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DMarie84
03-03-2009, 11:05 PM
Is it cliché or unwise to open my novel up with the death of the MC's mother? It's where the story truly begins as she is telling her daughter she is sorry for all the secrets she's kept from her regarding the identity of her father.

Of course, I'm making sure she's not saying all of this as she's taking her last breath because I know that is cliché and unrealistic (most people do not engage in such conversations as they are struggling in their last moments). When she does tell her daughter of the "secrets" it's very vague and it comes some hours or so before her death (I don't actually detail the death itself).

Anyway, should I stick with this or try and come up with another beginning? I want to jump right into the story and this is the only thing that's coming to mind.

maestrowork
03-03-2009, 11:26 PM
Plenty of stories open with a death or funeral, etc. But yeah, it's a bit cliched.

But still, I ask this: Does your story really happen then? Is it the inciting incident to set your MC in motion to the point of no return? Or is it more of a "motivation" or background?

I started TPB with a funeral, thinking it was the start of the story because the MC had to go back and confront his past. But it turned out it was all just back story. True, it's the start of the turning point, but the turning point didn't begin until he discovered his father's belonging, and that was 15,000 words in! Ooops, so in a subsequent draft I deleted all those words and integrated some of the backstories into the now-main story, which starts where it's supposed to start.

But yeah, the death-secret thing has been done many times. But it doesn't mean it can't be done again, but you need to make it your own, and not fall into the same cliches.

Feidb
03-03-2009, 11:32 PM
Hell, everything is a cliche, of you think about it. I guess it's how you "arrange" your cliches that makes your story unique.

RobJ
03-03-2009, 11:35 PM
Just curious. What's the chronology of your story? Does it go forward from here, or do you end up with a lot of flashbacks?

Cheers,
Rob

DMarie84
03-03-2009, 11:52 PM
Just curious. What's the chronology of your story? Does it go forward from here, or do you end up with a lot of flashbacks?

Cheers,
Rob

Forward. I don't believe I have any flashbacks. I don't like focusing too much on backstory; if part of the backstory needs to come out, I'll put it in a brief conversation.

RobJ
03-03-2009, 11:58 PM
Thanks.

DMarie84
03-04-2009, 12:04 AM
Plenty of stories open with a death or funeral, etc. But yeah, it's a bit cliched.

But still, I ask this: Does your story really happen then? Is it the inciting incident to set your MC in motion to the point of no return?

Hmm, well I'd say it's the start of the point of no return.

I could nix this chapter, but the next one that would be telling wouldn't even have the MC in it (chapter 2 introduces her father and him deciding that his daughter must leave town). But I was hesitant to start with that because it's not the MC.

I could also think about starting it when she arrives home to two strangers in her house, claiming her life is in danger. Perhaps that would be the better place to start it?

Devil Ledbetter
03-04-2009, 12:09 AM
It isn't just that it's cliche, but the death of a character, or of a character's loved one is a lot less affecting in the first chapter when we don't know or care about any of them yet.

Charlie Horse
03-04-2009, 12:12 AM
You know what's never been done before?


Nothing.

If you as the author feel that's the best way to open your book then write the hell out of it and make it work.

n-v-b
03-04-2009, 12:58 AM
I have a death at the start of my novel, except the death has actually occured many years before so is dealt with via a flashback through the eyes of a very young child (who then grows up to be the MC in the novel).

DMarie84
03-04-2009, 01:00 AM
It isn't just that it's cliche, but the death of a character, or of a character's loved one is a lot less affecting in the first chapter when we don't know or care about any of them yet.

I thought of that too.

Anyway, I always had questions about the beginning and the fact that it lacked the momentum it needs to start the rest of the book. Beginnings are always so difficult for me

I've got a few other ideas on how to start it.

One more thing: I know I can do anything as the author, but what about starting the book off with a secondary character--the character that pretty much sets the rest of the events in the book in motion? I'm sure other novels have started this way, but I can't think of any off the top of my head.

dawinsor
03-04-2009, 01:08 AM
Beginnings are fiendishly hard to write.

Re starting with a secondary character, all I can give you is my reaction as a reader. When I start reading a new book, I'm like a newly hatched duckling, looking for someone to imprint on so I can follow them through the book. So if the first person I see or have as my POV turns out to be secondary, I'm usually a little disappointed. I've taken the trouble and made the effort to attach to them and now I have to change. I'm not saying it's impossible, just that I always feel a little hitch in doing it.

DMarie84
03-04-2009, 01:22 AM
Beginnings are fiendishly hard to write.

Re starting with a secondary character, all I can give you is my reaction as a reader. When I start reading a new book, I'm like a newly hatched duckling, looking for someone to imprint on so I can follow them through the book. So if the first person I see or have as my POV turns out to be secondary, I'm usually a little disappointed. I've taken the trouble and made the effort to attach to them and now I have to change. I'm not saying it's impossible, just that I always feel a little hitch in doing it.

That makes sense, too.

ARGH. I was then thinking I could make it a prologue, but eh...I know many agents and readers don't like prologues either.

