Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Story beginnings

I’ve been pestering my author for her New Year resolutions so I can put them on this blog for you to all see. But she just grunted, put her head under the pillow and told me to go away because it’s too cold to get up yet. There I was bright and early on January 1st with my new blog… and she still hasn’t got out of bed, four days later. I think she’s a bit angry with me because she’s found out what I’m doing online. Of course she claims she’s dreaming up ideas for new stories, because apparently she’s been working really hard all Christmas holidays redrafting her latest book and has finally just about finished it (about time, because I was starting to get bored). But as I told you, new ideas are my job as her long-suffering muse. So what’s my author doing? Trying to make me redundant already? I hope not!

Anyway, while my author’s still dreaming I thought I’d trot softly over here and bring you some first lines from her published books, in case one of your New Year resolutions is “write a book”. You can’t use her lines in your story, of course, because they’re copyrighted, but it might help give you some ideas for your own beginnings.

Natalie saw the first spell in the supermarket car park…
This one’s from Spellfall. Do you like it? Do you want to read more? As you can probably guess, this book combines the real world (supermarket car park) with magic (spell).

The day everything changed, Singer Graia took Rialle’s class down the Five Thousand Steps to the beach…
From Song Quest. No supermarket car park here, because it’s a fantasy world. The clue is in the strange names, although the beach could be in our world so you'd need to read a bit further to make sure.

The chariot wreck had been a bad one…
From The Cleopatra Curse. A story about chariot racing.

The dare was Reonet’s idea, but Senu had to do it…
From The Great Pyramid Robbery. Again, the clue is in the names, which are ancient Egyptian.

The day the Macedonians attacked Halicarnassos, Alexis was in the narrow streets of the craftsmen’s quarter looking for his father…
From The Mausoleum Murder. The names should give you a clue again, but more interestingly you get to know Alexis’ father is missing. He’s missing because he's the murder victim, and the book is an ancient murder mystery.

My name is Bucephalas, and you should know right away I’m no Black Beauty…
From I am the Great Horse. That’s the book written by Alexander the Great’s horse. I’m a bit upset about him muscling in on my patch, frankly, but you get the idea.

The trick is to grab the reader’s attention right away and make them curious enough to read on, and it’s trickier than you might think! (Do you want to read any of these books? Which one? Why?) A good general rule is to start your story at a time of change, when something interesting is about to happen to the characters.

So how did my author do?

Seeing a spell in a supermarket carpark is quite interesting, at least it doesn’t happen to everyone every day. (Although if you have a unicorn as a muse, it happens more often than you think.)

The start of Song Quest is a bit vague with “the day everything changed”, but it was my author’s first book, when I was still a foal with a soft little horn, so you'll have to make allowances. Better would be to tell the reader what changed – in this case a ship was wrecked on the island where Rialle and her friends live.

I still quite like the chariot wreck, except for the fact some horses might have got hurt. At least you know there’s a chariot race involved, and the story is probably set in Roman times... although my author tells me people in London have been trying to revive chariot racing lately, which is a bit worrying if you’re a horse... O2 Arena: Ben Hur Live

A dare is always interesting… What is the dare? Who is daring whom? Will they do it? But I’m not too happy with this, because if you didn’t know the names were Egyptian you might not realize it’s an exciting story about robbing a pyramid. Luckily it had a good title, and my author’s publisher made a good cover.

An invading army attacking your home is quite an interesting place to begin, but Alexis and his family obviously also have some history you will find out about as the story unfolds. In this case, the murder happened many years previously. Many murder mysteries begin with the actual murder, which would also work quite well if you are a blood-thirsty sort of writer.

The Great Horse breaks my rule, of course. Well, he broke most rules and he wouldn’t listen to me. His book is written in the first person/horse (like this blog), rather than the third person (using “he” and “she”) like all the others, so I suppose he gets away with it. If nothing else, it shows his character because he’s certainly no gentle horse like Black Beauty. He’s big and battle-scarred and very full of himself, so at this stage I think I’ll just trot back into the enchanted mists before he bites me.

Let me know some of your beginnings, and I’ll try to get my author to comment on them when she's talking to me again.

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