Sunday, July 15, 2007

Where to begin?

So once again I find myself at the beginning of a novel. And as often (but not always) happens, I'm wondering where the beginning is, because it's not necessarily where the synopsis began.

The synopsis of THE WARLORD'S BRIDE begins with the heroine. She's a secondary character in the previous book in the series and I wanted to show my Esteemed Editor how her story was going to follow KNAVE'S HONOR.

After Roslynn's husband, the villain of KNAVE'S HONOR, is executed for treason, she's sent to Wales and given to Madoc of Llanpowell as a bride -- and reward for services rendered.

I could have started there, with Roslynn, the king, his wife, the order and the court -- except that I don't intend to show the king et al ever again. I think if I start at court, the reader will be expecting the king et al to show up again, or for Roslynn to return there. Since that isn't planned, I think that would be setting up false expectations and could lead to reader dissatisfaction.

But I don't want to load the beginning with a lot of backstory and/or the medieval equivalent of the heroine on a plane thinking about her life. What happened at court will be told, rather than shown, later.

Yes, sometimes I think it's better to tell than to show but -- and this is key -- it shouldn't be me, the author, telling via internal narrative. I think the best way to deal with that part of the backstory would be to have the heroine tell the hero about it. That can also provide a moment of emotional intimacy between the main characters and you can never have too many of those in a romance.

Also, the hero, Madoc, is the sort who could come across as arrogantly macho if I don't introduce him in a way that reduces that possibly, that shows him in a better light. For me, that generally means starting in the hero's point of view. So the first scene I've written shows Madoc dealing with an external conflict that is important to the story and that shows him in relationship to the men under his command (they respect him and fear his temper), as well as one of his shepherds who he respects and admires. The fact that he has that kind of relationship with the shepherd will, I hope, make him if not likeable (yet), as least not disliked by readers.

I also open with what I think of as a "crane shot," like in the movies where it opens sort of "up in the sky" and then gradually zooms in on people or a place. It's omniscient POV, actually, then I move into the hero's.

At present, the second scene introduces the heroine -- but not in her POV. Again, I start rather omnisciently, with a secondary character talking. But then instead of going to the heroine's POV, the POV shifts to another secondary character. This allows the heroine and her motives to be a little mysterious (although the POV secondary character has a pretty good guess as to why she's there).

Why do that? Well, for now, I want to the reader to share the secondary character's sense of impending trouble -- this woman's arrival is NOT good. Things are going to change, and not, he thinks, for the better. He's also anticipating the hero's reaction -- again, he's sure it isn't going to be good.

However, I'm not going to keep the reader waiting much longer for the heroine's POV, or else I face frustrating the reader -- "Just what is that woman's deal anyway?" (Or worse, "What's her problem????")

I've shown her waiting and she's obviously tense; I've given a pretty good hint as to why she's there; I've shown the hero heading home, having been informed visitors have come and his uncle's been into the braggot (a very potent Welsh drink of mead mixed with ale) so who knows what he's been saying to these unexpected, unwelcome Normans? The time has come to have the hero and heroine meet, to "explain" the heroine and her feelings, as well as her reason for being there.

However, this is only the first draft. I may decide to change the points of view later. I may cut either one of these two scenes and go right to the meet (although I doubt that -- I need some set-up, I think). I may decide I need to start somewhere else entirely.

The most important thing right now is to get something down, to get my hero and heroine together and talking. Because that's how I really get to know them, too.

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