Bah. :tongue

I think I'm not gonna stress on this yet until revision process. But it's going to keep haunting me, trying to think of a better beginning. :idea:

Barpaio
03-04-2009, 01:44 AM
I once caught a great piece of advice, to begin your story just before the story begins. Helps set up a status-quo, supposedly. Just my two cents.

maestrowork
03-04-2009, 03:29 AM
Why not open with your MC already learned the truth, already distraught, or whatever she is feeling -- conflicts, baby, conflicts -- but don't tell the readers what yet. Maybe start from the moment AFTER the death/funeral or whatever and BEFORE she has to take the plunge (leave town, look for her dad, whatever). Basically, move the beginning even closer to the point of no return, right at the door before it slams shut, instead of in the hallway when the lights are still bright.

Then, in later chapters, you can show us what really is going on.

Perhaps be rid of the whole "death bed confession" thing because it is pretty cliched and find another way to resolve that revelation.

RunawayScribe
03-04-2009, 03:56 AM
So many things are considered cliches. I can't stand it. If something is necessary to the plot and done well, then do it. There are countless books out there. It's ALL been done before.

MumblingSage
03-04-2009, 04:09 AM
I could also think about starting it when she arrives home to two strangers in her house, claiming her life is in danger.

I think this opening would hook me a lot more than the dying mother, no matter how important the mother might be. Could you start with this scene and then 'seed in' backstory (not through flashbacks, necessarily) as maestrowork did?

DMarie84
03-04-2009, 05:43 AM
I think this opening would hook me a lot more than the dying mother, no matter how important the mother might be. Could you start with this scene and then 'seed in' backstory (not through flashbacks, necessarily) as maestrowork did?

I've pretty much nixed the death scene--it was already questionable anyway--and I'm thinking the arrival to the two strangers is a lot more of an attention grabber. It's not set in stone, but I now know that I'm getting rid of the death scene.

I'll probably put a momentary flashback here in when she's remembering what her mother said before she died. But even that's not certain.

ellisnation
03-04-2009, 07:36 AM
This is just an idea -

My own grandmother did not have the identity of her father revealed until after her mother died... it was in a letter. That might sound cliche, but its a true story! My point is you could just think of another way for your MC to aquire this information. Maybe even by rummaging through her just-deceased mother's paperwork or albums.

leenakincaid
03-04-2009, 07:59 AM
No. One of my novels opens up with a person being stabbed to death.

MumblingSage
03-04-2009, 06:12 PM
Leenakincaid: Yes, but that also includes major!conflict. :D Death-by-cancer is a particular form of literary death. There's tension, but it's mostly emotional and often doesn't come across to the reader (who doesn't know the dying character) as well as adrenaline does.

DMarie84
03-04-2009, 07:28 PM
No. One of my novels opens up with a person being stabbed to death.

Yes, that's definitely different, at least from mine.

The conflict would be more imminent if I made my current third chapter the beginning. The more I'm looking at it, the more it seems like that's the point of no return.

This is just an idea -
My own grandmother did not have the identity of her father revealed until after her mother died... it was in a letter. That might sound cliche, but its a true story! My point is you could just think of another way for your MC to aquire this information. Maybe even by rummaging through her just-deceased mother's paperwork or albums.

Thanks, but her father's identity remains a secret from her for most of the book. He's in a position of power and he has purposely kept his distance from her and her mother to protect them.

However, at this point (the beginning of the story) he's decided to send her into hiding because the politcal climate has become volatile (and he's obviously an influential figure) and he doesn't want to chance her discovery (as the antagonists are looking for some way to gain leverage over him). So, the "new" beginning would be my MC coming home to two strangers sent by her father to take her into hiding--and she has no choice but to go with them.

But now I've come up with another question: should the reader also be unaware of his identity or not? This is told in third person subjective, with multiple POVs throughout the book, split into chapters (my MC for the bulk of it, but there's also the antagonist POV and her father's POV). I'm now thinking that if the reader knows his identity, it wouldn't be as compelling.

adtabb
03-04-2009, 07:41 PM
Thanks, but her father's identity remains a secret from her for most of the book. He's in a position of power and he has purposely kept his distance from her and her mother to protect them.

However, at this point (the beginning of the story) he's decided to send her into hiding because the politcal climate has become volatile (and he's obviously an influential figure) and he doesn't want to chance her discovery (as the antagonists are looking for some way to gain leverage over him). So, the "new" beginning would be my MC coming home to two strangers sent by her father to take her into hiding--and she has no choice but to go with them.

But now I've come up with another question: should the reader also be unaware of his identity or not? This is told in third person subjective, with multiple POVs throughout the book, split into chapters (my MC for the bulk of it, but there's also the antagonist POV and her father's POV). I'm now thinking that if the reader knows his identity, it wouldn't be as compelling.

Well, have you read "The Golden Compass"? The man she thinks id her uncle turns out to be her father, and she never knew her mother until... Well, that series plot line might give you some ideas, even though I'm sure your story is totally different, and likely a different genre.