Beginnings suck. A new job. Start of the school year. Unwrapping a birthday present (which leads to a paper cut then a vampire lunging at you, stitches, and your boyfriend breaking up with you).
The same goes for the first chapter of a book. (The sucking part, not the stitches.) I feel lost. I hate not knowing the characters. If I read on page one that Sally Mae is punching John Thomas, it doesn’t mean as much as S.M. punching J.T. on page 152, because on page 149 I learned that J.T. slept with cheerleader Becca Lynn who is S.M.’s best friend since kindergarten. Middles are the best. You know which employees to avoid and which ones have a bottle of Jack stashed in their desks. You know which students will disrupt your class and which ones will actually know the answer when you call on them. You know to not open any presents in front of vampires.
Seeing a book that I’m halfway through sitting on coffee table after a long day of work is like a beckoning friend wanting to share a cup of coffee. If I start the conversation with, “I hate them. I just hate them!” she’d know what I was talking about. I just started reading a bestseller novel. I’m on page thirty and still feel completely lost. When will I know? How long before I’m immersed enough to forget J.T. and B.L? It made me think of my own writing.
When I begin a novel, I KNOW my characters. I’ve spent weeks, most likely months, developing our relationship. I know who their B.L. and J.T. are. So how do I give my readers that information as soon as possible without info dumping? How can I start my story in the middle?
I’ve heard a lot of talk about first chapters and hooks. Authors should hook their readers so they want to keep reading. I want to do more than that. I want my readers to be life long friends with my characters before they crack the cover.
Maybe I’m asking for the impossible. Perhaps I’m just pissed off because I’m on page thirty and still don’t know what’s going on. Or maybe I’m still mad that a freakin’ papercut ended a relationship.