opening schemes

They're having an interesting discussion over on Deep Genre about openings and what makes them work. This is a blog with a lot of great names in Spec Fic, like Carol Berg (a nicer lady you'll never meet), Sherwood Smith of Crown Duel fame, and Constance Ash, who writes horses into her stories, as well as many others.

I coined a term a long while ago, mostly in reference to myself, called authorial discovery. It's my opinion that most early works, either first drafts or rough openings, are exactly that: the author discovering her story. It's marked by telling, not showing. One of the most valuable workshops I ever took was on just that: openings of novels. Everyone brought in the first five pages and two authors (nameless, but big ones) analyzed each opening. I liked what they said about Hinterland (well, of course) but I keep thinking on how I can extrapolate those lessons to new works.

I'm working hard on my opening for Sentinel, and it's almost like writing a five page short story. When you write an opening for a four-book series, that opening must smack of a greater world. It must pinpoint the one thing that makes your world special and your characters respectable within as few words as possible. Ok, well, of course every opening should do that, but it's difficult to condence when you know you've got four books, each with a definite theme of it's own that's working toward a greater series-wide Theme. I'm making strides though--or thought I did until one of my early readers reminded me that I must relate the closeness-despite-differences between the twins. I've been analyzing what I want to do with it, and I wrote this at Deep Genre:

I come at it from the approach of showing behavior of a character that 1. defines them as a character 2. propels the story 3. raises questions that I’ve [the author] defined as integral and neccessary to the story. I agree that a lot of openings have to be scrapped and rewritten when you know more. But then, maybe you plotter-types don’t have that problem.

It's a fine line between writers and readers, and we have to be careful not to step on their toes. Like in marriage, success in writing is often defined by what you don't say.

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