Of course, we need a splashy opening.


The Hero's Journey often begins with a quest denied. We need to see the real reason for undertaking a life-changing hardship.

Tolkein's The Hobbit opens with a long (almost pointless) argument between Bilbo and Gandalf on the nature of the phrase "Good Day." This appeals to me. The quest is rejected straight away.

My preference -- when writing -- is a slow, careful start. In the opening chapter, almost nothing happens. Because. Well. The Hero's rigged for action, but the destination isn't clear.

For a film, we have a few minutes to present characters who are sympathetic and action which is compelling.

A book is no different. We need some initiating action. Or. More properly, we need an initiating conflict. It might not involve the slaughter of innocents or something like that. But it does have to involve a beat that has two things:

  • Some essential conflict.

  • The setup for future conflicts.

For The Forge (currently on hiatus) the conflicts are easy. In one draft, the Red Knight is denied the attornment of mages. Okay. That's more-or-less civil war, and we can drop a lot of hints.

In a later draft, we start later in the action, with The Mage tossed into an isolation cell because The Mage had the temerity to step outside their narrow path and look in on the Red Knight.

For my current Western/Horror (Stitching the Veil) the opening is much more fraught with problems. I really, really, really need to keep the opening between the two nuns -- the Sister Ministrant and the Sister Militant. However. I'm struggling with establishing the Sister Militant's essential skills and essential problems in a single beat. There are too many things to argue about, too much baggage, and only moments in the opening scene.

It's a fun thing to wring my hands over.

The book is 75% complete. I'm revisiting the opening (again) to make sure I have the right setup for the Defeat and Power sections of the story.


Interestingly -- to me, anyway -- the character becomes a little shifty. Some writers talk about the character having a life of their own. Which is a cute metaphor for adding depth and realism, and recognizing that some parts of the story need to be tweaked to include these additional details.