The art of the beginning. Don’t underestimate the importance of a good beginning. When you watch a movie, you unconsciously decide within the first ten minutes whether you like it or not. And even with a novel, the decision often falls within the first one, two chapters, because as in real life, the first impression counts enormously for books and films.
And just when you want to sell your work, it is important to tie up the editor or editor as quickly as possible not just after twenty pages, because then it is already in the pile of rejects.
Consequently, you should invest a lot of time in a good start, but that doesn’t necessarily stop you from writing. It is not uncommon to first write the entire story and, last but not least, rework the beginning, as well as the end, write or even write first.
Why? Because almost every author gets to know the language of his characters in detail while writing; the first few chapters seldom succeed at first. Hence, the long deliberation in advance is unnecessary; it only keeps you from experiencing that learning effect.
The first sentence is ascribed enormous significance in a novel, as is the opening scene, or even only the first shot, in a movie. Some writers spend weeks pondering on how best to start their book or script and delay the writing over and over again. That’s wrong, and yet right somehow.
Even harder is the question, what exactly is a good beginning, because there are many different answers. It’s not wrong to go down in history as quickly as possible. An opening dialogue, a conflict that introduces the characters directly, without necessarily having anything to do with the main plot, is often the method of choice because it creates tension and establishes the characters.
In particular, films often start with an action scene, in the case of action films or thrillers, or with a good gag, in the case of comedies, to establish a tone for the work. Think of James Bond, whose films almost always begin with a long, self-contained action sequence that bridges the time since the last movie. Action scenes and jokes are also popular because they can quickly underline the important skills of the protagonist.
The beginning, moreover, is in some ways a promise to the reader; what he reads on the first twenty or so pages must be representative of what follows on the other hundred to five hundred pages. He must get the feeling that he sensibly invests his limited time reading.
That’s, admittedly, not easy. Jumping directly into the story without having previously established the characters calmly is not always easy even for the best authors. It may, therefore, be a simple trick to write a rather slow chapter in which you establish for yourself the tone and the voices of your characters, then quickly get down to business in the second chapter – and then just delete the first chapter. That’s not easy for everyone, but makes books and novels in hindsight often better!
Just ask yourself after writing the beginning; As a reader, would you feel that you have enough incentive to read the book for the first few minutes and understand where the journey is going? If not, get to the point quicker!
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