Novella Beginnings


This week is my “let’s try and write a novella in a week” week. Why? Because. As such, I’ll be noting down issues as I run across them, because what is the point of doing this in public if not to talk about the form?

So. Beginnings.

Bloody hell. Beginnings. Hands up who actually enjoys staring at a blank screen? Yeah, thought so.

Short stories have beginnings that begin things (it sound silly, but roll with it). They are to the point, they can often cover large amount of time in the space of a couple of paragraphs. Short stories don’t need to introduce you to the old normal (or if they do, they don’t spend a lot of time doing it).

Novels, OTOH, tend to spend time introducing you to the old normal. This makes sense – you can see how thing change because you’re aware of how they were before. You need to care before investing hours into a piece.

But what to do with the novella? My first instinct is the short story beginning – I’ve been writing a lot of them, and part of me just wants to show the important parts the first scenes and let the reader tie them together. Get the whole “let’s start” thing over and done with.

Also, there’s a fight scene I want to avoid. I hate fight scenes – they always come off as paint by numbers whenever I give it a crack, I know I’m fairly terrible at them. Arguments, problem solving, spying, intrigue – give me any type of conflict except the merely physical.

That’s probably part of the problem honestly. It shouldn’t be merely physical.

Anyway. I’m going to avoid just skipping through the opening scenes – if I’m going to make people dedicate themselves to this thing for longer that 5k, they need something to dedicate themselves too. Also, my MC is not human, which doesn’t help in the empathy stakes. So just skipping through things would sacrifice things and opportunities I don’t want to sacrifice.

Actually, there’s probably going to be more than one fight in this story, so maybe I can change the internal context of each of these fights. That way there will be an evolution of characters and relationships throughout those scenes, and it’ll make the other fight scenes more interesting to work through.

Novels often have a structure to their beginning. You meet character A, stuff happens, character A tries to deal with it, and then suddenly they’re not dealing with it anymore and have to do something different. This is not a terrible description of a first act, honestly.

So maybe, for this novella, is what I can do is steal that structure, but downsize it. Have the fight be the thing that goes wrong, and have an evolution over the fight of things not working out for the MC, and the MC having to resort to things that he normally wouldn’t resort to.

Right, that may work.

I apologies in retrospect for how stream of consciousness these things are going to be. If it helps, I’ve found the last 400 words useful for figuring out what I’m going to do.

Picture taken from flickr, creative commons, attributed to Jake and Lindsey Sherbert


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