor plan of his apartment you’ve officially gone too deep.

However, beautiful descriptions and places are good but can also go horribly wrong rather quickly. There is no better example of this in action than a book by JRR Tolkien who often describes individual trees down to the most minute detail including the amount of veins on a leaf. Its probably why I’ve never managed to get past the first 100 pages of the Fellowship of the Ring.

So what is the best hook for a story? Damned if I know. In fact no one seems to know, either you have that terrific beginning or you don’t. Now, if you readers would just be nice and read whatever we put in front of you this wouldn’t be an issue, we could take all the time, pages and words we wanted. So this brings me back to one inescapable fact.

You make me sick!

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