Warning: Vent time.
I hate opening chapters!!! Vehemently! With this book anyway. Somehow, the opening of Book Two was never a problem. I always knew exactly how it would start, down to the first line. Writing it was like recording something that had already been decided. I knew exactly what the inciting incident was. Although the story is the second book in the series, I didn’t have too much background or setup. Just a brief paragraph long run-down of Book One. The rest of the back-story you get within the text itself.
Book One is an entirely different story. I have never known where to start the book, and have consequently begun in half a dozen different places. Each one seems wrong. Originally, the story began with the military’s request for the main character to join their special ops program. That seemed too confusing–the reader needed a little background. I took it a step back to when the “trouble” (translation: war) first began. Well, then I came up with all kind of motivation issues and backed up even further to high school graduation. That was entirely too far back. I fast forwarded to the middle of the first attack, when the college is burned down. That was too far forward–if the reader doesn’t know the characters yet, how will he or she care what happens to them or feel the urgency of the situation? I tried the declaration of war in three different settings. Again, didn’t seem to have enough background.
I finally went back to my high school draft and skimmed through it. I came across a chapter I had never before considered for an opening, but when I looked at it, it seemed perfect. It set the scene for the war–food shortages, lack of jobs, underlying tension. Offhandedly, the main character mentions his family background. The reader meets the MC’s best friend (who is important, though I’ve varied back and forth on cutting him). Through just a little tweaking, I was able to introduce the inciting incident.
After all that hard work, I had a bout of panic–is it too slow of an opening? Will it hold the reader’s attention? After a few nights of tossing and turning, I settled down and took some deep breaths. Perhaps one reason I struggle with the opening is because I know how intense and dramatic the story becomes later on. That makes the opening seem pale and lackluster, while at the same time, I love the opening. Maybe it’s perfect the way it is.
This is why I need a critique group . . . .