So I’m writing the third book in the Assassin’s Gambit series, which is currently untitled, and I’ve run into a bit of a dilemma about the opening.
I have chosen a “soft” opening for this novel. If you’ve read the first two books in the series (and I know most of you haven’t because they’re not published yet! but some of my critique partners read this blog, and they’ve read them), then you know this is not typical for me. Assassin’s Gambit opens with a bang. The opening for Spy’s Honor isn’t quite so shocking, but it starts with a scene that immediately introduces major conflict.
Untitled, however… I went with a gentle opening. Lucien and Celeste (who are brother and sister) are at the docks, messing around with some brimstone that has just arrived by ship. There’s some light and fluffy stuff about Lucien’s dog, and mostly it’s a sweet scene with some gentle banter. It does introduce the main conflict, but the characters in the scene are not themselves in conflict. They have a good relationship, and that’s exactly what I wanted to show. In the scenes that follow, it’s important for the reader to understand that Celeste is motivated by a desire to please her brother, not by fear or intimidation.
Early feedback on this scene has been mixed. Some of my critique partners like it. Others think I should cut it and begin with the scene that follows, a high-conflict scene that gets right to the meat of the story. But if I do that, I miss the opportunity to show the relationship between Lucien and Celeste. Furthermore, since this is book 3 of a series, and Lucien is an important character in every book, I think series readers might want to spend a little time with Lucien, because after the first two chapters he drops out of the book for quite a while. Readers picking up book 3 without having read the first two might be less interested.
I find it’s always difficult to decide how to open a novel. I may end up punting this question to my editor and seeing what she thinks. Pretty soon we’ll have to put the teaser for this novel into the back of Spy’s Honor, and at that point a decision will have to be made about which scene to use.
What do you think about novel openings? Do you prefer a book to open with a bang? Or do you like a softer opening sometimes? Does it make a difference to you if the book is the first in a series or a later book in the series? I know you can’t evaluate my particular two scenes without reading them, but I’m curious about your general thoughts.