There’s an abundance of enthusiasm and energy at the beginning . On the 1st of January at one minute past midnight there were fireworks festooning gold over the city of Melbourne, lighting up the city from end to end. I for one was watching with wonder and excitement, clutching a mug of thermos tea, from Studley Park Road.
This is also how I like to feel when beginning a book. Having purchased a book either from the shop or by mail I can’t wait to curl up in my favourite chair and clutching a mug of tea begin to read with a sense of wonder and excitement for the journey I’m embarking on. But Oh, if the pages aren’t scintillating and the characters are dull the excitement I’ve brought to this bargain is quickly expended. Then there is a feeling of having been let down. Just as if I had stood on Studley Park Road on New Year’s Eve with nothing but expectation to keep my excitement nerves on high alert but when the time arrived and the fireworks were a meagre little fizz I would have felt very deflated.
As part of the bargain the author makes with the reader, it is important to show the reader you intend keep that bargain by writing a beginning that will grab their attention and ensure their enthusiasm for continuing to read your story, which of course will not fail them.
Does it help to have a sense of excitement when you are penning those initial pages? I think it does. You have been working on your GMC (Goal, Motivation, Conflict). Your characters are feeling like real people with some major life changing event happening in their lives and there is the thrill of finding out what they have to say about it and what they intend to do. However you don’t want to give too much away. Beginnings are exiting because we don’t know what is going to happen next. The beginning of a novel needs to raise more questions than answer them. Minimum back story and maximum focus on the difficulties and immediate problems. Yes immediate problems. Nothing gets attention like a sense of urgency. Why is this person I’m reading about interesting at this point in their life, so interesting there is a book about them?
Once again I draw a parallel with the New Years Eve excitement. The fireworks should go off with a bang, lots of colour and noise and should evoke a reaction in the viewer. Oooohs and ahhhs is really what you are after in the first few pages of the book. It may help your first publisher think of your book as one that will move off the shelf. People in bookshops are often seen browsing through the first pages of a novel. I love to read the sample first chapter of online books. Remember beginnings are wonderful and scary, in order to be exiting. We don’t know what will happen. It’s the possibilities that are intriguing. Give your Heroine and Hero some possibilities that are going to be a really big, scary for them, challenge in the opening pages and you are on your way.