Oh no, she’s not really going to complain about beginnings again, is she?
Oh yes, she is.
Last time, writing FINDING KATE, I stressed about the beginning because Kate is, at the outset, perceived by people as a shrew. She’s abrasive, outspoken, sharp, and sometimes really nasty. Not the best qualities in your point-of-view character. Not easy to ask your reader to identify with someone so hard to like.
I tried several different beginnings to make Kate more likeable, to make her shrewishness more understandable right up front, and to make the book easier to get into.
It was hard work. It took a lot of time, a lot of stress, and frankly, a lot of rejections from agents who just “didn’t love it”.
Now that FINDING KATE is out in the world and I’m focusing hard on getting the next book in the series finished, I’m struggling again with my old nemesis: the beginning.
For the next book in the series, I’m adapting “Much Ado About Nothing” which is one of my favorite plays and one of Shakespeare’s most popular. For good reason: it’s a lot of fun, and it has one of romantic fiction’s all-time best couples, Beatrice and Benedick. Their banter, their love/hate relationship, their “I pretend I don’t really love you but oh hell, yes, I do” relationship set the standard for nearly every romantic comedy that has been written since.
At the same time, if you look closely at it, “Much Ado” is a hair’s breadth away from tragedy. Alter the story a fraction — if the bad guy isn’t discovered — you’ve got “Othello.” And underlying the entire structure of the play is a vibe of tremendous male nervousness about female infidelity, when in action, it is only the men who are untrue while the women are unswervingly faithful.
In any event, as a novelist, I tend to focus on these darker themes because that’s where the drama comes from. That’s where all the character motivation comes from.
But that’s not good for writing a happy beginning that welcomes the reader in.
The other problem I’m having is finding the right way to present Beatrice at the beginning. Although Beatrice is another sassy, strong-willed woman, she (unlike Kate) is surrounded by people who love her and encourage her. The opening scene of the play is full of zingers from Beatrice and her family enjoying her wit. But when you write that — in first person, no less — it sounds obnoxious, preening, and arrogant: “I said something brilliant and everyone burst out laughing. I am so clever!”
So here I go ignoring the beginning once again, and writing everything else in sight. I’ll figure it out eventually. Right?