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24 April 2009 @ 09:56 am
Writing woes.  

Writer folks on my f-list, I have a question to pose you. I feel like I am beating my head against a wall with this rewrite. Like, the new prologue (which is WAY DIFFERENT from the old one, as in, doesn't even remotely resemble it) is great, and I'm thrilled to pieces with it. BUT then we have chapter one....which is not knocking my socks off. Every damn word is like pulling teeth, and USUALLY when a scene isn't working, that means I'm coming at it from the wrong directions. Maybe it needs a POV shift (not applicable here), or maybe it needs a new character added, or the character it's focused on isn't happy with whatever I'm having them say or do, so I should change it.

Now, sometimes with beginnings, if it isn't working that means you're starting it in the wrong place. Maybe that's happening here, I am not sure. So I'm going to explain what I'm doing and why behind a cut, more to write it out for my own benefit and getting it all straight in my head than anything else, but if you want to read it and offer input, I certainly won't mind. But my actual question for all you writers is this: do beginnings plague you, or are they easy? Why? How do you approach them? That opening scene is so vitally important, and yet I invariably find myself liking all of the other stuff that comes later so much better.

I struggled so much with this rewrite, I ended up stealing the old opening line I had, and then making everything different after that. It's not like it sucks, but it doesn't make me smile the way the prologue does, you know?

Mercy, in case you somehow didn't know, is the MC of Nemesis. In fact, she's the POV character for most of it, though there will be other POVs explored in this rewrite more than in the previous version of the book. Here's the deal in a nutshell:

Mercy's a telepath, and since telepathy carries a death sentence (for reasons I won't go into here), she keeps it a secret while she's flying dropships for the Commonwealth Navy. Also, it hurts her everytime she uses it, so she's afraid it might eventually kill her, one way or another. Little does she know, there are bunches of other telepaths out there, just like her, except they became pirates generations ago, preying on Commonwealth ships to gain what they need to survive. Now, when Mercy and the pirates meet, she finds out she was born among them, but her mother took her and hid in the Commonwealth years ago, so Mercy has all this family she never knew about. Once she's with the pirates, the focus is no longer on Mercy as a Navy pilot, it's on the society the pirates have created and how Mercy fits into it, and all the intrigues and such therein. Oh, and the Commonwealth has tried to wipe out the pirates multiple times, so there's some loyalty conflict for her there, too. But, in order for the reader to get why this is so hard for her, the stuff in the beginning with Mercy working for the Commonwealth HAS to be there. Plus, that stuff is how the pirates find her. She meets the first telepath she's ever come across, other than herself or her mother, in that section. She works as a dropship pilot, doing troop deployment and combat search and rescue - this establishes Mercy as someone who doesn't abandon her people, and someone who cares enough to use a gift that might be killing her to find them and save their lives. It's important character stuff. Plus, the Commonwealth will play a greater role in future books, so it really needs to make an appearance in this one. I can't just start the book where Mercy wakes up in a cell on the pirate's ship, even though everything that comes before that is what I'm struggling with.

Problems that have been pointed out to me as they existed in the previous version of the book:

~ the reader doesn't really get a feel for Mercy's personality or who she is, or begin to care about her, really, until she's with the pirates. Originally, I just had her a combat pilot. I changed it up for the rewrite, and made her a dropship, search and rescue pilot because I feel this is truer to who she is later in the book, and establishes right off what she's willing to sacrifice for others. Her telepathy was always giving her problems, but now I've raised the stakes and made it deadly, giving Mercy something immediate that needs to be overcome.

~ no one feels sympathy for the Commonwealth. The reader wonders WHY Mercy struggles at all with loyalty, when all their sympathy is with the pirates. So, I've got to establish in these early chapters WHY the Commonwealth made telepathy a death sentence. Check - i know how I'm doing that.

So, my plan has always been to start the book with a rescue - she's part of the CSAR team that rescues a group of downed pilots, one of whom turns out to be a telepath. Starts with a scene with high stakes for Mercy - first, she cares about finding and rescuing these people. Second, she has to use her telepathy to do it, a gift that damn near kills her to use. So both of these things should help create a more immediate connection to her as a character than in the previous version. (Which also started with a rescue, but more after the actions.) Shortly after this, a CSP agent (think, government agent) arrives onboard the carrier Mercy is stationed on, and arrests Reaper, the other telepath. This is important and significant to later events in the book. Mercy also fears being discovered as a telepath herself by the agent. Characters are introduced, relationships are established, etc, and the pirates show up very shortly after this. We're only talking five, six chapters of material here. I think, once I figure out the right way to open it, I'll have more luck writing the rest of that five or six chapters. But damn, that opening is just like pulling teeth!
Current Mood: frustratedfrustrated
L.A.frenchroast on April 24th, 2009 08:51 pm (UTC)
My question: why does she care so much about rescuing them? I mean, I know it's her job and all, but is there a reason beyond that for her to go the extra mile to use telepathy to rescue these pilots? You could make it more imporant emotionally than her usual recovery jobs. A special friendship with one, another the child of a higher up who's helped her before? One that she doesn't like/is envious of, but then feels guilty about her first impulse being to save the others before him/her? Another who she likes but who fears telepaths and wouldn't want their help, so Mercy's got the moral quandry of saving him/her even though s/he wouldn't want to be saved thanks to telepathy? Another who's a single parent, or about to retire, or...

Each of those pilots can be a different reason for her to be attached to the Commonwealth, and an example of the good part of the Commonwealth, so that her loyalty is less to the Commonwealth, and more to the people who make up the Commonwealth.
a joyful girl getting loud: [av] cheer up bbperi_peteia on April 25th, 2009 12:33 am (UTC)
do beginnings plague you, or are they easy? Why? How do you approach them?

For me, it's entirely dependent on the specific story in question. Some stories come to me with their beginnings fully formed/the first thing I think of is, fittingly, the beginning. Though I certainly recognize that slog through bits that are needed to get to bits that interest you more.

I guess I just don't necessarily get that at the beginning.
J.K.Richárd: Aroo?!neutronjockey on April 25th, 2009 07:04 am (UTC)
Why not have the first chapter BE the backstory. Meaning, write about Mercy's mother stealing her away into the Commonwealth? Then take a chapter (or two) and develop Mercy through her childhood-growing up as an telepath (secretly) in the Commonwealth.

Then you could just dump her in a jail cell on a pirate ship.