28 April 2009

Embracing Beginnings

I'm still toying with the beginning of my latest, and still title-less, WIP. I've already written two different beginnings. Neither of them really sat well with me, but I think (after talking with my ever-supportive roommate) that I've settled on a new way to open the story.

I don't know about everyone else, but openings are the most important part of my writing process. I have never been the type of writer who could "just start" and then go back and revise the beginning. I might cut things (as I did with ANJIDIA), but those first few sentences set up my narrator and his/her/its voice...for me.

That first sentence, first paragraph, first page — they're like a first date. "Hi, I'm your narrator. Here are my attitude, diction, the things I notice, the things I don't." It's a familiarizing process that takes place over time, but all begins the moment I move that blinking cursor with my words.

Anyway, with writing and starting a new story on my brain, I thought it fitting to share some beginnings with you — a few of my faves, a few of my own, and a special commentary by yours truly.

"I have just returned from a visit to my landlord—the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with." ~ Emily Bronte, WUTHERING HEIGHTS

Brilliantly establishes two things: 1) This story is not going to be about the narrator, most likely. The focus of this sentence is on someone else — this "troubling" neighbor. 2) This narrator dislikes his landlord and isn't afraid to say it. It also begs a few questions: A) Why is the narrator renting? B) Who is this landlord? C) What's his problem?/Why is he troubling to others?

"Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, 'and what's the use of a book,' thought Alice, 'without pictures or conversation?' ~ Lewis Carroll, ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND

Breaks almost every rule in the book, but also brilliantly sets up that Alice is a curious and shallow type of girl. It also hints that she is the type to get into trouble.

"Geoffrey Barnes prides himself on being a practical man." ~ Sam Elliott, THE ROSE

Opens a short story I had published in college, and hopefully leaves you wondering what's his deal and what does that even mean?

"Instead of enjoying the comfort of the plush private jet smoothly slicing its way through the clear morning sky, Kate Stephan was on the phone, arguing with the President of the United States of America." ~ Sam Elliott, SPIRITS OF CHANGE

Sets up two things: 1) Kate is a badass. 2) This is the type of book in which key players can argue with the leader of the free world and be annoyed by the inconvenience of it — hinting that the scale is going to be VERY large.

"When I returned to Anjidia, I was naked (save for the towel vainly shielding me from the biting wind), standing in ankle-deep mud, and being drizzled on." ~ Sam Elliott, ANJIDIA

Intended to achieve two things: shock and curiosity stimulation. Bam, just like that she's there? We've started? Why yes, dear reader, yes. And that's exactly how she feels. Where's Anjidida? Exactly. Who is she? Exactly. Where is she coming from? Exactly. Why is she back? Ding, ding, ding.

Any thoughts? Wanna share a few of your firsts with the class?


Litgirl01 said...

fabulous post!!! Very helpful!!!

Samantha Elliott said...

Glad you enjoyed it! It was fun to think about what I liked about others' opening sentences and how they hinted at what was to come and then apply that to my own writing.

You should try it!

Windsong said...

Awesome post! I love how you took beginnings and broke down why they worked for you.

Good luck with your own beginning. :D