Because I've been working on my second storyline, I'm back at a beginning again and musing on all the things that are fun about the beginnings of stories. I love setting things up: introducing the characters, establishing their situation, hinting at what might happen.
I've been writing about two characters who are starting a relationship, and as they fall in love, I'm falling in love with them all over again. And I'm hoping that readers will fall in love with them, too, and root for their relationship to work out.
Throughout this revision, I've been paying more attention to backstory and when I reveal it. My previous draft suffered from the problem that I revealed important pieces of character history too late. I recently linked to a post by Livia Blackburne in which she talked about her changing attitudes toward backstory. I've gone through the same shift.
With my last draft, feedback from readers showed that they often didn't sympathize with characters until later in the story, when I got around to sharing some insight that explained why the character was behaving in a particular way. Duh. I've been moving this kind of information to the beginning of the story, and I can already predict that it's going to make a big difference for the next batch of readers.
I've been pleased to note how many of the narrator's important characteristics I managed to establish within the first chapter, and often within the first few pages. Most of what matters in this storyline has been referenced or hinted at in the beginning.
I've added in some little moments and details that will be echoed later in the story and grow in significance. I love doing this and always feel so clever when I do, which probably means I've created far too many of these moments and that I'm hitting the reader over the head with them. I'm sure my critique partners will let me know.
In the beginning of a story, I'm always very self-congratulatory. All the doubt and despair is hiding somewhere in the middle.
Good Stuff Out There:
→ The Atlantic features an interview with Colson Whitehead about ZONE ONE, released this week: "Early on my career, I figured out that I just have to write the book I have to write at that moment. Whatever else is going on in the culture is just not that important. If you could get the culture to write your book, that would be great. But the culture can't write your book." (Thanks, The Millions!)