Friday, 10 February 2012

Great Openings

I recently received some feedback about my current work in progress and the main point seemed to be that I should develop my main character's pysical description and relationship with others at the start. Getting a physical description of the main character in has always been something I've struggled with. It seems to be a fine balance so that things get moving but the reader isn't completely lost and also that they make a connection to the main character.

I decided to look at some kid's books in the third person POV I like and see what they do in the opening chapter...

Howl's Moving Castle
Diana Wynne Jones starts Howl's Moving castle with a brief description of the land on Ingary and then moves in on the characters. It's quite strange as it jumps around a lot, setting up the scene and back story. There's a bit of dialogue and not much action. It works but that's probably down to Diana Wynne Jones's mad skillz.

Castle of Shadows
Ellen Renner gets straight into the action. Charlie's caught by the cook stealing food, confronts some servants bad-mouthing her dad and finally is caught by the gardener's boy stealing manure. In the first chapter there's a lot of conflict and the dialogue really helps to establish Charlie's character.

Skulduggery Pleasant
Derek Landy starts with Stephanie at her uncle's funeral. There's an interesting physical description of Skulduggery as he's in disguise so you don't realise he's a skeleton. He works Stephanie's physical description in by having her compare herself to her cousins.

The Demon Collector
Jon Mayhew starts off with a 'pat the dog' moment as Edgy Taylor cradles a boy run over by a carriage. Gives him a couple of conversations to show his character and then gets a physical description in as he stares down at a puddle.

If I ignore Howl's Moving Castle the other three spend more time establishing the character through dialogue and action with maybe a small amount of physical description to help fix the character in the readers mind. The trick is to do it so the reader doesn't feel it like a flying brick.

So anyone got a favourite opening chapter in regards to characterisation?