One of the things that Taylor Norman kept mentioning at the Missouri SCBWI Advanced Writer’s Retreat was the need for a strong start to your story. Surprisingly enough a strong start Taylor-Norman-style did not start with a bang. It wasn’t necessarilly a high-action scene. It wasn’t the moment that the character’s life started forever.
Instead, she asked us to let her meet the character first. Let us see a bit of this character’s day-t0-day life. That way should would learn who this character thinks she is and what she cares about before everything broke loose. Pretty much the opposite of a John Wick beginning.
If you haven’t seen it, we meet John Wick immediately after he topples, gunshot, out of an SUV he just crashed. Climax plus 1 minute. Then the movie goes back to the beginning.
What Taylor wants authors to lead with is voice. Who is this character? How does she talk? What’s her attiitude like? This isn’t to say that the character has to break the fourth wall and speak directly to the reader (ala Lemony Snicket). But Taylor wants to see the character being herself. She wants to be intrigued and care before everything goes ka-phooey.
Taylor didn’t read my Iron Mountain and I’m kind of wondering what she’d think of the beginning. My character is on her way to get bad news. She doesn’t know that’s what this trip is all about but you only get one brief scene of hopeful anticipation before ka-phooey. I’m not sure that it’s enough so now I’m noodling over my beginning . . .
Get to know the character then yank the world out from under her . . .