In the Beginning…

The beginning of a book has so much riding on it, depending on it. The “beginning” is usually considered the first 25% of the book. I can’t find my copy of Kress’ Beginnings, Middles, and Ends to see what she considers the beginning to be.

One: the reader has to like it enough to keep reading. There has to be enough there worth their time. Someone once said the average space a reader glances at before deciding to buy the book is the first 7 lines. Not sentences, lines.

Two: questions are asked that carry the rest of the book and must be answered by the end. Like, will Timmy ever get out of the well? Why does he keep falling in? And will Lassie ever get tired of it and just not tell anyone? And at least one of those questions has to happen within those first 7 lines. The reader has to be intrigued enough to want to know the answer.

Three: stuff happens in the beginning that sets up the rest of the book and propels the characters toward the ending. Be that a murder, an event, a meeting, whatever. It’s not just the question itself, but who or what asks it. Timmy fell in the dang well, yes, but why? What makes him keep falling into old wells? Sometimes the reason is subtle. Timmy is an inquisitive/foolhardy brat who needs to stay closer to home. Sometimes it is huge. Timmy is suicidal or aliens keep pushing him in.

It is #3 right now that has me banging my head on the keyboard. In To Dream, there’s just a lot happening in the beginning. Nothing major like car crashes or alien invasion, just stuff that is the foundation for the rest of the book. The vast majority of it is character introduction. Those characters have important roles (else they wouldn’t be introduced). One of the characters is Love Interest. To Dream, like To Sleep, is a science fiction novel, not a romance. In TS, there’s actually no sex whatsoever. In To Dream, however, there’s sex. But it’s not gratuitous, but serves a purpose. But it’s still not a romance nor is it erotica. I don’t introduce Love Interest until fairly far into the book. I’ve been told it needs to happen sooner and I kinda agree. But Karen (the main character) needs to do some stuff first and it is this stuff I am arguing with myself over. There’s an event that happens (a big meeting) and Karen attends it. Her attendance sets up some conflict (how dare she betray humanity!?) and provides validity to her statements later (“what I say is true and you believe me because I was there”). But except for providing that validity, it never comes up again. If a character has angst over where to go to eat, something better happen at that restaurant and that angst better happen again. But it never really comes up. And the conflict it creates is not something I am interested in handling. I’d rather hint at it than detail it.

I guess I just answered the question. Take that scene out. I will have to find some other way for her to prove “which side of the table she sits”. And good golly the book has a big enough word count that it will survive the cut.