Posts Tagged 'beginnings'

Where to Begin?

Rabbit - psychicHow often have you picked up a book, only to put it down again after reading a single page?  Children often don’t even give books that long.  Their worlds move so fast, with movies and computer games and the Internet, that they’re likely to put a book down after only a sentence or two if it doesn’t immediately grab them.

So for a children’s writer, this lends the first sentence and paragraph even more weight.  It’s rare to get this right in the first draft though.  I know I have a bad habit of meandering into my stories, rather than dropping readers immediately into the characters’ lives and problems.  I don’t mean you necessarily have to start with high action – there’s no need to go killing people off in the first sentence.  What I mean is conflict.  Even quiet stories need immediate conflict, even though it may be more emotional in nature.  And what I mean by conflict is those things driving the characters, hence the plot, forward.

For the fantasy novel I’m working on through the mentorship, in my second draft I discovered that my story actually started at chapter 15.  Luckily I didn’t have to scrap everything before that, but this is where the true conflict began.  In rewriting this as chapter 1, I thought long and hard about that first line.  I wanted it to reflect the ultimate conflict my lead character needs to resolve.  In brief: she comes from a winged tribe, and is the only one ever born into it that cannot fly.  Although she comes across many challenges on her journey, they all ultimately boil down to one problem – her lacking self-belief stemming from this inability.  She feels it defines her.  As such, the very first line sees her entering a situation highly dangerous for one who cannot fly.  So immediately her core conflict is challenged, just a taste of what she must resolve in the end (and while this is her internal conflict, her external conflicts are also introduced in the first page).

I find it interesting after finishing reading a book, to go back to the first paragraph and see how other authors do this.  Figuring out where to start is not always easy.  But if you can get to the heart of your character and your story – the heart of the conflict – then you have a pretty good chance of getting it just right.

About this Blog…

A blog of ramblings about the world of writing and illustrating for children, by an author / illustrator who might just have a thing for rabbits.

Katherine's picture books, 'Squish Rabbit' and 'Brave Squish Rabbit', are out with Viking (Penguin, US) and UQP (Australia). Please e-mail if you would like her to blog about something in particular.

All text & images  Katherine Battersby

Released Sept 2012:


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