10 August 2015

First Scene Nonsense

Figuring out the first scene in your book can be tricky. It's the first thing your reader is going to read, so you want to hook them and get them wanting to read the whole story. But the scene should also make sense within the overall story. You have to make sure this particular scene is the right one to open the book. Once you figure all of this out, then you have to make sure you actually write it so that it meets these requirements. But like most things, it isn't always easy.

I've been thinking a lot about the first scene in my book lately. Actually, I've been avoiding it. I know I need to rewrite it so that it makes more sense and hooks the reader more. I've always known when and where it takes place, and pretty much everything that happens in it, but despite that, I still can't get it quite right. So lately I've just had no idea what to even do with it.

I think one of the problems is that there's a lot going on, but not in the scene itself. There's a lot of exposition--the narrator is conveying a ton of information to the reader and I'd say only half of it is actually relevant to the scene. It's important to his character, but it really doesn't need to be said within the scene itself. So I guess I've already figured it out. I should move this information to another scene. I really have no idea how to bring it up now, but that's probably a blog post for another day.

The second problem is that while the first scene is necessary to the story, it does kind of require some catching up on what has happened before the story begins. I've basically always had this idea that these books would start with the main character already in the middle of some scheme, because that's basically what he's always doing (especially in the first book when he's only 15, causing trouble is pretty much his only hobby). So this first scene is actually the end to something he already started, but it sets in motion what is actually the main plot of the book. So while it is necessary, there is some needed explanation. I just worry that it may seem odd to the reader.

The good thing is that I think I'm on the right track to figuring out my first line. I was never really crazy about the way I had it in the second draft, but I had no idea how to change it. A few nights ago I came up with something, and while I don't think it's perfect, I think what the line is saying is where I want it to be. I think it's getting the point across, but I'll probably need to rewrite it a few times to get it exactly the way I want.

So these are the editing issues I've been tackling lately. And that's just one scene!


  1. That first line has to be an attention getter for sure.

    And I like the idea of starting a book right in the thick of things, as long as it's not too confusing. Just enough mystery to keep me turning pages.

  2. I hate coming up with great first lines.
    Whatever information you cut, just sprinkle it throughout the book. You'll find good places to insert it and if you don't, then it probably wasn't necessary.

  3. I am actually STILL having problems with a first sense for a book that I finished four years ago! Every time I think I have it right, time goes by (riddled with rejections) and I think it's all wrong again. I'm actually going to completely move the first chapter of this book and put it a few chapters deeper. I hope it works! Good luck with your first scene!

  4. That was my issue. When I first wrote my MS, we were smack dab in the action, and critiquers were like, "Interesting, but who are these people?" And then when I added a part that gave who the people were, polished my MS and sent it out, agents said, "Not wowed." So now I've added a whole new scene that incorporates both elements so that people know my characters but can also be hooked from page 1.

    Good luck!!

  5. Good luck! It took me a while with my current WIP to get the first scene right. At one point, I deleted 3000 words and started over.

  6. Feeding in the important stuff is tricky and takes skill. I know you'll figure it out.

  7. it's super hard, especially when you also need to give the reader a feel for the setting, mood, main character personality, and hint at backstory! i've read it's like a mini book in itself teasing at the meaning of the whole novel... good luck! you'll get it!

  8. I'm sort of on the other end of the spectrum, in that I don't really sledgehammer my readers right off the bat, but more ease into it before shifting gears and eventually put pedal to metal. One thing I definitely learned throughout the years is not to do an info dump right off the bat.

    Example: my first book started off with a simple phone conversation (cliché I know) which in the course of roughly 100 words, set up the entire plot of the book. Although there was minimal action, I managed to introduce two main characters and who they are in that entire conversation without turning anyone off.

    Father Nature's Corner

  9. I know what you mean. Usually, I leave the opening to almost when I'm done with everything else. Because until I'm sure that the rest of the book is the way it should be, there's no point to adapting the opening.

    All the best with finding the best way to making the scene work.