Opening scene to a new story.
When I write the first scene in a new story, plot is the furthest thing from my mind. I’m totally focussed on what my character is doing, where he’s doing it and why. Some might say that’s plot, but for me it isn’t. That first scene might not end up in the finished book at all.
The first scene is an exercise in placing my character in the setting. Its purpose is to orient myself in the world I’m building and to fit my character into that world. It’s a way for me to explore the character and make sure what I envisaged for them is going to fit into the story.
That’s the theory, anyway. In practice it’s an ad hoc visualisation that might or might not work.
Here’s an example.
I thought it would be fun to write a story based on a fairy tale but turn it on its head. I’ve enjoyed reading a number of stories that do just that. The ones I’ve enjoyed most are the ones that have more tenuous links to the fairy tale, or show a different version of events, so I thought I’d do something like that.
This scene is my first foray into the idea. It’s going to be a take on Hansel and Gretel but the witch is one of the good guys.
Things I thought about before I began writing:
- Why is Andrew on the road?
- Is there an imperative that he continue?
- Why doesn’t he go another way?
I haven’t fully addressed the second two questions, but there’s at least one reason for each. There’ll be more later, I expect. I stopped writing when I needed to know who/what is in the house and why it was built across the path (or was the path moved to go under the house?).
Now I have my character placed into my setting and know what it looks like, sounds like and feels like, I can have a look at the plot and work out exactly what’s going on in Andrew’s world and what his part in it is going to be.
Next week I’ll post the next scene in the story.
Andrew stopped abruptly, the steady crunch of leaves that had accompanied him all morning, fading into the silence. In front of him, above the narrow path was a cedar clad wall. There was a gap of a couple of metres under the cladding and Andrew could just make out the gleam of steel stumps nestled in amongst the trees on either side. The path continued, wider and less grassy under the building, but uninterrupted. He peered through the leaves into the darkness under the hovering building but couldn’t see where the path emerged once again into the green light of the forest. He moved to the edge of the path, his heart thumping in counterpoint to his steps, and peered along the line of the building, but the forest grew too close and he couldn’t see a way around it. The other side of the path told the same story.
If you left the path, you might never be seen again. Andrew had grown up hearing stories of trolls and elves and wizards who preyed on the unwary. There might not be anyone who would miss Andrew if he disappeared, but he had plans. He took two steps forward. He needed to be in Eden before the equinox or Borog would sell to someone else.
Andrew walked closer, trying to look everywhere at once. For the first time, he noticed that more than his footsteps had ceased when he saw the wall. The forest was silent; not even the soft drip of water through the leaves broke it. He wiped the nervous sweat from his upper lip and took a deep, slow breath to steady his nerves.
“This is a really bad idea,” Andrew said as he took two more steps. “A very bad idea,” he mumbled as he put his head down and ran.
The air chilled as the light dimmed when he ran beneath the cedar wall. He kept his gaze on the path ahead but his nerves twitched at every creak and groan from above him.
“It’s just the floorboards,” he whispered to himself. “Wood creaks when the temperature changes.”
An eerie chuckle echoed in the deepening darkness around him and crawled up the back of his neck. Andrew ran faster but still couldn’t see where the path came out into the forest again. He was breathing heavily, sweat trickled down his back and dampened his shirt. As he ran, something glinted at his feet in the dim light. A coin. He ran on.
The third time he passed the coin, he stopped, chest heaving, sweat running down his face and back, steam rising wafting from his body in the cooling air. He stared at the coin, despair tightening his throat and fear clenching his fists. He looked around.