Let's talk about beginnings. And more to the point, let's talk about how much I suck at them.
Endings I'm great at. I can keep a climax going and going, action up and down, nails biting, seat-edging action. I can make them tense and reassuring at the same time, and always satisfying (wish I could say the same for my bedroom activties). Blood 2 has a great ending. Black Hole Son has a great ending (two, count them, two climaxes - one for each character). Heretic had a great, fun ending. Baby Blocks had a nice long, let-down from where the tension was - weddings usually do. ZerOthello's was written for it. Gatecrash, Blood, Quake, they all have good endings.
But their beginnings? Blood starts with an opening narration by the main character, announcing he's dead. And then I never go back to that. We never from hear from him post-events of the story. Gatecrash's opening was erratic, with no firm direction of where the story was going to go, which is how I was going to make a serial - make a bunch of meandering storylines, then use my writer-fu to bring them all together. What happened was the following plot made those storylines mostly irrelevant, and I created new ones. Heretic opens the worse - a huge infodump of the world, basically describing what's in their bible, while two uninteresting yutzes work in the field and make small talk.
I had a hell of a time coming up with an interesting beginning for Baby Blocks. At this point I knew I had a problem, but I couldn't get the reader to draw in before the first page was over. I ended up making it much like I did for Blood - a prologue-y type thing where I used quotes from the story to clue the reader in on the drama in the story. It shouldn't have started like that, but otherwise it would have opened on someone's thoughts and some "story so far" infodumps. That's a no-no.
This might be the trouble I have with short stories - they're a lot more beginning than ending. Once I get going, the story is awesome, but by then, the story's gotta wrap up. Everything's gotta be click-click-click. It could also explain why my novels get so long, because my inertia exceeds the reader's interest. Maybe I'm too detailed. Maybe I'm too preachy. Some day, I'll figure it out.
I don't think most writers have the opposite problem - good beginnings, but lousy endings. I rarely see the other way. Many is the novel that had a good beginning then a fizzled ending. Off the top of my head, there's Eastern Standard Tribe, Little Brother (come to think of it, any of Cory Doctorow's books seem to end abruptly), Star Dragon, any book in the Rifters Trilogy, The Face, Reflex, The Long Walk, Specials (I'd say Uglies and Pretties too, but those were meant to be cliffhangers), and Stuart Little. Good beginnings, interesting story, and then the story falls off a cliff before it ends.
Black Hole Son has a decent beginning. It doesn't clue the reader in on what makes the story special, but I think there's enough there to interest the reader, at least once I get read of some of the pensiveness.
Labels: beginnings, writing