I was tagged by a FaceBook friend to produce 7 lines from page 7 of my Work In
Progress, To Be King. I managed that, but it set me to thinking, as
original beginning of the WIP is actually now Chapter 2! The point of this post
is to highlight that while writing a novel you do not have to feel that you must
stick with the beginning you created. There may not be anything wrong with it,
but it is always possible a better alternative may present itself as the story
evolves. And of course it’s all subjective anyway. Be flexible.
is a snippet from the original beginning.
you will observe, it is fantasy, set in mythical Floreskand, being the second
chronicle after Wings of the Overlord:
“To see what is
right and not to do it is to want of courage.”
Tanellor draped his once-magnificent scarlet cloak on top of the overseer’s
bloodied mutilated body, and then raised himself into an upright position. He
glanced to the crest of the steep, striated Oxor Rift. Through a thin miasma of
blue dust, the sun flared dazzlingly, casting various shades of mauve and
purple for a brief instant, and then it dropped out of sight behind the jagged
rock ridge. He ran the back of a hairy hand across his creased brow, tired and
sickened by the senseless death that surrounded him. Death in war he could
understand, and even condone, but this, this made his blood boil. Negligence
killed these men. And, by his insistence that the miners worked longer shifts
during the Kcarran carnival, Saurosen had murdered them as surely as if he’d struck
them down himself.
A few marks away, the towering
broad-shouldered Aurelan Crossis busied himself counting corpses. Beyond, Bayuan
Aco, the sergeant of the palace guard and ten of his men hauled bodies from the
gaping maw of the mine. At the entrance shrine, the Daughter of Arqitor prayed
intermittently and also offered a pitcher of water to the men.
“What’s the tally now?” he asked in
a weary voice.
Aurelan did not raise his flinty
grey eyes from his grisly task. He jotted figures in his dog-eared tally book.
His voice boomed, a deep bass: “Seventy-four.”
“So many?” he whispered, in despair.
“I fear there are more to be recovered yet.”
Aurelan shut his book. “Sadly, these
are not just numbers in a tally book. I know these men. Two of them even have
brothers in my palace guard.” He eyed Tanellor. “Lord, we do not have the time
to dig out any more.” Aurelan then stepped over the corpses and moved to Lord
Tanellor’s side. His hair was short, cropped, and coppery, the lobe was missing
from his right ear, the mouth a cruel line in a pitted face. An old scar ran
along the left side of his neck, one of many tokens from his fighting days,
a beginning, I think it worked, thrusting the reader into a situation that
raised a number of questions. I haven’t shown Tanellor arriving with his men,
or the actual explosion. It is colourful, intense with imagery, and reveals
tragedy and character. But I felt that here was a missed opportunity; I wanted
to study the miners before the tragedy; and I perceived that by doing so there
would ultimately prove to be a link to the arcane Underpeople my co-author
alluded to frequently… So, the new added beginning starts thus:
the past died yesterday;
the future was born today.”
purblind birds sang, their high-pitched tones echoing through the maze of the
Oxor cobalt mine tunnels. A mixture of tree trunk and hartwood props groaned as
they supported the rocky ceilings.
“The king can’t deny us our
festival,” growled Rujon Sos. His words echoed in this small underground
amphitheatre that joined several tunnels. His bare muscular torso gleamed with
a sweaty sheen. Though this section only accommodated twelve miners, all of
whom now stopped hammering at the rock walls, there were six other dark shadowy
entrances to tunnels where more men hacked at the rock and sweated, their
implements echoing along the passageways.
“Like the rest of us, you’re just a
miner, a vassal of King Saurosen,” snapped Dasse Wenn, his rat’s nest of a
beard dust-covered. His beefy features twisted in distaste, grey eyes full of
hate. Sos suspected that Dasse was a weasel – albeit a short brawny weasel – and
regularly reported to the king’s minister anything that might earn him a few
IV had persistently deprived his people of their little pleasures; and now he
had banned their annual Carnival. Considering these festivities had taken place
without fail annually for 1062 years, commemorating the crowning of Lornwater’s
first King, Kcarran, Sos thought the people had taken the edict commendably
well, though he doubted if they’d abide by it, merely paying lip-service. He
couldn’t comprehend why Dasse was so passive about the king’s contempt for his
must withdraw our labour, teach Saurosen a lesson!” Sos’s strident voice echoed
through the smalt mine. The tunnel to his left went quiet, save for the
chirping of songbirds.
king doesn’t take lessons from minions like us!” Dasse said in a guttural tone.
Everywhere glimmered with a blue-tinged
buttery glow as the candles flickered. Most candles were placed on rock ledges,
but a handful of miners wore cloth caps with wax candles fastened to their
brims. Each man simply wore a breach-cloth and thick, boiled leather boots, as
the temperature deep in the mine was so intense that any clothing would become
sopping wet and prove cumbersome and heavy.
