Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Toughest: Beginnings, Middles, or Ends?

The question of the week: 

Of those three basic parts of a novel, beginning/middle/end...which is hardest?

Personally I don’t think any one is harder than the other. They each have their unique hurdles. Maybe because I have a series, knowing where to start each book comes from knowing where the last one ended. Maybe knowing the endgame I am heading towards helps with those middles and ends. <shrugs>

That being said, I know I have my share of authorial flaws. I've been told I have “slow beginnings…but when the pace picks up, it really picks up.” So though I have no trouble knowing where to start, I clearly have trouble starting at a run. Looking back, I can admit that I see where I have spent time setting things up that were far more emotionally based than action oriented.

That may be entirely acceptable in other genres. Like, I cut my teeth on high fantasy. A certain amount of world building is expected. But I’ve learned that in urban fantasy…readers wanna be grabbed and dragged on an adventure with heart and purpose from the first word.

To that end...I’ve been posting a new chapter each week from the as-yet-untitled book 7 in my series HERE. You can scroll down and see the Prologue, Chapter One, and Chapter Two and judge for yourself. 

But I have to say, beginnings in a series have their own set of complications.

Recap? If so, how much? Character introduction? Setting introduction?

In order to get new readers up to speed and not over-drill the facts at regular readers, the obvious answer is to sprinkle tidbits into the openings of those subsequent stories. But how to keep it from being like the last three books?  Who wants to read about that same upturned polo collar? 

My agent had a wonderful idea. With book five, he suggested that I start dipping into other characters’ heads. I resisted the notion at first. I said, “Wait. We’ve been told if you write a series 1st person, you stick with that. You can’t suddenly start interjecting third person scenes. Right?”

He said, “Why not?”

I went with it. Wow and I glad.

Why am I bringing this up here and now?

Because. Suddenly, I could let readers know how Johnny saw Seph—which is different than Seph sees Seph, and different than how Seph thinks Johnny sees her. I could bring in a completely new character who was meeting them both for the first time and show a newcomer’s perspective. It gave the characters layers and depth they could not give themselves.  

It was a way to reward those repeat readers with fresh takes on those essential details. 

I'm kind of twisting this into character drive vs. plot driven here and I may be opening a can of worms, but what do you think? 

As it pertains to beginnings of series novels: Should a character remain as they were in book one, recovered and unchanged by events or should a character evolve? 

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