Reason #673 Why Writing is Difficult: Beginnings

Wednesday, June 07, 2017
There are a thousand ways to begin a story. But what happens if you and your inner editor don't agree? I'd like to share a recent dialog I had with Heditor (the editor in my head) on my quest to begin a story. It's not pretty. Please don't judge.

Writer: After the rain stopped, I put the croissants in the oven.

Heditor: Why wait until the rain stopped?

Writer: I don't know, it's what happened.

Heditor: What does one have to do with the other?

Writer: Nothing, I guess.

Heditor: So why go there?

Writer: Well, the rain had stopped.

Heditor: So?

Writer: It's the truth, you know, write what you know.

Heditor: Oh, please. When did you start making croissants? Wait, did you really MAKE them, or just open a can.

Writer: Open a can.

Heditor: I thought so.

Writer: But I also had to pull them apart and then roll them up on the cookie sheet.

Heditor: Maybe you should write a cookbook.

Writer: Write what you know, and I know how to open a can and pull them apart and roll them up on the cookie sheet. And they were good. Hey, maybe that's my second sentence.

After the rain stopped, I put the croissants in the oven. And they were good.

Wait, do I need to say I ate one before I say it was good? Probably. And I need to take them OUT of the oven.

After the rain stopped, I took the croissants out of the oven and ate one (or four). They were good.

Do I need to say I waited a minute so I didn't burn my mouth? I don't have to say every little thing, but I can't just skip important stuff, either. But what is the important stuff?

Heditor: Why start here anyway? Will the fact that it's raining and a can of croissants have some deep meaning that will transform the reader? Or you?

Writer: I don't know yet.

Heditor: So you have no idea where you are going with the story. How do you expect the reader to follow if you don't know where you are going?

Writer: Sometimes the story is about the journey.

Heditor: You could start by buying the croissants at the store, and maybe having a witty conversation with another customer also buying croissants. Is this a romance?

Writer: I don't know. Maybe

Heditor: What if your character always wanted to go to Paris, but can't, and meets a man from France at the refrigerated case where they sell croissants, who always wanted to see Cincinnati and is now living his dream, and encourages you to live yours.

Writer: I don't like the idea of having a conversation with a stranger in front of the refrigerated case, because the one that comes to mind is the one at my local super store, and it's the least romantic thing I can think of. To begin a possible romance with the least romantic thing I can think of is just wrong.

Heditor: What about juxtaposition, and all that?

Writer: Yeah, I get it, but it doesn't work for me here. I want the image in my mind of a cool, rainy day and hot croissants coming out of the oven. It's comforting.

Heditor: Even if the croissants came from a can?

Writer: Yep. No one has to know that.

Heditor: But you know.

Writer: Yes, but it will be my little secret. I can live with it. And I can't defend it, or explain it, but it's my story, and I can write it my way. And later, if I don't like it, I can always rewrite. Who knows, this story could end up being about eating a bagel in a snowstorm, and that's okay.

Mary Horner is the author of Strengthen Your Nonfiction Writing, and sometimes argues with Heditor about writing.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Mary--This conversation made me chuckle because it was so steeped in what we think and grapple with as writers.

Thanks for a bit of levity AND reality to begin my day...

Angela Mackintosh said...

I'm going through this right now. I'm working on an essay and wrote three different beginnings. The battle with Heditor continues! Thanks for the fun post, Mary. :)

Lynn said...

Heditor, I'd like you to meet the editor in my head, Judgement Gremlin. Why don't the two of you go out and play on the freeway?

Mary Horner said...

I had fun writing this a few weeks ago before I realized it would be a blog post that some of you could relate to! I also think it could be used against me in a mental health evaluation! And Lynn, you pick the freeway and I'll send her there!

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