Netcast #2: Great Beginnings

The best books start here.

Netcast #2: Great Beginnings

Because even we sometimes get tired of listening to ourselves natter on about this and that, we thought it was high time to involve you via our second netcast. For this one, fellow agent Chris Richman and I considered openings of a few favorite novels and why they work despite—or perhaps because of—thumbing their noses at commonly held ideas about what makes for “good writing.”

Let us know what you think!

[podcast format=”video”]http://upstartcrowliterary.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/UpstartCrowLit002.m4a[/podcast]

  1. First of all, WOW, you both have the best voices for this type of thing! I could sit here and listen to you talk for hours. Hmm, maybe you can start recording audio books on the side.

    Aside from your fabulous voices this is an awesome bit of insight into what agents see as great beginnings. I appreciate your thoughts on prologues because you hear everyone saying to avoid them like the plague, and so many first time writers make the mistake of using them as a crutch to build a world or setup a character. Myself included.

    Great examples and comments! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. One thing I’m a little conflicted on lately is how much action is too much in the beginning? Some say you should dive right in and capture your reader with the first line, but some of my favorite books take time to build up to that point. Any input?

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  2. I’ve nodded so much in agreement I hurt my neck.

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  3. You guys are ridiculously cool. Stop it. It’s annoying. And, I agree with Rebecca – your voices – wow! And I’m a singer, so I know a little about voice quality.

    Thank you for this informative netcast. I enjoy prologues. I like a good set up, as long as it’s short and purposeful. I also love breaking the rules, so it’s great seeing an example of something you’re told never to do.

    Your selections are brilliant. The bad news is they make me feel I can’t put two words together in a reasonable order. The good news is they give me something to strive for.;-)

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  4. Three quick comments:
    1) I love that technology provides easy access to such discussions. For an old fart, it is almost magical.
    2) The lesson I hear in your words is classic: follow the rules to master the basics – then get creative.
    3) I am a big fan of prologues … but I prefer them to give a glimpse ahead rather than provide back-story. I find it can orient readers so they do not pre-judge the direction of the story.
    Thanks for the podcasts. It is enjoyable to hear your voices live … but I do believe that someone is missing … yes?

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  5. Oh, come on! Is no one going to snatch the low-hanging joke fruit and say they have the faces for podcasting?

    I would never be that rude, of course. But it does seem like a real waste of an opportunity.

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  6. Great podcast!

    Your points about “Maniac Magee” reminded me of “Holes” because Sachar’s also playing around with tall tales. I hadn’t remembered the first pages, which are entirely about the setting, but fix the tone for the whole novel.

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  7. Piggy-backing on your “prologues can work thing,” the prologue for the initial ARTEMIS FOWL (Book 1) is brilliant…”How does one describe Artemis Fowl? Various psychiatrists have tried and failed…” Gives us so much information up-front: the uniqueness of the MC and, even more, sets the voice so that you CAN’T not read on. Something I am truly jealous of as a “new” author and strive to capture in my writing.

    Also, THE LIGHTNING THIEF opens up in a bit of an odd way, breaking scenes three times inside of four pages, but Riordan fragments the essentials this way, and also develops his unique POV in those initial pages. Hmmm, can you tell I write middle grade?

    Just my thoughts…thanks for the cast, guys.

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  8. Interesting podcast. Lots to think about. Thanks!

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  9. I have been asked by K.A. to say that she really loved this. She was getting ready to walk the dogs and stopped upon hearing it and would not leave until she had heard it all.

    I was unable to pay close attention because I was drinking away memories of dental agonies endured.

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  10. I’m reading Michael Chrichton’s “Next” which begins with a 21 page prologue. 21 pages. It’s necessary for the story so I don’t understand why he didn’t just call it chapter #1. Oh, who cares, it’s Chrichton, he can get away with that.
    Except for some classic opening lines (ex: Gibson’s Neuromancer) I don’t remember any truly memorable beginnings to a story I didn’t write. But there’s a slight possibility I’m biased.

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  11. Good job guys. I’m looking forward to the next one.

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  12. I really enjoyed the podcast. It let’s one peek into an agent’s mind. The info about prologues was timely, since I included one in my latest work. I’m really excited to subscribe and can’t wait to hear what you guys come up with next.

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  13. Both of you truly have an ability to bring these books alive as you critique the story contents. They are short and to the point. This is important in order to capture and retain the interest of your listeners. Great job guys!

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  14. This is so great – like a mini writing seminar right on my computer! I love hearing that some of the sacred writing rules can be broken.

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  15. I’ve always loved the opening of Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle. “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining-board, which I have padded with our dog’s blanket and the tea-cosy…”

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  16. Very enlightening. Thank you.

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  17. […] us all we need to know about the children and not a thing more (Chris and I discussed this in our second podcast), and what’s amazing is how well we feel we know the kids without getting deluged with […]

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