Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Cut to the Quick (a dare)

I was chatting with a good friend of mine (who's busily editing and proof-reading her most wonderful novel right now) on FB the other day and somehow we got to the topic of first chapters, or rather how problematic they can be.

She said she changed hers around over and over, and she's still not sure it's what it needs to be right now (she has my vote of confidence, though - she's brilliant, and so's her work). I've had this problem many, many times before - so much so, in fact, that more than one idea was stopped at chapter one because I came no further than that.

Then she mentioned something she read somewhere: When editing, just cut the first chapter off. In fact, cut the first two and start with chapter three.

I was a little taken aback by such a radical suggestion, but it did get me thinking...

How long does it take a writer to find his or her voice, and truly get to the meat of the story? How much of this voice-finding is part of the story?

The answer: I don't know.

So I thought I'd give it a try. Here's the first paragraph of the third chapter in one of my WIPs....
I followed along behind my master like the good dog I was, right up to the main doors of the temple and the silent guards on either side. I approached more slowly than the prince. I really hate to admit this, but they kind of intimidated me. I’ve always had a healthy respect for all things holy, and these guards fairly glowed with godly righteousness in their pristine white uniforms with their pretty but slightly disturbing blood-red crosses and golden sunbursts on their right shoulders. 
I stopped a few feet from the entrance, not sure what to do. My master almost crossed the threshold, but he looked back, beckoned me forward. 
But I couldn’t. Not one more step, not towards His holiest of holies. Their God, their male God, implacable, unforgiving. I would not, could not, go into this his most personal realm. 
I think my master understood, or perhaps he felt my fear, because he gave me one of his half-exasperated, half-understanding looks and turned to speak to the guards instead.
“Marik, Soren, you keep an eye on Cavan, here”, he told them. “And you, my boy, you stay right here where they can see you. If someone bothers you, you may defend yourself this time.” He turned to the guards one last time. “You heard what I said. If someone attacks him, he is permitted to defend himself. See to it that he manages that, will you?” They saluted, but he was already gone, into the temple and whatever prayers called him there. 

What do you think? Does this sound like a good place to start a story? What about you? I dare you to post the first paragraph of your third chapters on your blogs!!!

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