Monday, January 24, 2011

What's on the page?

Shout out- I'm blogging at Romancing the Book and Seduced by History today. Check them out.

The first page.

The next process in writing my latest book, now that I have my characters graphed and the conflict and plot figured out, is to decide where to start the book. We've all heard the beginning sentence, paragraph and page have to hook the editor, agent, and reader. So finding the starting place is crucial in hooking a reader and keeping them engaged in the story.

The reason I do so much character delving in the beginning is to not fill the first pages with the dreaded backstory. By knowing my characters well to start the story I don't have to write all the backstory to bring myself up to speed with their emotions and life at the start of the book. And you don't have to bring your reader up to speed either. They can plunge into the heart of the story and learn the backstory in nice little snippets you feed them along the way.

My complication with the story I'm working on now is the fact I am using a real historical event as part the main conflict between the hero and heroine. He's a cavalry officer and she's a Nez Perce spirit. His regiment is chasing the Nez Perce on their flight to Canada. This is a romance so the hero and heroine have to have contact.

I had to research the the battles and the path of the Nez Perce to determine where the hero and heroine could meet. The history lover in me wants to tell everything that happened up until the day the Nez Perce took off. But that would be boring backstory and doesn't draw the reader into the story with my main conflict. So I started the book with the first major onslaught by the army. Where they attacked while the Nez perce were sleeping and killed women, children, old people, and warriors. This is a gruesome start but it not only shows the great cavern the hero and heroine must overcome but sets the stage for the conflict throughout the story and drops the reader into the middle of action. Not to mention it is the first time I could get the hero within the the heroine's playing field and bring them together.

Finding the right starting point took several weeks of reading, researching, and deciding how to bring the two together.

And that is how I started my latest project.

Anyone else have a story of how they decided to start a book or story? Any readers out there ever read a book they felt started in the wrong place?


Sandy said...


What a great blog. You tell how to start a story so well.

D'Ann said...

I think that sounds like a fantastic place to start, and you completely hooked my interest.

madcapmaggie said...

Paty, I'm sorry to say that my first book I started in the wrong place and then cut the first two chapters. Second book needs major rewrite -- also started in wrong place. Did better this time (for Editpalooza) but then, did more work up front on story and characters. I like your method. Sounds like a big time (and effort) saver.

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Paty,
Sounds like a good opening scene to me. It would draw me right in. I can usually tell if someone else starts in the wrong place, but I can't see it in mine own stories. I have started my new WIP three times and I'm thinking of starting it over again because it still doesn't feel right.

Paty Jager said...

Sandy, Thank you for stopping by and your kind comments.

D'Ann, I'm glad this sounds like a good beginning. It was the only place that made sense for my story. Thanks for stopping in.

Maggie, Finding the right place to start is book takes practice I think. The learning process of not only where to start but just your own writing process. Editpalooza is a great way to learn the structure of writing a book. I've been impressed with the workshop.

Hi Kathy!! You know I'm always willing to lend a set of eyes if you need them.

Rosalie Lario said...

Paty, I too complete character descriptions and GMCs before starting my story. I find it helps me to get things started right when the action begins.

Paty Jager said...

I agree by knowing your characters and their backstory before you start you don't add it into the story when you start writing. which makes for a greater impact on your reader. Thanks for commenting.