FIVE WAYS TO BEGIN YOUR BOOK
My favorite part of writing is the beginning of a book. It’s exciting because I feel free to do anything I want. I haven’t painted myself into a corner yet. Or questioned who came up with this stupid plot? Or slogged through the middle where I’m looking around for a character or two to kill.
The beginning is full of promise. But for that reason, it’s critical to get off on the right foot. Oftentimes, staring at the blank screen is intimidating and for good reason.
The first scene is the most important because it sets the tone of my book. It introduces the narrator so we know who or who not to root for. It establishes the environment where we are in the world, sets the scene, often introducing the conflict by jumping into my characters’ lives in the middle of something good that’s just happened.
The beginning is also the foundation I’m going to build on. Not to mention, that first paragraph or two is where an editor and later the reader decides whether or not they want to buy or continue reading my book.
What makes it tough is that there is no right or wrong way to begin a book. But that’s the fun part.
In the class I’ve taught on beginnings, I offer examples and suggest that writers try five different ways of starting their book. It has to be same book idea but with five different approaches to jumping in.
Here are the examples. I know some of them are silly, but you’ll get the idea.
It began to snow as I pulled up in front of the mountain cabin next to a vintage Mercedes. Gotta hand it to my husband’s mistress. She drove a nice car.
The wind groaned in the tall pines and made the chimes on the weathered porch jangle irritably. The lake beyond the cabin was rough with whitecaps that sent cold spray into the night air.
As the cabin door opened, I got my first look at the woman who thought she was going to take my husband. How perfect. She was wearing a bright red wool coat. The color of blood.
I’d expected my husband’s lover to be young, check; blonde, check; with big boobs, check. I was also expecting an airhead. After all, Jake was a man and men could be so predictable.
So when the door opened and I got my first look at the forty-something brunette with normal-sized breasts, I immediately I saw the appeal. In fact, I realized that this woman and I could have been friends—had she not been after my husband.
“You’re going to regret you did that.”
I already did. Bad idea to slap my husband’s lover—especially when she was holding that cute little gun on me. I looked into those ice-blue eyes, past the pretty, and hoped the gun was just an accessory to her expensive tailored suit. Did Jake really believe he could afford this woman?
“You’re taking my man over my dead body,” I said, sounding like a bad country song.
Tiffany Cross laughed as she flipped off the gun’s safety. “Honey, you read my mind.”
What do you wear to meet your husband’s mistress? I’d changed my clothes a half dozen times. Being a stay-at-home wife and mother, six clean changes were really all I had.
Nixing the sweats I usually wore, I settled on a pair of too-tight blue jeans and a blouse missing the bottom button. I dabbed on what old makeup I could dig out of the bathroom drawer and decided at the last minute to wear the earrings Jake had given me when our youngest was born.
I don’t know why I bothered to dress up. Tiffany Cross didn’t even seem to notice. She was too busy leveling the bead of a pistol at my heart.
She left the car running, telling herself this wouldn’t take long. Since she’d pulled into this dark isolated spot to wait, she hadn’t seen or heard anyone approach.
Meeting here had been her idea, but now she was worried it had been a mistake. The wind in the trees cast ebony shadows over the windshield and sent leaves whirling past.
She jumped at the tap on her side window. Calm down, she warned herself as she motioned for the woman to go around to the passenger side. Unlocking the door, she tried to talk herself out of this. Last chance, she thought, and felt the small weapon, heavy in her jacket pocket.
As the car door opened, a tantalizing wave of expensive perfume hit her before her husband’s mistress slid into the seat next to her.
Hopefully, that gives you some idea of different approaches to the beginning of your book. When I wrote them, more of my pretend story came out.
So if you’re beginning your book now or have already started, try writing five beginnings five different ways and see what happens. One of them just might be The One to get you off and rolling on the right foot.
As I finish this blog, I’m about to write the beginning of my 97th book. I’m excited. The possibilities are unlimited. Now, where to start my story….
B.J. Daniels is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has written more than 40 short stories and over 100 books. She writes romantic suspense/mysteries for both Harlequin HQN and Intrigue with most of her books set in her home state of Montana where she lives with her husband, Parker, and four Springer Spaniel bird dogs, Spot, Jem, Ace, and Baby Ruth. When she isn’t writing, she quilts, spends time at the lake, and enjoys her three daughters and soon-to-be thirteen grandchildren.
Her latest book is Hero’s Return, out March 27.