HE WROTE: Beginnings
The opening of a novel is tricky. The most important words you write are the first ones-- well, not really. The most important words are the first ones in the published book which most likely are NOT the first ones you wrote.
In many novels, the 'problem' that is the core of the plot, is introduced very quickly. Usually in the first pages. And it has to be interesting and hook the reader. As does the character. The reader has to care about the character very quickly.
Or else the reader stops.
Prologues: The reason I used prologues was because in most of my books, the problem existed before the start of the book. For example, the premise of my Atlantis series is "What if the force that destroyed Atlantis comes back to threaten our present world?" So the prologues in the various books show that force destroying an ancient city. Of course I also used dual timelines in some of those books so let's not get into that In fact, I had time travel AND parallel universes in that series and you want to talk about getting a headache trying to keep track of that. I eventually see Jenny and I, her and I, writing a time travel-alien conspiracy-vampire-romantic-thriller-comedy-with a prologue. And a sniper who deals death in the dark. Say that five times fast.
In a thriller, often the writer leads with a prologue that shows the antagonist. I agree with Jenny's point in that we are then hooking the reader with the wrong person. The only reason the opening chapter is called a prologue is because it's out of time sequence with the rest of the book.
To confuse the situation more, not only is there a difference between trouble and conflict, sometimes there is a difference between the problem and the initiating event. For example, in LOST GIRLS which will come out next year, besides having, gasp, a prologue, the problem is that there is a team of pissed off covert operatives in the United States wreaking vengeance on the families of those who betrayed them and left them for dead. The initiating event is the kidnapping of the daughter of one of those men. But then, one thing I learned is that my protagonist doesn't become aware of either the problem or the initiating event right away. Because if he does, then there isn't enough time to develop his character in his normal environment. For example, using a, gasp Terry Brooks forgive me, movie: In Stargate they open with a prologue. Digging up the Stargate in like 1914 or whatever. We shift to present day. When we go to Kurt Russell, the protagonist, he's not aware of anything. He's home, sitting in his son's room, with a gun in his hand. We learn later that his son found his gun and accidently shot himself. Which sets up Russell's willingnes (motivation) later on to stay with that bomb on the other side of the Stargate. BTW my book, THE ROCK, had a gate very much like the Stargate and came out first. Don't get me start on LOST-ATLANTIS.
Agnes is due 1 July. No sweat, I say as Jenny exchanged 30 emails this morning where she asked deep questions like: Now why is Shane climbing in through the window and not knocking on the front door?
I'm also in the throes of trying to figure out my next 'Mayer' book. I just can't get started. And I've always started my books at the beginning, which sounds redundant, but isn't. As per Jenny's suggestion, I might start this one by writing the resolution, which I can see and feel strongly about. Maybe that will shake me out of my funk.
Something also to remember, is that the opening scene often mirrors and foreshadows the climactic scene. So sometimes you can't write the opening until you get to the end, then go back and rewrite.
I'm not as concerned about 'what' happens in my opening scene as to tone. Or voice. Whatever you want to call it. I really believe, when you cut to the bone, the key to DLD and Agnes is voice.
But I could be wrong.
I was wrong once in 1978. Or was it 79?