After some massive and intense brainstorming with Pot yesterday, I think we’ve finally hit on a setup that works for me. There are still a whole bunch of holes, but I can work on filling those in. Today’s project is to begin the outline. I haven’t decided whether I want to use yWriter or StoryBook for that, or if I simply want to start in my wiki and then move into a more formalized outline in one of the aforementioned programs once I have a clearer idea of how it all unfolds. In any event, I am to that point in plotting where I have to decide where to begin the story.
This is often a tough call for me. If I don’t open with a serial killer (which I won’t be in this one, as there isn’t one), then I often flounder on where to begin. I’ve often heard that you should start in the middle of some action–look for the inciting incident, so to speak. There are a lot of posts and articles out there about what constitutes an inciting incident. This one is pretty basic at explaining it. According to Peter Reeves,
The inciting incident is the moment or plot point in a script that kicks the story into motion. It occurs after the set up or exposition and everything that follows the inciting incident should be a result of the inciting incident. It is where a story really begins.
By this token, in my mind, the inciting incident for Til Death is when Wyatt finds the first victim’s body 20 years ago. Which is, in fact, where I began the book. One short chapter title Chapter One that’s merely a thinly disguised prologue. We all know the debate surrounding those. In any event, I’m trying to decide where to begin this wolf story.
The inciting incident from Marley’s (the heroine) perspective is when the phone call comes from the human police in Wyoming saying that her best friend Anya is missing. That sets into motion the chain of events that gets Marley out there and involved in investigation and searching for her friend. However, I’m not sure it’s the best or most interesting place to start. I’m more inclined to start with her already out in Wyoming, skipping over the ordeal of getting there (which is a big thing, as Marley’s been diagnosed with epilepsy and can’t drive), and jumping on into the action. Perhaps the point when the police say that her friend is wanted for questioning in relation to the murder that took place at the resort right around the time she disappeared.
I’ve read that the beginning is usually the most often revised part of a book. I know that I often get stuck with a case of Startoveritis. I’ve been better about that the last couple of years, in part because I’ve tried to take more time to figure out where the story is going before I decide where to start it. It can be nerve wracking. The beginning is where you so often lose a reader. This day and age where there are hundreds of thousands of options competing for reader attention and dollars, it’s vital to hook them from the beginning because most won’t stick with a book beyond the first chapter or so if they aren’t engaged. I was telling a friend that it took me about 80 pages to get over the stupid names in J.R. Ward’s books, and she was saying she’d never wait that long. Which is a pity because the books are great. I know that I’m more tolerant of certain literary conventions (such as prologues) than a lot of readers are, but I certainly can’t go merely by my own tastes in what I write.
So what about all of you? Where/How do you prefer to be sucked into a story? Do you prefer to start with a big bang or are you willing to accept a slower more expository “On the first day God created light…” kind of deal?