The Magical Words Beginnings panel was held by Faith Hunter, Misty Massey, and David B. Coe. Along with C.E. Murphy, those three established the Magical Words site in 2008. (I hear there is an Android app for it too!) If you’re an aspiring writer, Magical Words is definitely a place you’d want to visit.
On with the panel notes…
To begin, the first 1-2 paragraphs of the book are some of the most important. The panelists said that the first paragraph should establish five things.
- point of view
If it doesn’t, revise.
The first page should do what is called “bait and hook.” This means that you engage the reader (bait) and pull him/her into the story (hook).
Avoid using the beginning of a book for an “info dump” – you can establish character in the beginning, but save back story for later. You have to be careful not to describe too much. Choose what’s important.
- Notice what the character would notice.
- If the character is in an unfamiliar place, the character will take it all in.
- If the character is in a dangerous or tense setting, the character will have a more focused and limited view.
Faith read the first two paragraphs of Skinwalker. Those paragraphs didn’t just set up the first novel; they set up the entire series. How’s that for impressive?
The panel then shifted a little to what was once in style but has gone out of favor, like cinematic openings. David and Faith said that while cinematic openings are good for movies, they’ve not been used much in writing for about 20 years, so avoid them. With a cinematic opening, a couple of things happen. You have an omniscient narrator (which means you don’t get to the P.O.V character until later) and the camera zooms into the action from far away (which can decrease immediacy and intimacy).
The discussion of openings, narrators, and point of view naturally led to a brief discussion of person. Should you write in first person, second person, or third person?
- First person: that’s what is hot right now.
- Second person: avoid it.
- Third person: that’s the old standby (Thieftaker and Mad Kestrel are written in third person)
However, with that being said, you should write to the market. Don’t write to the trends, but do keep the market in mind.
David said, “If you’re going to reject my story, you’re going to do it on my terms.”
Faith said, “Write the book you love, not the book you’ll sell.” Overall, if you don’t love your book, and you’re not passionate about it, no one else will be either.