Beginnings of books are hard! Usually when ideas for a new book come to me, my imagination jumps into the middle of the story, looks around, and thinks, “Oh, yeah, great idea!” But then I must develop the story by asking myself, “Okay, how did your characters get to this point?” Because my story ideas never seem to come to me at the beginning of the story, more like the climactic battle scene at the end, or the exciting near-miss in the middle. In fact, starting the story is one of the biggest challenges for me.
As an author in today’s industry, there is a LOT of pressure to get the opening just right. After all, so much hangs in the balance with those first few lines and pages. Editors, agents, publishers, readers, critique partners . . . everyone, it seems, reads those openings and decides whether the book has any merit, and whether or not they will continue reading, offer a contract, or buy the book.
Openings must capture the reader’s attention instantly and make them curious enough to see what will happen that they won’t put the book down. So, when I am trying to figure out just where to begin, I ask myself several questions:
1. Knowing where you want this story to go, what is the event that starts the ball rolling? Not the backstory leading up to that event, but the actual event.
2. What does the scene look like, and how can I place my character in a unique situation that will not be an overused cliché?
3. What tidbit of information can I nonchalantly slide in that will make my readers ask a question they must continue reading to find the answer to?
4. Am I starting too big? If there is too much action, it will be a letdown when I can’t build on that momentum.
In my newest release, Of Walls, my story opens with a scene where Julie and her husband are having a conversation. It is a women’s fiction novella about a mom, housewife, missionary who is struggling to save her marriage. It makes sense they would be chatting in their kitchen, not on the edge of a cliff for no reason other than to add intensity to the scene. The opening line is: “I really need this trip.” Seems pretty simple, right? But, I hope anyway, it instantly poses questions in the reader’s mind, and that is usually a good thing. Readers may wonder, why does she need the trip? What kind of trip? What’s going on that is so terrible she has to get away? And as long as I deliver on my promise to answer their questions at some point, hopefully they will keep reading to find out. And that, I think, is the biggest key to beginnings. Creating a desire in the reader to want to find out more, and then delivering on that promise to give them the answers a little at a time, keep their interest, and form a relationship between character and reader.
Author: Sara L. Foust
Title: Of Walls
Tag line: A struggling marriage and a mission trip to the other side of the world. What will Julie’s future hold?
Publisher: Silver Lining Literary Services
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Sara is a multi-published, award-winning author and homeschooling mother of five who writes surrounded by the beauty of East Tennessee. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from the University of Tennessee and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She is the author of the Love, Hope, and Faith Series, which includes Callum's Compass(2017), Camp Hope (2018), and Rarity Mountain (March 2019). She also has a story, “Leap of Faith,” in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Step Outside Your Comfort Zone. Sara finds inspiration in her faith, her family, and the beauty of nature. When she isn’t writing, you can find her reading, camping, and spending time outdoors with her family. To learn more about her and her work or to become a part of her email friend’s group, please visit www.saralfoust.com.
Julie Johnson's life as a mom and homemaker is richly blessed, but her marriage is struggling. Years of busyness, exhaustion, and hurt have taken their toll on her emotional and spiritual life, building impenetrable walls around her heart. When she feels God calling her to a mission trip on the other side of the world, Julie puts her faith in Him and leaves her family for ten long days. What she learns about herself, her marriage, and her faith will change her life forever.
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