I just finished tweaking my first sci-fi novel, StarFire Dragons. I tweaked the first chapter based on some good advice from someone I consider a professional writer. She said that rather than just jump right into the action, I need to ground my character in a normal world first. So if you look at my original and my revised 3 versions, you can see the difference. My original started out with the communications officer reporting a distress signal. My recent final version, previously reviewed by said professional, starts out with J.D. sitting on the bridge and wondering what the heck he was doing here. In a way, it establishes ‘his’ problem as a character and I feel that it helps people get to know him a little as well as get a feel for the setting. Then at about the 7th paragraph, we get into the action with the distress signal.
I recently presented this same finalized first chapter to others and several are saying I should jump straight into the action in order to grab the reader’s attention. So which is it? Do I ground the reader first or do I jump straight into the action where no one knows the characters, or even cares? Both sides make valid points.
Getting a story reviewed and getting feedback is a great way for writers to grow. But sometimes these mixed messages can be quite confusing.
What do you think? When you begin reading a book, what do you like best about the beginning? Do you prefer a stage setting first or do you like to dive right into the action?