Thursday, March 27, 2008

Play With Me?

Argh! The exposition fairy has dumped her whole bag of boring exposition dust all over my first 5 pages, and it's really hard to clean it all out.

Usually, I have lots of great first lines that go nowhere. Unusually, I currently find myself with a very good idea of where I'm going but am having trouble finding just the right way to start.

So I'm having a little contest, if you're game. Winner gets to have a character named after her or him!

Chapter 1: I'm introducing all the main characters and setting the stage for the novel's developing conflict at a dinner party. So far, in addition to a lot of dialogue, there are long paragraphs about birding, open source software development, and a computer game that I've invented for the purposes of this novel. I have strategies for cleaning up the exposition, but would love to have a catchy way to begin, other than with the corny joke one of my characters has just made. Again. ("Red or white?" "Blue!" [holds up energy drink])

In the comments for this post, supply me with an opening gambit that I love (an idea, which I'll write into an opening line that fits with my narrator's voice) and you get to have a character named after you or your favorite pet. For people I know, winning will offer you the chance to have me remove the possibly offensive caricature of you from my novel. Deadline Sunday night. Hit me!


  1. I'm probably overthinking it, but I don't have enough info about the characters to put them into a situation to show their personalities. I love brainstorming. Good luck.

  2. Thanks, Amanda. I have the situation: a dinner party, for which I know the location, all the guests, the program, and the things that need to be said/done to set up the rest of the plot. But I'm struggling with the clever little opening.

    I played around with the scene more last night and am happy with some of the fun things I came up with, but I'm not loving my opener yet because it introduces a conflict too close to the beginning. I want a little sunshine before the storms begin . . .

    So I guess what I was playfully looking for here is more like those silly suggestions people provide during NaNo. "One of your characters develops monkey pox. Go!"

    My hope was that of a bunch of silly (or serious!) suggestions, one would trigger me and prompt a rush of exciting thought that would set me off on a writing frenzy. I feel that I'm in danger of over-thinking this one, and I'm trying not to do that.

  3. One of your characters walks in hair soaking wet (not raining outside). Another characters comments, "Did you swim to the party?" Soaked characters states, "Nope, slogged." (Character is clearly not having a bright, cheery day!)

  4. My experiences with dinner parties is that I'm always there first. So you can make jokes about the person who's always first, or about the person who's always first not being first for once.

    The only other amusing anecdote I have is when I first dyed my hair purple-ish. A longtime colleague asked if I did it on purpose.

  5. Without more specific detail about the characters, setting, and the rest of the plot, all I can think of is to make a clever combination of two different conversations--as if one person is in the middle of the table and hearing both at once, and laughing/marvelling/snickering at the overlapping dialogue. I'm sure that somewhere between online gaming, open source, birding, and any church-related topics (I gathered there was some sort of religious theme to your story)? there have got to be some funny overlap, but I'll be darned if I can think of any right now :)

    With the dinner scene there are probably plenty of food-related things you could do--describing a dish, an anecdote about the origins/recipe/preparation/last time it was served that could do something for your plot. You don't say anything about the nature of the dinner party (people in tuxes with a caterer, potluck with Bible study group, special event?). Or about the tone of the book (wisecracking, serious, etc).

    You might just need to wait until you're much farther or done with the novel and come back to the opening. Then you might have a good idea for an opening image that could foreshadow something later, or some sort of symmetry with the close of the book (an image, a phrase? another dinner party with some significant difference?).

    With so many options, it's hard to guess what might work for you. I've written the intro to my WIP 3 times now, and the version that had the best opening line was the one where I had the worst trouble organizing the rest of the plot. Version #4 has to wait until a few more parts get through a first revision. Maybe by then I'll have something clever that actually works.

    Good Luck!

  6. You say you want to start on a sunny note?

    good timing: the knock on the door came just as the (appropriate dish) was taken from the oven .. (or as a host character finished the last detail of getting ready)

    anticipation of guests: is host character nervous, distracted, delighted, ? about guests arrival - they display the emotion through some awkward behavior while they waited, or in response to the arrival(s)?

    on a sillier side?
    monkey pox ... or just an irritating itch just out of reach?

    host keeps trying to do x (get wine out) but is constantly prevented by (ignorant to problem) guests

    giant whale bone unearthed in backyard

    eco-guests wear clothing made from recycled drink bottles, drive car they redesigned to run on french fry grease to party

    party is really memorial for toucan sam

    ok stopping here to prevent further randomness. just dont try to be overly clever.

  7. Untrainable and Keribrary, that's exactly what I was hoping for; thank you! All three suggestions are wonderful. (And I love the moniker, Keri!)

  8. Kristi, it's not a CBA book, though there is a major scene at a church. Thank you for the overlapping conversations suggestion; that's a fun device within a party scene.

    Ecoeclipse, very funny; thank you! (And your Toucan Sam suggestion isn't as far off from the truth as one might expect.) I am expecting some eco-guests at this dinner party; I'll have to give that one some thought . . .