“You miss the point, Dasse,” snapped
Sos. “Hear that silence? Most of our shift has downed tools already.”
“The overseer and his men won’t
stand for it. He’ll send for Lord Tanellor, who will bring troops, and they will
force those fools back into the mine. We should have no part in that!” Dasse coughed
on fetid air that was tainted a faint blue. “The vent shafts are next to
useless!” His thin lips curled back in a sneer, revealing buck teeth. “I don’t
fancy my head on a spike, Rujon Sos.”
“That’s often the fate of Saurosen’s
spies!” Sos riposted, rubbing a hand over the stubble on his square jaw.
The others audibly gasped.
“You’ll regret those words, Rujon
“I have witnesses, Dasse. If you’re
Dasse laughed, arms gesturing. “I’d
rather work down here than die. Saurosen can have all the smaltglass goblets he
wants, so long as I have a full pewter one in the Pick and Shovel when our
“That’s defeatist talk.” Sos ground
his teeth together, turned and, gripping his hammer and chisel, scanned the ten
other miners. “What say you all?”
Only murmurs reached him, the whites
of the fearful eyes of his fellow miners gleaming. He knew the majority agreed
with him; but they also knew that Dasse wasn’t to be trusted.
He jabbed his chisel at the nearest
wooden prop. “Look, at this cankered wood, it’s not fit. We’re working in a
death-trap. Lord Tanellor’s begged and pleaded for new material, but Saurosen
won’t countenance it!”
“He’s always been mean with his
money, that one,” said a miner on Sos’s right.
“Aye, and with his favours, as
well,” said another.
“What favours?” another demanded,
Sos nodded, and persisted. “Despots
like Saurosen can’t be allowed–”
Abruptly, he was barged by Dasse, shoved to the rock-strewn floor. He felt a
stinging sensation across his cheek and brow and stared up into the hate-filled
visage of Dasse. His hand came away covered in blood. Dasse brandished his
chisel, sitting astride him.
Sos twisted and heaved before Dasse
could deliver another blow, thrusting Dasse off him. Most of the others shouted
encouragement to Sos, though not all, he noticed.
He scrambled to his feet, gripping
his hammer; his chisel was discarded somewhere.
he felt his back starting to sting: his left shoulder-blade, which broke his
The pair circled one another. The
first heavy impact had loosened Dasse’s long jet-black hair and it now trailed
over his massive shoulders.
“Sweet Arqitor, stop!” called one
“Stop it before someone gets hurt!” another
shouted, but neither Sos nor Dasse listened.
Suddenly, Dasse rushed him,
shrieking unintelligibly, wielding his chisel.
Sos side-stepped smartly, and then slammed
his hammer into the side of Dasse’s shoulder as he passed, and swiftly leaped
onto the man’s back as he tumbled against a pit-prop.
The wooden post groaned and the rock
above crumbled, small pebbles skittering to the ground.
“Stop it, both of you!” a man shrieked.
“You’ll bring the whole mine down on us! Daughters of Arqitor preserve us!”
Snatching, grasping, clawing, the
pair rolled, hands slipping on sweaty skin, slicing with hammer and chisel,
crying out in shrill tones as the tools sank into flesh. Then, within seconds,
they both rolled against a small open conduit that collapsed at their pressure
and it created a wide entrance that sloped down into blackness.
of a variety of hooks a writer can employ for the reader is conflict. In this
case I created conflict between Sos and Dasse, which will worsen until they
become trapped after the explosion. The scene also contains action, to move the
story faster. I touched upon affairs pertaining to Lornwater, its citizens and
their ruler, King Saurosen IV. Here, too, a little further in, I could
introduce Tanellor and hint at other happenings and intrigues. All before
Tanellor walks among the dead (now Chapter 2).
these events begin on the same day as the beginning of Wings of the Overlord. It is a parallel separate storyline (as Wings is a self-contained tale that has
links and threads to be developed later, some in To Be King, others in subsequent books).
spend a lot of time on the beginning of their novels. It makes sense, to draw
in the reader. Beginnings are fretted over more than any other part of a novel –
more than the ending, even; because that beginning has been there to tinker
with for the duration of the book.
advice is: ‘…beginnings and endings are very important. But don’t fret over
them too much – at least until the book is written. Then you can decide how you
want to shape the beginning and ending.’ – Write
a Western in 30 Days (p142).
you can see here, an original beginning was eventually replaced (but not
discarded). Now that I have the shape of the book planned and I’m 68,000 words
into it, it is unlikely that I will alter it again; but it’s always a
Wings of the
– by Morton Faulkner, hardback (paperback due in December)
Write a Western
in 30 Days
– by Nik Morton, paperback and e-book
posts on writing beginnings: