As I prepared to read and reread and write and rewrite my 3 page opening for writing class, I thought it would do me some good to reread a few of my favorite books openings.
I selected the following for this exercise; The Great Gatsby, Lord of the Rings (Fellowship), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Marley and Me, The Princess Bride, War of the Worlds and Twilight. I was looking for variety in voice, genre, and point of view. I really should find a few more like Marley and Me since of the books I selected, that is the most ‘mundane’ of them (and subsequently the most like my idea for a book for class).
Some notes on these openings; 3 were written in 3rd person POV (Bride, LOTR, Potter), 3 in 1st person POV (Twilight, Marley, and Gatsby), and War of the Worlds almost felt like omniscient while still 3rd person.
4 were more people/character focused (Gatsby, Marley, LOTR, and Princess Bride), while the other three were more environment driven (in my opinion anyway – Potter, Twilight – poor rainy rainy northwest, and War of the Worlds – did you know there was intelligent life on Mars?).
A few of them had pretty giant prologues – Bride for instance is almost 1/4 of the book written to explain that this is an abridged version of a classic, but with the boring bits taken out. LOTR has pages and pages of notes on things concerning hobbits and pipeweed and the Shire to help set the setting, and fill in the blanks if you were one of the few people who didn’t read the Hobbit before reading Lord of the Rings. Others, like Gatsby – just jumped right into the the narrative, and really a narrative on that part – as the person narrating is an observer of Gatsby’s life, not Gatsby himself. With Twilight and Potter – I had a bit more time rereading and trying to forget how many times I’ve seen the movies, but interestingly – Twilight (just like in the movie) starts off with the ending where she’s being attacked by one of the rogue vampires, with a quick 1/2 page prologue – thought not sure it’s called a prologue if it’s really what happens at the end of the book during the main conflict.
Some of the books were tiny (WotW was less than 60k words – which in today’s world wouldn’t be considered a full novel really) – but really dense with tiny font and slim margins. Where as others looked dense (Twilight, 130k words) at 500 pages, but used giant font and large margins (probably to not scare off the YA readers it was aimed at). And then there was just giant – LOTR – but that was also because we have the trilogy all bound together (1125 pages – including a glossary and maps at then end and the beginning).
I’ll take a stab at genres:
LOTR – Fantasy (Epic)
War of the Worlds – Sci-Fi
The Great Gatsby – Literature
Marley & Me – Comedy (autobiographical – about a DOG)
The Princess Bride – Comedy (imo – but looking it up it actually is categorized ‘fantasy/romance’)
Twilight – YA/Thriller
All of these things make me question a couple of things 1) if mine is YA – is there a subgenre, and do I even read books like this? 2) I’ve planned a prologue to set the stage of their life before college – but does that become my opening? 3) I’ve always assumed I’d write with a 3rd Person POV – but seeing so many of these that I sampled had a 1st person – including Twlight, was sort of surprising. Come to think of it, I think Divergent (another YA thriller) was first person as well. I wonder if that is common with YA books. Need to investigate further. Potter certainly wasn’t.
Good news – I have 4-5 pages to play with now. Time to refine before the first critique.
Another thing I need to figure out – this book is going to have a lot of musical references, perhaps even some lyrics when my main character is singing along with her favorite songs – what are the copyright rules on things like that? Can you use lyrics in books that aren’t yours? I’ve seen authors reference musical artists or songs in books – though I can’t recall reading lyrics. Must research that as well.
Off with me! (woops – !!, not allowed to use explanation points in class all year. ALL YEAR. I need to be able to exude excitement/anger/anxiousness without using punctuation. I use a lot of !!. Need to start cleaning that business up.