Hi, here’s Jo with a New Year’s illustration to start of this blog. I’m not sure why it’s a New Year’s illustration, or what those two tykes are doing with the champagne, but then, we know the Victorians were weird. *G*
This blog about beginnings is a pretty easy one for me because I just talked about this in my Christmas newsletter, referring to last year’s book, Lady Beware. As part of that, I put up the unused prologue that I wrote fairly late in the game as I struggled to find the right beginning for the book.
That’s where the title up there comes from. It’s a line I always use when talking to writers about beginnings, a play on the old one about never getting a second chance to make a first impression. In writing a book It’s never too late to make a first impression until the book’s in print.
We all love to have a great beginning laid down. It’s orderly and it makes us feel secure. It isn’t necessary, however. As long as we know more or less what happens in the beginning then we can, and should, leave that mess as placeholder and come back later. We may have to wait until we’ve finished the book to find — or dig out of the salt mines — the right beginning for that book.
Certainly there are some elegancies of beginnings, such as motifs that open and close a book, that we can only find when we reach the end. I did that with Devilish, where the book opens in darkness and danger, and ends with brightness and joy.
Sometimes beginnings do come fairly easily. The beginning of To Rescue A Rogue, with Mara scurrying through the nighttime streets of London seeking help was there from the beginning. One factor here was that while the hero, Lord Darius Debenham, has a lot of backstory, Lady Mara St. Bride doesn’t. To start in the POV of the character with little backstory can be very useful.
In Lady Beware, I had a similar situation, in that Lord Darien’s backstory was complicated but Lady Thea Debenham’s wasn’t. Therefore, it seemed idea to start out in Thea’s POV and let her and the reader discover Darien. Unfortunately, however, Thea was loaded with her brother Dare’s backstory, which was crucial to her motivations, and Darien’s motivation was tied into it, too.
As Susan said, in a romance it’s very desirable to start with the hero and heroine. I know that; I just rarely manage it. I did start Lady Beware with the scene where Thea encounters a threatening man in the deserted corridors of her father’s house during a ball. It was a very powerful scene, but coming without any preparation it disturbed. Darien seemed overly unpleasant, and Thea’s reactions felt off.
I tried inserting necessary details into the scene in Thea’s thoughts, but that slowed down a fast and dramatic scene. So in the end I moved back to the scene where Thea is changing her stained dress, which allowed reasonable thoughts of events plus dialogue with the maid.
You can read that opening, the published one, here .
In chapter two here, you can see a variant on my original opening.
So, what was the discarded opening? That was a prologue. Some people hate prologues. I don’t, but I prefer not to use them. However, late in the writing of the book I felt that a prologue in Darien’s POV of events some time before the ball would be an even better opening. It would, I thought, set up his character and motivations more strongly, and also introduce the antagonist early on, which is another very good thing.
It is, in my opinion, a very strong scene. I like it a lot, especially in showing the darker side of post-Waterloo England. In the end, however, I left it off and for one reason — it set a very dark tone that wasn’t in keeping with the book. There are dark elements in Lady Beware, to be sure, but anyone reading the prologue could expect a grim novel rooted in economic depression and political crises.
So that’s what I put up over Christmas. The prologue.
With all best wishes for 2008, when I’ll have two books out in April! It feels close, because I’m going over the
page proofs for ALS now. In fact, you can read a little of the beginning of that if you’d like. That was one that came fairly easily. I knew what the opening scene was from the first — just had no clue about the rest of the book!
The other is my two-fer trad regency reissues — The Fortune Hunter and Deirdre and Don Juan.