Originally, this series was designed to follow the journey of my standalone novel The Fire. But after reading Flaming Pen Press's response to The Guardian's Tree novella submission, I decided to set both Redemption's Journey and The Fire aside and take up my newest work of fiction.
The Chains of Hethra.
This novel is definitely better than RJ and will likely be equally as good as TF.
I outlined TCOH, read over the novella version, stewed over some ideas for a while, then hit the road.
The beginning of a book is, for many, the most important part of the entire work. If an author can't hook them in the first few pages the book isn't worth reading to them. So what if it's received critical acclaim? It has a horrid beginning and I'm putting it down.
Personally, I don't agree with this stance. I take a book 100+ pages in before quitting, but overall I think it is important to understand this. Readers will throw your book back on the shelf if you can't write a good beginning.
What things make up a good opening scene?
I often find myself admiring good writing as I read books. My favorites open with such intrigue...that even if the following pages are completely boring, I'm glued to my seat to figure out the opening scene. Maintaining mystery is a highly important aspect of writing in general, I feel, but it is even more important to instill this mystery early on.
It's hard to put a finger on how to write mysterious things. But I'm going to try. Mystery comes through in writing when the characters act in a way you wouldn't expect, do uncommon things, and when the author withholds information from you in a natural manner. I think to sum up, mystery is when the characters know something the reader doesn't.
It is important, though, to not loose your readers in piling up mystery. Mysteriousness is withholding information, not piling it on. You can't throw a million questions into the reader's mind. I find that maintaining a singular question through a scene and dropping clues is a good way to go.
For example, here's part of the opening for the TGT novella:
Screeches ripped through the darkened cavern, followed by the screams of men, and then abrupt silence. Dirt fell from the ceiling hundreds of feet above and shining leaves fell from the Tree, illuminating the forms of the agonized men and women of Hethra. Alvar cradled the sack close to his chest and sprinted through the darkness. His heart pounded and sweat drenched his forehead. He had to get out of here. He had to.
The shrieking creatures flapped their bat-like wings, each brandishing bloodied whips and dripping blades. They flew through the cavern, snatching up men and women and hurling them into fires. The humans cried out for mercy, but the Damans ignored their pleas, lashing their whips, and leaving piles of bodies in their wake.
Alvar sped his pace. The Damans were not after the people.
This begs the question: What is the sack? What are the Damans after if not the people?
Some of the other minor questions are answered throughout the scene, but, if you've read the scene you know, that the whole time you find yourself asking: What is in the sack? Why is it so important? Why are the Damans doing this? etc.
Another good tactic is throwing your reader into chaos. A battle scene, a dark chase, etc. The above quote is a good example of that as well. Chaos adds to the mystery. It also helps in hooking your reader. If you throw a bunch of action in place of a bunch of detail, odds are you'll have your reader in for the long haul.
Keep in mind, however, that you need more than just a bloody fight scene. There needs to be good character play as well. Feel the emotion!
I don't read this type as often simply because I'm not a huge fan of the genre it's typically found in. But I think I know enough to talk about it lol
If you open your scene with dialogue or internal monologue you can present another interesting concept--character. If you're more character driven, dive deep into the head of a character to begin. But when you do, maintain this level of mystery. Think like the character.
For example, I'll open a scene with a young man standing at the grave of his father. All sorts of crazy thoughts are running through his head. Weird thoughts. Odd thoughts. He's not hurt, pained, broken, etc. He's just cold, num. Like the snow falling around him. You dive into this emotionless character and run with it.
But who would have thought that he had murdered his father?
Basically, maintain mystery by not using contrived dumping methods.
Fantasy works best with this I think. I read a story once that opened on the field of a previous battle. And as the protag walked through the carnage we examined the castle he was walking through. The building itself hooked me!
All in all, the way to write a good beginning is summed in one word--mystery. People don't want to read a book that just tells them everything. They want to figure things out for themselves! In the same way, people don't want to read books about normal life. "Oh and today I had a sandwich, walked the dog, and did my homework." No one wants to read that! Write differently, write mysteriously.
To the end,