My problem with beginnings

Sometimes I just can’t begin. I start writing and it sounds like immediate crap. Other times I get to a certain point and everything leading up to it works fine or even great–but it’s an insurmountable point. Not an obstacle, but a tungsten mountain.

It gets really irritating.

This is true of just about anything I write. I don’t have as big a problem with it when I’m blogging, because I never expect it to make any sense anyway. Even if I have a particular thingummy I want to talk about or get to.

Another problem I have is that I’ve gotten a lot more visual over the years. Planning is a pretty big hole to trip over–if I plan too much then my brain registers it as done and rebels at the idea of going over it again. But if I just picture things, then I won’t even get to a planning step, and it’s the same problem, only magnified.

Beginnings are important. A lot of people won’t stick with something that is boring, stupid, or technically dubious, be it a movie, book, or video game. Yet it doesn’t get the consideration it needs–or it gets such an overdose that you wish it hadn’t been considered. And of course it’s always harder to be the creator than the consumer.

Yesterday I was talking to myself in the car (like ya do) and came up with what I think was supposed to be a monologue. I’d been thinking of a mix of ideas along with the upcoming Scrip Frenzy. Trying to decide if I wanted to do it or not. And it sounded okay out loud. Good, even. But when I got home and started writing it down so that I would remember it, it was kind of like when you dream about a song and then wake up trying to sing it.

There are tricks of speech that don’t even work in dialogue. Saying ‘you’ to an unknown audience and talking about the past is cheap, and making social observations through a character’s first person point of view is tricky if you’re not working in (the dreaded) present tense. I got away with one of those by using it as the chapter title instead of as the first line, but it lost punch in translation.

To be fair, although I am pretty much unconditionally repulsed by present tense in fiction, there’s also the question of whether it fits the story or not. This one doesn’t. It’d increase my annoying tendency to cover events too closely and in chronological order.

But I think that when you write something that continues to be a truth or concerns a general opinion that is not actually in the past, it’s kind of the place you need to cheat. It’s not a tense change, it’s grammatically correct.

For example, if your first person past tense narrative starts talking about how first impressions are funny things, it would look strange for the text to read: “First impressions were weird. People noticed funny things about each other on a first meeting.” The past tense here lacks the immediacy of the past tense in “She took off her hat and smiled at me”. It sounds awkward and unimportant, as though merely a passing mention.

I suppose I’ll go on puzzling over it and griefing myself for wanting to just leave in the you’s and present tense statements that came out while I was working this out aloud. But it’s on my mind, so I’m writing about it.


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