You know that notorious opening of “It was a dark and stormy night”? Well, it’s also notoriously difficult to avoid (as previously discussed here). I have fallen victim to dark-and-stormies many a time trying to write a decent opening. I have such a clear idea of the middle, or the third paragraph of the first chapter, or the last third of a trilogy, that sometimes simply getting the story started is the hardest bit.
For example, the first draft of my first paragraph of the latest Work in Progress is:
The trees across the ridge scratched black scars against the blue-black sky. The light – a bulb of glowing golden-green – trickled along the side of the ridge below the line of trees. Between the ridge with the bobbing globe and her own light was a long swathe of grass that hissed and whispered in the breeze. She held her lantern aloft, its glimmering gold beam pooling around her feet and illuminating the side of her face. Behind her, with its own light glowing from its windows, the house stood – certain, solid and grey-black against the night. As she moved from foot to foot, the gravel ground and crunched beneath her, and she watched the orb of light move along the ridge, eventually swinging down to approach her across the grass sea.
Did you get the dark-and-stormy from it?
Yeah. Me too.
This particular opening was inspired by a drive home the other night. I was (for once) the passenger rather than the driver, which meant I could stare vacantly out the window. It was dark, but the sun still glowed behind the hills, making the sky that strange orange/blue/black of not-quite-night. We drove past a copse, and the bare trees were framed clearly against the sky, which at the time had long wisps of clouds across the moon. It was very atmospheric, which is what I wanted to write. I wanted a dark, spooky, but also beautiful opening.
That was my best (first) shot.
I perhaps reflect too much on what I’ve written. I end up circling back over the same bit of writing so many times that it becomes stale and I actually never move on, until it gets shelved as the latest “failed” piece of writing…
But I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that this definitely needs a redraft.
Tip of the day: don’t read your own stuff right after poking fun at rubbish book openings.
Do you struggle with openings?
Have you ever fallen into the dark-and-stormy trap?