Sunday, September 12, 2010

where to begin

In writing, I find that deciding "where to begin" my story is the biggest challenge. Often, in rewrites, I change the opening line, the opening paragraphs where I may leave entire chapters thereafter untouched aside from basic grammar or punctuation changes. Maybe it's me second-guessing myself. That might be it, but, because I know how my brain works, I lean toward thinking that the problem is that I don't really know where stories begin, none of them.

Aside from the "in the beginning" from the book of Genesis, all stories start at some point in time after the start of it all. You find yourself immersed in a world that is already firmly moving in one direction, with people who are set in their ways existing in societies or some other setting that pre-dated them.

Thomas Hardy's Tess was who she was because of the oppression of Victorian England just as J.D. Salinger's Holden was who he was because of changing landscape of 20th century America. Yet, somehow, these two got it right. We don't see Tess as a toddler or as a young milkmaid who matures into a lonely yet passionate woman just as we don't see Holden as an old man who has retired from banking and sending his kids off to college. We catch these two at just the right moment, at the moment of change.

Finding *that* moment and writing about it is what I struggle with. Putting a finger on not just where the trouble starts but on where the "interesting" trouble starts is my dilemma. I am not intent on writing a life story where I put on display the birth through the death. I am decidedly working on letting the reader see a person in a struggle...a struggle that is not only relatable, but that is traceable, recordable, and ultimately, believable.

So at perhaps the expense of my endings, I strive to begin strong. After all, that's where the reader begins as well.

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