I guess openings are forever going to elude me. At my beginner stage, I used to start my stories too far before the inciting incident: Gwendolynn von Holden was born with striking purple eyes and giggling and cooing until full sentences emerged out of her mouth at nine months. At age two…You get the picture. For a long time, I cut most of the childhood out and tried a prologue to fit in a crucial part at age 6, but that never seemed to go well.
After I figured out how to close in on the turning point, I gave my readers too much information or too many new words at the beginning of the story. It was particularly easy to do with fantasy where I felt like I needed to explain the world right away: Gwendolynn Holden wanted to finish her father’s quest to find the drachen stone that he had abandoned when he met her mother. The drachen stones were what the Gods used to communicate with their dragons. The Gods had disappeared centuries ago but left behind their dragons. The God Darnell had set his dragon loose with a sorcerer before he left, and when the sorcerer died, Loth’s drachen stone was lost. Yawn.
Then I decided to try in media res and not explain anything. It was a bad decision because the readers didn’t care about the protagonist: Gwendolynn felt the year of unused magic pricking at her spine as the poet mocked her. His face had contorted from blindingly handsome to smug and insidious in one moment of sarcasm. Gwen’s embarrassment fed the silver magic, and she watched a strand of it slink out of her head and into the poet’s mind, twisting him from a foe to a friend—his laughter cut off and replaced by puppy dog eyes.
Spending a couple of years on short fiction, I thought I had a better grasp on my beginnings. Unfortunately, there are still rules I don’t know about. The current rule I didn’t realize is “Starting a character waking up is cliché and an agent won’t read it.” Talk about embarrassed. I felt like that was something I should’ve known after all these years of writing. I was just trying to start close enough to the inciting incident to hook the reader, but not so far away that the reader doesn’t care about the character. Since the inciting incident happened mid-morning, waking up seemed the way to go: Gwen popped up in bed—her spine vibrated with a year’s worth of unused magic and sent a tingling sensation throughout her body. Though the sun wasn’t up yet, the room was bright from the silver sheen her body cast.
So since I still have no idea what I’m doing in regards to starting stories, please send me your rules, even if you think it’s one I know. If I get enough, I’ll post them up for easier reference for the benefit of my great blog readers. Thanks for your help!