Beginnings are Hard

And I’m back. Got a new power cord and everything, except it now appears that the problem was not in the power cord, it was in port in the laptop. Which means the Apple Store and the Genius Bar, which is probably not even open. So if I suddenly disappear this week, it’s not you, it’s my laptop.

Doing HWSWA with Bob has put me firmly back into How-Does-This-Work-Anyway mode, which made me think about the opening of Lily, which is still not a book. But it is a great Petri dish for experimenting with writing theory, so I went back and looked at what I had for an opening now that I have an antagonist (crucial, that).

Lily vs. Dr. Ferris (office)
Lily vs Pangur (apt)
Lily vs Seb (outside diner
Lily vs. Van (diner kitchen)
Lily vs Fin (counter)
Fin vs. Bjorn (outside diner)
Dorothy vs Lewis (museum)

As you can see, it needs work. Some guidelines, then:

The first scene needs the protagonist, setting (time, place), tone, and conflict, preferably foreshadowing on beginning the major conflict. The protagonist should be fascinating (or ta least interesting) and breaking a sweat about something, extra points for vulnerable. And this scene must invest the reader in Lily’s goal. What the scene has: Uh, none of the above. ARGH.

The second scene is ideally in the antagonist’s PoV or the love interest’s PoV, something that can bring dimension to the world the first scene establishes. (Yeah, that’s not going to happen here.). What this scene has: None of the above.

Then the rest of the beginning should fall into natural scene sequences, ending with a final scene that throws the whole story into play. What these scenes have: Well, there’s a kind of love triangle there if I reshape things. Kinda.

Then the last scene in the book/act/beginning should call back to the first scene (if you’re bookending) and throw the story into the next sequence/act. What this scene has: None of the above.

The first fives scenes in Lily’s PoV give a one-dimensional (Lily-dimensional) view of the world. That’s too many. Leaving aside Dr. Ferris for the moment, Lily vs Pangur can become a short transition to Lily vs. See. Lily vs. Van and become a transition to Lily vs. Fin. Fin vs. Bjorn stays as the introduction to Fin and the first move in the love story. (Fourth scene before we get to the romance? That’s not good.). And then Dorothy vs. Lewis at the end. So

Lily vs. Dr. Ferris (office)

Lily vs Seb (outside diner)
Lily vs Fin (counter)
Fin vs. Bjorn (outside diner)

Dorothy vs Lewis (museum)

Tie first and fifth scenes to each other; set up relationships in scene sequence in the middle.

• Set up Lily’s problem in the first scene so that the reader understand her motivation, sees her vulnerability, and connects to her. (This is difficult.)

• follow with the romance triangle scene sequence in the middle. Seb wants her back but is up to something, Lily walks away from Seb to Fin, Fin wants Lily.

• bookend last scene with the architect of Lily’s problem frrom the first scene.

So then all I have to do is look at scene beats and escalation and . . .

Writing is hard, she whined.

Now off to look at Liz’s beginning. Liz is a book, so that’s something.

13 thoughts on “Beginnings are Hard

  1. I think you’ve adequately explained why it’s Not A Book. Yet. But I like the proto-scenes you’ve written. I like the characters. I like where you say each needs to go. If it ever becomes a book, I’ll buy it. If instead of becoming a book, if it becomes a book about a book (like Crazy People), I’ll buy it.

    Be well. And I hope your Apple doesn’t, er, turn brown on you.

  2. I had a thought about Lily’s motivation to see a counselor now.

    Most of us know perfectly well that eventually we’re going to die and totally ignore that info – until something forces us to face it. So I reckon Lily could’ve known about her past lives and tendency to die by Viking, and ignored it – until she got belted by an ax and nearly died. After that, she can’t just ignore her upcoming death by Viking and she’s really struggling.

    Combine that with loss of job and relationship and (totally reasonable) fury about being hit with an ax, and it all sounds like a good reason to seek counseling to me.

  3. I laugh out loud when I read your posts about writing – at my own colossal ignorance. I managed to get published twice without a single writing principle every entering my mind. Sheer luck, obviously. So glad I no longer write or I’d go crazy trying to get it all correct. So you write ’em and I’ll read ’em.

  4. “protagonist should be fascinating” was accomplished in the first scene with the bonus of Nadia also fascinating. Just saying.

    It may be lacking in structure but I am enjoying it more than most of the new fiction I try. Maybe some of us out here DO just want to wander around in the neighborhood and listen to snarky dialogue without caring what is going on. Well, as long as the characters find new connections, which is happening enough for me.

  5. Wow. Just wow.

    For someone who seems to write (at least initially) whatever comes to you, you bring an incredible amount of thought and rigor to your writing!

    I will read (and buy) whatever you write. Heck, charge for this blog, I’m in!

  6. So…if you had started the non-book with Dorothy (in a friendly way) handing Lily a box to pack up her office things in, and mentioning that she’s been fired, but Louis/Seb were too upset to do so themselves, and told her (Dorothy) to let Lily go, and by the way, Dorothy finagled six therapy sessions at the University counseling center for her as part of her termination package and here’s the business card for Dr. Fenris, she’s very good… and then segued into the therapy room, would that check all the boxes?

  7. Not to stir the pot ;-), but I’ve read a lot of interesting things lately from one POV. Maybe that works better for straight rom coms than other genres though. I wrote my last fanfic that way and I really enjoyed having to hint at what the characters were doing/thinking without directly getting in their head. It did help that I didn’t care if there was very low conflict and just lots of fluffy banter.

    Plus I really like female POV (both writing and reading) so that made it an easy choice for me. It didn’t really feel like I was depriving myself of anything. For my new project, I decided to go back to alternating POV and it’s fun, but definitely harder. I’m out of practice. If multiple POV is what you need or what the project needs, so be it. But since this isn’t “a ‘book”, I wouldn’t force anything. Just my 2 cents.

    I hear you on writing being hard. But every time I that, my husband quotes Tom Hanks speech A League of Their Own at me. No, not “there’s no crying in baseball”, although that one is great too. He quotes “it’s supposed to be hard. The hard is what makes it great.”
    I don’t really particularly care for baseball (or sports in general) but darn if that isn’t a great movie. Sports are always such a great metaphor for life.

  8. Everything is hard. I wish someone would have told me adulting would be hard, and how hard, because I (like so many people) thought it got easier when you didn’t have adults bossing you around. Such a naive kid! (Well, and still a naive adult.) And writing was soooo much easier when I was a kid. I started my writing career at the age of 7 and it really wasn’t until college before it became difficult. Probably because I started to learn what I actually needed to do and wasn’t doing.

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