Fire update: Our family is still on standby evacuation. The heroic fire crews have made huge strides in fighting the Waldo Canyon Fire. Hopefully the wind here in the mountains will not complicate things. If you're interested, here's a simulated video fly-through of the fire. It starts in my town and flies down through the fire area.
My first manuscript began with a scene of an orphan girl and her encounter with a peddler. It started kind of slowly, and culminated in a violent end. As a novice writer, I read that first chapters were important for grabbing an agent or editor's attention. I didn't think my first chapter was up to snuff (despite the fact it placed in a contest), so I changed it.
My new first chapter had my orphan running from a group of bandits. She's terrified, and has to fight for her life. Full of action, and emotion, I felt sure it was better.
It wasn't. Why?
Because even though I dropped the reader into a life-or-death situation, I didn't give the reader a chance to connect with my character. They didn't care what happened to her, so even though the situation was compelling, the reader's emotions weren't involved.
Kristin Nelson's recent blog post explained this well. I confused an action scene with an active scene. I thought my original slow start wasn't enough, and that I had to have action from the first sentence. Not true. Read through Nelson's post to see what the difference really is.
So, I got thinking about novel beginnings, and what advice others had. Here's a sampling of what I found:
Though it's for short stories, this post lists seven types of story openings, and why you might choose one over another.
Fiction Notes uses actual novel openings to come up with ten common ways to open a novel.
Helium collected a nice list of blog posts on how to write an excellent first chapter.
So I've decided to stick with my original first chapter. Once my readers are invested in my character, I can throw her into all kinds of situations. First of all, my job is to connect my readers to my characters.
How about you? What kind of first chapter have you written? Is it more active or action oriented? Have you made changes to it as you've learned more about the craft of writing?