A to Z Challenge 2013

Monday, February 6, 2012

Catching Attention Immediately

Last night the family and I sat down to watch The Voice.  If you're unfamiliar with the show, its a singing contest/reality show where the judges listen to the person singing without facing them so that they can decide based on the voice alone as opposed to taking the person's appearance/stage presence/etc into consideration.

As the show progressed, one thing became very clear.  Those vocalists that jumped out there and wow'd the judges from the get-go were immediately rewarded by the judges turning around (meaning the judges were then offering to mentor the vocalist going forward).  Those who didn't grab attention immediately struggled to get any kind of response from the judges (and in some cases failed completely).

The parallel between the show and my WiP hit home since I'm currently working on my opening chapter.  I'm struggling with the same problem these latter vocalists struggled with. I need an opening that catches the attention, that grabs the reader right off.  I need to engage them immediately so that they're willing to go through this ride with me.  I'm finding it's not an easy task.

One thing I learned through the critiques is that I've tried to tell the story in a very blank - almost empty - world.  I'm not very experienced with this whole world-building stuff, so my first thought was to use the beginning to introduce my world.  As I started re-writing the opening however, I noticed that I was bored.  I was painting the picture of my world, but it reminded me too much of Tolkien (and I hate the overbearing description Tolkien used).  More importantly, I couldn't see my reader being excited about the story either.

So it's back to the drawing board.  I've got to find a happy medium between describing the world enough and getting the reader engaged right away.  I don't know how I'm going to do it, but hopefully I'll figure something out soon. 

Actually, I think I'll go re-read the openings of Possession and A Million Suns.  They're great examples that might inspire me.

How do you go about creating that ever-important first scene?


Domey Malasarn said...

I overedited the first chapter of the last novel I completed. It was a disaster by the end, and something I was able to recite by memory. Ever since that happened, I've taken a lot of pressure off of myself. I don't try to do everything with the first scene. I just try to make it interesting enough to entice readers to go to the next scene. Somewhere along the line, I think you need to hook readers into the story as a whole, but I don't think it needs to happen right away. Good luck!

Eric said...

Domey - Thanks for the advice. I work on the beginning a little bit until I get too frustrated, and then I go off to edit other parts. I still don't have it the way I want it, but I do think I'm making progress. I get what you're saying though, about making it just enticing enough. I'll try to keep that in mind.