I'm going about this out of order. At the writers workshop I attended a few weeks ago, the presenter, Silas House, started out by talking about beginnings. If you read my previous post, you'll see I mused first on characterization. And I am only now talking about beginnings. It's my blog; I do what I want. My thoughts aren't always well organized, okay?
I attended the writers workshop in hopes I could improve my own writing, and I heard some really good tips that will help me on my quest to publish a novel. This post is going to be mostly ideas I stole straight from Silas's lecture on the topic of writing good beginnings. When writing a book, a great beginning needs three things: mystery, a love story and trouble. Stories all need to start out with a thesis or central question. The story is answering that question. This sets up the tension that drives the story.
They mystery is the element of suspense that drives the reader to read more. Now, I don't mean the book has to start out "It was a dark and stormy night..." or be about solving a crime. But it is crucial to start with some suspense, some unanswered question that needs resolving, otherwise the story isn't going to be very interesting.
Good beginnings also need a love story. Now, this doesn't have to be a romance novel--a love story is really any emotional relationship between the characters. There are so many different kinds of love and so many different kinds of relationships. It can be a story about friends, or even a hate story about enemies. In my current work in progress, the story starts out with a relationship between father and daughter as its love story.
To write a good beginning, the characters need to start out in trouble, and the rest of the book can be about getting them out of trouble trouble. No body wants to read about happy people; that's boring. Start the story with trouble when the characters are unhappy, and end the book as soon as they become happy.
A few more keys to a good beginning: start out with either action or a strong voice, drop the reader in the middle of the action as near to the end as possible. It's important to have a balance of information and avoid an info dump. Instead weave the back story throughout the work. The beginning of the work is like making a promise to the reader. It sets the stage as to what to who work will be like.